Fedora 10 update

I recently posted about my installation of Fedora 10 and my thoughts about the distribution. Recently a couple of things happened that gave me new experiences to discuss.

First, I bought a PCI-Express WiFi card for my server. I used WiFi because it's not convenient for me to use wired networking anymore and the server has been down since we moved, awaiting its wireless capabilities. I carefully selected a D-Link card that is Linux compatible, and installed it. Guess what? Fedora 8 didn't recognize the card. This meant I needed a new kernel, because the kernel developers make it impossible to install new drivers without replacing the whole kernel. And when you run something like Fedora a new kernel means a new Fedora.

I'd previously told my friend not to install Fedora 10 because of the problems I'd had. Well, I disregarded my own advice and proceeded to install 10 on my server (mainly because I wanted to do an upgrade to make sure stuff still worked). Let me state this loud and clear: DO NOT ATTEMPT TO UPGRADE FEDORA TO FEDORA 10. This was the worst installation procedure I've ever dealt with in my 12 years of running Linux. I expected stuff to install and work but instead I got nothing but trouble.

First, the installer doesn't tell you how to activate text mode. And the graphical mode doesn't work on my server, which is hooked up to a TV instead of a monitor. This is because the free nVidia driver is crap and I am stuck with the proprietary driver (the lesser of two evils). Since I couldn't get the installer to work I decided to try using the package updater, yum, to do the upgrade. This failed miserably: yum complained that the new packages conflicted with the old. I tried removing the old packages but yum, in its infinite wisdom, decided that since I wanted to get rid of package X, it would get rid of Y, and since I was getting rid of Y, it would get rid of ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWZ. I didn't look at the list closely enough and in the end yum got rid of itself. Yup, yum uninstalled itself, and that left me with no package management tool at all.

This meant I had to get the installer working or else there'd be no way to repair my system. It turns out that the fedora text mode is easily activated by editing the command line for the kernel and adding the word 'text'. Simple, right? Of course, they couldn't include a menu option nor could they document this like they used to on previous versions. Sigh. Well, at least I was onto something and I could get the installer working.

The installer, however, didn't do a very good job upgrading my system. After it was done running I was left with a pile of old Fedora 8 packages (and one Fedora 9 package? weird). I had expected these to be upgraded, but they weren't. Well, no problem... except that these packages conflicted with the 1.3 GB of updates I was trying to download. (I got the network card working, btw... that's another story but mainly nothing went wrong.). So I had to remove all the fc8 packages and some other things and then the update finally worked. Oh, and then I had to go and manually fix the SELinux contexts because for some reason some things weren't right. Sure, Fedora 10 has improvements in SELinux contexts, but I guess they don't test the upgrade path well, because it'd seem to me that a filesystem wtih default labels should be relabelled accordingly so that you can, for example, use SSH properly. Just saying.

Anyway, one of the other problems I had was that, for some reason, my kernel wasn't updated properly. The updated kernel was only partly installed. I tried uninstalling it and re-updating, but then when I rebooted my screen just said 'GRUB'. Grub is the "Grand Unified Boot Loader", which means it's the program that starts the computer. Unfortunately Grub was never meant to be installed by humans, and it seems even the computer gets it wrong; I had to try a bunch of things to get the darned thing working and it took several tries. Luckily I am a programmer and an experienced Linux user, and also luckily the Fedora 10 installer is also a rescue CD. Otherwise my server would have been dead. Finally I got things "working", though because I had to remove so much stuff before my server is really only half working. So much for a simple upgrade.

Anyway, my conclusion is that Fedora 10's installer needs a lot of work. I've never had so much difficulty getting an OS installed. But once Fedora 10 is installed, isn't it worth the pain?

Well, I've been very annoyed with it. This is mainly KDE 4.1's fault, becasue 4.1 had lots of problems (including being so slow I could barely stand to use it). Who is to blame for KDE 4.1 being on my computer? The KDE team, for misleading people about how good 4.1 would be, or the Fedora team, for shipping "beta" software and not shipping the good ol' 3.5? Well, that's neither here nor there anymore: I just installed the update that brings KDE 4.2 to Fedora 10. And WOW! what a difference.

First off, my desktop icons are back. Some people don't like desktop icons, but when I've been using files on my desktop for 19 years, I get a little cranky when you take them away. The KDE devs listened and brought this feature back to KDE in a non-sucky way. Also, I was able to find the option for disabling one-click activation. It's not where you'd expect; instead of being in the file manager settings, where it should be, it's in the mouse settings. So maybe this option was in 4.1? but anyway it's here and my #3 annoyance with KDE 4.1 is gone. So now my computer is fast again, my icons are back, and my clicks do what I want. If only there weren't any new bugs... but I've already found my notebook doesn't suspend properly when I close the lid. Sigh. At least that's minor and can be easily worked around.

So, to the KDE team, I say good work on 4.2; it's about time. To the Fedora team, what's with the installer? Yeesh. Messed up upgrades, broken kernel updates, screwed up SELinux contexts.... normal people would not be able to get this working. Hope Fedora 11 is better....


Edgar said...

How did you fix the GRUB problem? I just updated my F10 installation, and after reboot got the same problem. Now I can't find a solution.

Edgar said...

I fixed it, just reinstalled grub.


Mr. Shiny and New said...

I also re-installed grub. The hard part was figuring out how to do that: grub-install is not a tool that can be described as user-friendly. Unfortunately the only suggestion I can give anyone is to read the man page for grub-install. Normally something like that is dangerous but if your system is already not booting, you can't really make it worse.