Another Windows XP to Fedora 16 Linux migration

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.
Written by Chris Clay Clay, Contributor

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 nvidia.com. 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 nvidia.com, 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 nvidia.com 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.

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