Updated: July 20, 2016
All right. Let's Fedora. The background story is as follows: On the dark side, this testing season has been awful. Regression after regression. On the bright side, I have found a new liking for the Red Hat skunk works test bed, especially the Gnome edition. Holy. Yup. I have officially unhated the Gnome.
And this is why I'm going to test Fedora in its original guise today. It should be interesting. The Debian-based distros, the LTS Ubuntu and Mint in particular, are waning in quality and fun lately, but to compensate, I've developed a mega-liking for CentOS 7, and in its Gnome and Xfce editions, it's the blast. So let's see what Fedora does.
No USB boot. This angers me somewhat, then again, Fedora 23 also only worked from DVD on this be Lenovo G50 box. But hey, the glass is half-full or something, at least it works, because until recently, Red Hat distros would not do much on this particular modernish and UEFI-powered machine. A nice firmware update later, things are much cushtier. We have the same story with Fedora 24, a DVD only success.
The desktop is classic Gnome 3, okay-looking if not spectacular and in need of some ergonomic tweaks to make more presentable. However, there have been improvements in this area, and while still somewhat deficient, Gnome 3 is almost sane for use.
Well, well. Again, we will be discussing my notorious Realtek card. Quite often, it comes up as a topic, and it is used to deflect all and any criticism I have during my distro testing. Dedoimedo chose non-supported hardware. That may be so. But my laptop cannot account for the variance in behavior of particular distros, desktop environments and apps across their successive versions.
To briefly recap, I've had multiple crashes of the network stack in the Ubuntu family lately, and it's become progressively worse, on the very SAME hardware. Fedora 24 sallied through a live session without any hiccups. We're talking hours of Youtube streaming, multiple downloads and file transfers between systems, and more. No issue.
Samba sharing and printing also worked fine, the former with a really decent transfer speed. I was asked to authenticate, and I hate this new Samba security thing. But at least the remote resources were available. Bluetooth is a test for after the install.
Remember my Linux Mint 18 Sarah experience? Sure you do, I just linked to it in the opening paragraph of this article. Duh! Well, it would not mount any one of my phones, after Rosa and Rafaela worked just fine. It was a huge disappointment.
Now, on this SAME laptop, with only a slightly different desktop environment - Gnome versus Cinnamon - the results are different. All my phones worked. With iPhone, I got an error at first, very similar to the Sarah problem, but then on second connection, it sorted itself out. I don't know the reason why, syslog is not enabled in Fedora anymore and you only have the systemd vomit available, but in the end, after a rough start, iPhone also worked. So we have: Lumia (Windows Phone), iPhone and Ubuntu Phone. Good.
I don't have a screenshot of the iPhone error, because for some odd reason the screenshot utility stalled while capturing the windows popup with the error, and I had to kill the app to be able to use it again. Very odd.
Fedora is boring, because it does not ship with proprietary codecs, but I was able to enjoy some good ole classics on Youtube in HTML5, no surprise there, I'm just delighting you with my eclectic taste in the wonders of the audio and video cuisine. HD content also played fine, in a free format.
Wait, what? Dedo, you gone mad? Testing power management in the live session? Well, I did not intend to do so, but I accidentally left the laptop unplugged and running. I am not happy with the fact the system did not put itself to sleep after a while, but we can excuse this in the live session. On the positive side, it held for 3 hours and 40 minutes before it alerted me to a low battery state. So with some screen dimming, we're talking a good and decent four hours, which is more than most other distros we've tested recently.
I am not happy with the Red Hat installer. It's top-left intuition is wrong, and the partitioning remains cumbersome. I really really don't like it. But then, I was able to sort it out easily. Now, I did mount /boot/efi separately, but I purposefully omitted swap to see what the system would do, as we've seen Red Hat distros coming up without one after being installed. Lastly, I considered reusing my Fedora 23 profile, as version 24 was going to replace the incumbent, but then decided against it, so we would have a clean test.
The installation was moderately fast. The percentage bar finally makes incremental progress, rather than just jump to 100%, but then the blue thingie does not progress all the way, and then it goes back to one quarter mark as it continues with the post-install settings. This needs to be fixed. The installation is boring if you're looking for something to entertain you.
The setup concluded successfully, and Fedora took control of the GRUB. It chainloaded all the distros - except GeckoLinux on its own BTRFS partitions - plus Windows. Not happy with the SUSE discrimination, but most distros seem to miss this one. Anyhow, it's time to boot and have fun.
Fedora 24 - Combat test
The installed system came up fine, sans the Wireless icon at first. I don't know why this happens, but it did. The Wireless was up and running, mind. And it worked for about two hours before finally dying once. The Realtek bug did catch up with us. The modprobe trick fixed it for good. So at least it seems that the Red Hat family has a better kernel driver and support, and the workaround is blessedly permanent.
Package management & updates - Nice
I am really pleased with what Fedora has to offer in this space. Let's start with the defaults. The GUI package manager, Software, has finally become usable, and it does offer consistent results, in line with the dnf backend on the command line. The updates also worked fine.
The CLI tool - dnf - is fast. REALLY fast. I've never seen a package manager crunch through updates and installations this quickly before. Whatever optimization has been done, it's like magic.
Finally, I added RPM Fusion Free and Non-Free repos, in order to be able to install additional software and codecs, including the likes of GIMP, VLC, Steam, MP3 stuff, and more. Skype comes from the official site. But all in all, it was a simple, fast and elegant configuration, although we will have a separate pimping article. For now, if you want a little bit more fun, please take a look at my entire family of Red Hat guides, including how to beautify and energize CentOS 7 (first and second part), Fedora, and Scientific Linux. Again, we will discuss this aspect of the Fedora 24 experience separately, so please stay tuned. And this time, we're not using easyLife, on purpose, as I want to teach you a few new and cool tricks. Soon.
More on smartphone support
I tested the iPhone again, and I encountered the same issue like in the live session. Apparently, if the phone is locked or the computer device is untrusted on the smartphone, Files may seize and not recover well. Your second or third attempt to connect the iPhone will work well. This needs to be resolved. And it is a regression. Yet again. Now, pair this with the Realtek networking problem and no ability to actually get a consistent behavior, for better or worse, it makes for a very troubling experience. Bottom line, everything works, the iPhone needs a bit force and love.
Worked without any problems or woes.
I installed a whole lot of Gstreamer plugins, but then I still got an error in Videos, because there are two separate frameworks for codecs, and you need both. We will elaborate on this in the pimping article. But Videos still handled it fine, so you might as well go the GUI way, if you're not comfortable with the command line. However, 'tis a double-edged sword, as you still need the extra repos.
After this, all my content played well - plus VLC - and this includes AVI and MP4 files on Samba shares, without any need to authenticate, as we've seen recently in some other reviews, beyond the usual Samba thing, but that's already done and handled. All in all, quite neat.
The basic repertoire is, well, basic. You do get some interesting software, like Firefox, Evolution, LibreOffice, Rhythmbox, Videos, Boxes, Cheese, and a few more. This should be easily beefed up with fun-essential software, like I did, including VLC, GIMP, Steam, Skype, Gnome Tweak Tool, and others.
Audio support in Skype
This is an interesting one. Remember me reporting low audio with the mic in CentOS 7? Well, the same issue plagues Fedora 24! This is a long-standing regression, and I think it has to do with PulseAudio and whatnot. I was able to fix it the same way I did before, and that was to use a headset. I guess the support and ability for my internal mic is just woefully bad, and PulseAudio does not offer any elegant way to tweak it, tune it up, whatever.
The system identified the headset easily - unlike the Xfce exercise we had in CentOS 7.2, and after that, it was the simple matter of using the external source with good audio quality and clarity. There's no need to install any extra libraries, like I've shown you in my Mint article. So there, problem solved.
This is another feature that I tested. Yes, you can add all sorts of accounts and integrate them into your desktop. Does this work, though? Mostly, yes. I failed doing so with a Facebook account, but Google was successful. You then have your contacts and photos and documents available through the Gnome desktop, and it's quite all right. Not sure if I want this on a daily basis, but you might. Functionality wise, it works for the most part, and you may like it. Another little win for Fedora 24 and its desktop environment.
A document that resides in Google Drive, seamless integration.
Fedora 24 is a fairly gluttonous distro. It ate 1.2 GB of my RAM, swap isn't there by default, but then I had it added, and the CPU was ticking at about 3-4%. Not negligible, and consequently, this is not the speediest distro, but performance and responsiveness are quite decent.
Well, well. Despite some CPU noise and a hunger for flesh, Fedora 24 surprises with a very humble power regime. It offers 3.25 hours without too much effort, almost half as much as most other recent distros, and with the brightness reduced to 50%, 4 hours. This is almost comparable to the MX-15 Xfce results. Very cool. It's not all regressions. There's some progress after all. Fedora 24, great work in this regard. Oh, it also shows that my battery has NOT degraded, and that the majority of new distros simply suck.
Hardware compatibility, suspend & resume
I have to say, it's really good. Yes, we do have the Realtek issue, but I had it resolved, so we can put aside. Touchpad was awesome, not a single tap intrusion. All the Fn buttons work just fine. Suspend & resume worked without any issues. No kernel problems the likes of which we've seen with CentOS, but then we know those are just MCE alerts and not really anything to worry about.
Fedora also has the best splash animation of any distro yet, booting up or shutting down. Not only is it elegant, stylish and HD, it's also text-perfect. Not a single random letter of text showed up from any one virtual console during my testing. Not one. 100% pro.
Desktop contrast & fonts
I wasn't pleased with what Sarah did recently, and in my Fonts article, I was saying how Ubuntu, and consequently, Mint seemed to be the only one handling this well, apart from Windows. But now Fedora is also quite reasonable, with slight grayscale hinting and really good contrast. Me likey. Plus a pretty settings menu with the right kind of icons, see below.
There were some small odd problems here and there. In Software, if you try to add multiple repos one after another, the system may hiccup. It sure did it for me, so you might as well close it before adding any new source.
SELinux kicked in a couple of times, mostly during an update session and while configuring Gnome extensions, but other than that, the level of false positive vomit was minimal. This is another improvement. There was also a crash or two during the updates, probably because software needed to close. Did not reoccur.
Allowing Gnome to access Skype was another weird one, and it caused the VoIP client to restart, and the screenshot of the error actually took about three minutes to show up. There were a few other tiny issues like this, but they cleared up once I stopped my aggressive tweaking session.
I installed the Faenza icon set, tried a few new wallpapers, and then installed a few GTK and Gnome Shell themes, none of which made me happy, so in the end, I reverted to the original Adwaita default. I wish there was a more integrated Plasma-like way to search and install and test themes and decorations in Gnome. Going to an external site and randomly downloading themes to your hidden .themes folder is a bit annoying. There will be an article dedicated to this part of the session, too. Stay tuned.
Then, some more artwork:
At the end of the day, it's all good:
I am pleased. I am really pleased. Fedora 24 delivers an excellent, modern experience. Such a refreshing departure from all the sadness I had to deal with it in the last two months. While it's not aimed at new users and does not offer D2D fun right away, Fedora still managed to give a most satisfying and a highly consistent experience. With a little bit of tweaking, it's superb.
Looking across the board, we have good networking support overall with a permanent workaround for Realtek woes, good smartphone support, stability, speed, battery life, excellent hardware compatibility, a much improved package management system. After pimping, the fun extends to multimedia and some extra customization. And Gnome isn't half as bad as it used to be. Really lovely.
There are some small problems still, here and there, the chief amongst them being the ultra short support life of a typical Fedora release. But then, just look at my CentOS 7.2 reviews, the recent Gnome and Xfce ones. You get pretty much the same experience plus a whooping 10 years of support. That's what I've always been waiting for in Linux. Anyhow, Fedora 24 is a very good summer release. 9/10, and I've had a lot of fun sorting things out, because they remained sorted out, there are no silly errors, and the network is solid and stable. Linux as it should be. This is your pick for this season. Enjoy.