Tag Archive: GUI

Final thoughts on Ubuntu 11.04 and Fedora 15

For some time now I’ve been wrestling with the idea of writing my final thoughts on Ubuntu 11.04 and Fedora 15, the reason for me taking so long to figure out if I wanted to write this post in the first place will become clearer after you read this post.

It’s no secret by reading my previous first look review, that I was not a fan of GNOME-Shell, or Unity. While was hoping that the experience would become much more fluid in the final releases, I was still left disappointed.

However, I gave both a fair shot using both for roughly 2 to 3 weeks to try and determine if after using it for a prolonged period of time, my views would change. In addition to my own experience I also turned to the Linux community and looked at both positive and negative reviews centering on both interfaces. Surprisingly, what I found was a mixed set of opinions; however most of them had only a handful of nice things to say about the interface and a bucket full of negative. The main reason for me viewing these reviews was to ensure that I was using them correctly, I did not want to base my opinion solely on the fact that I was struggling to figure certain aspects of it.

While all of the reviews I looked at nitpicked about small things some of which had no relevance to stability or even usability, others touched on small problems that could easily have been fixed prior to release. While I haven’t touched either one of these distributions and about a weeks’ time, last time I did some of these mistakes were still present. To give you an example of how silly some things are in terms of mistakes, I will point out one in Fedora 15 specifically.

Fedora decided to take a different approach and separate the software repository lists tool from the actual updates tool, this in itself is fine in my opinion. Were the silly mistake part comes in is that loading GNOME-Shell, and looking for the update tool to get the current updates for your system. You are presented with two tools with exactly the same icon in virtually identical names; one is called update and the other updates. Through trial and error I discovered that the one with the S at the end of it actually pulls up a repository configuration dialog you can select which repositories are used for installing packages and receiving updates. I know this sounds like nitpicking however it is very confusing and something that is easily corrected, and something that should’ve never ended up in the final version.

Update: as of right now the icons have changed. But they’re both still named exactly the same with the exception of an S

If your computer is not powerful enough to run GNOME-Shell or you just don’t have the proprietary graphics drivers installed, you will go into a fallback session of GNOME 3. This is not to be confused with GNOME 2, I have read a lot of misconceptions that the fallback mode is in fact a stripped down version of GNOME 2. This is in fact false; GNOME-Shell is merely a GUI interface on top of the GNOME 3 libraries. You can tell this by looking at the version of GTK that the fallback session uses, its version 3. Below is a screenshot that might explain why a lot of people confuse the two.

Fallback session

GNOME 3 Fallback Session Warning Dialog

I’m not sure why exactly, but the icon on the dialogue reminds me of the old sad Macintosh, icon that you use to get when your Mac would have a fatal error.

Next to that screenshot you can see one of the desktop that’s loaded in a fallback session.

Fallback Session Desktop

GNOME 3 Fallback Session Desktop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Updates Dialog Panel 1

Updates Dialog Panel 1

Updates Dialog Panel 2

Updates Dialog Panel 2

 

Virtual Box can run GNOME-Shell or unity just fine after you install the guest additions, below is a screenshot of the update, updates, issue I was talking about.

Most other distributions used their repository configuration dialogue with a different name that distinguishes it from the update program, such as sources.

 

Update, Updates issue

Screenshot showing how both tools are named Similarly

I put a circle around the two specific programs to draw attention so that it would be easier to pinpoint them.

To further illustrate how this could be confusing, below are two screenshots that show the two tabs on the updates dialogue, below that is a screenshot from the update dialog.

Update Dialog

Update Dialog

This is not an incredibly huge error; it’s not even one that will affect stability of your system. No this is more a cosmetic and user experience related issue. Some might argue that they’ve been labeled this way for several releases now, however when using GNOME-Shell they show up right next to each other under the applications section, which is the cause for the confusion. In a fallback session, or on previous versions of GNOME, these two tools showed up in completely separate menus, which made it less confusing because you are less likely to see both of them side-by-side.

Again, I know this is a long that of a rant to go on about such a small problem, but I just wanted to make it clear what the confusion was and say that if I’m confused, having used previous versions of Fedora that the average user coming from another distribution might be even more confused.

 

That aside, once you get past GNOME-Shell Fedora 15 is a fairly solid release despite the multiple reviews; I’ve read that point to the contrary. On my last review Fedora 15 was in the alpha stages, and I talked about a lot of the new features that the average user would recognize most of these have not changed (other than getting more stable).

I did notice one quirk they kind of bugged me, while this is not a bug, and it is in fact an intentional change, I don’t understand the methodology behind the change. I’m talking about the fact that if you ever create your own RPMs and Fedora things have become slightly more confusing. It used to be that all you needed to do in order to sign and build RPM packages was to install the development tools group from Yum. It seems for whatever reason they’ve taken the GPG signing integration out of RPM by default. This functionality can of course be added back, but it requires installing a separate package. There’s absolutely no documentation that I’ve been able to find that explains the reasoning behind this change, or even that the change took place. I literally spent three hours trying to sign a package through RPM only to find that some person on a forum somewhere discovered that this RPM signing functionality was moved into a separate package called rpm-sign.

I’m not a developer and certainly not in a position to question Fedora’s policies on what to include and what not to include in a default installation. However, if they insist on breaking this functionality of RPM out into a separate package, then the least they could do is added to the development tools group, this way and somebody does a group install of the development tools this packages pulled down alongside other packages necessary to build and sign rpm’s. As I said, this is not a bug; it’s an intentional step, though the reasoning behind it at least to me is not known.

I did have one other bad experience out of my entire Fedora 15 experience. I’m not sure if this was specific to my machine, or if this happens with everybody. What happened was this, I installed Fedora 15 with the default package set, then once Fedora 15 was loaded I updated it decided I didn’t like GNOME-Shell and didn’t want to use the fallback session. I then began looking at other desktop environments that I could install; naturally, my first replacement was KDE which installed perfectly with no issues. However, upon having installed KDE and booting into it at least once GNOME stopped working altogether, in fact when you try to log into GNOME you we get an error message similar to the one in the screenshot above. The differences this error message would tell you that GNOME had a fatal error, and was not able to start. No amount of logging out and logging back in would make this message go away. Ironically, however, installing Fedora 15 with KDE and GNOME from the installer seems to bypass this issue, at least for me.

I know you guys are pricing report it, file a bug report! The problem is I’m not exactly sure what caused the error so submitting a bug report with the small amount of information I have would not be useful to anybody, especially the person that would help me try to solve the problem. Again, this issue may not be present for everybody; it may have just been some quirk on my specific machine.

Ubuntu – Alternatives

Party did a review of Ubuntu 11.04 stable, some not to repeat the same information. I will however link to that blog entry below. What I will do however is tell you a few alternatives to Ubuntu that I found that are based off of Ubuntu, but don’t have that pesky unity.

This is going to be a very quick section. Basically I’m getting give you a list of two or three distributions that have tried that are derivatives of Ubuntu and give you a brief synopsis of my experience followed by a link to the website to get more information.

Zorin – this distribution is extremely cool looking, and I’m not just saying that because I love the color blue (which this distribution has a lot of). There are a lot of custom tools included that let you change the look of this distribution to match other operating systems, including Mac OS X. This distribution is every bit as user-friendly as Ubuntu is and as I mentioned even includes several tools that are unique to this distribution to make the experience that much easier.

Linux Mint – most of you reading this who have had any experience with Ubuntu it all have probably heard of mint, some like to go into too much detail here. I will however say that the newer version of mint is the best version I have seen to date. I’m not exactly sure which version of Ubuntu. This was based off of, what I do know is that it uses GNOME 2. This is good news for everybody out there who hates unity is much as I did.

Ubuntu with XFCE – yes I understand there is a officials then of Ubuntu that includes this as the default desktop, but in order to get an experience that you’re used to as Ubuntu user, I recommend installing Ubuntu and then going to synaptic and installing XFCE. This will allow you to use XFCE while main containing a lot of the GNOME libraries and utilities that you’re used to.

Well, that wraps up this blog post. Sorry for being so long-winded, but I had a lot to say. As always, comments are welcome, one thing I prefer not to see in the comments are remarks like “unity rocks you’re insane for not liking it”, or “GNOME-Shell makes Fedora faster, it’s the future” those kinds of comments to me serve no constructive purpose as they are opinions usually ones that a majority of the people may not agree with or could agree with. Bottom line if you want to tell me why you think unity or GNOME-Shell is worth keeping around try to do in a constructive way. Don’t just say it rocks.

Ubuntu Unity Review

My first look at Fedora 15 (Pre-Alpha) and Ubuntu 11.04 (alpha)

It is no secret I am not the most knowledgeable person with regards to Linux, however I do enjoy it and often dabble in more then one distribution at a time. This time I have chosen to look at Fedora 15 which will hit Alpha next month and Ubuntu 11.04 which is currently in alpha.

Both of these distribution versions are still in the stage of development where things are ironed out and the kinks get fixed, however by this point most features and the look and feel are pretty much there buggy though they may be. I am going to take the fact they are still being bug squashed into account in my review of them.

To make the comparison easier I am running them inside of a VM with 1gb of ram allotted to each machine and 50gb HDD. They are being run from VirtualBox 4.0.4 from a Windows 7 64bit Professional host.

While both distributions have taken huge steps toward perfecting the joy that is Linux and Open Source, there is still some work to do before the average Joe windows user decides that Linux may be worth checking out.

I am make no attempts to hide the fact that I use Windows and use it often, I am however not of the frame of mind that Windows is in any way superior to Linux just a different method to achieve the same core goals of an OS. Lets be realistic, if Linux had started out early on it would be the OS in everyone’s home not Windows but because we entered the game a bit late we are playing catch up.

Fedora 15 and Ubuntu 11.04 both make huge strides to bridge the gap between stability and Usability, Sleek beautiful artwork and rock solid programing are just a few things I have seen so far. I am not saying they are without bugs, being in this early a stage of the release cycle bugs are expected.

All that Aside let me jump into the areas of interest, keep in mind some of these views I will mention are with full knowledge of how buggy a alpha release can be. That being said, I intent to point out issues I had and then compare them to the finish product when it is released to determine if these were resolved or still exist.

Fedora 15 – Installation

As mentioned above Fedora 15 is not quite to the Alpha stage as such no installer ISO exists yet. I managed an install by using the Fedora GPXE boot installation method and simply changed the paths in the grub menu to point to a Fedora 15 repository. If your reading this you are most likely aware that Fedora now branches their rawhide (normally the development branch) into a new development branch when it gets closer to the alpha release. I used this to my advantage as you can see in the image below I merely altered the fedora 14 development entry to point to this new fedora 15 branch.

bfo1bfo2bfo3

 

Once this is done the install loads up pretty much like normal, however once it loads you get a lot of the types of errors similar to the one below. These errors are frequent and annoying but most of the time repeated presses of the retry button will allow it to successfully download. I am confident this error will disappear with the official Alpha ISO when it is release as the rpms will be present on the image. However, that aside the install will succeeded if you are willing to repeatedly hit retry on more then one file to get it to go. I should note if you accidentally hit reboot your not given any warning and have to start all over again.

f15err

 

The new user wizard that shows up after a fresh install of Fedora is re-vamped as well allowing for more then one user to be made and allowing adding users to the Administrator group which then allows them to use SUDO similar to how Ubuntu does by default.

Ubuntu 11.04 – Installation

Most of the installation for this works the same as the new revamped 10.10 installer. I did run into some issues with the installer not working in a VM and was forced to use the alternate installed for 11.04 to install this version. Again it is worth saying that this will most likely be fixed in the final release. Installing in a VM can also cause issues like this as well.

Issues related to both distributions

Due to VirtualBox only allowing 128mb of video ram to be assigned to each VM I was not able to get the Gnome Shell effect to work in F15 nor the Unity Effect in 11.04 due to this the effect you get is more classic Gnome looking.

Ubuntu 11.04 – Desktop and Menus

Below is an image of the default Ubuntu 11.04 desktop and a few of the menus, the look is very close to the Ubuntu 10.10 style.

ubunutudesktopubuntumenu1ubuntumenu2

 

Most of the menus resemble the ones above, fairly straight forward. From what I have seen so far the Ubuntu menu system is a bit more streamlined and requires less fumbling through menus.

Fedora 15 – Desktop and Menus

The menus for Fedora 15 for me looked the same, this was largely due to the VM not being able to support enough video ram to run the Gnome-Shell. Because of this it had to fall back to the classic gnome look and the menus were pretty much the same.

Of course they changed the wall paper that comes with it again but the one they chose seemed less eye catching then some of the previous ones they released, it is still great quality in terms of art and skill just not as 3dish as the F14 one was for example. I am not sure if this is an area they are still working on or if it has been finalized, either way it is easy enough to change and as such not a big deal.

I tried to install the VirtualBox guest additions to see if gnome-shell would work, and this caused Xorg to stop working altogether so I had to roll back to a snap shot from before the install of the additions.

f15desktop

As you can see from the image above there is a small issue with the GDM login screen, when you select a user as part of the administrator group you get the word Other as the only selectable user. This does not always happen and when it does clicking it will cause GDM to reload and then the correct users are listed. I am sure this is a glitch that will be addressed as the development continues.

Fedora 15 – Significant changes

While most areas of Fedora 15 remain pretty common to how the previous versions looked, some stand out and I am not exactly sure this is a good thing or not. I will show you a picture of the new “Control Panel” like system settings window that now contains all the gnome and Linux gui tools like User admin and more.

f15controlf15useradminf15sysinfogenf15sysinfodefaultf15sysinfogfxf15print

The above images show just a few of the changes to the Fedora 15 GUI windows, there are literally changes in almost ever GUI dialog so I can not possibly post pics of them all so I chose the more popular ones to show it off.

Things are still buggy in places some of those Unlock buttons you see do not work for me they simply do nothing, others work as planned. I over all am impressed with the re-design but the window style feels very Windows 3.1 to me and that would most likely be the first element I would change.

Again these windows might look this way because I had to use the fallback window manager instead of gnome-shell but it could also be due to the distributions being in early development still.

Final Thoughts

Overall I feel both versions are progressing nicely, they will both change what the current user base sees as well as adding functionality as well. Fedora I believe is making the most radical change in terms of look and feel while Ubuntu tends to tweak their current design elements.

As this is just a entry on my first thoughts it might not be in depth to the point of some readers liking, however I do plan to do a more in depth review once the two are officially released. I will post back here during my tinkering to share any huge changes I might have discovered.

Thanks for reading and leave any comments below.

Entry related Links

FGLRX/Catalyst Woes! ATI Get with the big picture allready!

Well now I have been told and told and even experienced first hand why NVidia is better to its linux user base then ATI however I did not heed the warnings and now I have reached a perdicament.

ATI offers their drivers for video cards for linux however what seems to be the case lately is that X.org and ATI do not seem to be on the same page. ATI releases an update for their drivers to support a new Xorg version and then xorg goes and releases a new stable version which then takes ATI 6 months to make a driver for. Well this is all and good except that by the time ATI releases that driver update to support it the development cycle continues and bam another xorg stable version is rolled out. leaving ATI once again in the wake of its success.

Now Nvidia does not seem to have nearly as long of a delay in their support for new xorg versions why then does ATI insist on falling behind in this.

The simple answer is that they are pre-concerned with adding support for newer cards instead of enabling their existing current products to function properly. This leave people like myself with the decision do use an older xorg and continue using the drivers which in my case means an older Fedora version or use the open source drivers.

I often get told “Try the new mesa experimental drivers they support 3d perfectly” To which I have to say no they do not at least not in the way that someone installing the fglrx driver would expect. When i say that I want the same support that fglrx has I mean that i want to run 3d games like World of Warcraft in WINE something that to me is not possible with the experimental drivers.

Now before i get people saying “Install the mesa-dri-experimental package” I am going to say I have done this and see  no change at all. I have even downloaded and compiles the radeonHD driver with no luck as well.

Bottom line here is that why does ATI not take their linux users seriously? Why do they take 6 months to add support for a new xorg version?