Sunday, April 11, 2010

Friends Using Fedora

I'm not one to push Linux on people, but if they ask about it and decide to give it a try, I will help them out. First, my fiancée started using Fedora when she bought a new laptop. Her old one just stopped working and she took the opportunity to switch over to Linux on the new system. She is currently using Fedora 12 and has only had minimal questions. Most of her questions have been about how to do things in OpenOffice, which I am generally unable to answer immediately but can usually poke around and figure out what to do. All of the other typical desktop tasks such as web browsing, email, music, photos...she has no problems doing on Linux.

Oh, and in addition to having to adjust to OpenOffice, she has also had severe problems with the touchpad. She has a Dell Mini 10 and the touchpad is absolutely irritating under Linux. It does not have physical buttons on it, but rather button areas on the touchpad. But the driver can't seem to distinguish between a click and a drag and in the middle of dragging if you hit the button region on the pad, it translates that to a click. Very irritating. So irritating that I just got her a USB mouse. If anyone knows how to make the touchpad on a Dell Mini 10 behave, let me know.

Second, I have two friends in Somerville who bought a computer from me several years ago because they needed a new one and I had one that I wasn't using anymore that was less than a year old. I told them I could set it up with Linux and help them with that, but if they wanted Windows, they'd have to figure that out by themselves. They chose Linux. So I set it up with our latest release at the time they bought the system: Fedora Core 6. I was just back in Boston recently and visited them and they are still using Fedora Core 6. They commented on how reliable the system is and it's so nice not having to worry about viruses and spyware and other junk software that tends to pollute a Windows system. Mind you, I really just set it up, showed them a few things, and they haven't really asked me much since then.

They did ask me two questions while I was there recently. One was about mounting an external USB hard disk with an NTFS volume on it. That was easy to solve, they just needed the ntfs-3g package installed (which we had available in FC-6 fortunately). The other was for a newer version of Firefox. I said it would probably be to their benefit to upgrade to a newer Fedora first and they asked what they were running and what the latest was. I told them they had version 6 and we were nearing the release of version 13. They laughed and said, "eh, well we'll worry about that later."

To me it's an interesting type of user. These are people who do not care at all about the latest and greatest everything. Of the new stuff out there, they wanted a newer version Firefox. The fact that they are still running FC-6 and haven't hit any issues is nice to see. I did see some things on their desktop such as iTunesSetup.exe and other such things, which are probably leftovers from attempts to figure something out in Fedora, but learning they needed to take a slightly different path. I saw they had added software to the system since I set it up, mostly for movies.

I imagine they will start to hit hardware failures before the software stops being useful. I wish there was still something like Fedora Legacy for these types of users. When I think about it, it's really security updates that would matter the most as well as updates to high profile applications like Fedora. Even keeping the older repositories still available would be nice. I installed ntfs-3g for them, but had to modify the files in /etc/yum.repos.d by hand to point to the correct repo locations. Would be nice if the last update delivered before a release is marked EOL is updated repo files in the fedora-release package to point to the new repo URLs.

In an effort to help them out, I'm going to see how much of a disaster it would be to upgrade from Fedora Core 6 to Fedora 12, doing a yum upgrade to each release. Sure, I could reinstall, but it would be interesting to see if a yum upgrade through each release quickly would work.


Kevin Kofler said...

I think that type of user would really be better off with CentOS or some other long-term-supported, infrequently released conservative distro.

rexbinary said...

I hope they are not connecting to the Internet with Fedora Core 6. There has not been any security updates for the release in years. I'd highly recommend installing CentOS 5 in place of that if you really need something of that age installed.

Also, to save you a lot of time, yum upgrading from Fedora Core 6 to Fedora 12 will not work. Even upgrading to each sub release will not work. There has been some major changes that yum will not handle throughout those releases.

Chad said...

That mini 10 touch pad is not any better in Windows! I am really close to just keeping my BT mouse on me and disabling it all together.

pbrobinson said...

I think FC-6 was the basis of RHEL-5 so you should be able to use the newer version of Firefox from CentOS-5. You might be able to cross grade them to CentOS too which will give them security and firefox updates.

Tom said...

Way to promote Linux! Letting people live with a rotten 13month support bleeding edge distro that has totally unsecure software everywhere.
With friends like you ...

Paul W. Frields said...

What @pbrobinson said makes a lot of sense to me -- the "set it and forget it" model. I suspect there are a lot of people operating in this fashion, many because their friends set up Fedora for them and they're perfectly happy with it and don't feel the need to change. CentOS is a good choice for them and if a cross-grade is possible, would fit the bill. It seems unlikely in their case that they're going to be interested in participating in Fedora, which is one of the big reasons, beyond "shiny," that people get on the release treadmill. Neither of those reasons appears to apply to your friends.