Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Fedora Core 5: Fits and Starts

I was planning to write this wonderful review of Fedora Core 5. Well, I downloaded the ISO images, and burned them to CD using Fedora Core 4 with no problem. I booted up from the first CD, and started the installation process.

The installation process took about an hour and a half on my HP Pavilion zv5000 laptop. It is a Athlon 64 laptop with 802.11g wireless, 1.2GB of memory and all the typical things like USB 1.1 and 2.0 ports, microphone and headphone jacks, Nvidia graphics (GeForce 420 Go with 32MB) and a SD/PCMCIA slot. I have really grown to like this laptop, and I had everything working beautifully with Fedora Core 4. In fact, I was a little hesitant to jump on the Fedora Core 5 bandwagon so quick. I usually like to wait until I see the first kernel update for Fedora before upgrading. Usually by then, all the major problems have been worked out. Well, my hesitancy was justified.

The installation went without a hitch, installing packages from all five CD's. In fact, I noticed that it upgraded both the i386 architecture and x86_64 architecture packages I had installed. A very nice touch in deed. After rebooting to my shiny new GNOME 2.14 desktop, that is when the trouble began.

The first thing I always do after installing a new kernel is reinstall the Nvidia drivers so I get full accelerated 3D. This was especially crucial, considering I was real eager to try out the new AIGLX support with all the wonderful 3D stuff. Much to my surprise, the Nvidia kernel module would not build, even though the kernel that comes with Fedora Core 5 is 2.6.15, just like the latest kernel on Fedora Core 5. It turns out that they made a last minute change to the kernel that broke the Nvidia kernel module. There is a bug report for it, and they plan on fixing that problem when they release an updated kernel, which according to the note I saw should be within a few days (

So, this shot down my ability to use the most anticipated feature of Fedora Core 5. Then the kernel problem reared its ugly head again. My wireless card, which is from Broadcom, does not have Linux device drivers. Seeing that my machine is also a 64-bit machine and I am running the 64-bit OS, I need to use DriverLoader from Linuxant. I installed the latest version of DriverLoader, and its kernel module also would not load. Turns out it is the same problem that broke the Nvidia kernel module. So, now I have reverted back to using a wire. At least I still have network connectivity.

Having endured these problems, and not really getting to try out the new 3D stuff was disappointing, but I did have a functioning system. At this point, I decided to move on to making sure all my upgraded applications worked. First, I fired up the new version of Firefox. It detected my old extensions, and asked if I wanted to find new compatible ones. I said yes, and it found all of the updates for my extensions, and I installed them, and everything worked great. This area was one of the most smooth of the whole day, and I was very pleased. Then I moved on to Evolution.

Once again, upgrade problems! I use Evolution as a client to an Exchange 2003 hosted environment for work, and it is very important for my everyday productivity. When I fired up Evolution, I could no longer authenticate. Ouch! I deleted the account, and exited Evolution. I setup the account again, and seemingly I could authenticate, but I couldn't get into my folders. After several hours of playing around with things, I just gave up and entered a bug report into Bugzilla. At this point, I have had to fall back to using Outlook Web Access, which is not very good. Anyway, at least I could get to my work e-mail, calendar and tasks, even if the interface is crude.

On the upside, my Skype client still works great, my Eclipse environment, and MySQL (even with the upgrade to 5.0) works great. The only problem I have on the MySQL front, is that the MySQL Query Browser just segfaults now. I tried upgrading it, building it from the source RPM, etc., but to no avail. Once again, I was left with no option but to report a bug to MySQL.

Hopefully, the kernel fix will come soon, and I will have my wireless and Nvidia drivers working again, and that is when we can start having some real fun testing out FC5. I guess the lesson is to not upgrade on the very first day of the release.

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