Korora 19.1 hands on: An excellent Fedora remix

Some hands-on experience with Korora 19.1 - and some comments on UEFI boot
Written by J.A. Watson, Contributor

I know, I know... I'm out of step again. Everyone is in a frenzy about the latest Ubuntu release this weekend, and here I am writing about something else.

Well, of course I have downloaded and installed Ubuntu 13.10 "Saucy Salamander".  It works. I have installed it on several of my systems, both traditional BIOS/Boot/Partition and UEFI BIOS/Boot/GPT (but I haven't bothered with Secure Boot), and it all installs and runs without any problem. 

I don't like it. 

It's not my style, I don't like the interface (Unity), I don't like the way it is developed, I don't like the direction it is going, and I particularly don't like their massive not-invented-here complex. So I will leave that to others, and I will move on to something that I do like, and that really interests me.

The Korora Project interests me. It is based on Fedora, but with lots of things included which you would probably want to add after installing Fedora anyway. You could sort of think of Korora being to Fedora what Linux Mint was originally to Ubuntu. 

Korora released version 19.1 a week or so ago. As described in the release notes, there are two aspects to this release — first, it is a rollup of updates, bug fixes, tweaks and improvements since the Korora 19 release into a new set of installation images.

If you have already been running Korora 19 and have kept it up to date, you don't need to reinstall from this image — but if you are going to be installing Korora again, on other systems or whatever, then things will definitely be easier and there will be a lot less updating after installation if you use these new images. 

Second, and for a lot of people more interesting and perhaps more important, there are a couple of new versions included with this release — Cinnamon and MATE desktops in addition to the usual Gnome 3 and KDE desktops: very nice.

I am currently partial to KDE, and I already have Fedora 19 installed with Gnome 3 (and Fedora 20 as well, for that matter), so I don't really need yet another installation of that. 

I like both Cinnamon and MATE, but I have Linux Mint installations for both of those so I decided to go ahead with the KDE version. The ISO images are very large (more than 2GB) because Korora includes so much on top of the Fedora distribution. They are hybrid images, so if you already have a running Linux system you can simply dd the ISO image onto a USB stick and you're ready to boot; otherwise, the Fedora Live USB Creator Tool for Windows can be used to write the ISO image to a USB drive. 

Once that is done you can boot the USB drive and run the installation. Korora uses the standard Fedora Anaconda installer, which I have described in detail previously.

Warning! If you are already running Fedora, and you have a UEFI boot system, anaconda will install GRUB to a directory called fedora in the EFI Boot partition of your disk. This is not a problem if you accept the default disk layout that anaconda offers, because it will create a new separate partition for it.  But if you are trying to be clever (like me, unfortunately) and you specifically point anaconda at the existing EFI partition, it will then overwrite the existing Fedora boot information, and when you are done Korora will work just fine but you won't be able to boot Fedora any more. Not fun.

Installing Fedora 19: What's new?

Warning! Warning!  If you then want to get really clever (like me, unfortunately), you can rename your Fedora EFI boot directory to get it out of the way... then install Korora, and after the installation is finished you can rename that imposter fedora directory to korora, and put the original directory back to its rightful fedora name.  That works well... until the first time you update Korora and it generates a new kernel and/or initrd image, and then generates a new grub.cfg file and overwrites your fedora/grub.cfg file. Ugh.

Warning! Warning! Danger Will Robinson! The above comments apply to other installations with overlapping EFI boot directory names - for example, if you want to install OpenSUSE 13.1 pre-releases onto the same system where you already have OpenSUSE 12.3 installed (does this sound like the voice of experience?), you get the same kind of unpleasant surprise. I guess the best way around this is to use separate EFI Boot partitions, but I hate to have a bunch of small partitions, because it seems messy and wasteful to me. Has anyone figured out a "good" solution to this?

Anyway, as I said, I have installed Korora 19.1 on a number of computers here, including both standard laptops and netbooks, and I had only one relatively small problem — and even that is not specific to Korora, it is a general Linux problem. 

On my HP dm1-4110ez system, the Ralink 3290 wi-fi adapter would not stay connected. It connects when you first configure it, but it drops after a few minutes (at most), and won't connect again.  I have already seen this problem with openSuSE and Fedora, and it seems to be a problem common to Linux kernel versions 3.11.0 to about 3.11.4 (it was not a problem in kernels 3.8 to 3.10). 

The good news is that if you install the upgrades for Korora, it will bring the kernel up to 3.11.4, and the Ralink wi-fi adapter works just fine again. Of course, you will have to use either a wired network or a USB wi-fi adapter to get the updates. Oh, and by the way since I mentioned having installed Ubuntu 13.10,  I will also mention here that it has kernel 3.11.0, and it also has this problem, and as yet I have not seen any updates which fix it, so beware.

Finally, once the installation is complete you can see some of the nice additions that Korora makes so that it is a bit easier "out of the box" than Fedora.

The one that most people notice first is Flash — how many times have I been told by people "I can't use Fedora because it doesn't have a Flash player"? Of course, it has always been possible to add Flash to Fedora, and the amount of effort and knowledge required have been decreasing, but here it is installed and just works by default. 

The same is true of Java: Korora included openjdk and icedtea so that just works too. Korora also includes the Google Chrome and Google Earth repositories, but the applications themselves aren't installed by default. 

If you want them, you just have to go to Software Management and choose them for installation. Korora also includes the Jockey Device Driver Manager, which detects when various third-party drivers need to be installed (such as for Radeon and nVidia graphics), and offers to install them for you. Perhaps the best news, though, is that Korora includes the RPMFusion repositories, which include lots and lots of other interesting packages.

In summary, I would give a big thumbs-up to Korora. First in general, because it is a nice derivative which can make Fedora much easier to use particularly for inexperienced Linux users, and second specifically for this 19.1 rollup release, because I can tell you from experience that installing Korora (or Fedora) from their original release 19 ISO images at this point, and then having to sit through more than 500 updates is not anyone's idea of a good time.

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