These days, it is very difficult to highlight the
visible and noticeable changes in a distribution. As it is, there is
a reluctance to upgrade in case some working application breaks. In
the absence of anything striking, a reasonable position can be, “Why
If the cost of upgrading is low, more people may
upgrade. Hence, aside from the noticeable differences, we will
discuss a couple of lesser known techniques for upgrading fedora with
Can a user tell that the machine is now upgraded?
Of course, the boot up screen is different. There is a nice colourful
progress bar as the system boots. Then, the default wallpaper is
different. After that, the usage is about the same as before. My
personal view is that a user not noticing a change is an advantage.
It will not require retraining.
Fedora 9 introduced KDE4 and it caused a lot
of problems for the KDE3 users. Once KDE4.1 came, I actually
switched from being a predominantly Gnome user to a predominantly
KDE user. I liked the sparse desktop. I liked the Dolphin file
manager, particularly the split mode and the terminal panel within
Dolphin. I got used to the new menu system. Fedora 10 continues with
the enhancements in KDE4. The change most noticeable for me was in
the Amarok player. It left me confused. I can play the music but
can't figure out at times whether I have found a bug or haven't
learnt how to use Amarok! I suppose I will get used to the new
interface and the additional capabilities or switch to Rhythmbox :)
The other major change is in OpenOffice.
Fedora 10 now includes the 3.0 version. An OpenOffice 2 user will be
perfectly at ease with version 3. While I was writing this article,
the KDE desktop behaviour became odd. Although OpenOffice worked
perfectly fine, the KDE menus and the clock widget did not display
properly when using the proprietary Nvidia driver(not supported by
Fedora). But the display was fine if AIGLX option was off and
Composite option was disabled. However, on Gnome even with the
Desktop effects enabled, the behaviour was as expected.
The login page of gdm includes a form to set
convenient universal access features. The ability to increase the
text size with a simple click will be especially convenient for the
older users. As on Fedora 9, gdm still has a bug of not recognising
xdmcp connections. A patch is available on the forums but the
patched version is not yet available. As is common on Linux, a bug
is not a show stopper. We can use kdm instead.
Switching to the new Plymouth system
initialisation system did not make a noticeable impact on the
booting time on my desktops (from power on to the login page). I
suspect that the speed up may be noticeable if there are lots of
services which are started and more saving may come if the kernel
does not have to rediscover all the devices and reconfigure the
hardware every time it boots.
A gain of the new booting process is that
diagnosing start up problems on Debian based distributions, e.g.
Ubuntu, and Fedora will now be similar. It all starts with
/etc/event.d/rcS. I am reminded of a comment in a mainframe
code: 'This is where you start, where you end up is your
Fedora 10 repository now includes Sugar,
the learning software environment for the OLPC project. As yet only a
few activities are packaged in RPM's. I expect that more will be
added as time passes. The Fedora project team hopes to get more
people actively involved in the Sugar project by making the
platform accessible to many more people. I would highly recommend
that you try the turtleart activity, based on Logo. It is a
colourful, fun way to learn programming.
In addition to the Fedora 10 release, the
availability of RPMFusion repositories has been extremely valuable.
The confusion between whether to use Livna or FreshRPM's is over. The
migration has been transparent for all users who were using either of
these two repositories and conflicts between the packages from the
two have been ironed out.
The preupgrade utility has become very
useful with Fedora10. The idea is that it will analyse the packages
which are installed and download the required upgrades while you
continue working. The utility will also ensure that dependencies are
not destroyed for the packages which have been installed from
alternate repositories. This is the first time I did not have to do
anything to ensure that the multimedia worked for the various formats
even after the upgrade. The steps involved are as follows:
# yum install preupgrade
On my system, it downloaded 1.8GB of packages in
24 hours. If you stop in the middle, it restarts from where it left
off. Once the packages are downloaded, reboot the system and it will
install the upgrade.
The upgrade failed once. It needed about 1.5GB of
free space. I could boot normally, create the desired space and run
preupgrade again. This time, the upgrade was uneventful.
This step took a little over 2 hours. So, the
effective down time was 2 hours. A fresh install will be faster but
will need all the settings to be redone and the additional packages
to be downloaded.
The migration to Fedora 10 was effortless.
Everything worked fine after the upgrade, including mplayer, vlc, and
playing of mp3 files.
After that, I used 'yum update' to upgrade the
Using Update to Upgrade
It is possible to update Fedora 10 with virtually
zero down time using an unsupported process. I had first come across
last year and used this technique for upgrading from Fedora 7 to 8
and then from 8 to 9. On both occasions, I had some problems with
some multimedia packages. This time, the process was remarkably
smooth thanks to the availability of RPMFusion repositories as well.
The steps involved:
Download the following packages from the Fedora 10 repository:
Use rpm -U to update the above three packages
Clean the existing repositories using yum clean all
Finally, run yum update
The fourth step will take a very long time to
first download the packages. On my parents' system, it needed to
download 1.2GB and took about 18 hours. The update went on in the
background for over two hours. As libraries and packages get
replaced, some applications may give a problem but I did not face
any. I wasn't doing anything serious - playing music and browsing.
If an installation dvd is available, copy the
rpm's into the /var/cache/yum/fedora/packages/ after step 3 and the
update will download only the missing or updated packages.
I find this method very useful for small networks.
The cache directory can be shared over the network and keepcache
option can be set to 1 in yum.conf. This is much easier than
mirroring a repository locally. Only the packages needed by at least
one machine are downloaded and only when needed.
I am disappointed that Presto and Delta RPM's
did not become a part of the Fedora 10 repositories. These will have
to wait till Fedora 11. The Fedora 10 Delta RPM's are available at
for i386 using the yum repository setting
For the first update, I needed
to download only 21MB instead of the 111MB if the full RPM's were
downloaded. At the time of writing, Delta RPM's were not available
for x86_64. See https://fedorahosted.org/presto/
for the current status.
Once in a while,
when the system checks a disk at boot time, the boot up delay can be
long but there is no feedback on the gui to the user to be patient.
The intel display
driver caused a machine (3 years old) to hang. The problem is with
kernel 2.6.27 and not with Fedora 10, per se. I faced similar
problem on Fedora 9 and Ubuntu 8.10 as well. The workaround is to
add the following option in the device section of xorg.conf :
Option “NoAccel” “True”
disappointment has nothing to do with Fedora. The list of mirrors
selected for India are in countries around us – Taiwan, Japan,
Russia, etc. I needed to change the mirror list manually to point to
the US servers for better, consistent performance. My disappointment
is that no Indian ISP is mirroring the common distributions even
though the ISP would save a substantial international bandwidth. The
couple of Indian mirrors available do not have adequate bandwidth
and, in my experience, have normally been inaccessible.
I would like to see Delta RPM support even for
upgrading a distribution.
I would like pulseaudio server to just work even
on remote desktops. The default setting of PULSE_SERVER variable
should be picked up from the DISPLAY variable.
I would like to see Firefox 3.1 available on
Fedora 10 and should not have to wait for Fedora 11.
I would like to see Gnome 2.6 included in Fedora
10, with an option to roll back to 2.4, should I so desire.
Actually, I would like to be able to upgrade my
installation continuously and not ever face another new version.
(More on that in Linux for You, April 2008)
I prefer to upgrade to
the recent versions.
The new versions
of distributions contain only a small fraction which is
substantially different. Most of the packages are minor upgrades,
with improvements and security fixes. The major issues, if any, with
a distribution are resolved very quickly and it does not make sense
to wait for months or years for the distribution to be stable!
It is easier to
work with OpenOffice 3 on Fedora 10 than to install and maintain it
oneself on a lower version.
is like an insurance policy. If I need to work with a recent
application, the chances are that I would find it in the latest
distributions. E.g. it is much easier to explore Sugar
environment on Fedora 10 than the earlier distributions.
upgrading a distribution keeps getting easier and less prone to
problems with add-on packages.
Hence, should you
upgrade? A reasonable position is, “Why not!”