Fedora 18 revisited: Cinnamon, Xfce, LXDM, and a 'wow' for anaconda

Fedora 18 revisited: Cinnamon, Xfce, LXDM, and a 'wow' for anaconda

Summary: Cinnamon, Xfce, LXDM and more comments on anaconda: the fun never stops!

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  • Xfce 4.10 Desktop

    In addition to the well-known Gnome and KDE distributions, Fedora also has a popular Xfce distribution. The Fedora 18 release uses Xfce4 version 4.10. Xfce has gained considerable popularity recently because it's seen as a good alternative for users who don't want Gnome 3, but still want a more or less traditional 'Gnome-style' desktop. This probably doesn't do it justice, though, because it's a very good and very capable desktop in its own right. For a quick overview of features, take the Xfce 4.10 Tour.

    The difference between this Xfce 'spin' and one of the alternative Gnome desktops that I mentioned previously (Cinnamon and MATE) is that those are alternative interfaces built on top of the Fedora Gnome distribution. They thus will have all the same utilities and applications, but will provide you with a different (and hopefully more comfortable) way of working with them. The Xfce spin is a completely different distribution, with a very different set of utilities and applications. Most of the utilities are developed specifically for Xfce (or even by the same development team), and thus are designed to fit well with the Xfce desktop, and follow the 'fast and light' philosophy.

    • midori browser, in addition to the latest Firefox release.
    • Thunar file manager (which is also winning a lot of admirers because of the recent Nautilus changes)
    • ristretto image viewer
    • parole media player

    The applications are also chosen with more emphasis on "fast and light", and this philosophy will extend not only to the applications which are included, but also to the choice not to include certain types of applications.

    • Abiword for word processing, rather than a full Office Suite
    • No GiMP or other major image editing program
    • Simple audio/media players

    The screenshot above shows the Xfce desktop as I typically modify it for use on my netbooks. Rather than top and bottom panels, I have moved one panel to the side, with only icons and symbols (no text) on it, and I have the other panel at the bottom. Both panels are set to auto-hide, so I get the maximum usable screen space on the netbook.

    Fedora 18 still uses Network Manager, rather than wicd which is frequently chosen for Xfce distributions. To me the advantage of this is that I don't have to learn another network manager, and I already know that it works not only with all of the various wired and wireless network adapters on my systems, but it also works with my Huawei 3G wireless broadband USB stick.

  • LXDE Desktop and Menu

    Another alternative in the Fedora distribution family is LXDE, which is even further on the 'fast and light' scale than Xfce. In this case the philosophy is even included in the name: The Lightweight X Desktop Environment. As with Xfce, this is reflected in both the utilities and applications included in the distribution. The following is a short list, for a more complete list and information, check the about LXDE webpage:

    • PCManFM (file manager)
    • GPicView (image viewer)
    • Abiword (word processor)
    • Gnumeric (spreadsheet)
    • LXMusic (audio player)
    • GXine (video player).
    • Firefox (browser)

    I hadn't really given it much thought, but looking at that list, in some ways LXDE looks like it is actually a more complete 'out of the box' distribution than Xfce, notably with the spreadsheet and video player included. I also find that they have a few panel applets which are quite interesting, for example a cpufreq monitor for displaying CPU speed throttling information. But they haven't lost their focus on light and fast, because you get the feeling of speed everywhere you turn. Windows open and programs start very fast, and even the auto-hide function of the panel is very snappy in moving up and down.

    By the way, here's a tip for LXDE users. After scratching my head and searching the web for quite a long time trying to find a way to get a screenshot, I stumbled across the very handy Action in mtPaint (which is included in F18 LXDE): just start the program from Menu/Graphics/mtPaint, then go to File/Actions/Time Delayed Screen Shot.  Very handy, and a lot easier than anything else I've found.

  • The Fedora anaconda installer

    I would like to add a few more words about anaconda. In my previous post about Fedora 18, I tried to include some tips specifically about the disk and partition allocation operations, because I felt I got rather lost in that part and thought others might need help.

    I've been rather blunt in my comments and criticism of anaconda, both here in my own blog and in comments I've posted elsewhere. But on reflection, I think it's important to remember that writing a program like anaconda is a huge task: it's extremely complex and absolutely full of variations, different paths to the final goal (installing Linux), tons of minute details, every one of which has got to be exactly right. And the complexity is increasing, not decreasing. Get anything wrong, often even in the smallest detail, and you end up with a failed install — or even worse, with an unbootable or even wiped disk or an otherwise unusable system. I have never worked on or contributed to anaconda (other than flippant criticism), but from having been on other such projects I can tell you that you seldom hear about how well you have done, but you always hear (generally at high volume) when something goes wrong.

    So I want to say right here and now, loud and clear, WOW. What a good job. For this to be the first release of a complete redesign and rewrite of anaconda, and for it to be this solid, is extremely impressive. Those of us who know Fedora will know that this is not the 'last' version, it isn't 'cast in concrete', it's going to continue to develop and improve, and future releases will be even better. But this first release works, and works quite well.

    For this to be the first release of a complete redesign and rewrite of anaconda, and for it to be this solid, is extremely impressive

    I have specifically mentioned the disk partitioning section as being confusing. But when I think about it, what's not confusing about disk partitioning? If you take the 'do this for me' approach, which of course is offered by anaconda, it will work. I think someone commented previously that it would produce two partitions, and I'm not convinced that's correct because I believe it will make at least root, home, boot and swap partitions — and if you are installing on a UEFI system, it will also make a /boot/efi partition. But that's all fine, it works, and if you don't want that many partitions you can set it up manually and get it down to two (or three for UEFI).

    If you want to understand how all of this works, as Adam Williamson has kindly pointed out that there's help in anaconda itself, an overview in the Fedora 18 Release Notes, more information in the Fedora 18 Installation Guide, and even more in the anaconda documentation; there are also blogs and chats that follow it. The new anaconda presents the disk layout in a completely new way, with partitions grouped by logical installations, and that certainly confused me at first. I'm accustomed to the gparted presentation, which is nothing more than a graphical depiction of the physical layout of the drive, and that in itself assumes that you know enough to understand what each partition is and how they fit together. That isn't a very good assumption for the average user, is it? Showing partitions in logical installation groups may well be a better idea, and I just need to adjust to it.

    So, before ranting and raving about anaconda being different (not only from previous anaconda releases, but really significantly different from just about any other Linux installer out there), stop and think. Look for help, open your mind and try to see what it is trying to tell you. You might be surprised. I was.

    jw

     

    One more note: if you need to take a screenshot while running anaconda, press Shift-PrintScreen. It will be saved as a .png in /tmp/anaconda-screenshots. Then copy the screenshot-xxxx.png file to some sort of removable media so that you'll still have it after rebooting.

Topics: Linux, Open Source, Operating Systems

J.A. Watson

About J.A. Watson

I started working with what we called "analog computers" in aircraft maintenance with the United States Air Force in 1970. After finishing military service and returning to university, I was introduced to microprocessors and machine language programming on Intel 4040 processors. After that I also worked on, operated and programmed Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-8, PDP-11 (/45 and /70) and VAX minicomputers. I was involved with the first wave of Unix-based microcomputers, in the early '80s. I have been working in software development, operation, installation and support since then.

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24 comments
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  • i could not install it on VMware 9 bcz of a weird error

    in anaconda! i think it is not yet ready to say Wow about it :(
    L3thargic
    • Same here

      I had some weird libmount ("no more mirrors") error during install, switched to netinstall - went fine. Maybe my DVD was bad though.

      New installer simply sucks - very little flexibility, easy to make mistakes - just sucks: i wish devs stop dumbing down software. Fist gnome, now anaconda.
      vgrig
  • Yep, definitely, absolutely not.

    Good to see you covering some of the different desktops out there, and really good to see cinnamon becoming part of the official repo's in the rpm work now. You're thoughts on xfce and oxide are very much in line with my own. Xfce in particular has come on in leaps and bounds over the last couple of years particularly in the fedora Ubuntu and mint implementations. It used to very lines and simple;

    Want to use very few resources, open/black/flux-box. Then came more traditional mending desktops and it went xfce (small footprint, bit limited and sometimes buggy) lxde (almost full featured but not pretty) gnome (full featured desktop) kde (eye candy)

    That status quo of several years really has gone out the window. Xfce has become one of my favourites, with mint xfce being the install of choice, and the old RAM foot print challenge blown away; on my systems clean boots are all between 230-300 mb; little difference now. Where they save resources is in running services and graphics requirements.

    Comparable to xfce lxde feels as though it has stood a little still whilst xfce has caught up to my mind.

    I Shaun's bash anaconda, but no. Old editions of anaconda were just as easy to use if you chose default options, the manual partitioning has gone to hell ubiquity style. Install rhel 6 to see what I mean
    MarknWill
  • Fedora 18 revisited: Cinnamon, Xfce, LXDM, and a 'wow' for anaconda

    Its still ugly. I'd quit my job immediately if I had to look at those desktops all day. No polish, no finish, nothing to draw a user to it and want them to continue using it. Its rather obvious the linux people don't care about their desktop.
    Loverock-Davidson
    • is it Microsoft Windows DE you're

      talking about? Yes, all of them XP,Vista, Windows {7..20} are pretty ugly compared to most GNU/Linux and *BSD DE's
      eulampius
    • You must like KDE.

      And Oxygen.
      Tynach
    • Are appearances more important than function?

      "No polish, no finish, nothing to draw a user to it and want them to continue using it."

      Shine or polish won't get you anything if it doesn't work under the hood. This sounds like something Microsoft would say, while trying to get its users to re-buy copies of Windows. GNU/Linux doesn't need to "draw users" by making it look nice, instead the focus is to provide a clean interface that works functionally.
      Chris_Clay
  • Fluff for DE junkies

    Not a word about using SELinux to harden Fedora 18's default browser.
    Rabid Howler Monkey
  • I have a question to ask JA

    If these Linux distros had the exact same Windows 7 interface, but the Linux core, you would like it wouldn't you?
    adacosta38
    • not really

      (not sure about JA) IMO, it's not as decent as many *nix DE's The panel icons are ugly, eye-candiness is not as sweet as what compiz, cinnamon and friends offer.
      BTW, you can set you DE up to resemble some of the Windows DE features. However, your question is quite surrealistic, since there is no independent cross-platform Microsoft Win 7 DE. Every Microsoft OS is an indivisible monster and you can't even install it on Vista or Win 8
      eulampius
    • I wouldn't hate it

      In the case of Windows 7, it's not just the interface itself, it would be the amount of (in)flexibility and illogical nonsense that would be the problem. The basic characteristics of the interface (icons, menus, panels) are not bad. I assume that you didn't ask this question about the Windows 8 interface because you already know it is pure rubbish.
      j.a.watson@...
  • I can't see my desktop icons (I use XFCE)

    Anybody know how to get them back? Otherwise, so far, so good.
    John L. Ries
    • XFCE icons...

      Greetings John,

      The usual way is right click any where on the desktop
      >Desktop Settings> Icons (Tab)
      and check the items you would like to see on the desktop
      LazLong
    • you can also

      unhide the bottom panel by, e.g., right-clicking on the mid bottom part of the desktop and selecting Properties

      I am wondering if one can install a mintMenu element on it though which is pretty nice and is in the Mint XFCE install
      eulampius
      • I guess

        my suggestion is pertinent to Xubuntu and might differ from the Fedora setup. So, apologies
        eulampius
  • "GNOME Shell" instead of "GNOME 3 Desktop"

    There is continued confusion here when people say "GNOME 3" and "GNOME 3 Desktop" when they mean "GNOME [3] Shell." As such, I continue to recommend people refer to it as "GNOME Shell" instead of "GNOME 3" or at least append "Shell" at the end.

    Virtually everything GNOME is GNOME 3 now, including Cinnamon. So it's best to call it "GNOME Shell" and not merely "GNOME 3." Or if you want to be really exacting, "GNOME 3 Shell," "GNOME 3 Cinnamon," etc...
    SmithConcepts
    • GNOME 3 same as Cinnamon, No

      Cinnamon Desktop looks nothing like Gnome 3 desktop in its current form.

      Why would developers even think of creating a Cinnamon desktop if it looked like Gnome 3 desktop?
      RickLively
      • Not about looks.

        Gnome 3 is a desktop platform and set of APIs, more or less. You design applications to use the Gnome 3 stack.

        Cinnamon uses the Gnome 3 stack, but it does NOT use the Gnome Shell desktop interface. Gnome Shell is the new official desktop interface for the Gnome 3 application stack, and is what everyone hates.

        Gnome 3 is... Mostly fine. GTK 3 is horrible to create themes for I hear, and there are other problems with different parts of Gnome 3 (I read a lot of complaints about how the Gnome devs think they live in an all-gnome world, and they never stop to think about other desktop environments - there was one high-ranking Gnome dev that had never heard of XFCE or LXDE). But as long as your system is entirely Gnome/GTK, Gnome 3 is pretty good.

        It's just a shame that Gnome Shell is absolute trash. Cinnamon makes it usable though.
        Tynach
  • Jamie, Mate Desktop or any other spins/format/cloud ?

    Saw nothing about or mention of Mate, Network Install, Fedora Security Lab, Fedora Design Suite, Fedora SoaS Spin, Fedora Electronic Lab, Robotics, Scientific KDE, Fedora on EC2, or Fedora ARM.
    RickLively
  • Partitions

    Thanks for the thoughts, Jamie! On partitions: "I think someone commented previously that it would produce two partitions, and I'm not convinced that's correct because I believe it will make at least root, home, boot and swap partitions"

    Pretty much. If you have less than a certain amount of space for the install (I think it's 50GB or 80GB), you get boot, root and swap, plus an EFI system partition or a BIOS boot partition if needed in your configuration. If you have more than the 'cutoff' amount of space, you also get a home partition.
    AdamWill