Note: Assuming your browser supports it, this list will not be printed out. Hide navigation

Fedora Core 4

Saturday 15th October 2005


As you may have been able to work out from the marvellously cryptic title of this article, this is all about Fedora Core 4. This is essentially the free counterpart to Red Hat, and provides a test bed for the next version of Red Hat. Compared to other distributions, such as Debian, it is relatively simple, akin to Ubuntu and Mandriva. (Of course, the similarity to Mandriva goes beyond simplicity - Mandriva, previously called Mandrake, was originally Red Hat with K.D.E.)

As an aside, this was originally going to be a review of Linspire. However, I was not impressed by Linspire. Not only did it not give me the option of selecting a British keyboard, it decided that it would rather destroy my Debian distribution by refusing to see the free space on my hard drive. That's fine - I'll just install Fedora Core 4 instead.


I didn't start off well with Fedora. I tried a media check, and it told me that my disc was faulty. That's odd, seeing as I checked the image when I downloaded it, and then checked the burnt disc. So, I tried the check in another CD, and came up with the same error. A quick search on the internet reveals that it is a far from common problem, the solution being to type linux ide=nodma at the first prompt. After that small piece of keen investigation, I was off.

Fortunately, the rest of the installation went far better. The installation, as you might expect, is graphical, presumably based on Gnome. With both keyboard and mouse working straight away, going through the installation wasn't a problem, with the questions usually being relatively simple to answer. After choosing a language and keyboard layout, you're asked which install process you want. There are a number of setups, such as Desktop, but I plumped for Manual. The next screen uses Disk Druid, which is Fedora's disk partitioner. It found the free space on my hard drive, so it did much better than Linspire. It found my swap space as well, meaning I just needed to tell it to use the free space. So far, so good.

Unfortunately, the next part was just about the only other bad part of the installation - it couldn't find my Debian installation, meaning that I would have to add it back to the GRUB menu manually, something that many may not want to do, especially considering that Fedora should be attracting those that want a nice, easy distribution. Hopefully, it will do better with detecting Windows if it wants to catch some Microsoft customers.

The rest of the installation was relatively pain free. There is a moderate range of packages to install, again with a wonderfully simple interface - the packages are put into various groups, from which you select the packages you want installing, such as Gnome, Firefox, and the GIMP. At this point, I will diverge slightly. Your choice of packages is limited to what is on the CDs. Unfortunately, there is no option in the installation to grab packages from the internet. I would have preferred to be able to download just one CD, rather than all four, and then being able to download the rest of the packages from the internet. With four CDs worth of data, there's bound to a be lot of data that I won't use - a point proven by the second CD remaining unused.

Eventually, after some more steps, the computer restarted itself, and I was presented with... a login prompt! A relatively easy installation, but I would like the initial problem to be sorted, along with detection of other operating systems.

General Use

On Fedora, the packages are not particularly old, but, considering it was released in June 2005, the packages are no longer cutting edge. There is Gnome 2.10 (which has only just got into Debian testing!), which means that the interface is simple to use. I generally prefer Gnome, but you had the option of K.D.E. during the installation as well.

One pleasant aspect of Gnome 2.10 is the mounting process. To the new user of Linux, who is used to Windows and autoplays, mounting must seem a bizarre concept. However, Gnome 2.10 makes it relatively pain-free. Simply add the relevant applet to the task bar, and it'll find all the possible drives (floppy and CD/DVD normally) that could be mounted with a minimal amount of fuss.

A nice aspect of Fedora Core 4 becomes apparent when you use the root password for administration tasks, such as installing new packages. This means that once you enter the root password, you don't need to enter it again for a few minutes. While some may consider this less secure, I think it makes administration easier, and you can always tell Fedora to forget the root password for now. This is somewhat more secure than Linspire, which keeps you as root permanently. With this in mind, if I ever do get around to looking at Linspire properly, it'll really have to work hard for me to recommend it!

As said, the packages are all reasonable new. Along with the usual suspects, there is While this may not seem too out of the ordinary, it is actually the beta of 2. This is by no means a bad thing - I used it a fair amount, and it seemed to be perfectly stable. I was particularly impressed (no pun intended) with the smooth import of a PowerPoint presentation, with this new version doing a better job than OpenOffice 1.1.4.

If you want to install any more packages, there is an option in the menus, namely Add/Remove Applications. From this menu, which is more than slightly reminiscent of that used in the installation process, you can select the packages you want to install or uninstall. Once you've made your choice, you'll be asked for a CD, from which Fedora then happily grabs whatever files it needs. You can also hunt down some RPMs and use those to install packages. Fedora being a reasonably common distribution, it shouldn't be too hard to find packages that work.

While this may only apply to more advanced users, there is also the ability to use Yum on a command line, in a similar fashion to apt-get. This has the advantage of being able to fetch packages off the internet, allowing Fedora users to stay more up to date. I may not have been looking hard enough, but a graphical interface to this installed by default would have been nice; I was thinking of something similar to synaptic. Having said that, you can grab a program called Yum Extender, which is a GUI for Yum. However, you have to first get the package by using Yum on the command line since it is contained in Fedora Extras - this is a repository of packages besides those included in Fedora Core 4 itself. Next time around, I would hope that this program were included by default. It may not be much hassle to open a command line and type in one command, but some people still refuse to use a command line in case something goes horribly, horribly wrong.

One thing to note is that, although I got Yum Extender to install some packages without a fuss, others, such as Apache, would only install if I used Yum through the command line. A better statement would be: I hope a fully working version of Yum Extender would be included by default. Yum also seems to be slow to get going compared to Apt - generally, I think that Debian and its derivatives have the upper hand in terms of installing packages.

The packages that I added after installation were Apache, PHP and MySQL. All three were easy to set up, although phpMyAdmin is not to be found in the Fedora Core or Fedora Extras. With phpMyAdmin and PHP/MySQL being such a popular combination, it's exclusion is somewhat interesting. While you can install it using files online, it would be nice if Fedora made the installation process nice and easy for you.

There are various other things that I could talk about, but these would really be about the packages rather than Fedora Core 4 itself. For example: I can't edit my Gnome menus; Mozilla Firefox is good; gFTP allows me to transfer files via FTP; etc. Overall, the packages are all stable. In fact, beyond the installation, there was only one minor problem that I encountered. That is, on approximately half of my shutdowns, the computer decided not to inform of the shutting down progress, and instead supplied me with a blank screen until the computer turned itself off. A great problem it may not be, but a problem nonetheless.


Having rambled on for nearly one and a half thousand words, I feel I might need to start tying this article up. You might have gotten the general feel from this article that I like Fedora, and that would be true. Fedora is by no means perfect - although the installation is generally good, there are a few problems that I would not have expected. Fedora also suffers from similar problems as any other Linux distribution, namely lack of support compared to Windows by both software and hardware.

Ultimately, however, Fedora Core 4 is a polished, simple-to-use, and stable distribution. Those that want an operating system that just works should be more than satisfied. Once you get beyond the installation, Fedora is reasonably hard to fault, although perhaps is never truly outstanding. Debian and friends may have a better time with package installation, while other distributions have more recent packages, but Fedora should still appeal to those looking for no hassle and a simple set up.