Korora 20 (Peach) hand-on: Even better than I expected

I install four different desktops: Gnome, KDE, Cinnamon and Xfce.
Written by J.A. Watson, Contributor

Korora 20 (Peach) was released last week, and it is a beauty - even better than I had expected. 

I have been watching for this release, because Windows 7 Starter Edition on my Samsung N150 Plus decided to barf all over itself a week or two ago, and rather than waste time trying to figure out how to fix it I just completely wiped the disk and reinstalled everything from scratch. 

It is so much nicer not to have a partition taken for Windows bootloader, and another partition taken for Windows itself, and another partition taken for Windows Recovery image: now it has nothing but Linux installed, and it just feels cleaner. 

So far it has openSuSE 13.1, Fedora 20, Mint 16, Debian 7.3, PCLinuxOS 2013.12 and SolydX 201311.

I was ready to install Korora, but with Fedora 20 out now I knew that Korora 20 wouldn't be far behind, so I decided to wait. In fact there was a beta release of Korora 20 at the beginning of December, but that Korora beta was built on a Fedora beta, and that was one beta too many for me.

So, now the final release of Korora 20 is out, and waiting has really paid off because it adds a new desktop!  In addition to Gnome 3, KDE, Cinnamon and MATE which were already available with 19.1, there is now also an Xfce version. 

That is great news, because that's exactly what I want on the N150 Plus. So I am going to install four different desktops on four different computers here - Xfce on the N150 Plus, KDE on the Lenovo T400, Cinnamon on the Acer Aspire One 725 and Gnome 3 on the HP Pavilion dm1-4310ez. 

Note that those last two are UEFI boot systems: I will write about the Korora release in general and the four desktops today, and then I will follow up with more detailed UEFI information in the next post. What I will say for now is that it installed on both of my UEFI systems with absolutely no problem, including Secure Boot, and without conflicting with the previously installed Fedora 20 on those systems.

First, for those who might not be familiar with it, what is Korora and why is it interesting? Korora is derived from Fedora, and one very simple way of thinking about it is that Korora is to Fedora what Linux Mint is to Ubuntu. 

The original operating system with lots of packages and utilities added, many of which an experienced user would have had to add themselves anyway, some even an experienced user wouldn't have thought about.  Things like LibreOffice, Adobe Flash, Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird, GIMP image editor, and more. 

It's not an entirely correct analogy, though, because Korora also adds some very interesting and useful repositories to the basic Fedora distribution, so there are also a lot more packages available out of the box too. Two good examples of the repositories added are rpmfusion and Google chrome.

Second, and this is really important, I mentioned in my recent post about Fedora 20 that their "base" distribution (Gnome 3) is well equipped with applications and utilities, but the other desktops spins are all pretty much "bare bones", so you have to add whatever applications, utilities and what have you that you want. 

A lot of people consider this to be an advantage, so they can build the system the way they want it.

Another lot don't: they want the system to be complete and ready to use after the installation is finished, with all the common applications and utilities. That's what Korora has done - all five of the desktop distributions are fully equipped and ready to work, as we will see.

The ISO images for all of these distributions are available from the Korora Download page. All of them are hybrid ISO images, which means that you can either burn them to a DVD (they are much too large for a CD) or write them directly to a USB stick. 

I always do the latter, because its faster and easier for me, and of course I can reuse the USB sticks, rather than ending up with piles and piles of CDs and DVDs that I have used only a very few times.

The Korora installer is actually Fedora's anaconda (duh), so you can check my recent Anaconda Hands-On post for details about how it works, how much I like that and why.  The only important thing to say here is that it works very well on both MBR and UEFI systems.

Ok, now to look at each of the desktops.  First up is the Cinnamon version, which I have loaded on my Aspire One 725:

Korora Cinnamon
The Korora Cinnamon Desktop

This is Cinnamon 2.0.14. In typical fashion, the Korora developers have not just taken the standard Cinnamon desktop, or even the stock Fedora Cinnamon desktop. The have really put some thought and some work into it, they have adapted and adjusted, tweaked and configured it. 

What they have ended up with is the nicest, most useful and easiest to use "base installation" Cinnamon desktop I have seen. I honestly think it is even nicer than the base installation of the recent Linux Mint 16 distribution. 

The panel has been moved from the bottom of the screen to the top, it has controls and icons added to the right end for display setup and brightness, and it has several launchers added to the left side for Firefox, Thunderbird, Terminal and Files. 

Not only do I think these are good changes (in fact they are almost exactly what I would do myself), but they provide an excellent example of some of the things that can be done with the latest Cinnamon desktop.  The only change that I made to this desktop for my own preference on the AO725 was to enable panel Auto-Hide.

Next, here is the KDE desktop:

Korora KDE
The Korora KDE Desktop

 This is based on KDE 4.11. Of course, the KDE Netbook desktop is also included:

KDE Netbook
The Korora KDE Netbook Desktop

As can be seen from the application/utility list below, the KDE version is different from the others in a number of significant ways. This is mostly because the KDE Software Collection includes its own version of a number of applications and utilities. 

One obvious example of this that I frequently mention is didKam for photo management (and Gwenview for photo viewing). Others are things like Amarok (audio player), and the Konqueror web browser - although in this specific case, Korora also includes Firefox, probably as a compromise because of the extreme popularity of Firefox and the fact that Kornqueror is starting to feel a bit old and clunky.

Here is the Gnome 3 desktop, showing the Applications menu:

The Korora Gnome 3 Desktop

Once again, Korora hasn't just taken the standard Gnome 3 desktop. They have configured it with Places on the top panel, and added a window icon area and a weather applet.  These are all included in Gnome 3, but are not usually shown on the desktop, by adding this configuration Korora is showing a bit more of the flexibility of Gnome, and perhaps making former Gnome 2 users a little more comfortable with Gnome 3 out of the box.

Finally, the Xfce desktop is the newest member of the family:

Korora Xfce
The Korora Xfce Desktop

Those who are familiar with Xfce will notice that this desktop uses the standard Xfce menu, rather than the Whisker menu which is becoming popular in some distributions. I have also made my standard Xfce-on-a-netbook adjustments here, moving the bottom panel to the right side, and changing it from 100 percent to auto-size. 

This screen shot also shows that the Xfce menu is available not only on the Menu button at the top left of the screen, but also by right-clicking anywhere on the desktop background. Another nice little Xfce touch can be seen here - "Open Terminal Here" is always available on the first menu, so if you work with a terminal frequently, you don't have to go back to one of the panels or run down through the Xfce menus to get one started.

I mentioned above that all of these different versions were fully loaded with applications and utilities.  What does that mean, exactly?  Well, they are all running Linux kernel 3.12.6 and X server 1.14.4, and here is a fairly complete list of applications:

  Cinnamon KDE Gnome Xfce
LibreOffice  X  X X X
Firefox 26.0  X  X X X
Thunderbird 24.2  X     X
KMail   X    
Evolution     X  
Pidgin 2.10.7       X
VLC Media Player 2.1.2  X  X X X
Yum Extender  X  X X X
Flash Player 11.2r202  X  X X X
IcedTea (Java)  X  X X X
Orage Calendar/Clock       X
KOrganizer   X    
Pharlap Driver Finder  X X X X
GIMP 2.8.10  X X X X
Okular PDF Viewer   X    
PDF Document Viewer 3.10.3  X   X X
Inkscape 0.48  X X X X
digiKam 3.5.0   X    
Shotwell (Photo) 0.15.1  X   X X
Raw Therapee     X X
Simple Scan  X   X X
Skanlite   X    
Ekiga Soft Phone  X   X X
Linphone   X    
Gwibber  X   X X
Liferea  X   X X
KNode   X    
Audacity X X X X
Amarok   X    
Rhythmbox X      
Hand Brake  X X X X
Open Shot  X   X X
Project Planner  X  X X X
Empathy  X   X  
 Darktable  X X    

The point of this chart is primarily to show how complete the software selection is for every one of the four distributions. 

All four desktop distributions include LibreOffice, Firefox, Flash Player, VLC Media Player, GIMP, Inkscape, IcedTea (Java web plugin) and such. In addition to those sorts of things which are the same across all versions, each version also has some kind of photo management (Shotwell or digiKam), Audio player (Amarok or Rhythm Box), Mail reader (Thunderbird or Kmail), PDF viewer. It's all there, in every version.  Whatever desktop you choose, you get a fully equipped Linux installation.

Another significant new (well, changed) feature of this Korora release is the Pharlap driver manager tool, replacing jockey from previous editions. A recent Korora News posting explains more about this package and why the decision to change from jockey was made. Pharlap will be of primary interest and benefit to those who have hardware which requires custom, third party or non-FOSS drivers, such as nVidia and Radeon graphic controllers and some models of Broadcom WiFi adapters.

Finally, in addition to these four desktops Korora also has a MATE (Gnome 2 style) distribution - I just don't have the time, equipment and dedication to load and test it as well.

So, if you like Fedora but you have been put off by the lack of some applications, or if you are just looking for a complete, fully loaded out-of-the-box Linux system that is easy to install and works very well, Korora could be just the thing, check it out.

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