First Irritations with Fedora Core 4

July 15, 2005

I can't call this a review or even first impressions of Fedora Core 4, because I haven't used it enough yet (and may not for a while). So this is my first irritations with Fedora Core 4, gained from banging my head against it repeatedly in the process of preparing our new OS load for a planned late-August upgrade/reinstall of a bunch of workstations.

  • The Anaconda installer is buggy. (Still with no sign of an update.)

  • Once X starts, it kills the normal text consoles. Depending on your machine you get either blank consoles or scrambled consoles. The root cause is the decision to use GCC 4 in FC4, which either miscompiles or exposes as incorrect some code in X's libvgahw.a (which it is depends on who you ask). Bugzilla #161242.

  • Matrox cards don't work very well (if at all). This is probably related to the libvgahw.a bug, but it's not clear; it's not fixed by some things that fix the former bug. Bugzilla #163331, to the extent that there is an organized single bug for this. (We like Matrox cards here. Whoops.)

  • The default desktop background is about 75% black on a decent sized display (1280x1024). I don't know about you, but a black background makes me nervous that something is wrong. Past Red Hat releases used a much nicer background.

The following are not entirely Red Hat's fault, since I believe they come from Gnome. But still:

  • The core menus take a long time to appear the first time you click on them, presumably as the gnome-panel code runs all over the system doing XML magic. Dear Gnome: please build those menus in the background when you start, because otherwise it annoys everyone sooner or later.

  • If you unwarily try to use your Gnome configuration from Fedora Core 2, the result looks like overgrown ass; you pretty much have to delete it and let the system give you the defaults. (I hope none of our few thousand students had any customizations they really cared about, because they're about to lose them.)

  • The Gnome default layout now uses two stripes of the screen, one at the top and one at the bottom. Dear Gnome: my screen space is a limited and therefor precious resource. Please stop stealing bits of it.

  • Whose bright idea is it to make the terminal window's cursor blink? Dear Gnome people: humans are reflexively attracted to blinking things, because it's a form of apparent motion and change. However, the cursor is simply not that important; making it blink is like having a four year old jumping up and down going 'I'm here! I'm here! I'm here!'.

Overall, I am sufficiently unhappy with the X bugs that I am not currently planning on upgrading my own machines. Although now that I write it up, this list of irritations is smaller and less impressive than I thought when I was banging my head against them.

(Note that I don't consider Fedora Core 4 shipping without support for MP3s, or without Flash and Sun's Java and Adobe Acrobat and a pile of other commercial software, to be an 'irritation' as such. Fedora Core can't ship with those; see the 'commercial software' bit. (Yes, even MP3 decoders; MP3 decoding in patented in all places that actually allow software patents.))

Written on 15 July 2005.
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Last modified: Fri Jul 15 23:55:56 2005
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