January 6, 2013 – 7:37 pm
I switched to a new Linux flavor this weekend, since I had to re-install anyway. I went with Fedora 17, and am getting used to the differences. I’ve been running Ubuntu at home since I bought a Dell desktop that came pre-loaded with it about 4 years ago, but hadn’t gotten around to upgrading from 10.04 since I hadn’t cared for what I’d read about the Unity UI (sounded too netbook/mobile-oriented, if not as bad as Windows 8). I also wasn’t crazy about the direction its Canonical leadership was taking (e.g., various comments by Shuttleworth), so I was thinking that sooner or later I’d probably switch to Fedora or Mint anyway.
My computer’s been making grinding noises as it spins up, getting more crashy, so although its hard drive failure Friday morning was inconvenient, it wasn’t a total shock. It wouldn’t boot up (kept asking for me to insert media and/or select boot device), even after restarting it and then powering it off and letting it sit a bit, but the rest of the computer was fine (which I tested by booting to a Fedora 16 Live DVD I had hanging around, and then successfully doing web searches etc.). At work (we’re mostly a Red Hat shop), various folks discussed their experience with Fedora 17 and Mint, and also suggested Debian and CentOS, but from previous experience with raw Debian, and knowledge of CentOS as a kind of de-branded RHEL, I suspected I’d have to do a lot of additional installs to get things where I wanted them. I decided against Mint because it’s Debian-based (like Ubuntu), and follows Ubuntu pretty closely. I’ve had a soft spot for Fedora since my One Laptop Per Child days anyway. A co-worker kindly burned a couple of install disks for me (Fedora 17, and CentOS 6.3 just in case) from a local mirror he knew about.
Friday night, I had to disassemble the physical computer and remove the storage device to be sure just what I had (Western Digital SATA internal hard drive for desktops, 160GB). I bought a suitable replacement (Seagate SATA, 500GB, 7200rpm, $50 — I’m not a big movie/music consumer so didn’t see a need for the terabyte hard drives). Once I put the machine back together, I installed Fedora, going with the default GNOME interface. I had a fairly recent copy of the most important (personal) contents on a thumbstick backup from December, so I copied those over. Installing KeePassX, my password management system, wasn’t too bad once the automatic software updates were done and I saw the Add/Remove Software GUI tool had found KeePassX after all. It worked fine with the old Ubuntu KeePassX DB I’d copied over from the thumbstick; just a couple of passwords had changed since my last backup, and I’ve dealt with those.
Fedora with GNOME has a few quirks, but I think it’ll be usable enough for me not to bother re-installing with KDE (an alternate, more traditional desktop UI for Fedora). I’m using Empathy, the Fedora default chat client, instead of Pidgin that I had on Ubuntu, but it seems fine for my AIM chats (I may play with Empathy’s integrations with FB and Google chatting later). I’m just a little annoyed that there’s no way to just minimize a window, since it’s more clicks to switch to Activities and then select what I’m trying to get to than it was to just toggle by minimizing etc. I had to install Flash manually (well, without the help of Add/Remove Software), but I found a very helpful page for getting Flash for YouTube and FB vid inserts to work on Fedora. I had to do a bit more to get the default (Totem) Movie Player to play some movies I had already had. The instructions at the unofficial Fedora FAQ to add a few more yum repositories and then run a yum install command got me closer — then the Movie Player itself had enough to prompt me through installing the last bits. I may come across other stuff I need to install separately, but I’m pretty confident I’ll be able to do what I need to do on this system.