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LinuxLinks Fedora 7 Review (page 4)
LinuxLinks Review
(8/8/07)
By Kevin E. Glosser

3D Desktops and the default software lineup

Fedora Core 6 was the first version of Fedora to include a visible version of Compiz. 

Compiz, similar to Beryl, supplies three dimensional acceleration to the desktop via OpenGL. It allows for some cool eye candy, although in the past it has been difficult to argue its merits beyond that. Even though it was included in FC6, it still has the same initial functionality in Fedora 7. That is, not much. In order to get it working you have to install the proper driver for your video card and then make some configuration changes. For me, this meant installing Nvidia's driver, replacing the included one that comes with Fedora. That's not a issue, most people are going to do it anyways because the included Nvidia driver doesn't provide for OpenGL acceleration. If you want to play any accelerated games, use any accelerated applications, or even screensavers you need to install it. After that, I added two lines to my X configuration file and Compiz was up and running. Through normal use of the desktop I accidentally discovered a window previewer very similar to Mac OS X's Exposé feature. 

If you move your mouse past the top right hand corner of the screen it activates. What appears is a miniature view of all open windows, minimized ones not included. There's no need to ever minimize a window with this feature active. Switching windows is as simple as clicking on the image of the one you want. This blows away the functionality of alt-tabbing. It's faster, more convenient and of course very cool. Apparently this feature existed in the previous version of Compiz that shipped with Fedora Core 6. However, I never stumbled upon it. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any type of documentation that explains exactly what is installed and running. The user is kinda left to be surprised or do a lot of online searching to discover what features of Compiz are included in their distro. This is a side effect of just how early it is in the development cycle of this project. The included version in Fedora 7 is 0.3.6. It has not reached version 1.0 status which normally indicates a finished product, stable, ready and documented for everyday use.

What I did find to be new in Fedora 7 in Compiz was the inclusion of a “appearance” category in the GNOME window manager menu available by clicking on the top left hand corner of any window. In it, you have three settings you may modify (opacity, saturation, brightness). It doesn't sound like much, but I found a cool use for the opacity variable. Say you're browsing the web for instructions on how to perform some task you don't know how to do, a common occurrence in Linux. You find a set of instructions you need to enter at a command prompt. Now, with this new feature you can fire up GNOME Terminal, set the opacity to make the window transparent and place it on top of your open Firefox window. You can see right through the terminal so that you can type the commands without moving or repositioning the Firefox window, saving you time. Anyone who has ever done it, will understand how convenient that is. I do consider Compiz to be quite useful, much more than meets the eye. If you have the hardware, consider transforming your desktop.

Open Office 2.2 is included with Fedora 7. It claims to be a worthy alternative to Microsoft Office 2007. This release promises easier transitions for Microsoft users, better security and most importantly better support for Microsoft documents. I noticed this last feature to be true. Word documents I had that previously didn't quite show up perfectly in Open Office, now do. I could no longer tell the difference between the two applications, both visually and compositionally.

Both Firefox 2 and Thunderbird 2 come with Fedora, but only the former is installed by default. Instead, Evolution is the recommended email client. While Evolution is a fantastic program, I think it's overkill for most users. It's very much like the difference between Outlook Express and Outlook in Windows. If you're in a work environment, you'd lean towards Evolution, at home I would recommend Thunderbird.

Version 2.6.21 of the Linux kernel is at the core of this operating system. Providing security since Fedora Core 2, SELinux continues to become more integrated. Fedora 7 sees the inclusion of two new utilities. One allows for graphical administration of SELinux. The other provides excellent troubleshooting information when SELinux denials occur. In the GNOME notifier area of the desktop users are alerted to SELinux denials. Clicking on the alert launches the troubleshooter.

Not only does it tell you what occurred and why, it provides information on how you can resolve the issue or possibly prevent it from occurring in the future. Kudos to those who made this possible. I've already found it very useful.

In addition to what I've mentioned there is the usual incredible amount of free software available that you will find in almost any Linux distribution. If it isn't free you won't find it included. On that note, let's discuss the state of free software in Fedora...

Fedora and the Free Software Movement

Read ahead

1. Introduction
2. Installation
3. Flying High with Fedora
4. 3D Desktops and the default software lineup
5. Fedora and the Free Software Movement
6. Making your own version of Fedora
7. Final thoughts



Last Updated Sunday, August 05 2007 @ 04:24 AM EDT


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