Friday, April 16, 2010

Fedora 13beta mini-review

Fedora 13beta was released a few days ago, and since I'm on vacation this week, I grabbed it right away and installed it on my USB flash drive that boots Linux. I thought I'd post my first impressions:

First, the install process:

The installer has gotten some major improvements, which now give you more options for how to install on a hard drive with another operating system. This should make it easier for current Windows users to try out Linux.

In previous releases, you only had the option to use the space from a previous Linux install, use just the free space on the drive, or blow away everything and use the whole disk. Now, you can also opt to shrink an existing operating system and use the space that's left over. Basically, this uses an NTFS tool to non-destructively resize a Windows filesystem, [hopefully] leaving enough room to install Linux.

But in my case, I already had Linux installed to my USB flash drive, so I just re-used the space on that. Actually, I did a "Custom" install, and told it to re-use my existing partitions (but not to reformat my encrypted /home partition, but to use it as-is.)

The install process is very fast, even though the Fedora 13beta LiveCD is a bit bigger than will fit on a CDROM (this will be fixed by the time Fedora 13 is officially released, in May.) From start to finish, it took about 15-20 minutes to install Linux.

And the changes:

The user interface has gotten an update, as well. One thing that became immediately obvious is the resizeable mouse pointer. I recall that, with previous releases, you could choose between a "normal size" mouse pointer, or a larger one (for example, if you had poor vision.) Now, the mouse pointer is customizable as part of the theme (under "Appearance - Customize - Pointer") and you can scale it to the size you want. I prefer the smallest pointer size, in white. The default is a sort of dark grey.

The desktop icons have also been refreshed. The icons are similar to the previous releases, but have a more modern look to them. I like it a lot:

(Click to enlarge)

Note that I haven't created a "Demo User" account for taking screenshots, so this is using my own desktop. I've hidden my username, but otherwise this is the standard Fedora 13beta desktop. I'm using all the defaults.

The beta is using GNOME 2.29, not GNOME 2.30, but it's been very stable so far.

New features:

There's a new color profile tool available, where you can install an ICC file to set the color profile for your display, scanner, or digital camera. My laptop screen seems to do okay, so I haven't installed an ICC file, but I did experiment a bit with the provided presets, just to see what it did. Sure enough, it adjusts the color displayed on my screen. This will probably be very useful to people with displays whose colors tend to drift, or for those who do professional work with digital media (photos, video, etc.)

If you use an NVIDIA card, there's experimental 3D support via the Nouveau driver. But I have a different video card, so I'm just commenting on that for you.

For me, one of the most interesting features is the new photo manager. GThumb has been replaced by Shotwell. To test, I took some pictures of my cat, and easily imported them from the camera into Shotwell with a single click. From there, I could edit the photos, crop, resize, etc. Here's the feature list:
  • import photos from any digital camera supported by gPhoto
  • automatically organize events containing photos taken at the same time
  • use tags to organize your photo collection
  • edit non-destructively when altering photos, without ruining originals or using disk space for each copy
  • publish photos to Facebook, Flickr or Picasa
  • one-click auto-enhancement
  • rotate, mirror, and crop photos
  • reduce red-eye and adjust the exposure, saturation, tint, and temperature of your photos
  • edit any photo, even if it's not imported to the Shotwell library
Most impressively, after editing a few photos, I was still able to go back to a photo I'd worked on earlier, and undo some of the changes I'd made without undoing any of the work on the other photos. When I was done, Shotwell let me automatically publish my photos to my Facebook and Google Picasa web albums.

In previous releases, I'd used GIMP to edit all my digital photos (remove red-eye, etc.) Now, I'm switching to Shotwell. It's that good.

But looking through the list of changes in Fedora 13, I'm really excited to try out Déjà Dup. It's a new backup tool that should make life a lot easier. With it, you can do local or remote backups, including to Amazon's S3 cloud storage. Everything is encrypted and compressed, and backups are such that you can restore from any particular snapshot.

If Déjà Dup sounds familiar to you Mac users, it should. I have a Mac at home, too, and Time Machine has helped save me from myself more than once. "I really need that file from 6 months ago." It's there. I'm curious to see how Déjà Dup fares.


  1. I don't like software that pretends it is an operating system. An operating system operates hardware AND manages disks, which means directories and filed. I pay good money to have an operating system on my computer that I can learn and that has many powerful tools. I do not want a new less well proven more indirect and less powerful operating system to come along just to handle my phogographs. Which are files. So I'm not not likely to like shotwell that much, anymore than the other evil album software apps that have come before.

    Though, what the heck, I might try it.

    Great review of Fedora, thanks!

  2. It doesn't make sense to play with ICC files unless you have hardware to help you measure the actual parameters, but it's certainly useful for people who need it. I still have trouble educating other scientists about colors, computer screens, el-cheapo and professional printers. It's remarkable how many people don't realize that what they see is not what they'll be getting. I still remember a 2 hour argument about some text with background coloring on a poster; my colleague reluctantly changed the settings but was glad she did because when she got the poster from the printer she realized that her original work would have been almost impossible to read.

    Now if only more of that specialized hardware was supported on Linux ...

  3. @Greg: While I am somewhat sympathetic to your arguments, and in fact continue to organize my music in the file system in a somewhat detailed manner, I have to strongly disagree on photo management. Keeping a library of photos is basically the single most compelling argument for tagging, because you may want to find a photo from so many axes. (Who's in it, where it was taken, what activity it is, etc.) I mean, I use Adobe Lightroom which gives me heirarchical keywords (tags), and I can't imagine even flat tag spaces any more. This is the sort of thing you just can't do in any file system on any OS that I know of.

    And it's not like photo management programs have their own "photos.blob" that they emulate a file system in or anything like that, at least for the most part. The files are still sitting around in your file system, and you can still open them from whatever program you want. You can almost think of programs like Shotwell as just being an alternative to Windows Explorer/Dolphin/Nautilus/Finder/$FILE_BROWSER that is specialized to working with photos, and means you don't have to keep opening them up in some program.

    (I started using Lightroom a few months ago and it's just outstanding; everything else I've tried pales in comparison. (I haven't tried Shotwell. Though it looks like their RAW support is limited at best, which means it's a non-starter. Aperture would probably be really good too, but Apple doesn't want me to run it.) I can't imagine having a meaningful photo organization without having some library program like that. (By way of scale, my LR library has 19 1/2 GB of photos in it, and is growing as I pull in more older stuff and add keywords.))

  4. Shotwell is idiotic. It doesn't open a location, it "imports" a folder. I need a viewer, not a database!

  5. @author: the mouse pointer can be resized for quite some time; it's not a new feature !
    @Greg: dude why do you bother to comment this Linux article, since obviously you are a windowz user // mac os x at least; the new release of Fedora is a new step in the direction that Fedora Project is doing; it's Linux;
    @evaned: you have gone far away from the subject of this blog article...
    What hte author writes here is pretty ok with some small objections but still in the 'ok' arrea; it would have been nice to put some screenshots/youtube videos of the beta release so the people can really see it;

  6. However do you resize in Shotwell...

  7. "Resize" happens when you publish your photos. You can choose to leave them at their original size, or put them at a different size.

    On the Shotwell web site, click on the "Publish" link and you'll see in the screenshot that you get the option to change the photo size.

    As an example, when I tested with the photos of my cat, I cropped [a little bit] one of the pictures so it looked better. But when I published the photos, they were the same size (I didn't keep original size.)

    Jim Nelson (Shotwell team) answered this same question on his blog. He said:

    The reason we don't have a resize tool is because that's a function of exporting the photo. In other words, when you export a photo you have the choice of what dimensions the photo should be. Since Shotwell is a non-destructive photo editor, resize doesn't make sense until that moment.

  8. Per Anonymous's suggestion, I'll grab some extra screenshots in the next few days (resizing the pointer, color profiles, etc.) and update this blog post with them.


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