Getting Started With Fedora

by Ostatic Staff - May. 30, 2013

It takes some time to setup the perfect desktop, and admittedly every person’s definition of perfect is going to be a little bit different. Between importing your music and files, configuring preferences for the look and feel of the environment, and getting used to a new systems idiosyncrasies, a new desktop operating system can put some serious brakes on your productivity. It pays in the long run to spend some time getting your environment just right. Here’s how I’ve managed to wrangle Fedora 18 into a decently capable workstation.

I’m a refugee from Ubuntu. Ubuntu has been my go-to distro since it came out, so moving over to Fedora has not been without its challenges. However, since I’m also a sysadmin running CentOS and Red Hat, I’m not completely out of my element either. My first impressions installing Fedora were positive. I did not find the installer to be confusing, and I thought the entire process went smoothly. I really like the design work that’s gone into the installer, and a few aspects of the initial desktop experience. For example, the login screen has a subtle gradient in the background. Not enough to be distracting, but just enough to show that someone took the time to make the login screen feel welcoming.

The first item on the setup list is always going to be Vim. In this case, vim-xll, with the vim-command-t package installed alongside it. I’m apparently unable to type correctly in any other text editor, so Vim needs to be ready to roll. I have a handful of extensions I rely on, but I like to try to keep Vim as lean and mean as possible.

While Vim is my most beloved application, Firefox is probably my most used. Getting it setup with the scheme I’ve written about earlier in Keyboard Driven Firefox, I keep the needless chrome and other UI elements out of my way when researching. Firefox has fallen a bit behind Chrome, but, like a parent regarding a surly teenager, I can’t help but remember when the little browser that could was born. Mozilla is a good company, and I like using Firefox to support them.

I use a computer at work, and a computer at home, and carry a smart phone, and the glue keeping all of those platforms in sync is Dropbox. Dropbox is the next piece of software to be installed, and the one that needs the least tweaking. Dropbox let’s you know that you are going to be running a proprietary daemon on your system during the setup process. I trust the company, so far, and with the value that I get out of using the service I’m happy to allow the daemon.

Next up is Evolution, which I didn’t even configure in the app. I stumbled onto the “Online Accounts” section of the system settings and was pleasantly surprised to find “Microsoft Exchange” was a preconfigured option. It worked perfectly. I put in my credentials and forgot about it for a couple hours. When I went back and launched Evolution, everything just worked. I was able to log into our exchange server and download my messages. Evolution is such an involved application, there is just so much there that I think it warrants a deeper dive later down the road.

I was a bit surprised to find that the latest version of LibreOffice was not available in the repos. It was easy enough to download a torrent of the installer and run yum localinstall to get the office apps up to date. I don’t use the office applications often, but when I need them, I need them. I’m also looking forward to digging into Draw, especially with the enhanced support with Microsoft Visio.

Moving to Fedora has not been without its share of frustrations. After letting the screen lock while I walked away for a few minutes, I was surprised to come back and not find a standard lock screen waiting for me to type in my password. Instead, there was a very nice screen that seemed to be wanting me to interact with it. It took me several minutes to realize, almost by accident, that the lock screen was waiting for me to use two fingers on the trackpad and drag up. The overall effect is nice, but as a student of HCI I can almost guarantee that this is going to be a difficult concept to grasp for the general market. Gestures are a power user feature, it is tough to integrate them into the main interface.

Finally, a major part of the experience of using a computer is typing on the keyboard. I use a fairly stock Dell Latitude chained to my desk at work, but I’ve yet to find a keyboard that I enjoy typing on as much as my beloved Apple Bluetooth Keyboard. It’s small and responsive, and most of all quiet. I type a lot, and I’ve found that other keyboards tend to get on my coworker’s nerves. Luckily, the keyboard paired with Fedora on the Dell with no problems.

If I could give only one remark to Fedora, it would be to concentrate less on the chrome, and more on the tasks that a user is trying to accomplish on the computer at the time. Fedora 18 and the Gnome Shell have some good things going for them, but there is still much work left to be done.