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Review of Fedora 11

November 18, 2009 Leave a comment

I chose Fedora as the first distribution for one reason. Linus Torvalds uses it. If it’s good enough for the creator of Linux, it should be good enough for me. I turned out to be right.

The good:
I know that Fedora 12 was due to come out only a few days after I installed 11, but I wanted to stick with an older version of the distribution, since the newer version was untested by a large group of users, and version 11 was adequate to test and run on my laptop.

The installation was simple, although I suspect I would have come across problems if I had to dual-boot it with another system. There’s no way to tell for sure, since I didn’t. And I didn’t intend to, since this is a review of the usability of Linux as a complete desktop system.

Fedora 11 seems to have a very fast boot time and program execution speed. The entire operating system boots in around 10-15 seconds on a somewhat older laptop with a 1.5GHZ processor and 512MB of RAM. I also like the idea of a centralized place to download software (a repository), but as I understand, that’s common with any Linux distribution.

The bad:
I couldn’t get Knetworkmanager to connect to my wireless campus network. When I selected the appropriate options to connect and typed in my login and password, the “connect” button wasn’t clickable. I could connect to other wireless networks, so I knew my wireless card was installed and working correctly within Linux. I searched on the internet for a solution to the problem, but only found a lot of people saying that their connection wasn’t working either. I searched for an alternative to Knetworkmanager, and found a program named wicd. The problem with wicd is that I couldn’t install it on my computer unless I had Python 2.6 installed. I knew I had a newer version of Python, and I didn’t want to install Python 2.6 just to get connected to the internet, so I tried an alternate approach. Since I knew that the problem was with Knetwork’s ability to connect to my campus network (a WPA Enterprise connection), I assumed that this problem couldn’t have existed with all versions of Knetworkmanager. I simply installed an older version of the client and tried to connect again. This time, it worked! I don’t think I would have had those problems with another operating system. I can only guess that the problem existed because I was trying to connect to a WPA enterprise network.

The trouble with my wireless connection might not seem like such a big deal, but consider how many other campus networks use WPA for security purposes. If I can’t connect with the network manager, they can’t either. And more than likely, they will not be as patient to install wicd, and they may not think to install an earlier version of network manager. I’m using the name networkmanger instead of Knetworkmanager because the two programs are very similar, and the resources I found when researching the problem only spoke about the regular networkmanager (for GNOME) instead of Knetworkmanager.

I recall a few years ago when an operating system creator (with a rather iconic symbol) contracted with my undergrad university to have all of the people in a certain major purchase their computers, installed with their operating systems. Another company (the one that people have a love/hate relationship with) sold their operating system and office suite to students for $5 per disk. The reasons the two companies did so is very simple. If you can get college students used to a particular way of operating a computer, they will stick with it. If they couldn’t connect to the internet with either of those operating systems, then they certainly would have abandoned them in favor of another OS very quickly.

As a suggestion to creators of wireless connection programs for Linux: please make sure that people can connect to the internet with your program before it’s released. Make especially sure that people who are most likely to use your product will be able to do so. Building the Linux brand relies on your ability to make it work.

On Friday, I will review OpenOffice with Fedora.

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