Updated: February 15, 2013
Holy crap! Can you believe it? I decided to introduce a new operating system into my production setup, so far reserved mostly for the Ubuntu family, plus CentOS. Well, it turns out Fedora can go there, perhaps not in its vanilla form, but once pimped up properly, then it merits inclusion too.
Fuduntu is Fedora on steroids, but good ones, the kind that do not shrink your testies, instead make you manlier. Pretty, stable, with all the bells and whistles needed for instant productivity, elegant, graceful, fast, and modern. You get the best of all worlds, and then some, including the Underverse of the Necromongers. In fact, Fuduntu has the potential to beat CentOS, because it offers all the benefits of the RedHat platform while being current and posh. Follow me.
So after being ultra-pleased with Fuduntu on my SSD-powered test box, I decided to test the distro on my HP laptop, which comes with 4GB RAM, a standard 7,200rpm disk, plus a lovely Nvidia card. The machine boots Windows 7 and Lucid from its internal storage, and there's an external USB disk, which comes with Pangolin, also running Steam, the latest Kubuntu and Mint Nadia. Now, for the first time EVAR, a Fedora derivative is going to be placed there in this lovely, complex, multi-boot setup.
Worked well and without any problems. Fast, too. I installed the bootloader to the root of the Fuduntu instance, then let Pangolin manage the overall sequence.
Nouveau + Nvidia + Problems
As you know, this laptop has the Nvidia card, so the most important thing for me was to be able to seamlessly and easily configure the graphics drivers. One of the chief reasons for this was the fact I also wanted to test Steam here, which comes included in the distro repositories, the first such case, to the best of my knowledge.
Things got a bit tricky here. In fact, a lot tricky. Part of it is the distro's fault, part of it mine. So, as you already know, Fuduntu 2013.1 ships with the Additional Drivers utility, much like its Ubuntu family counterparts. On the first boot into the installed session, and before running any updates, trying to configure either the network Broadcom drivers of the Nvidia drivers failed for some reason. More about that later.
I decided to update the system first, which I did. This raised the kernel version from 3.6.9 to 3.6.11. I did this using the command-line YUM utility rather than using the GUI tools. My experience shows that if the software manager and the update manager were started at the same time, the process would not work as expected. Namely, if you fire up the update manager, it maintains its lock on the RPM database, preventing the software manager from running, even if you do not run any updates, and vice versa.
This is not a new or exclusive Fuduntu thing, but something quite typical for RedHat releases, which is why you should always use the command line, at least to get the first few batches of updates. Once the system was fully up to date, I rebooted back into Ubuntu, updated the GRUB2 bootloader once more and headed into Fuduntu for some the Nvidia updates. Once again, I used the command line. The thing is, while YUM is perfectly simple and sane to use, the names of packages in the RedHat family line can be a little confusing. You sometimes must specify exact versions rather than meta packages, and this can be a little tedious, as you have to use grep and whatnot to narrow down your searches.
Fuduntu offered me Nvidia 304 driver, but not the latest 310. Installed, seemed fine, rebooted. The splash screen switched to high resolution, which meant Nouveau was still active, and then I ended up without a desktop.
This is where things got a little bit tricky. I looked under /etc/modprobe.d directory, and indeed blacklist-nouveau.conf was there, but it seems that Fuduntu did not properly update the initramfs files to reflect this. So I had to run dracut to fix the problem:
dracut -f -v /boot/initramfs-`uname -r`.img `uname -r`
Once this was sorted, I rebooted, got my low-resolution splash, the Nvidia driver was properly loaded, and I headed into a beautiful session. And this time, activating drivers through Jockey worked fine, so I guess this had to do with Nouveau.
Testing repository - do NOT
Then, I decided to get bold. I realized that Fuduntu also offers the Testing and Unstable repositories, which ship with the latest versions of software, possibly including the Nvidia driver. I enabled the Testing repository and ran an update. This upgraded my kernel to the 3.7 family. Then, after reboot, the same problem with Nouveau happened.
Once again, I recreated the initramfs file, and Nvidia driver loaded, but not the desktop. Eventually, it did show up, slow, sluggish, with the Cairo dock missing. Checking the lsmod command, I realized Nvidia was loaded with the reference count of only 54 rather than 58, as it should. Damn, I messed up. Somewhat like the Ubuntu Quetzal problem, but not quite.
I disabled the Testing repository, uninstalled the Nvidia driver and all that, rebooted into the older kernel, but it did not help. The additional packages, including glibc and whatnot, screwed the system beyond repair. I had to reinstall.
It went faster this time. Within half an hour, I was back in business, with the all the options and settings I wanted and needed. Furthermore, I installed Firefox, Steam and some other programs. My warmest recommendation for most people is: do NOT enable the Testing and Unstable repositories, as you may end up with a botched, unbootable or just plain unresponsive system.
There was one small issue. The GUI manager could not find the package, while the command line worked fine. Steam installed without any problems. Just like Ubuntu. On one hand, you get an advantage of running distros like Kubuntu or Mint when it comes to Nvidia graphics card, but Steam seems equally good both there and here. The only problem is that I could not get the latest driver version, although I suppose I could install it manually. Again, somewhat like the Ubuntu Quetzal thingie.
Like Steam, the package did not show up in the graphical frontend, but YUM found it and installed it without a hitch. Well, I did have to configure Microsoft fonts, Mono and the Gecko packages. The best way to do this is by using winetricks. There you go.
After the initial configuration, Netflix complained it could not run, being unable to find Firefox, although it was there. However, when running as root, the service started as fine, except there's no Netflix where I live, because I am the world's second-grade citizen. Sure, I can fake proxy and all that, but why. What for? As far as I know, Netflix does not offer Monty Python, Only Fools and Horses, Yes Minister, or old movies; you get mostly boring, meaningless contemporary stuff.
The desktop is ultra-fast and highly responsive. There were no crashes or bugs of any kind, which is not what you would expect from a Fedora. Then again, it is exactly what you would expect. Suspend & resume worked fine. Finally, the system resource usage, it was moderately high, as expected from a box with a solid card and the rest. On average, after a boot, Fuduntu 2013.1 would utilize some 600MB of RAM. Not bad, all in all, but most importantly, it was really responsive.
Remember the perfect grade that Fuduntu got in my earlier review? Well, it's not gonna happen this time. There are three reasons for that. One, it's too easy to enable the Testing repository and screw your system. Two, the package manager needs more rework, namely being more flexible and responsive, having fewer issues with the locking, allowing easier, friendlier and more robust search, and allowing a smooth, seamless installation of the graphics drivers without the user having to resort to any command line tricks and tweaks. Lastly, the Nvidia driver installation was not flawless.
At the end of the day, I was having a badass distro that was fast, light, beautiful, and modern, but the cost was some pain, several hours of time lost, and the knowledge that a pristine setup is impossible. Overall, Fuduntu 2013.1 did what I needed, and I had my Nvidia drivers in place. I do not regret my decision to include this distribution in my setup, and the decision stays. But there's more work needed, especially under the hood, to make sure that nothing goes wrong in multi-boot setups, blessed with tons of proprietary drivers. All that said, Fuduntu 2013.1 is still an awesome product.
To conclude this review, yes, another revolution did happen. I am running a Fedora-based distribution in my setup. It's bleeding edge, it's fast, modern, light, elegant, and comes with a mighty punch of programs, including Steam and Netflix. That's nothing you can sneeze at. Fuduntu 2013.1 promises to be a big player in the Linux arena, and it sure has the capability to stand alongside Ubuntu and friends without feeling antiquated or complex or anything of that sort. The ultimate question of long-term support and relevance remains, the ability to remain flexible and adapt to changes, as well as iron out all and any bugs in the user space that could lead to systems being unbootable, botched or both. If this can happen, then Fuduntu 2013.1 could very well become No.1 Linux distro. for now, with this test concluded, it gets 9/10. Almost perfect. So damn close.