Fedora 9 Falls A Little Short - page 3
With the base system installed it was time to see if I could get it up and running as a fully working desktop.
My first order of business was to connect to my wireless network. I clicked on the network manager applet in the top right hand corner of the screen and was pleased to see a list of networks to choose from, this meant my Intel wireless card was working and there was no need to configure drivers. I simply entered the key for my WPA2 network and it connected straight away. Nice and simple.
Next I turned to video drivers for my Nvidia card, but this turned out to be a lot harder than I expected. There's no equivalent of the Ubuntu Restricted Driver Manager in Fedora and unlike Mandriva, it doesn't just install the drivers for you. This was not unexpected, as most distros behave like this but I'm always surprised more distributors don't use something like the Ubuntu solution.
Fedora uses the RPM packaging system, it's a Red Hat invention and these software packages are managed by a tool called YUM. It's the equivalent of Apt on Debian based systems and I've always found it a bit disappointing when compared directly to Apt. I make no secrets that I am a fan of Debian, though.
On Fedora 8 I had lots of issues with YUM locking up on me and causing no end of trouble. I'm pleased to report I didn't have that problem at all in Fedora 9, though I did have plenty of other mishaps which I'll get to later.
I searched for nVidia drivers with YUM and found nothing. The Fedora repositories do not contain non-free software and this is deliberate because they only distribute FOSS packages. There is a third-party repository that contains many of the things average users will need, such as drivers and codecs. You can install it by going to http://rpm.livna.org and clicking the link on the front page which says "Fedora 9 RPM", you will then be prompted to download and install a package. It's pretty simple.
There is an Nvidia driver in the Livna repo but I discovered--after doing some research--that this version of Fedora ships with an experimental Xorg server. This is the underlying graphical server and usually works closely with your video drivers. But, because this is so new and experimental, it's not supported by any of the current Nvidia drivers. I did install the package from Livna to see what would happen but upon rebooting the system message appeared "Nvidia.ko not found, module not enabled", the system seemed to work fine but it just wouldn't enable the accelerated driver.
According to all the forums I checked it's a case of waiting for Nvidia to release a new driver. You could downgrade the X server and then install graphics drivers, but it's quite an involved task and I didn't really fancy retrofitting the system to make it work, to me this is the job of the distributor.
I was able to install all the software I needed using the Add/Remove Software tool from the admin menu. I simply searched for the packages I wanted and then selected them. I installed Deluge, gPodder, Audacity and a few other things and found the software repositories quite deep. One advantage of running a Red Hat-based system is finding packages for commercial software is pretty easy, as it's so prevalent in business. RPM packages for lots of things are available often where DEB packages are not--this could be due to the fact that industry giants Red Hat and SUSE use RPM.
A good example of this is the Adobe Flash Player for Firefox. I tried to install it with the prompt in the browser which usually works but this time it failed. They have RPM packages on the Adobe web site though, and after installing this and restarting Firefox it worked in Firefox 3 Beta 5 (see Figure 3).
I was also able to install Skype with the RPM on their website but they are a bit better at supporting an array of different distros than most.
When it comes to managing your software on Fedora, I find the built-in GUI is a bit limited so I usually install something called Yumex. You can install it from the main repos and I find it a much better interface. Yumex is a lot more like Synaptic under Debian systems, which may go a long way to explaining why I like it (see Figure 4). I would recommend it to anyone serious about using Fedora.
I also found I had to configure Nautlius (the file manager) to do browser view and show items as lists but this only takes a minute.