Live CD impressions
The live CD has become a norm in the Linux world. It is definitely the best way to test the distro before deciding whether to install it or move on to another distro, with perhaps finer looks or better hardware support.
Like all "heavy" distros (SUSE, Sabayon etc), Fedora live CD is a downsized package, with only a fraction of applications offered on the DVD media. However, considering that so many successful distros ship out as CDs only, I have decided to check the smaller version. Adding application is just a matter of bandwidth later on.
I did three tests here: one with my Lenovo ThinkPad T43 laptop with 512MB and two on my test rig, the dual-code AMD Athlon 64 3800+, with different RAM allocation: once, 512MB, the other time 768MB.
So, I launched the live CD (on the test rig, first, 512MB RAM).
Some problems ...
The first thing that happened was an ACPI bug, which prevented me from getting anywhere. After changing the boot line in GRUB to include acpi=off, the distro booted properly, but was slow as hell. In fact, it was so slow that I had to reboot again. But this time, everything went smoothly.
However, when I reached the live desktop, I was informed that the system has had a kernel failure. I did not investigate too deeply, but I did submit a report. The crash re-occurred every time I powered the live CD.
Please note two important facts: one, this is a BETA version, so problems are to be expected; that's the whole idea of BETA testing; two, I was conducting my test in a virtual machine, so it is entirely possible the crash is specifically related to this fact. We'll see how Fedora behaves on the laptop, later on.
Anyhow ... let's see what Fedora offers.
The Gnome desktop was clean and friendly, but it did not offer anything special or remarkable. The choice of soft blue colors was quite pleasing. The hardware was working as it should.
I fired Firefox to see how it felt.
The distro was a little sluggish, but this is because the Beta version has the kernel debugging enabled, slowing things down. I wanted to see if increasing RAM could help the situation.
I powered the same machine with a 50% increase in RAM, namely 768MB. I must admit there was a considerable improvement in the overall feel of the distro. It ran much faster, despite the kernel debugging. The kernel crash problem was reccurent in the live CD sessions, though.
I powered Cambridge off my T43 and waited for the distro to boot. I was surprised by my discoveries.
First, Fedora notified me that the battery of my laptop may have been recalled by the manufacturer. While alarming in itself, the warning was also somewhat comforting, knowing that the distro would "make sure" to tell me of potential systematic problems with my hardware. Not bad at all. I have not encountered this feature with any other distro yet.
Second, the kernel crash was nowhere to be seen. It seems the problem is related only specifically to virtualization software; I do hope it will be sorted out, nevertheless. I'd like to extend my gratitude to Nate for pointing me in the right direction.
Now that I was calm - except my battery portend which I'll blissfully ignore for now - I could pay attention to other things.
Most people will definitely want to know how well Fedora fares in the terms of daily needs, like wireless. Well, it worked great, without any hitches. Cambridge picked up my router and connected without problems.
Test 4 (update):
Web camera support
Another thing Fedora offers is the Cheese Webcam Booth, an application offering instantaneous, plug-'n'-play support to web cameras. I decided to check this functionality in the scope of web camera support for several popular distros in general, including Fedora Cambridge.
For the full article, please check Web camera support in Linux - Popular distros reviewed.
This cool feature worked as promised. Merely powering up the program got me staring at my own tremendously handsome features. In the screenshot below, you can see my own hairstyle and the dusty cover of the 1989 F-16 Combat Pilot simulator handbook.
The live CD session is rich and will please the user testing Fedora for the first time. It should definitely help convince the user to install Fedora. Well, indeed, it is time to install Fedora. So, it's back to the test rig ...
If you've seen one RedHat installation, you have seen them all. It's a simple, straightforward business of uncluttered menus.
After clicking Next following the keyboard choice, you are warned that you're using a beta version and should refrain from installing it in a production setup.
Next, you name your machine (host):
The root password:
You will be warned that the installer cannot read the Partition Table on the hard disk and will create a new one, thus destroying any partition layout that exists. This is perfectly normal if your hard disk is empty.
We'll get intro details on the next page.