Out with Windows 2000, in with Fedora 14

Recently I've had the pleasure of replacing another Windows computer for a relative, with Fedora Linux. This one is running Windows 2000 and the system is riddled with problems.
Written by Chris Clay Clay, Contributor

Recently I've had the pleasure of replacing another Windows computer for a relative, with Fedora Linux. This one is running Windows 2000 and the system is riddled with problems. Yes I know, the installation is 10 years old, so we can't expect it to work perfectly. Over the past year or so, the software on this PC has been degrading quickly, which Windows is notorious for. I had already migrated them from Windows to Fedora Linux on another PC two years ago, and am also upgrading that one as well to the latest version which is Fedora 14. As I have posted before, I have found that migrating for ordinary Windows users has been fairly smooth overall. Mainly because a lot of programs like Firefox and Thunderbird are exactly the same cross-platform, as well as OpenOffice being very similar to MS Office XP/2003. I migrated somebody else from Office 2007 and they were actually relieved to have the menus back with OpenOffice.

Overall I've noticed that Fedora 14 is very well done. I know it was released a while back, but this has given enough time to fix bugs and I consider it stable now. Fedora 15 is in the works. There have been a couple hiccups, though. A couple programs that used to work in Wine, do not now. However as always, there are workarounds. I discovered that ies4linux (ability to run IE in Wine) no longer seems to work in the latest Wine, which is version 1.3.12 on Fedora 14. Simple workaround is to install Winetricks, then run Winetricks and have it install Ie6. Ie7 and Ie8 are also possible with Winetricks however I have not tested them. Ie6 is just enough for dependencies to work correctly in Wine.

It seems that the proprietary Broadcom drivers are still not totally integrated yet, so I highly recommend enabling RPMFusion so that you can easily download and install these extra proprietary packages with Yum. After installing the rpmfusion-free and rpmfusion-nonfree packages, running "yum install kmod-wl" will automatically get the latest Broadcom driver and install it, and will upgrade your kernel as well. If you are running a PAE enabled kernel (for extra memory support over 4 GB in 32-bit mode), run "yum install kmod-wl-PAE" instead. I was highly impressed at the ease of this install, and it just works. I also noticed that the new version of NetworkManager has a couple of new features, and is very nice and VERY easy for users to manage all network connections via the applet in the upper right corner. Even if the wireless switch is off, when opening NetworkManager, it states under the list of detected networks that the switch is off. How brilliant is that.

The biggest hiccup so far is that they requested Microsoft Money 2004 which I could not get to run in Wine. It attempts to run then crashes with a Microsoft error report message. So, the workaround was to install VirtualBox with a Windows XP virtual machine, boot that and I installed and ran Money in that without a problem. It's a couple more clicks and a wait to start VirtualBox, but its "Seamless mode" makes it nice and integrates into the Gnome desktop environment nicely. This will buy some time so that we can migrate to GNUCash and get away from proprietary MS Money, which I believe Microsoft also cut or will be cutting online price updates at some point. GNUCash has a lot more flexibility in that it can tie in to many free established price update services, like Yahoo.

Fedora 14 boots very fast, and I immediately noticed a slight increase in boot speed over Fedora 12 which I upgraded from. All other applications were upgraded, and since Linux stores all programs settings and profile data in the home folder, all settings were retained and kept in tact.

On the PC that had Windows 2000, it is a Pentium 4, 2 GHz with 768 MB of RAM, and boots in about 30 seconds with Fedora 14. With Windows 2000 it used to take about 2 minutes. Data files were copied from the old Windows drive to the new folders in Linux home folder.

We will find out how things go once we hook up the PC and we go through configuring the scanner, digital camera, and other devices. From past experience, if all else fails and devices just don't work in Linux, VirtualBox is a catch all and everything should work because it can run a native Windows environment. However I have found that to be a last resort, and very rarely need to rely on that solution. I will be delivering the computers in about a week. Fingers crossed!

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