Monday, October 25, 2010

Fedora 14 preview

You may have noticed that Fedora 14 makes its release next week. Curious to see what was going to be in the new version, and on a suggestion from pyxie, I grabbed a copy of the beta and installed it on my USB flash drive.

I have been booting into this, off and on, for a few days now. And it runs great! One thing I noticed right away (aside from the new desktop artwork, typical for a new release) is that Nouveau now supports my nVidia graphics card (GT218 / NVS 3100M). I get full features, too, including dual-monitor support. All without having to install the nVidia proprietary driver.

That alone is enough for me to upgrade to Fedora 14 next week.

But there are other new features, too. A quick list of some features that interest me:

Faster JPEG handling
These days, I have a huge collection of personal digital photos. I post some of them to share with friends and family, but I keep the original versions as a sort of digital portfolio. Flipping through the photo albums should be noticeably faster in Fedora 14, with the replacement of libjpeg with libjpeg-turbo. You should get about 25% increased performance when dealing with JPEG photos. And since many applications rely upon libjpeg, this should be a global improvement.

Remote desktops
In my role, I may not manage servers anymore. But whenever I see a new remote desktop tool, I have to see what's up. Remmina is a remote desktop client written for GNOME, aiming to be useful for system administrators and travelers, who need to work with lots of remote computers in front of either large monitors or tiny netbooks. Remmina supports multiple network protocols in an integrated and consistant user interface. Currently RDP, VNC, NX, XDMCP and SSH are supported.

Integration with GMail
I've commented previously that I no longer use a desktop email program, such as Thunderbird or Evolution. Both of those applications are great and all, but I've grown very fond of checking my email via a web browser, using GMail. All my email lives on the server, so if I go on vacation, or visit some remote office, I can just hop on a web browser to read my email. And it's all in once place. Now, GNOME can integrate with GMail using Gnome GMail. It allows GMail to be selected as the default mail application for the desktop. Unlike other solutions on the net, Gnome GMail supports "To:", "Subject:", "body", "CC:", and "BCC: fields

Support for Amazon's MP3 Music Store
I'll admit it, I have a Mac Mini at home. It's hooked up to our TV, and we use it to watch videos from the Internet. But mostly it's there to act as a gateway to my iPod, which I also own. And here's another secret: I haven't bought much from Apple's iTunes Store in the last year. I've kind of switched to Amazon's MP3 Music Store. By volume, the vast majority of the content on my iPod is MP3, purchased on CD and ripped, or purchased online through Amazon's Music Store. So I'm excited to see Clamz in Fedora 14, a little command-line program supporting Amazon's Music Store. It is intended to serve as a substitute for Amazon's official MP3 Downloader, which is not free software (and therefore is only available in binary form for a limited set of platforms.) Clamz can be used to download either individual songs or complete albums that you have purchased from Amazon.

Music player
Sure, Fedora has had music players for a while: Amarok, Audacity, etc. But I am interested in the new Clementine music player. It is a multi-platform music player. It is inspired by Amarok 1.4, focusing on a fast and easy-to-use interface for searching and playing your music. You can copy songs to your iPod, iPhone, MTP, or USB mass storage device. If it works as advertised, I wonder if I'll need that Mac Mini anymore as an iPod music manager appliance.


  1. iTunes (on Windows, at least) doesn't play well with an ipod managed under Linux. I can do almost everything I want to do with my iPod tOuch under Linux, but a couple times a year there is something I think I want that can only be done in iTunes. The first thing iTunes does is delete all the music that I put on the ipOd with Linux. I have only spent a brief time looking, but I haven't found a way to only sync parts of my iPod, or to only sync one way.

    This is on top of the update dance when you start a rarely-used install of Windows-update the antivirus, Windows updates, and either a reboot, or a nag window every few minutes telling you to reboot.

  2. I finally installed Linux so I could get timings, like I said I might. I decided to go with the KDE version of Fedora 14 (I don't like Gnome). I'll give the times I got for installation of Fedora 14, my time-to-boot for Windows 7 vs Fedora, and time to and from hibernate for each.

    (Sneak preview: the installation was pretty good but not without hitches, Fedora beats Windows's boot time by a hair under 2x, Windows beats Fedora's hibernate time by about slightly less than 3x.)


    Including problem-solving, installation was about 50 minutes installing from CD as I couldn't get the USB drive I made to boot. This broke down as follows:
    1. 5 minutes for the livecd to boot
    2. Just over 10 minutes for question answering
    3. 4 minutes actually installing
    4. 20 minutes updating
    5. Just over 10 minutes making Windows bootable again

    I have reactions for all of these steps.
    1. This took too long IMO. I understand the attraction of the LiveCD, but I'd prefer something in the boot menu to drop right to an installer, even if it's more basic. It's possible you could interrupt the boot sequence and do this, but it certainly didn't afford that.

    2. Most of this was trying to figure out the partitioner; to an extent this was because my hard drive setup is reasonably complicated, but I also don't think the installer was very well done in this regard. I left some unallocated space on the drive I wanted to install to. It was relatively easy to find the "install to unallocated space" option and to choose the drive, but I spent a fairly long time staring at the "this is what your hard drive layout will be" trying to make sure it was correct. It does not indicate what changes it will actually make vs. what will be unchanged. All-in-all it feels like it's two or three generations behind modern GParted for some reason.

    It's possible that the Gnome version of Fedora uses a different installer and is better.

    Finally, a couple minutes here are sort of unfair to count because they were spent basically opening up Konquerer and figuring out what the name of the computer would be. :-p

    3. This was SUPER fast. I'm impressed. I'd say it more than makes up for the length of step 1, but it kinda doesn't because of the attended/unattended thing.

    4. I think there was something going wrong here at the beginning, and I don't know what it was. I opened up KPackageKit and clicked "Check For Updates", and it popped up a progress bar windows that spent about two minutes sitting there saying "waiting for authentication." (The actual KPackageKit window said something like "waiting for service.") I actually wound up closing KPackageKit and restarting it to see if that would help, but no avail -- in fact, it kind of made it worse because the initial windows didn't close when I killed the program. Shortly after I restarted it they finally completed, but by that time I had to restart the "check for updates" and wait another couple minutes.

    The updates required a reboot and I opened KPackageKit after that was done to make sure they didn't pull an MS and give you more, and the update check went fast the second time, so my problems there were probably just the first time it was run or the first boot of the system or something like that.

    5. Fedora guessed my Windows drive wrong so put the wrong partition in the Grub configuration. In contrast to the obnoxious-but-expected case of a Windows installation wiping out Grub, this took a while to figure out what was going wrong because the it was unexpceted and the symptoms didn't really point at that problem.

    So all-in all, it was faster than even the Windows installations I've done once you include updates (which is, of course, only fair), but I didn't like its partitioner at all, I hit a problem with their updater, and I hit a problem with Grub's config.

  3. Oh, and I forgot my other complaint about the Fedora partitioner. Despite the fact that -- with allowance and gift money -- I bought a 40 GB drive over a decade ago and people are buying drives in TB today, it still displays hard drive sizes in MB for some stupid reason. When messing around with partitioners I always like to make absolutely sure that I know what is going on, that I understand the partitioner, and what the situation the partitioner sees agrees with what I know and what to do. And the basic sanity check of this is to make sure that the sizes of partitions match what I expect. I can't be the only one who tends to have trouble figuring out what order of magnitude a number like 199347 is.

    Anyway, rant off.

    Boot times:

    I measured time from me pressing enter at the Grub prompt to the time at which I can type my password/choose a user, then the time from hitting enter there until Firefox loaded and I navigated to CNN's homepage. On the Windows side, I did a little prep: I told Steam to not start on boot, and I moved all the stuff on my desktop to somewhere else. (I have a bad tendency to keep oodles of crap on my desktop, and there's a chance it would slow down boot as it reads all those files to determine what to use as an icon.)

    Times are slightly approximate and just from one run; I didn't do any fancy averaging or anything.

    - 38 seconds to login screen
    - 1:23 from login to CNN
    - Total: 2:00 on the dot

    - 27 seconds to login screen
    - 41 seconds from login to CNN
    - Total: 1:08

    Bottom line: Fedora booted in 57% the time of Windows.

    (My times, particularly for Fedora, are slightly longer than JH's; I suspect a lot of that is a KDE vs Gnome thing. If I were to actually use Linux on my home box (unlikely) I'd switch to a completely different window manager that would likely have almost no startup cost. That'd put the Linux time at about 30 seconds, which would be 1/4 the cost of Windows.)

  4. [Last post, then I'm done. :-)]


    I started with the system in the same state as the end of the previous test (Firefox open with CNN loaded), put the system to sleep, then work it back up. For my uses, these are actually much more important than how long it takes to do a cold boot or shut down (the latter I didn't measure). My desktop gets restarted very rarely (time-from-sleep is what's important there and in my experience is very fast on both; I didn't measure that either), and I almost always hibernate rather than shut down my laptop.

    In some sense these numbers will be a bit skewed, because while the motivation for why I find them important is because of my laptop use, I measured them on my desktop. My desktop HDD is far faster than my laptops. I'm not sure what a slower drive would do to the balance. (And just for the record, I have 6 GB of RAM.)

    We'll start with the less interesting number, time-to-hibernate. For this I measured from when I clicked the mouse on the appropriate button until when I heard the computer turn off.
    - Windows: 17 or 18 seconds
    - Fedora: 36 seconds

    The more interesting number is time-from-hibernate. For this, I woke the machine back up then navigated to Slashdot. For Windows I measured from the Grub menu. Fedora does an obnoxious thing and apparently instructs Grub to not present its menu if it went into hibernate, instead booting straight into Fedora. Because of this, I measured from a place slightly earlier in the boot process; I guessed this added 2 seconds so subtracted 2 seconds to get the time below.

    (I kind of see why they do this, but it doesn't fit my use of my laptop at all. During periods of time when I'm using Linux, hibernating Windows and resuming Linux and vice versa was the norm. (My laptop has Kubuntu, which doesn't do this obnoxious thing.) In fact, I spent a fair bit of time in vein trying to get Windows to not do the same obnoxious thing between Win 7 and XP.)

    Time-from-hibernate to Slashdot:
    - Windows: 35 sec
    - Fedora: 1:48, but guess 1:35

    (The guess on Fedora's count was because it took a long time from when Firefox seemed responsive to when the page load; I guess this was DNS delays because I didn't set up Fedora to use Google's DNS. This had a much smaller effect with the CNN number above; only a second or two.)

    Bottom line: Linux did far better than Windows in the boot times, but Windows trounces Linux in the hibernate times; Windows's time-to-hibernate was about 48% of Linux's time, and its time-from-hibernate was 37% of Linux's.

  5. Oh no, I lied: I forgot to say that hibernate doesn't even work completely correctly for me on Fedora.

    The first time I resumed I got a message that the kernel package had two errors. I tried again, but neither the hibernate nor shutdown choices in the menu worked. (They brought up the "would you like to do this" dialog, but after clicking yes did nothing more.)

    I restarted and tried again; the same thing happened, except there was no messages about the kernel problem the second time. (In both cases I used 'halt' to actually shut the machine off.)

  6. Interesting timings, evaned. Thanks.


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