Werewolves are the most awesomest thing ever. If Fedora 8 becomes the Werewolf Edition, I'm going to completely ignore Debian and Ubuntu up till Fedora 9. (Well, I'll read the news, but they won't be installed anymore, with the exception of my very stable file server.) So vote Pedro ... I mean Werewolf.

20 Minutes with Rawhide

Over the past couple of weeks, I've been watching my preferred distribution of choice, Debian, crud itself into a hole, watching random packages disappear. It seems NetworkManager is only working on my laptop on a wing and a prayer, and hibernate works sometimes. It's very strange, since I had similar problems with Fedora 7 on the Thinkpad Redhat loaned me over the summer. Debian worked like a charm.

So I had every plan of giving Fedora 8 a spin, and if it worked well, using it while I am busy with school. Instead I decided to take the plunge a bit early, and installed 7.91 on my machine. If you're a journalist or aggregator of some kind, bear in mind my setup is not the stereotypical clean box, but a real world working system, with all the little quirks that are involved. My system is a Gateway MX6931, with everything split up via LVM. I maintain three seperate primary partitions, each 100mb each that can be used as boot partitions for three different OSes. Currently they are Debian Etch, CentOS 5 (which is by far the most stable and pleasant to use), and Fedora Rawhide. The last is an LVM Physical Volume that holds everything else. Each OS gets 10G, a 15G home partition, and a 40G partition for music and an ever changing list of movies.

The installer worked perfectly. I was easily able to create new volumes, mount the old home directory, use the same swap partition, etc... Since I am letting Debian manage the grub instance on the MBR, I had to add those in manually, but letting Fedora manage the boot sector on its own boot partition lets me see exactly what I need to copy and paste. There was a small hangup in the installer when it couldn't figure out why the pre-existing home volume didn't have SELinux contexts. Some minutes of hard drive and CD chugging later, I was able to boot up into first boot quite easily.

This is where I hit the first snag. SELinux didn't like my home volume. So much went wrong. To start, every file on it had the 'nfs_t' context, which I assumed was the arbitrary default. Debian does not even use SELinux, which is a shame really, although, last I heard, Coughbuntu is going to be setting up AppArmor. While it'll be interesting to see how those two compete, for the love of a bearded hippy and all that might have some very sentimental meaning, these two competing standards is going to make it difficult to share volumes between OSes. I would have loved to have been able to load up 'home' and 'media' right away, and had a working Fedora desktop with all of my personal settings from the beginning. So a bit of SELinux foo later, I was able to mount /home properly, only to find the second SNAFU. I presume this is old territory, and no one has been able to coordinate this properly, but the UIDs and GIDs, (the file permissions,) on my files were messed up. Now every time I boot up into Debian or Fedora after using the other, I will have to change the permissions on each one just to logon. It's a shame, because I use a very consistent user name and password scheme across several computers, and being able to retain permissions at least by user name makes life much easier for me, and presumable someone else as well.

These problems aside, loading the Gnome desktop was *fast*. I got a few random error messages, one about the keyboard settings, a couple more about the lack of Iceweasel, but everything was retained, down to keyboard shortcuts. This is one very good testament to the reliability of Linux vs. the Wintendo world. A bit of tinkering, and I can see the new Nodoka theme. Kudos the the artwork team, and Martin Sourada in particular. It's a little glossy for my tastes, but it's also very clean already, and I can only hope there will be more good things coming from this. Font rendering also seems much better to me, even at the low DPIs I like to use. I had alot of fun experimenting with the different fonts I've accumulated being able to see them render nicely in Linux for the first time. The only catch is Firefox, which seems to render everything at a few DPI points lower than everything else. Two minutes of Google and a tinkering of layout.dpi.css later, Firefox is rendering everything a little bigger, but I can live with it for now.

The only other severe problem I've found is power management. The Gnome team has put alot of effort into this, and it works great. And by great, I mean it's horrible. I can actually set the brightness of my laptop monitor to any setting I want, for the first time ever in Linux. What ever piece of code is managing this though is constantly trying to set modes that don't exist. When I plug and unplug my laptop, the screen flickers black as it turns the bulb on and off trying to get to its new setting. This is probably going to cause lots of wear and tear on the mercury bulb inside, and is probably not a good thing. A bug report is definitely forthcoming.

Otherwise, so far Fedora 8 is shaping up to be an amazing release. Pulseaudio is working great, Hooverphonic sounds awesome, Smolt Rocks (shameless plug), and apparently Snati is the most common name for a dog in Iceland. You pronounce that like you might describe nasal fluids.

The human fecal matter has collided with the bladed air circulation device

It's finally happened. One of my professors tried to send me an OOXML document. It's a good think it's just some zipped up XML. All I need to do is unzip it and, oh wait, tab completion won't work since bash-completion doesn't realize that .docx is just a zip file. Now I have to type out the full name, escaping spaces included. So it unzips, all over my home folder, not into a nice neat folder of it's own like every well behaved tarball does. At least it's XML which is human readable, right? Well it seems the world's biggest bloat maker incidentally forgot how to use bloated white space in the biggest joke they are pulling on the free world. C'mon Bill Gates, can you be any more clever?

Well one polite, yet long explanation to my professor how I can not read this file later, and I think I need to keep my eyes a little more open as to what's being used at the University of Pittsburgh.

So dear not quite so lazyweb, are there any of you freedom loving people in or around the University of Pittsburgh or Carnegie Melon that want to help ensure the freedom of information in the Pittsburgh area? I'm going to start campaigning so this can hopefully be the last I see of .docx from one of my professors.