All right. Brace yourselves. It’s Fedora time. Throughout 2016, a gloomy year for the likes of us, Linux users, Fedora has been a friendly companion. It made me like and use Gnome again, plus it offered a pleasant, vibrant, practical desktop experience that nicely filled the gap left by Ubuntu. Almost like a dental crown.
We also learned how to pimp it, and I have a whole bunch of surprises laid out ahead of us, including yet more elegant tweaking and taming, reviews on other hardware, some revolutionary usability tricks, and still more. But all that will happen in the future. Now, we should focus on Fedora 25, and see how it stacks against its predecessor, as well as the entire Linux ecosystem. No pressure.
No problem booting from a USB drive. The system came up rather quick. Stock Gnome, through and through, which means it’s not the prettiest or most usable with no visible icons to click. But it’s still presentable enough.
The Wireless network died twice – once during normal browsing, and the second time while I was fiddling with Bluetooth, trying to pair an iPhone. Then again, stock Fedora 25, before any updates, ships with kernel 4.8.6, which does not have the fix introduced in kernel 4.8.7 that should make your Realtek behave more normally.
Bluetooth – indeed, it was fine. I was able to pair both the iPhone and the Ubuntu Phone, so we have some progress there, in that regard. Samba sharing and printing also worked without issues. Good. Good.
The printing applet does not have enough height to contain three entries, so they
will look ever so slightly cropped. This wasn’t an issue in the part. Tiny cosmetic
bugs that separate da Vinci from graffiti street artists.
Not only was I able to use olden protocols to connect the devices, they also cooperated well when plugged in via a USB cable. IPhone does PTP, and you will need to unmount then re-mount it once to avoid the lock/trust bug. Ubuntu Phone had no issue.
Installation – Disk Space Oddity
We all know the new Red Hat installer comes with the least intuitive layout in the history of mankind. And it’s not the safest either, as you can relatively easily format the EFI partition, and oops, all your operating systems are gone. It does not do swap, either. And as I’ve discovered during this review, it does not handle BTRFS well, too. OpenSUSE was installed on the G50 box, and I was using the brand new filesystem. Fedora was unable to actually see the underlying partition and let me format it. I actually had to use GParted externally, and then refresh the list of disks before I was able to select the correct devices and proceed. Poor results for a state-of-art distro like Fedora. Plus, slow.
Why is Fedora offering the USB thumb drive as an install destination – the live session is running from there.
After I had Fedora committed to disk, I tried booting some of the other OS instances that live on the disk. Nope. No luck. I had the same issue I encountered in Chapeau, and this is caused by a wonky and incomplete GRUB2 setup that misses some critical EFI modules. You will need to setup these first and then update the GRUB configuration. Very very amateurish. A full tutorial coming soon.
On the bright side, the GRUB updates are very fast, and the boot itself is also at least 2x faster than Fedora 24. This is an important improvement, but then we really need to login and see how the system behaves. After all, you will be rebooting your box sparingly. Everyday latency is cardinal to a good experience.
Fedora 25, installed and running
As soon as I hit the desktop, I activated a stopwatch. 10 minutes. That is that time that I needed to sort out the system and make it usable and pretty as I’ve so sweetly outlined in my pimpage article. RPM Fusion repos, extra icons and themes, extra software, Gnome Tweak Tool, half a dozen lovely extensions, some secret weapons, and then some. And, we will have 2-3 more similar articles coming soon!
Now, it was not all perfect. The Media Player Indicator and the Skype Integration extensions are actually broken and do not work on Fedora 25. This needs to be fixed, because the whole distro does not look professional enough as a result.
Package management, Wayland & speed
Brace yourselves, said I. FEDORA 25 SHIPS WITH WAYLAND! And so it is among the first distributions out there to test the new X-like server thingie, which could turn out to be a big problem for us all. We shall yet have to see.
What happened was, I ran dnf from the command line. It was so heavy that it brought the system to a grind. The CPU load was abnormal, and the system stuttered. The mouse cursor was also quite sluggish, both because the Fedora 25 default setting is too slow or whatever, plus it was further exacerbated by the dnf eating through my processors. No idea why or how, but I did not like this. And I do think it is partially related to Wayland. Just look at Chrome. All shalt be revealed soon.
Eventually, the package manager completed fine – and FAST, the system had all the new packages and the new kernel – 4.8.11, which is doubly triply interesting because of the whole Realtek card issue. The suspense must be killing you.
Wayland. Yes, I accused it of being slow. With the dnf activity simmering down, I was able to focus more on testing the responsiveness and performance. In terms of pure numbers, there does not seem to be a big difference in memory consumption, about 1.2 GB, nearly identical to the predecessor. The CPU is much noisier, though, at roughly double the figures we saw in Fedora 24. Non-stop background activity of about 5-6% or higher.
Regardless of what the system was reporting, Fedora 25 was not as crisp and fast as Fedora 24. For instance, opening Firefox would always result in a crazy flicker until it rendered fully on the screen. Browsing with some 20 media-rich tabs in Chrome – HTML5 HD videos and such, the system was slightly sluggish, and I am drawing a direct comparison to how Fedora 24 does it on this same box.
We’re not talking big differences – but they are perceptible enough. Button clicks and response, tab scrolls, switching windows context, how quickly the videos load and display, how smooth the playback is, and how non-interruptive the video action is if you try to do other things simultaneously. All of it. Small differences. Important differences.
Even after I manually added swap – because Fedora does not do this automatically, very silly, nothing changed. But the system did immediately dump a bunch of stuff yonder, swap DEM pages, so that makes for a rather hefty utilization, given the system spec.
Ultimately, all this affects the bottom line. Fedora 25 ate more electrons, and it gave a significantly lower battery life than its father. Wayland may or may not be at fault, but it is the one big change from what we had previously. I have not read the kernel release log in detail to see if there were any major scheduler or memory management changes, but I doubt it.
You get about 2.5 hours with the brightness set to 50%. Fedora 24 gives almost 4 hours on this same box under the exact SAME conditions. This is a major difference. And as far as I’m concerned, this needs to be addressed fast. I do not like regressions.
Now that we’ve done the gruesome bits and pieces, let’s focus on simple everyday usability. The default collection is average plus. Firefox, Evolution, LibreOffice, Videos, Rhythmbox, Cheese, a few other programs and utilities. Also something called Maps, which seems weird on a laptop. Smells smartphony, but then Gnome 3 has ruined its desktop side by trying to be this abstract, touchy-feely thing. I did some extra stuff, the likes of Steam, Skype, VLC, GIMP, several other apps and such. You must have those if you wish to enjoy your Fedora without problems.
After adding the RPM Fusion repos and installing some 20-30 extra packages, as I’ve outlined in my tutorial earlier, you will not have any trouble playing proprietary formats. All those sweet codecs and plugins will be there. MP3 and HD video, no sweat. Did not test Flash because I didn’t feel like doing it.
Seem to work for a change. No problems, no errors.
Hardware compatibility, suspend & resume
There were no issues with the laptop and its functionality. Everything seemed to be in order, all the Fn buttons worked, all the peripherals were properly initialized, and the laptop went to sleep and woke without any issues. Sweet.
Software looks more presentable than before. I was not able to trip it with inconsistent information the way it used to do in the past. Perhaps some bugs have finally been polished. It is still inferior to USC, though.
SELinux vomited on me, complaining about systemd. Look, either the system is spotless, or it gets deleted. You can’t have both co-existing on the box. Ugly alerts are ugly, and they cramp my style.
There were no bugs, no crashes. The distro was spotless stable in this regard, and it was running well, albeit every so slightly less smoothly than before. Fedora 25 was giving me the experience I deserved but not the one I wanted. Or something. All in all, after I had applied the thick layer of Jezabelic paint and color, added all the extra stuff, gone through a reboot cycle to get the kernel updates in place, the system was behaving. What about the network, you’re asking?
Aha! Indeed. How did our RTL8723BE fare? Well, before I had the modprobe trick added, see above for details, it went down once. After I had the rtl8723be.conf file in place, and re-inserted the module into the memory, things were quite steady since. I had completed numerous small and large file transfers, single and multiple concurrent downloads, all sorts. It seems to be all right. Better than even 4.8.7. We will discuss this at length, because I owe you a follow up article on the original Manjaro report, and we need to carefully continue the testing. I do not want to give you false hope and empty promises.
A little bit of visual art, if you please:
But what about male models? I mean Fedora 25? Oh yes! Overall, it is more mature and ready for use than I would have expected. I thought the whole new X thingie would melt my pixels. That did not happen. However, this new distro sacrifices speed in the installed system for the sake of some boot improvements. GRUB2 errors are horrendous and cannot be excused. The installer sucks.
On the plus side, it’s pretty enough, functional enough. If you go for extras, you will be able to enjoy your music and videos, plug in your phones, enjoy a speedy enough network on top of a modern kernel. The dark side of the whole affair is you need to work overtime to get the necessary software for day-to-day enjoyment. Package management can bring the system to a halt, and there are still some odd bugs here and there. Resource utilization is a flop. Might be Wayland. Very stable, though.
Fedora 25 is an interesting distro. After you spend some time taming it, polishing the rough edges, beating it into submission, and fixing half a dozen critical problems, it becomes quite usable. But still slower than Fedora 24. You can match all other parameters, but not the speed. At the end of the day, this little Gnome beastling deserves 7.5-8/10 overall. Not the best, not the worst. A flat release in this sense. A natural continuation of what Fedora is. Decent news. No regressions. No revolution. Steady. Boring. Worth exploring. A rhyme. Here’s a dime.
As I mentioned, since my writing is not linear, and I always have a good 2-3 months worth of articles in my queue, you might find it odd that I am going to be publishing stuff on Fedora 24 rather than the latest crop, and there will be a handful, believe me. But do let me assure you. All is well and tested, and the tips and tricks will be completely accurate and relevant. So stay tuned for updates. Stay!