Updated: August 21, 2017
In my merry escapades through the Linux jungle, over the years, I started liking Fedora more, as it transitioned from a nucleus of bugs into a rather stable and fairly fast distro. I was particularly satisfied with the last two editions, Gnome no less, most imaginatively named Fedora 24 and Fedora 25. I did have to sweat some getting the apps and codecs in order, but after that, it was a pleasant, colorful and practical experience.
Now we have the latest edition of Workstation in our hands, and we need to see how it fares. I deliberately decided not to perform an in-vivo upgrade of the resident Fedora 25 instance on my Lenovo G50 box, as I wanted to see what the vanilla crop does without all the pimpage. To wit, let us commence the testing.
Live from Fedora
Boot fine, check. The technology posed no obstacle. However, there's no pretty splash, only running lines of text, which is not nice. Most distros manage fine HD stuff on Intel graphics, so I see no reason for the exception. The wallpaper is pretty, yay.
This was an interesting - and rather successful - part of the testing. Wireless worked fine, and there were no hangs, freezes or stutters, confirming once again that the issues I had with my Realtek card have been fixed, but more importantly, that there are no regressions.
Bluetooth also behaved, and I was able to pair with my Lumia 520 phone, as well as send files. Quite all right, although the interface is a little clunky. You don't get any nice context as to how to send files. Still, after Kubuntu Zesty and Mint Sonya, this is only the third distro ever to offer a fully seamless Bluetooth experience. Progress through time.
Bluetooth wise, an interesting prompt I saw on the Windows Phone was that the desktop wanted to download my contacts list, too. This is a curious concept, and I've never seen it before. Looks like some hidden goodies piggybacking on the radio channels.
Samba sharing works - you do need to authenticate, because security is TEH best thing in the world. Printing, same thing. It actually auto-discovered the devices and whatnot. All right, not bad.
Gnome 3 ergonomics
Alas, this desktop environment in its nude form, remains horrible. It is just useless. No minimize and maximize buttons, pseudo-touch behavior, you don't see what apps you have open, countless mouse and keyboard clicks lost trying to reach Activities to find Favorites to launch applications. Just dreadful. Luckily, we can fix this later.
The icons come with a slightly higher resolution than in the past, but they are still quite bland and boring, if not quite as much as what you get in Debian. The most notable change is the blue Files icon, wow.
And you still cannot right-click and create new files. The feeling of moronic impotence that grips you when you are forced to work like a two-digit-IQ person is just maddening. Again, we will sort this out later.
This was an interesting one. For the first time ever, Fedora played MP3 songs out of the box, thanks to the new MP3 support in the gstreamer framework. I don't know what the legal background is, but I am happy. Normal people can enjoy music without having to give their kidneys to the repo demons of war.
However, Rhythmbox is still a very buggy program. I tried playing songs from my phones, and it did not work. It shows a generic media player icon in the side pane, but then crashes with a nice segfault, as we've seen in the Mint review.
[ 782.321372] rhythmbox: segfault at 30 ip 00007fca267a2a16 sp 00007fff9ae88ab0 error 4 in libmtpdevice.so[7fca26796000+15000]
If a program cannot handle something, it shouldn't even begin to handle. Half-arsed implementations are the worst thing ever. Also in this case, as Rhythmbox crashed, the system also decided to hiccup and went into a read-only mode just a few seconds later. I decided not to try to play with systemd vomit and just reboot.
[ 805.968373] device-mapper: snapshots: Snapshot overflowed: Unable to allocate exception.
[ 805.969812] EXT4-fs warning (device dm-0): ext4_end_bio:313: I/O error -5 writing to inode 167909 (offset 125829120 size 2101248 starting block 766208)
[ 805.969815] Buffer I/O error on device dm-0, logical block 766208
[ 805.969819] Buffer I/O error on device dm-0, logical block 766209
Second live session
Here we go again. Well, that's not inspiring. I've never had a distro go mental in the live session. But let's continue roughly where we stopped. Anyway, music works, but do not try to play songs from external devices in Rhythmbox because it sucks.
Both Windows Phone and Ubuntu Phone worked fine, and I was able to mount and use them, but not play any songs, ha ha ha. Anyway, as far as peripherals go, Fedora 26 was doing a pretty decent job so far. Not the best, but reasonable for its name and reputation.
Not sure why this is a phone icon, btw.
Trying to install codecs ...
I wanted to play some MP4 movies, but the system did not have the desired vitamins. So I added the RPM Fusion repos and then trying to use Software to get things installed and such. This did not go well. Second attempt after the installation, then.
Other bugs and annoyances (quite a few)
When you open Firefox, you get a horrible flicker - as if the program maximizes and minimizes about a dozen times in a second, before it settles. Reading online, this seems to be some bug, regression whatever. It's funny, because there aren't that many changes between F25 and F26 and yet, it seems the world of Linux will forever keep us on our toes because there is no Gulag penalty for bad QA and for developers not really understanding the importance of stability and backward compatibility.
Bluetooth wise, I also had the settings app crash once - if you try to launch it while the send file dialog is open. Something is wonky somewhere in there or something. However it did not affect my Bluetooth functionality, though. Firefox also got stuck when I tried to close it - it did not display the multi-tab close warning but it was what it was. This didn't recur. Rhythmbox also randomly played files from a list, even though I double-clicked only a single file in the file manager. More suck.
Files does not refresh NTFS filesystem contents, even if you hit F5, you actually have to re-mount the device to see the changes, in this case additional screenshot images stored in the phone's flash memory. Shotwell was not able to display either jpg or png files from non-local filesystems. And the hard disk was rather hot throughout the entire session.
Last but not the least, a system problem report after waking from sleep - the usual MCE nonsense. This actually does not nothing, and only Fedora complains with constant reports about kernel crashes. Just pointless nonsense to pollute your logs.
Not a very promising start with all the little regressions, most of which if not all were not present in Fedora 25. But fast forward a few kernel releases and some software updates, and you start all over again. Uncertainty and depression. Speaking of Gulags, this is a fine art of torture as well, making users never know when something is going to break.
Then, the installer got stuck - it took almost four minutes before it finally responded and moved to the next step. And then we have all the glory of the worst installer in the history of universe, except at this point, I no longer care.
Partitions, all right. No intuitive or automated way to add swap, so you end up with a system that has no swap. Lame. You also have to manually add /boot/efi to avoid nightmares.
The installation was relatively quick - and so was the multi-boot GRUB setup. Surprise surprise. Then, no command not found error does not show up anymore. So it's not all regressions, and some old and nasty bugs seem to have been resolved.
Fedora at work
My puns are becoming so brilliant I sometimes have to stop typing for a minute or two to absorb and appreciate their full glory. Anyway, the system installed and came up with the Wi-Fi (pronounced wifey, as in an endearing term for one's SO) correctly identified. Then you have that short setup, which has smartphone-like sliders, location services - for a desktop - and online accounts.
Gnome Software remains challenged. It displayed errors until it finally decided to stop being confused. It did not show Steam in the list - after adding new repos as per my pimping tutorial linked in the beginning of this review - but it did show it once it was installed. There's no easy way to configure new sources or tweak anything and you just should use dnf from the command line, problem solved.
Steam is only visible after it's been installed.
The default set is okay, I guess. Firefox, Evolution, LibreOffice, Cheese, Shotwell, Rhythmbox, Maps, so it's a balanced and colorful and practical arsenal. Of course, you can do a lot more with some extra repos and quick fingers, which is what I did. The first step to making Fedora truly usable for day-to-day stuff.
And so, in quick succession, I added RPM Fusion, Moka/Faba and Google Chrome repos, installed a ton of codecs and programs, added Gnome Tweak Tool, figured out how to enable extensions because of the whole Flash support nonsense in both Firefox and Chrome, and installed the magnificent Dash to Panel, which also now comes with a button to show desktop, so you do not actually have to follow my super-lengthy tutorial on this topic.
In more detail, the Gnome integration in the browsers does not work, even if you use special extensions for this purpose. In both cases, you will see an ugly message bar at the top of your browser screen:
Although GNOME Shell integration extension is running, native host connector is not detected. Refer documentation for instructions about installing connector.
You need the following to use extensions:
dnf install chrome-gnome-shell
And finally, you can breathe normally:
It would appear we do get better font clarity. So that's good. I do not know what happened in between Fedora 23 and now, but I would assume this has to do with yet more regressions blowing gently over the sandy desolation of Tuxland.
Performance, responsiveness, resources
I don't know the reason but Fedora 26 is not as limber as its predecessor. It eats about 50% more RAM than its Papa, and there's also a noticeable degradation in how fast the system responds to your inputs. Just as not as brisk as it was. The CPU ticks 2-3% idle, and that's not the quietest I've seen. All in all, for whatever reason, Fedora 26 could benefit from some improvements under the hood.
Hardware support, stability
Well, multiple suspend & resume worked fine. All the Fn buttons are okay and do as advertised on their little label. We've seen some crashes in the live session, and then the Gnome Shell also decided to call it day. A one-time hiccup but it happened. I haven't see any big issues in Fedora for a while. SELinux shared its cup of vomit, too.
Nothing spectacular. The battery has lost about 20% of its charge over the past 2.5 years, so technically, we need to add about 25% to whatever the little numbers show. Anyway, with the brightness set to 50%, it's only 2.5 hours. Very average overall, in line with most distros. Power management is nowhere near as granular or precise as it is in the Plasma desktop.
So it wasn't smooth sailing, even with all my best attempts to customize and pimp Fedora. Software keeps asking for password on any install - seems not be integrated with PAM and does not remember your credentials. Whatever.
Even on the command line, while running a perfectly innocent installation of software with dnf, I had a transaction lock problem. This has never happened before, and again, I want to blame Gnome Software for this horrible implementation. I know you can easily get this if you try to launch and use both the GUI and the command line tools at the same time, but not in the middle of an installation of 100+ packages, with dnf running nice and deep like.
While installing: error: can't create transaction lock on /var/lib/rpm/.rpm.lock (Resource temporarily unavailable)
Files, in addition to all its other problems, does not display directories first files second. So you actually need to hack the system with a dconf setting. Unfortunately, the hack that is supposed to work returns No schema found, so something must have been yanked out of Gnome in between version updates.
dconf write /org/gnome/nautilus/preferences/sort-directories-first true
Even worse is the fact that you have a long list of hidden configurations that affect user experience, and you cannot touch them except via this odd registry-like program. Just shows how horrible the whole implementation is.
Fedora 26 is a very mediocre release. It has its bright moments, but it also has a whole range of regressions. As I feared. No Linux distro is capable of having more than a handful of releases before collapsing back to its old habits. Overstretched manpower, goals that are not realistic, boring QA that no one wants to do. Fun and games for developers, but it's such a sad state of things. Definitely a mental Gulag.
Specifically, Fedora 26 isn't much different from Fedora 25, and with customization, it does offer a pretty and usable setup. But you must tame that Gnome, for 'tis an abomination. Then, we have the various hardware-related bugs and issues, crashes that we did not have in the past, a stupid package manager, sub-optimal performance, new problems. Not really a pristine sheet. Networking, multimedia and smartphones are the bright spot in this sordid game, but then, they rest on a very shaky, badly delivered platform. I guess a few months of patches will sort it good. Maybe. 5/10. Ah well.