Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Fedora 18 Spherical Cow XFCE Review: Works well but a bit bland!

Fedora has always intrigued me to keep track of the latest happenings in the Linux world and especially what's brewing at the RHEL stable! Also, if I think of a comparable distro to Ubuntu, Fedora is the only legitimate choice! Just like Ubuntu, Fedora also inspires innumerable spins (like Kororaa, Fuduntu, of which I am a big fan now!). So, when the release note of Fedora came on 15th Jan, I was quick to download all the four versions (Gnome, KDE, XFCE and LXDE). My earlier reviews were on the Gnome and KDE spins and this is the third in the series on the XFCE spin.

From Fedora 18

My assessment is based on installation on Asus K54C laptop with 2.2 Ghz Core i3 processor and 2 GB RAM and experience of using it for the last 5 days. I downloaded the 32-bit ISO (694 MB in size) for this testing. Fedora 18 has XFCE 4.10 with Linux kernel 3.6.10, which gets updated to 3.7.2 on first update. With kernel 3.7.4 released, I guess within a couple of days, even this will be upgraded as well. Thunar 1.6.2 is the default file browser in Fedora 18 XFCE.

From Fedora 18
Fedora 18 XFCE has the stock XFCE looks, which I must say is quite boring. At least the fire cracker wallpaper from Fedora 17 has changed to my relief. Even the menu icons are not there! Initially I hated the bland stock XFCE look, seriously!

What I did is, first, bring the menu icons back.

From Fedora 18
From Fedora 18
Second, I added a conky and changed the wallpaper.

From Fedora 18
Third, I changed the stock XFCE menu icon to Fedora and made the panel transparent.

From Fedora 18
Finally my attractive Fedora 18 XFCE is here! And I love it.

From Fedora 18
Hardware recognition is excellent and everything worked as expected starting from resolution, sound card, touchpad to Wifi and LAN.

I installed via USB live boot. One interesting feature I saw is the live-boot or install options while USB live-boot. Seems like Fedora picked up a feather or two from Ubuntu! It is good option for the users and I am not complaining!

From Fedora 18
Fedora 18 XFCE spin is loaded mostly with some basic applications, viz.
  • Office: Abiword, Dictionary, Orage calendar, Document viewer
  • Internet: Claws mail, Firefox 17, Liferea, Midori, Pidgin, Remmina Remote Desktop, Transmission
  • Graphics: Ristretto Image viewer
  • Sound & Video: Asunder CD Ripper, Cheese, Parole Media Player, Pragha, Xfburn
  • Accessories: Application finder, catfish file search, Clipman, Calculator, Indic onscreen keyboard, Leafpad, Notes, Orage globaltime, Screenshot, Xarchiver, Xfburn, terminal
I miss a Spreadsheet application like Gnumeric or LibreOffice 3.6 Calc here but it can be downloaded from the repository.

It is good that the developers have provided Firefox along with Midori. Fedora 18, as mentioned, in my review on Gnome spin, doesn't provide Adobe flash or non-free multimedia codecs, as a policy. Html5 works, however, effortlessly. I could watch youtube videos where html5 option is available, right after installation. Flash plugin can be directly downloaded from Adobe website and installed as given below:

1. Adding Adobe RPM packages to Yum (as root):
rpm -ivh
rpm --import /etc/pki/rpm-gpg/RPM-GPG-KEY-adobe-linux

2. Update and then download Adobe flash
yum check-update
yum install flash-plugin nspluginwrapper alsa-plugins-pulseaudio libcurl

From Fedora 18
Multimedia codecs require addition of RPM Fusion repos to the package list. I entered the following command at the terminal to add RPM fusion packages:

su -c 'yum localinstall --nogpgcheck'

Post submitting this command, a refresh of the Software Install showed me the non-free codecs as well as VLC. Imagine the plight before this, neither movie files (.avi & .mkv primarily) nor mp3s would play on Fedora.

From Fedora 18
On application, I give Fedora XFCE a score of 7/10, primarily penalized by absence of a spreadsheet application and image editor. However, I must say that the internet section is quite rich in the distro. The score breakup is given below:

Fedora 18 XFCE Score
App – Office 7.00
App – Internet 10.00
App – Graphics 3.00
App – Multimedia 8.00
Applications 7.00

One of the main attraction of the Fedora 18 is the modified Anaconda installer. At a high level, it seems pretty simple and comparable to the Ubuntu installer. Just answer a few questions about language, location, keyboard, set root password, create user and that's it! No silly questions on grub and where to install grub, etc. just like Ubuntu. However, the design is a bit questionable and the orange notices popping up below every now and then is a bit irritating. At times I am not sure if I am doing the right thing or the wrong thing!

From Fedora 18
From Fedora 18
From Fedora 18
From Fedora 18
From Fedora 18
From Fedora 18
From Fedora 18
From Fedora 18
The installer is a bit bland in look and design. It is possibly designed keeping in mind the tablets and touch interfaces. But, it makes life a little tough on conventional laptops and desktops.

Life becomes more complicated with the installer once I try to create my own partition scheme and install Fedora. The installer is not very intuitive or as good as gparted. Moving on, straight forward installation takes about 20 minutes of time and it doesn't download the updates or codecs while installation like Ubuntu. I guess that makes life a bit tougher for any new user.

Post installation about 300 MB of updates were downloaded. I used terminal for the same with command "sudo yum check-update && sudo yum upgrade".

Yum is the default package manager with Yum Extender 3.0.10 as the GUI for browsing and installing packages. As mentioned before, the stock Fedora repo isn't that rich in terms of non-free codecs or applications. I couldn't locate even Adobe flashplugin there! But, once I added RPM Fusion packages to it, things became a lot better. On Yum Extender, I found it actually quite easy to use and simple. However, still if you don't want to go into complexities of the GUI, life is quite simple via the terminal as well, simply type "sudo yum install appname" and your app will get installed in minutes.

From Fedora 18
Some of the apps like Adobe flashplugin or Skype 4.1 are not there even in the RPM Fusion repo and required to be installed downloading from the respective website. For Skype, I tried the Fedora 16 installer available on Skype website and it worked well resolving all dependencies on Fedora 18.

Post updating to Linux kernel 3.7.2, Fedora 18 XFCE desktop consumed about 180 MB RAM and 1-5% CPU to load with system monitor running. I guess, it is pretty decent if I compare it to the latest 32-bit XFCE 4.10 spins released in 2012-13. I got a decent performance on my Core i3 laptop and it is very smooth to use. I also admire the stability it offers.

Bridge XFCE XFCE 4.10 1-5% 130 MB
Mint 14 XFCE XFCE 4.10 1-5% 140 MB
Manjaro 0.8.3 XFCE XFCE 4.10 1-5% 160 MB
Xubuntu 12.10 XFCE 4.10 1-5% 160 MB
Sabayon 10 XFCE XFCE 4.10 1-5% 180 MB
Fedora 18 XFCE XFCE 4.10 1-5% 180 MB
Manjaro 0.8.2 XFCE XFCE 4.10 1-5% 200 MB
OS 4 13.1 XFCE 4.10 1-5% 200 MB
Voyager 12.10 XFCE 4.10 1-5% 200 MB
ZevenOS 5 XFCE 4.10 1-5% 220 MB

Fedora 18 XFCE is fast, stable and offers good performance, though the stock XFCE looks pretty boring. However, it is customizable and depending on user preference, can be made to look attractive. Adding RPM Fusion repo to the package list actually solves the problem of non-free codecs.

Do I recommend Fedora 18 XFCE? I'll recommend it for advanced users who can take the pain for installing a new distro every year. For casual users, better wait for a Fedora spin with XFCE desktop or try other XFCE distros with LTS. It works well but is a bit bland.

Fedora 18 XFCE gets a rating of 7/10 from my side and the breakup is given below. Being a performance oriented distro I have put greater weightage on performance and stability for XFCE version.

Fedora 18 XFCE Score Weights
Installation time 10.00 5%
Installation Complexity 8.00 5%
Hardware detection 10.00 10%
Applications 7.00 10%
Aesthetics 7.00 10%
Performance & Stability 7.00 60%
Overall 7.00 100%

You can download the 32 and 64 bit editions from here.


  1. Feels like they didn't bother to theme it, I have used fedora spins with xfce that looked more like the current LXDE version.

    1. Yes, it is quite boring to use unless spiced up someway or the other :)

  2. In Jan alone you did some 10 distro reviews, still some days to go. I'm intrigued how do manage time, what keeps you interested in trying different distos, and how much they differ from each other, and how does that matter if they keep changing every 6 months?

    1. I do it as a way to relax after a strenuous day at office and 2-3 days to review a distro :). Linux distros differ across each other quite a bit, each bringing some good (and of course some bad points) to the table. Between 6 months releases I look for incremental innovation so as to keep myself abreast of the latest trends. Actually Linux helped me to revive about 20-25 computers (some mine, some my parents and some belonging to friends and family) which would have been lying in junkyard, had there been no Linux :).

  3. Keep them coming I say! Nice review.
    I had pretty much the same experience with this distro. Very boring to look at and I'm not real keen on the package management system.

    1. Yes, agree totally. Very boring look - perhaps the worst of the 4 Fedora 18 spins. Even I am not very fond of Fedora package management system :).

  4. Just upgraded to Fedora 18 from 17 using fedup. Pretty smooth upgrade, and while I have been using xfce for a few years now, I agree: quite bland. Still a good trade off for performance over looks.