Fedora Core 4

I finally got Fedora Core 4 running after nearly 12 hours of installation. Boy, that was a little rough on my patience. The first change I noticed is that the default “time left” bar is candy cane striped now instead of solid blue.

I decided to boot first into Gnome and see what this new “Clear Looks” theme looked like. It pretty much lived up to my expectations. It is a much cleaned-up version of Bluecurve, just as everyone claimed before. By cleaned up I mean that it’s a much more streamlined-looking, post-modern theme. It’s more like XP inthat the corners are more rounded and the buttons look nicer. Unlike XP there’s no annoying red “X” button. The other icons look the same. It may be me, but they look like they are rendered a bit nicer, but it could be in my head. Gnome also seems to run faster than it previously did, but I have no way of testing this. I didn’t do any benchmarking before and my other Linux computer is on a significantly slower processor.

I think that for the most part the upgrade only updated programs I already had on the computer. It didn’t add any new ones. At least, I don’t see evince on the menu. I try it in the command line and command is not found. I’m not sure what the best solution is, but I think it may be to load up package management and pick from there whichever software it says I don’t have on my computer. I heard they revamped the package managment system so, perhaps it will be useful. Previous attempts to use it brought my computer to a screachign halt. I don’t know if this was their fault or mine. Time to check out the new Open Office 2.0 because this is one of the programs I’ve been looking forward to the most in Core 4.

Oh, before I do that, I noticed a new animation when I shrink a Window in Gnome. You can see an ephemeral image of the Window shrinking into the bar. I think it’s similar to something I’ve seen in Macintoshes before. It’s a nice bit of eye candy, but it doesn’t do much for me. What makes the the happiest about it is that it doesn’t seem to cause any slowdowns on the system. That’s why I had gone to Fluxbox for me Window Manager. However, with these perceived speed improvements I may come back to some of these more “bloated” WMs. We’ll have to see, I’ve kinda gotten used to (and like) the concept of launching any program by right-clicking the desktop. Time will tell, and one of the best things about Linux is the choice.

I like the new OO.org logo, but I must say it seems to have taken longer than usual to pop up. I’m not sure if this is due to 2.0 or due to Gnome 2.10. However, the program seems to have gone through the actual initialization process after the logo finally came up, more quickly than it used to. Wow, Writer looks VERY nice! Before I found it to be rather ugly compared to Microsoft Word, but now it looks very nice. I think my problem with it before is that it had a bit of a Word 6.0 look to it – very old and dark grey. The new “in” for menus is light grey. You may think this is trivial, but try convincing others that your free, but OLD looking program is just as good at the new one. They’ll see what they perceive as age and even my mother knows that newer is almost always better in computers. The icons also look even more standardized than before and I applaud them for that. Obviously they don’t want to ape Microsoft too much, but whoever comes out first makes the standards. No one complains that on every VCR the fast forward button looks like >> because that’s the standard. If the Open folder icon wasn’t an open folder like in Microsoft, it would just confuse people. I like to read Linux Format Magazine and they had already informed me ahead of time about the change from Pilot to Wizard in OO.o. This is a very good thing. When I want to automate something in an Office suite I typically look for the “Wizard” so I’m glad they went with that name change. Just to see how things look I create my first file to save it. It uses the standard Gnome save dialog and, unlike some other programs, allows you to resize the dialog. This is good because, ulike KDE which has one that looks like Win XP, thus giving you a great view of your folders, Gnome has a Windows 3.1 view, which doesn’t really show a lot of folders. The second thing I noticed is that, in a true Open Source fashion, Open Office developers have moved away from their own file format into the new OpenDocument Text format. There is a huge push from all of the Open Source groups to push for a standard text format so that all text files would be compatible across all programs. The de facto standard, MS Word .doc, is closed source and this is why the conversion from Word to OO.o isn’t always perfect. They just have to try and reverse engineer it. Let’s go check out Calc now.

This time when I launch Calc I notice that not only are the Windows being shown shrinking down, but a launched item is “thrown” at the screen. Again, nice eye candy. Calc loads faster than Writer did, but I’m not sure if that’s because I’ve already had an OO.o program open and, therefore, some of the libraries are still in memory. I’ve now noticed another thing. As you may know if you are a Windows user, Word’s icon is blue, Excel is green, Powepoint is red and Access is purple. It may be a very subtle standard, but I guess it’s a standard because I just noticed that while the icon for Writer was blue, this icon is green. It’s a little bizzare because this doesn’t involve a functional button or anything, something for psychologists to study and see if they can figure something out. Again, it’s a very nice looking program and conforms, icon-wise, to MS Excel. Strangely, the insert chart button doesn’t seem to do anything. But then again, this is a beta version. I was able to manually go and create a chart fairly easily. I think their chart menu has a little work to go to be as user-friendly as MS Excel. This one uses the Open Document Spreadsheet to save. I find that the saves go much quicker and I’m not sure if that’s the new file format or the new Open Office. On to Impress.

The wizard that comes up at first is very intuitive and nice to use. They said they had revamped the look of Impress and they weren’t kiddin’! Boy does it look thousands of times nicer than it used to. Writer was always really great for replacing Word. Calc was a little worse when compared to Excel, but Impress was horrible. This version looks VERY good. Windows Office XP users will welcome the “tasks” panel on the right-hand side of the screen. This provides quick access to layouts, animations and slide transitions. I am so impress that I would just create a presentation on here if I were still in school. At my current job there’s no need for one just yet. Man, I really like this change! Yup, just as I predicted the icon is red for Impress. The save format is Open Document Presentation.

At first I was a little worried that FC4 might not live up to all the hype and leave me dissapointed after two days of downloading and one day of installing. I am really in “love” with Fedora Core again (as much as one can be in love with an OS). I see that they have updated Gnome and added the Totem Movie player. I’ll be happy to test that sucker out at some point in the future as I don’t have any movie clips with me right now. Apparently totem plays DVD which surprises me since Fedora doesn’t include DeCSS – perhaps it’s just there and I have to find DeCSS on my own? It’s moot on this laptop anyway because I don’t have a DVD-ROM. Ah, I see, I quick look at the help file reveals that this is actually based on Xine, my favorite movie player for Linux. This is good because that means it probably uses all of the same codecs. So far I haven’t noticed any problems whereas the Fedora List-serve has been full of complaints. Perhaps their systems are more customized than mine? The only thing I haven’t tested is sound, butthat’s because I don’t have any music on this laptop right now. Well, I think that rounds up Gnome. Let’s see what FC4 has done for KDE!

Ok, so while switching sessions I noticed something I really liked – well two things. Basically, GDM has been changed a bit in a good way. First of all, when you click on sessions there is a new “last” option. This lets you log into the last type of Window manager you were using – very useful if you have a long list of them and just want to pick the last one you used if that one isn’t the default. Another good addition is the fact that it gives you the option of making the desktop manager default if you pick a new one. Previously it would just let you know that when you got into the system you could change that via some other command. I like the convinience found there. KDE seemed a bit slow to startup, but then again I have mostly been using Fluxbox.

The only real difference I can see is that the Open Office Icons aren’t on the taskbar anymore. This gives me a lot more room for open programs. In what I consider to be a punk move by Gnome or Red Hat’s implementation of Gnome is that I realize that a lot of programs were missing from the menu in Gnome. For example Akgregator shows up here under Internet, but wasn’t anywhere to be found in Gnome. Also, the KOffice suite wasn’t under office, if I remember correctly. That’s definitely not cool. Everything else looks the same, but I’m not sure if I have to enable the new features in KDE 3.4 like shadows since I’m upgrading and not doing a fresh install. I decide to check under control center.

Ok, I did some digging around and found out where the problems were. KDE, or at least Red Hat KDE, comes with translucency and shadowing disabled. It’s listed as still being tested and can crash the translucency engine or even X. That tells me it’s probbably best left to a computer with a little more computing power than my laptop. For now I only switch on transluscent menus (a feature found in a different place than the transclucency/shadows options). The effect is pretty neat and just subtle enough. It’s not so bad you can’t read the text or so light you don’t know it’s enabled.

Overal I give the upgrade good marks. As the days go by I’ll be trying out new features such as Akregator, latest Gaim, and other programs. I may also even venture so far as to enable the shadows to see what happens. For right now I’m happy with the way things look.