I have recently upgraded my laptop to Fedora 9. Those of you who come often to this blog or follow me on Twitter, know that I’ve been waiting for this release like for nothing else. Two technologies in particular – KDE 4 and Firefox 3 – were the center of my focus. Of course, I could updated them separately and tried them earlier, but I wanted to follow the path of the distribution.
The upgrade itself went fast and easy. But starting with the first reboot, I was getting more and more negative towards the new release. While booting for the first time, I got two messages, notifying me that wpa_suppclient service and CUPS daemon failed to start. While I don’t care much about printers, wireless connectivity is vital for me, so that was a bit discouraging.
The login screen. It was changed quite a bit, and I didn’t like it much. Logging in. Somehow I ended up in Gnome, even though my desktop environment was KDE for the last 7 years or so. Logout. Switch into long awaited KDE 4. From the first look it was beautiful, even though not quite for my tastes. Surely, I’d need to reconfigure and change a few things. Not a problem for me at all – even more fun so.
But. After about 5 minutes I started to realize that KDE 4 was very fresh. Very unstable. And very buggy. As I said, I know my ways around it and I am pretty comfortable with using options, Kcontrol, and even configuration files. But despite all my efforts, it was simply unusable. The panel crashed a few times, finally in such a way that there was no way to bring it back even with logout. Then, icons on my desktop kept loosing their order and locations. I’d go through the boring process of sorting them around and then the would randomize themselves upon the next login. Icon properties were weird, and quite a few features were missing, especially from my mostly used KDE application – konsole.
Still fighting with KDE, I was after some help, so I fired my next most awaited application – Firefox 3. This was a better experience, but still not as shiny and dreamy as I expected it to be. Out of all extensions that I have installed, more than a half didn’t work. The ones that worked were mostly for bells and whistles, but I got really worried there for a bit when the tools that I am used to weren’t there any more. In the meantime, the KDE still refused to pleasure me.
To cut a long story short, I decided to temporarily switch to Gnome. I used to be a fan of Gnome back in the pre-KDE 3 age, but since then I haven’t used it much. KDE was perfect for me. I loved it. I didn’t want to go back to Gnome. I wanted KDE 4. But I’ll have to wait.
Then, I started righting this really long post and I was so negative about everything that I decided to postpone it for a few days. And now I am rewriting it, and I have to say that Fedora 9 upgrade was one of those things for me that happen for the better.
Gnome turned out to be a really nice desktop environment. I really really like it now. It’s not love yet, but we’ll grow into each other. That is if KDE 4 won’t get its act together fast. Oh, and Gnome has a share of its, sometimes very weird, problems, but it is very usable, fast, and intuitive. As for Firefox 3, I spent half a day going through available addons and I managed to find enough of substitutes to my old tools. Some are better, some are not. Some are my old tools, but in un-official alpha and beta versions. But overall, it looks like I will survive.
Back to the Fedora 9 release. I don’t remember what exactly went wrong back when Red Hat Linux 7 was released, but I remember that there were a lot of issues. My memory has a strong association of Red Hat 7 and Linux distribution release gone wrong. I think now that association is going to be updated with Fedora 9 experience.
Breaking the much used functionality is bad. Taking away tools people use is bad. Releasing unstable software without proper fall-back (and I don’t consider Gnome to be a proper fall-back for KDE) is bad. I think that both KDE 4 and Firefox 3 should have been offered as options, not as defaults.
Then, only a day after Fedora 9 was released, I had to download 140 packages of updates. That wasn’t a big problem, but it was yet another sign of how shaky things are. The updates fixed the CUPS issue, but there was also a new kernel update, which broke GRUB and rendered my laptop unbootable. Gladly, I had the DVD nearby and I still remember how to use the rescue mode. But it’s not how things are supposed to be.
As I said, I am finally glad that I got a chance to give a look at other options and use different tools, but I am very disappointed with this release. Things like this make advocating open source and Fedora Linux harder. Things like this undermine users’ trust in the distribution. They should not happen again.
P.P.S: If you are a Fedora user who were planning to upgrade, I suggest to wait until Fedora 10 or at least for a few weeks until updates will fix the most obvous issues.