Another Windows XP to Fedora 16 Linux migration

Another Windows XP to Fedora 16 Linux migration

Summary: Recently I've had the pleasure of replacing yet another Windows XP computer with Fedora Linux (version 16). The user is a relative of mine, and finally became tired of dealing with malware every month or so by simply browsing the web.

TOPICS: Open Source

Recently I've had the pleasure of replacing yet another Windows XP computer with Fedora Linux (version 16). The user is a relative of mine, and finally became tired of dealing with malware every month or so by simply browsing the web. So at his request I put Fedora Linux on the PC and wiped XP away from it for good. He had already used GNU/Linux on other PCs.

As stated in a previous post, I came across some issues with Fedora 16 and Gnome 3 with a previous deployment, but this time I knew what to expect. After installing Fedora 16 which took about 25 minutes or so from start to finish, I immediately changed Gnome to Fallback Mode to keep the desktop environment familiar to Gnome 2. My personal thought is that the Gnome 2 look and feel is much better suited for a desktop PC.

And this gets me to discussing Gnome 3 a little more. Based on years of experience with Gnome 2, I am not really a big fan of Gnome 3's default interface the more I use it. Gnome 2 did everything right over the years. It provided a very extensible environment which allowed the user to customize it to their liking. While I can understand that things are continuously changing, and Gnome 3 is treading into new land with different and innovative ideas, I am also thankful that Fallback Mode was put in to place. I've found Fallback Mode to function "good enough" and I've been able to get it working to about 90% of how Gnome 2 was. In Fedora, there are a few themes installed that when used, get the look and feel of Gnome 2 back. This is a good thing, as it is nice to keep up to date while not sacrificing too much functionality at the same time. To get the ability to switch themes, you must first install the "gnome-tweak-tool" package, then run "gnome-tweak-tool" (as your user account) from the command prompt and navigate to Theme / Window Theme. Play around with the themes and also the GTK+ theme, and you will find you can get things back to a Gnome 2 look. Also, I had to apply one more fix to restore drop shadows to the menus and windows by running this command (as your user account):

gconftool-2 --type bool --set /apps/metacity/general/compositing_manager true

Apparently this is a temporary workaround and should be fixed again in a later release of Fedora. The remaining tweaks I mentioned in the previous post, so I won't repeat them here.

The more I use Gnome 3, the more I feel that the developers are trying to make your PC look like a phone interface. Big buttons on a black background, it looks like the iPhone's applications list. Everything is done through the single "Activities" button on the top bar. My personal opinion is that it is just simplified down way too much for a desktop PC. I like using things and placing them on the desktop, and I like seeing the mounted devices on the desktop as well. Gnome 3 disables anything from being placed on the desktop by default. I think Gnome 3 will be great for tablets, or devices with a touchscreen, but I don't think it's the best for a desktop system. I really don't need or want all the special effects, I just want to be able to run and use multiple applications concurrently. Gnome 3 is also still lacking addins and extra little widgets that Gnome 2 had. But, it's still early, and I think it will have a good future once it is refined.

Another challenge I faced with this PC deployment was the user is a heavy gamer. And Linux does not necessarily have a good reputation for gaming users because many games are developed for Windows and Mac OS X, leaving out other operating systems. Wine is intended to run Windows applications, but it can be difficult to get some games to work because of the complexity of 3D graphics. And in fact, some games just don't work. I had to turn to Wine which ended up working very well in this case. It also helped that I had originally installed an NVidia graphics card in the system which has official drivers for Unix/Linux, making it the best supported line of graphics cards for Linux hands down. The only issue I did face with Wine (and it took some time to figure out), is that the RPMFusion provided NVidia driver packages for Fedora 16 seem to have some issues. With the RPMFusion NVidia driver packages installed, a couple 3D intensive applications would not run in Wine and crashed immediately after opening. However some applications did work. The fix was to download and install the proprietary NVidia driver from I've never needed to download the driver directly from NVidia before on a GNU/Linux system, so that was a new experience. It's quite easy. Simply download the .run file from, then apply execute permissions on it ("chmod 775" will work from the command prompt). Then you must log out, stop X11 by switching to root and running the command "/sbin/init 3", logging in to the textonly console, then running the .run file from NVidia which guides you through the driver installation (it is only a couple of steps). I tend to prefer using SSH to remote in to the system to run the commands above to stop X11 and install the NVidia driver for convenience. Reboot and X11 should start up and use the new driver. Not as easy as Windows, but gets the job done. The issue with using the driver is that it needs to be re-installed if the kernel is ever upgraded on your system. So on the upside, Fedora 16 includes Wine 1.3.37 (or you can get 1.4.rc2 in the "testing" rpms) which is very new with all of the latest Wine updates and should increase your chances of getting Windows software to run if you need it.

In conclusion, I've had to tweak things a lot more with the stock Fedora 16 install more than previous Fedora installations. While this is not a huge deal to me as I take notes so that I know what to do the next time, I think it would be somewhat discouraging for a new GNU/Linux user. GNU/Linux as a whole is starting to move in different directions all at once, and I think that will bring some resistance and confusion with new users. But as Gnome 3 becomes refined, I think that will help things. I kindly remind Windows users that are thinking of switching to GNU/Linux that even Windows changes the interface around from version to version, too. So, some learning and adaptation is needed regardless of which path is taken.

Topic: Open Source

Chris Clay

About Chris Clay

After administering Linux and Windows for over 17 years in multiple environments, my focus of this blog is to document my adventures in both operating systems to compare the two against each other. Past and present experiences have shown me that Linux can replace Windows and succeed in a vast variety of environments. Linux has proven itself many times over in the datacentre and is more than capable for the desktop.

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  • Like many others, I agree. I find Gnome2 to work better with my work flow. I like the ease of access to multiple workspaces, the ease of access to 'places' and 'system'. I prefer the simplified alt-tab behaviour where all windows are treated the same way. I also prefer the way I can move the mouse around the screen without windows moving around and shrinking!

    What I wonder about is where the corporate customers will go. You see scientific linux running the background of many labs, and RHEL presumably have many customers on gnome2. I don't see these customers embracing the gnome shell.
    duncan j murray
  • The other issue with installing the NVIDIA driver directly from NVIDIA is that you must also reinstall it after upgrading the X server. Those issues with the RPMFusion package are going to be well worth resolving in the long run. It should be the *exact* same driver as the NVIDIA download (unless NVIDIA has just released a new version?), so it sounds like RPMFusion has some kind of "path issue".
  • duncanjmurray:

    I've often thought about the same thing. Eventually Red Hat will need to decide whether RHEL will default to Gnome or something else.

    Chris Rankin :

    From what I've seen, there is an issue with glibc that is the root cause of the NVidia issues. See:
  • apexwm:

    OK, I'm confused. The current glibc package in Fedora 16 is glibc-2.14.90-24.fc16.4. Not only does this package works fine with the NVIDIA packages from RPMFusion, but (according to yum.log) it was installed on Dec 31st 2011. So exactly how "recently" were you upgrading this PC from XP to Fedora 16, and why didn't you apply all package updates? Even with broken OpenGL, you'd still have had a console available.
  • Chris Rankin :

    I've installed two PCs within the past month, most recently this XP box was within the past week. Both of these recent PCs are on Fedora 16 with NVidia GEForce 9400 series cards. Both have the exact same issue. You are right, they both have glibc-2.14.90-24. I'm afraid there are more serious problems, as I did go on one of these machines and try to revert back to the RPMFusion packages (kmod-nvidia-PAE, and kernel-PAE-3.2.6.x). However, after installing them, and the latest Xorg-server package, X had a segmentation fault and no longer ran. As soon as I installed the driver back, X started up fine.
  • apexwm:
    Is the NVIDIA driver from the website the same as the one in RPMFusion? It's possible that NVIDIA has released a new version that RPMFusion hasn't repackaged yet.
  • Hi Chris:

    "Is the NVIDIA driver from the website the same as the one in RPMFusion? It's possible that NVIDIA has released a new version that RPMFusion hasn't repackaged yet."

    The one at is slightly newer. But I think mainly it only provides some support for newer graphics chips that have just been released. I've never had any problems like this in the past, so hopefully it will get fixed soon.