Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Fedora 21 GNOME Review: If you can ignore the initial hiccups, fantastic operating system!

On 9th December 2014, Matthew Miller has announced the release of Fedora 21, the latest stable version of Red Hat's community distribution for desktops, servers and the cloud: "The Fedora Project is pleased to announce the release of Fedora 21, ready to run on your desktops, servers and in the cloud. Fedora 21 is a game-changer for the Fedora Project, and we think you're going to be very pleased with the results. As part of the initiative, Fedora 21 comes in three flavors: Cloud, Server, and Workstation. The Fedora Workstation is a new take on desktop development from the Fedora community. Our goal is to pick the best components, and integrate and polish them. This work results in a more polished and targeted system than you've previously seen from the Fedora desktop."

From Fedora 21 Workstation
I downloaded the 64-bit 1.4 GB ISO of Fedora 21 Live Workstation for this review. I created a live USB using Linux Mint Image Writer on a 4 GB pendrive and booted it on my Asus K55VM. Fedora 21 ships with GNOME 3.14 and Linux kernel 3.17.

Hardware Used for the Review
Asus K55VM Windows 7 laptop with 2.3 Ghz 3rd Gen. Core i7 3610QM processor with 8 cores, 8 GB DDR3 RAM, 1366x768 resolution, 2 GB NVIDIA GeForce 630M graphic card. I installed Fedora 21 on a 42 GB partition.

From Fedora 21 Workstation
Live boot experience and Installation
I am not sure if it is due to Nvidia graphic card or not, but I had a pretty bad experience in live boot. There were random crash reports in the background and I was not able to disable dual monitor view. Jumping cursors, flickering of the screen, etc. were also there. Screenshot did not work properly and I could not record a few steps during installation. Hence, I am presenting here the screenshots recorded from Fedora 21 KDE.

From Fedora 21 Workstation
However, installation was smooth and Fedora 21 took about 50% less time than Ubuntu or any Ubuntu spin installation. Fedora's installer looks a bit different than Ubuntu. But, once you get used to it, it takes only 5 minutes to install Fedora successfully. Fedora 21 installer is very similar to the Anaconda installer in Fedora 20, but adds more color in the present version.

Further, Fedora has a post installation script to configure language, keyboard, Wifi, and online accounts. It is quite helpful for novice users.
From Fedora 21 Workstation
From Fedora 21 Workstation
From Fedora 21 Workstation
From Fedora 21 Workstation
From Fedora 21 Workstation

Score for Installation: 10/10

Hardware Recognition
As I mentioned earlier, possibly because of the nvidia graphic card, I had a pretty bad experience with Fedora 21 initially. However, I don't give up easily on a Linux operating system. So, I installed bumblebee from the terminal, using the following commands:

(1) As root add the dependencies before proceeding with the installation
# yum install -y libbsd-devel libbsd glibc-devel libX11-devel help2man autoconf git tar glib2 glib2-devel kernel-devel kernel-headers automake gcc gtk2-devel

(2) Install virtualGL by: # yum install VirtualGL

(3)Install BBswitch
# yum -y --nogpgcheck install
# yum -y install bbswitch

(4) Install Bumblebee with Nvidia proprietary drivers
# yum -y --nogpgcheck install
# yum install glibc-devel
# yum install bumblebee-nvidia

Bumblebee-nvidia is not available yet in Fedora 21 repos and hence, I downloaded it from Fedora 20 repos of NSCU. It worked perfect with Fedora 20.

(5) I had to install primus as well to make it work
# yum install primus

(6) Now include user in the bumblebee group by
# gpasswd -a username bumblebee

(7) Finally, reboot and check if bumblebee is running by:
$ optirun glxgears -info
From Fedora 21 Workstation

Once I installed bumblebee, Fedora 21 started behaving as expected and user experience improved significantly to provide a more smoother experience. Dual monitor issue was gone and touchpad started behaving normally. Wifi, LAN and screen resolution worked well even during live boot.

Given I have doubts that the issues I faced was due to Nvidia graphic drivers and in laptops without hybrid graphics, users may not face these issues, I am not penalizing Fedora 21. I go with full marks on hardware recognition.

Experimental Wayland Support
One of the attractions of trying out Fedora was Wayland display technology. Ubuntu is moving towards Mir and Fedora to Wayland. Before it actually happens, Fedora 21 provides a glimpse to the Linux enthusiasts to try Wayland out. The login screen provides options to try out GNOME, GNOME Classic and GNOME on Wayland. Post installation of bumblebee, I tried out Wayland.

Wayland worked out nice on my laptop, consuming slightly higher resources but the display looked a lot brighter to me. However, single tap/double tap stopped working though two finger scroll worked. Further, in between usage, for some packages the cursor disappeared, much to my discomfort.

Wayland is still in experimental stages and possibly not ready for full time use. I hope by the next release the rough edges will be ironed out and experience will be much better. Right now it is better to use GNOME on xorg or the default option.

Score for Hardware Support: 10/10

Fedora 21 provides default GNOME experience with GNOME 3.14 desktop environment. GNOME purists are going to love it, I guess.

From Fedora 21 Workstation
There is no typical menu but a dash with all packages provided alphabetically and a favorite section on the left hand side for easy access to apps. Dash responds to Win key. I feel dash is helpful when the number of applications are limited. But, if you are using Linux full time for all your needs, dash may be a bit confusing.

Here actually gnome-tweak tool comes handy. Fedora 21 does not provide it by default. However, you can download the tweak tool from the Fedora repositories. It helps in managing extensions and enabling Application Menu extension. Using it, I could have both conventional menu and a dash.
From Fedora 21 Workstation
From Fedora 21 Workstation

Further, one constant irritation in GNOME 3 is the absence of minimize-maximize buttons. It can also be enabled from Tweak tool -> Windows -> Titlebar Buttons.
From Fedora 21 Workstation

Alongside, Tweak tool helps to install and manage Gnome shell themes. There are a whole lot of attractive themes available at to install and experiment with looks.

However, you can enable extensions even from, as shown below. Gnome, no doubt, has a lot of customization options for users who want to experiment with looks.
From Fedora 21 Workstation

Now coming back to Fedora 21. It provides the stock GNOME 3 experience without any tweaking. The desktop environment is minimalistic but polished. There are quite a few GNOME wallpapers for desktop and lock screen available in Fedora 21. Also, you can set any image as wallpaper by right click on it.
From Fedora 21 Workstation

One thing about the lock screen - it is a bit irritating for laptops without touch support. A mouse click to drag the screensaver up every time your system is locked feels really annoying. It works well with a touchscreen.

Files 3.14.2 is the default file manager and has Adwaita icon settings. It really looks antiquated and doesn't add beauty to the desktop. So, I installed the Vibrancy icons from raveinfinity to give it a more modern look. I downloaded the .tar.gz file from the website, copy it to /usr/share/icons folder as root and then extract the content. Because these actions required root privileges, I had to do it using the terminal:
From Fedora 21 Workstation
$ su
<enter password>
# cd ./Downloads
# cp Vibrancy*.tar.gz /usr/share/icons
# cd /usr/share/icons
# tar xvfz Vibrancy*.tar.gz
Once copied, I opened the Tweak tool to play around with 100s of color options and icons that Vibrancy provides. Similarly you can experiment with your Gnome desktop and different icon themes available across internet.

From Fedora 21 Workstation
There are actually scores of customization option to enhance the beauty of the GNOME 3 desktop apart from shell and icon themes. For example, adding a simple conky-manager to Fedora enhances a lot the appeal of the otherwise bare bone desktop.

From Fedora 21 Workstation
In overall, I am quite charmed by the refinement of the GNOME 3.14 desktop and the customization options it supports. Hence, for aesthetics, I go with full 10/10 score for Fedora 21.

Score for Aesthetics: 10/10

Pre-Installed Packages
Honestly, I found Fedora to provide only the very essential packages along with a few GNOME 3 specific applications, namely:
  • Office: LibreOffice (Calc, Write, Impress, Draw), Document viewer
  • Internet: Firefox 33.1, Empathy Internet Messenger, Evolution 3.12.9, Transmission, Remote Desktop
  • Graphics: Shotwell, Image Viewer, Screenshot
  • Multimedia: Cheese, Rhythmbox, Videos 3.14
  • Accessories: Contacts, DevAssistant, Documents, gedit, Archive manager, Calculator, Font viewer, Terminal, Notes
  • GNOME 3: Boxes, Clocks, Weather
As a policy, Fedora does not provide multimedia codecs or Adobe flashplugin. Even the Fedora repositories do not have those packages. However, Firefox 33.1 supports html5 and I could watch YouTube videos smoothly.
From Fedora 21 Workstation

So, my first job was to install multimedia codecs and other essential packages to make my distro functional. For Fedora, I used Fedy Installer for this purpose. Fedy is actually an easy GUI to add the RPM Fusion repos and other third party repos to install packages like Skype, Google-Chrome, Adobe flash plugin, multimedia codecs, Team Viewer, Dropbox, Google talk plugin, etc.
From Fedora 21 Workstation
From Fedora 21 Workstation
From Fedora 21 Workstation
From Fedora 21 Workstation
From Fedora 21 Workstation

All in all, it is almost like an one-stop-shop for the packages required by an average user. To install Fedy, open terminal and type the following command:
$ su -c "curl -o fedy-installer && chmod +x fedy-installer && ./fedy-installer"

Once installed, Fedy can be found in the dash or application menu.

Otherwise, you can enable the RPM Fusion repos from the website as well. It supports Fedora 21.

From Fedora 21 Workstation
Post-installation of multimedia codecs, I could play music and video files quite well.

From Fedora 21 Workstation
Now coming back to GNOME specific applications: I did not try the virtual environment Boxes, but I use Weather app and Clocks a lot. Clock supports multiple locations, alarm , stopwatch and a timer. It is very similar in function to what we have in Android.

From Fedora 21 Workstation
Weather application also supports multiple location providing weather forecast for the present day along with rest of the week. It changes color with day and night time.
From Fedora 21 Workstation

The settings manager for GNOME 3.14 in Fedora is pretty basic and without Tweak tool, it is very difficult to even change themes. However, there are some useful features like social network integration with Google and Facebook, privacy features, etc.

From Fedora 21 Workstation
So, in nutshell, Fedora 21 provides the very basic packages and to make the distro usable, user needs to put some extra effort. However, assessing Fedora just on the basis of packages it is providing is possibly not good as the distro provides a basic shell on which you can build your preferred system. Hence, I go with a 8/10 score on pre-installed packages.

Score for Pre-Installed Packages: 8/10

Fedora 21 has Software 3.14 as the package manager. I found it quite good to browse and download packages with a very simple interface. However, during my usage, I noted that at times images were not properly displayed in Software. I mostly used Fedy and terminal for my purpose.
From Fedora 21 Workstation

Fedora repositories along with RPM fusion has almost all the Linux packages that you can think of. The easiest way to download a package in Fedora is using yum as root, for example:
yum install gimp

Except for initial hiccups, Fedora 21 performed pretty good on my laptop. The distro is quite smooth to use and seems stable. I assessed performance of Fedora based on the following parameters. All the distros mentioned here are benchmarked on the same laptop (Asus K55VM) during 2013-14.

Boot time
Fedora boots 10% faster than average GNOME or GNOME forked distros I have used in 2013-14, at 36 seconds. If I compare to Ubuntu 14.10 GNOME with GNOME 3.14 DE, Fedora 21 takes almost the same time to boot.
From Fedora 21 Workstation

RAM and CPU Usage
I found RAM usage to be slightly high because of Evolution (consuming > 100 MB of RAM). At 632 MB, Fedora is one of the highest RAM intensive GNOME or GNOME forked distro I have used in 2013-14. However, if I compare Ubuntu 14.10 GNOME with GNOME 3.14, the RAM usage is almost similar. So, possibly it is the latest version of GNOME which is to be blamed rather than Fedora 21. CPU usage was never that high in the distro, much to my relief.
From Fedora 21 Workstation

Power Usage
Power usage at steady state is around 11.57 watts with powerstat and no other application running. Powerstat is not available in Fedora as such but thanks to hectic geek guys, the Ubuntu package can be installed and used in Fedora as well. Fedora 21 consumes about 4% less power than Ubuntu 14.10 and 2% less power than Ubuntu GNOME 14.10 with GNOME 3.14. In nutshell, Fedora 21 should give a decent battery life and is more efficient than Ubuntu's latest release.
From Fedora 21 Workstation

From Fedora 21 Workstation
Overall, I am satisfied with the performance I got with Fedora 21. On systems with modern processors and 2+ GB RAM, Fedora should work pretty smooth without any issue.

Score for Performance: 8/10

I must admit, I am more into Ubuntu than Fedora. So, I keep on drawing comparisons between the two at almost every instance. The reason I am more comfortable with Ubuntu is that old habits die hard. I started using Linux with Ubuntu and still continue to use it for production purposes. Had I started with Fedora, possibly I would relied more on Fedora than Ubuntu.

Further, the road ahead with Ubuntu may be a bit bumpy. To converge Ubuntu phone and desktop operating systems, Ubuntu is retiring the old Xorg server and X windows display system and migrating to Mir. Already we saw a preview in Ubuntu 14.10. Fedora and other Linux biggies are moving to Wayland. So, keeping this context in mind, the developments in Fedora/RHL stable is intriguing. I must say, I liked what I saw in Wayland, albeit there are rough edges and the experience is not really smooth yet.

Now coming back to Fedora 21. The initial hiccups apart, Fedora 21 is quite smooth to use, offering a stable performance and plenty of packages to choose from. In terms of look and feel, Fedora 21 offers consistent user experience to the previous releases, which is good. I guess at this point, based on my initial experience with Mir and Wayland, I may be inclined a little bit towards Wayland once xorg and xservers are completely retired by the Linux world. Lets see how everything takes shape.

I am definitely going to recommend Fedora 21 to users fed up with Unity/Ubuntu and contemplating a change. Novice users may wait for Korora release. The 6 month release cycle of Fedora will ensure that you always have the latest packages. Many reviewers suggest to avoid Fedora for production purposes. Possibly in 2015, I'll try to use Fedora for a year or so for all production purposes to understand if it is true or not.

You can download Fedora 21 Workstation from here.

Overall Score:

Parameter Weights (%) Score
Installation 20 10.0
Aesthetics 20 10.0
Hardware Recognition 20 10.0
Pre-installed Packages 10 8.0
Performance 30 8.0
Overall 100 9.2


  1. Sorry but this review doesn't say anything about why the reader should use Fedora instead of any other distribution, which should be the goal of a review. With saying "if you can overcome bugs, Gnome limitations and Fedora's glitches and you have lots of hardware to spare, it would work, more or less" you aren't exactly giving useful information.

    It is not the same like saying "you want to test Fedora's implementation of SistemD or Wayland?". That is a specific purpose then the review should consider the experimental features only.

    1. Hi Lorenzo:

      My reviews provide what users can expect from a distro - I leave it to users to decide whether they want to use this distro or not. I documented my experience with Fedora, all the pros and cons and my readers are intelligent enough to decide if they like Fedora over any other Linux distribution.


    2. Don't take this like criticism but as suggestion.
      I think a review should help the reader to understand if a software meets his/her needs, if it is worth the effort of trying.

      Of course your readers can decide if Fedora is for them or not but it is different if they decide before or after installing and struggling with it. If you don't give any help then you could just put the link and write "here is Fedora, I like it, try yourself".

      You write:
      "I am definitely going to recommend Fedora 21 to users fed up with Unity/Ubuntu and contemplating a change. "
      Why? Why are you going to recommend Fedora? Why Fedora instead of XYZ?
      There must be a reason, something Fedora does better or different than other distributions.
      From what you write above I can't get any reason out of "Fedora has got the latest implementations of some (discussed) technologies" but everything else is reasons to NOT use Fedora, starting from missing things and tricky procedures to hardware resources usage, good to know Fedora has got the same requirements of Windows, for example.

      For one, I tried Fedora and it worked. But it did not give any plus compared to Debian and it took extra efforts to get even elementary stuff done, like adding repos, installing things and such. The only possible plus was Gnome and in my case I can't stand it so I went back to Debian. I really really don't get the point not only in having so many irrelevant distros (and I don't see the point of Fedora) but also in having so many reviews that don't provide useful hints but "I like it".

    3. You can always demand a refund of the $ you paid for the review... you did donate to the reviewer, right?

      BTW I get asked Linux questions all the time on my blog. Like I am paid help desk or something, except I don't get paid. You get what you pay for. My usual answer is, "Search Google, I hear you can find out stuff that way." Actually, that is how I found out basically everything I know. I don't know a single soul that uses Linux except for me and strangers on the Internet.

      Hey man, we volunteers only have one benefit and that is, we can do as we please!

    4. I don't agree with the "we can do as we please".

      It is wrong in life in general and it is wrong in the "free" software universe, more than that, it is the main reason of incredible waste of manpower and "free" software main weak point.
      100 "volunteers" cannot build a bridge unless they join a common effort, which means to agree on everything, from the single screw to the general plan.
      The alternative is each volunteer builds its own beam then throw it on top of a pile with other beams, each different and call it a bridge.

      You publish reviews on your blog, you recommend software to your readers.
      If the principle is "I do what I want" you can write literally anything and still it is your blog. But what is the purpose? Are you just having fun writing what pleases you or you aim to be useful? In the second case you cannot just do what pleases you because you must put some effort in providing useful information to the reader.

    5. Lorenzo you have a point but you sound insulting and too harsh in your comments. It makes the readers feel mad at you and you are being unprofessional here.

  2. I'm using/testing linux min17.1 and I am looking at other distros, I think that this review helped me. The review answered my personal questions well. Why Fedora instead of another is I think a personal question. You have the "feel" for something and Fedora might just be that that clicks with you.
    I like Mint17.1, "feels" like Win XP, but it works, and I am looking for the Win7 touch. Ubuntu "feels" like Win 98 to me, and even if it works well I don't want it. Magea was for me like WinME, "Kinda nice, but then you have to go into DOS and reboot into safe mode."
    It seems to me, from the review, that Fedora would "feel" like Win 2000" good, but you have to work for it.

    I need a stable system, with not that much work, and I think that Mint 17.1 is that. Save my stuff to the "Cloud", and in a few months try again and see if anything else has that Win7 "feel".

    I'm sorry about raging on about Win7 in this Linux community, but before Win7 I don't think that any system worked so well. MS did something to Win7 in the updates and broke it! Now it just drags along like an old married couple. - without updates some things don't work but your machine is so responsive, with the updates you kill it.

    1. Software is not like a girlfriend, you don't pick it because "something clicks".
      You pick software like you pick the right tool for doing some carpenter's job. You don't do screws with a spoon or an hammer, do you.

      I don't even understand the sentence "it feels like XYZ". There are buttons, there are functions, it does or does not some things, it does those things in a way or another. Does a spoon "feel like" a screwdriver?

      Speaking of Windows, most likely it is not the updates but something else you have installed meanwhile. 99.9% of issues with Windows come from third party software, like antivirus, firewall, utilities of all sorts and the overwhelming bombardment of bad "surprises" that come from any corner of the Internet, like Sourceforge to name one.

    2. Lorenzo, I agree, you have a point but you are too harsh and sound insulting. There's no need for that.

  3. Here's an suggestion for your great blog. As you've reviewed so many distros, could it be possible to summarize top 5 distros 2014. Of course there's so many points to choose from but rather from what left you most impressed and so on.
    What's your daily distro bytheway???

    Thanks for great blog & have nice new year :)

  4. This is awesome. I have fedora on ASUS K55vm. What coincidence could this be :D I've been searching all day for a solution to the flickering graphics problem with no clear cut solution given. After endlessly googling found this. Thank you so much. Really really helpful.

  5. Really i am impressed from this post....the person who created this post is a generous and knows how to keep the readers connected..thanks for sharing this with us found it informative and interesting. Looking forward for more updates..
    Buy Laptop

  6. Any good video editing software for Fedora?