Your Linux Data Center Experts

I've been running Fedora Core 5 for just over a month now. In general it's worked well, but I will admit I had some problems. The most annoying of which were almost certainly hardware issues with my laptop. Read more to find out about the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Encrypted home directories work really well. I quite honestly can say that I almost never notice the encryption overhead. However, there is no distribution support in the boot scripts for getting the required keys for encrypted home or (particularly useful) / directories. It works using the kludge I've mentioned previously, but support in the initrd or rc scripts would be a great addition. As would support in the installer.

Firefox 1.5 has worked quite well, and the upgrade from the 1.0 in FC4 was painless. However, an update a few weeks into FC5 left my firefox totally unusable. I recovered my .mozilla directory from backups, but even then it was having issues. I finally retrograded to the original firefox and then re-recovered from backups and it's been fine since. I was surprised how smoothly the conversion to 1.5 was.

ATI Binary drivers: My laptop uses an ATI video chipset which was getting somewhat poor performance using the stock drivers, even in my fairly modest use of 2D desktops. Switching between virtual desktops took annoyingly long, probably at least 400ms. Not earth-shattering, but annoying. The original kernel that was released was not able to use the ATI binary-only drivers, which really helped 3D performance, but also helped 2D quite a bit. Or at least they did for a while, after running for a day or two it seemed to slow back down for me. An updated kernel was released after a couple of weeks that was able to use the binary drivers.

A word about the hangs. I was having regular hangs. I went as long as 6 days without a hang, but sometimes the machine would just lock up, maybe after a day, maybe taking 3 or more days. On Monday it started hanging after just a couple of minutes use. I swapped to a similar laptop and it's been just fine since then. This coupled with Kevin and Ed Hill who have basically the same laptop and have had no hanging issues, plus problems I had under Ubuntu and FC4 make me think this was a hardware problem. Worse, the motherboard in this laptop has recently been replaced without resolving this problem.

Suspend and hibernate have been working really well for me. On Evelyn's laptop the suspend was sometimes hanging and refusing to come back, even if we specified “pci=noacpi acpi_sleep=s3_bios” on the kernel boot line. We switched that box to always hibernate, and it's been fine. On my laptop, both work fine.

Desktop search with Beagle looks really nice, but there are pretty significant problems with it. I had some e-mail archives that Beagle would hang when trying to index them. The configuration interface for adding and removing directories to scan seemed to do absolutely nothing. No combination of settings seemed to get it to avoid these mailboxes that would cause it to hang.

It does come with a Firefox plugin that will let Beagle index your web browsing, and I would have been quite happy to just have it index that. I already have reasonable tools for dealing with my (extensive) e-mail archives, but there was nothing I could do to get it to avoid indexing the file-system. So, I had to turn it all off. There have been a few updates since then, so maybe it's working now. Once Beagle is stable, it'll be a great tool.

Audio on the other hand, has been pretty spotty. I haven't really investigated this very far because I'm pretty disappointed with the audio architecture (if you can call it that) under Linux as it is. I've given up on audio under Linux and just use a portable music player and visual bell instead.

Audio may be better if I were running Gnome, but I'm running KDE. So, I have at least 3 different audio “standards” that may be getting used: arts, esd, and ALSA. These seem to be pretty much mutually-exclusive, so if esd gets started things using arts will break. And if Firefox decides it wants the audio device, everything else is screwed up. Sometimes my audio works until someone mentions my name on IRC, for example…

I have this memory of the distant past of having audio working under Linux reliably. It may have been a dream though. :-) So, my audio output device is now portable ogg player that I connect via USB and copy music to and charge. Works great.

Removable media is working fairly nicely. There's this window that comes up in X when I plug in my ogg player or camera USB memory card. I didn't really have much use for that box, until I realized that I could set it up to run a script when I plugged in a USB removable drive, and that script would run under my X session.

I built a small script that would detect the vendor and model of the device, and then run an action based on that information. The first one I implemented was an enhancement of my script that copied music over to my player. I used “kdialog” in that script to bring up a dialog asking if I want to copy new music over, or just charge. For the copying, I use kdialog from the script to display a progress bar as it's copying. Very nice. The only down side is that it can't unmount the file-system because something is holding onto it until after the script finishes… It's very handy though.

Networking was a bit problematic though. I had installed wifiroamd, which is now in Fedora Extras thanks for Ed Hill, but I still had a “/etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ifcfg-eth0” config file around which was causing Fedora to be trying to initialize the networking at the same time that wifiroamd was. It was extremely flaky until I realized that was what was happening and removed the ifcfg-eth0 file. Since then, my wireless networking has just worked, no tweaking needed.

The extras package repository has been fantastic. Probably the biggest disadvantage of Fedora up until recently has been that it just doesn't have as many packages available from the standard repositories. It's more likely to have packages available from third-parties, but those can be problematic unless you rebuild from the SRPM. With Fedora Extras now, we're getting a pretty rich set of packages available that are built for the distro. Still not as good as Debian, but getting much closer. The only couple of packages I needed to install “aftermarket” when I set up my laptop are now in the Extras repository.

In summary, I'm pretty happy with Fedora Core 5. My laptop has been flaky, but the software has been working pretty well. The install went very smoothly, even though I complicated it with filesystem encryption, and I was back up and running on the new software quickly and without much pain. There are some rough edges, but none of them have been interfering with my getting work done, so I'm happy.

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