Fedora 26 Review

Jonni Bidwell splutters under pressure to make a hat-related anecdote worthy of this delightful distribution, which is now on version 26.

Pick a language, any language. Preferably one you understand, though.

– Pick a language, any language. Preferably one you understand, though.

Sensible packaging

Fedora 26 also includes the new DNF(Dandified yum) 2.0 package manager, which still respects yum’s syntax. The yum command is actually symlinked to DNF, but it works exactly as it used to, so if you don’t want to learn new syntax then you don’t have to.
DNF is smarter and faster than its predecessor. It supports delta packages (DRPMS) so that only those parts of the packages that have changed need to be downloaded. Obviously, this works better with some packages than others, but the handful of updates we performed saw bandwidth savings of between 10 and 40 per cent. Users of Debian-based distros will be shocked to hear that
there’s only one command – dnf upgrade -for upgrading the system, rather than the familiar apt-get update && apt-get upgrade . DNF quietly updates its package lists in the background (every three hours by default), so that precious seconds can be saved.
The dnf history command is particularly useful for studying past package transactions. These can be investigated in detail with dnf history info , which makes it easy to tidy up any mess that was made by things you installed in the past that are no longer required. There’s also the dnf updateinfo command for displaying updates by category, such as security , bugfix or enhancement .

In brief…

– The latest release of the community distro sponsored by Red Hat (who make lots of money selling Red Hat Enterprise Linux), packing fresh software, features and available in a whole bunch of flavours. See also Debian, Arch Linux, KaOS, CentOS and RHEL.
Good things are worth waiting for, and after a few delays the wait for Fedora 26 is finally over. It’s been about seven and a half months since the excellent Fedora 25 – time enough for lots of exciting developments in the Linux world. A slew of these have made it into this release: Kernel 4.11, systemd 233, GCC 7.1, OpenSSL 1.1, Gnome 3.24, LibreOffice 5.3… we could go on but lists and numbers do not a quality review make.
Fedora has a reputation as an excellent distro, but one more suited to intermediate rather than beginner users. Both of these are fair assessments. New Fedora releases are a great place to find new features and software without having to resort to PPAs, hand compilation or a rolling release distribution.
But while we’re all fond of shiny new things, be prepared to have to do some configuring yourself, and be mindful that there’s always a chance that things will break, and fixing them may be a more involved process. It may not though, and if you’ve built up some familiarity with the command line and know how to post useful requests for support, then this is a great release with which to level up your Linux-fu.
Somehow we failed to review Fedora 25. But that enabled us to test the upgrade path from Fedora 24 on our review machine, which was swift and seamless. The upgrade can be carried out directly from Gnome software or via the command line using either the system-upgrade plugin or distrosync option of Fedora’s new package manager, DNF. We used system­upgrade mainly because we didn’t know about the native distrosync and found the process to be straightforward.

Packages galore

Packages are downloaded and then the system boots up to a barebones Systemd target where the upgrade happens. After a brief few seconds of delay the system dutifully rebooted into the new release. Running dnf autoremove removed a handful of leftover packages and, mysteriously, the lovely collection of wallpapers (see the screenshot bottom right). We reinstalled the latter as life’s too short for plain (Even black?-Ed) desktops.
We also did a clean install on a Dell XPS13 9360, which availed us of the improvements to the Anaconda installer. The most visible of these is the new Blivet GUI for advanced partitioning. There’s long been a manual partitioning option in Fedora, but people desirous of, or already having, exotic setups (such as LVM atop RAID) tended to prefer to set things up beforehand. With Blivet, these users can specify their requirements, rather than having to second guess the manual partitioner, which concocts its own layout after being fed mount points and properties.
This is all very impressive, but most people will be happy with the Automatic partitioner, which offers you the choice to nix an entire drive or resize existing partitions to make space for Fedora. Sysadmins will be familiar with Fedora’s kickstart files for automating installations. These have been improved to offer greater control and can now take snapshots of the previous install.
Once installed we did encounter a disturbing and recurring message from the Automatic Bug Reporting Tool (ABRT) that the kernel had crashed. It clearly hadn’t because, but for this message, everything continued to work. A system update seemed to fix the issue, so we’re going to chalk this up to some obscure bug.
Gnome-ophilic users of Ubuntu 17.04 will already be familiar with Gnome 3.24. Users coming from Fedora 25 will appreciate its Night Light feature, for reducing eye-strain inducing blue light in the night hours. There are a couple of other nice additions, including built-in weather information (if you go outside-Ed) in the notifications area, and improvements to the media controls there. A number of online accounts are supported, including Google, Facebook and Microsoft. We were happy to see ownCloud support being renamed to Nextcloud, but sad to see that this integration didn’t work with our Nextcloud 12 instance, leaving us with the irksomely named but functional ownCloud desktop client to do our syncing for us.
Besides the standard Workstation edition, a number of editions (“labs” or “spins” in Red Hat parlance) are available. Some of these, such as the Plasma and Cinnamon spins and the Design and Security labs, have been around for a while. This iteration also sees an LXQt spin, which will be welcomed by users of older machines, or people that just despise desktop bloat. It provides a Breeze-themed, Qt5- powered desktop, We also welcome the Python Classroom lab, which is part of the Fedora Loves Python initiative (https://fedoralovespython.org). This lab includes multiple Python versions and the tox tool to assist switching between them. There’s also the Scientific Python stack, which includes Numpy, Scipy, matplotlib, the IPython shell and the Jupyter Notebook for web- based interactive worksheets.

Always room for Pi

Another edition worth mentioning is the Pi version. Readers might remember that when the Pi was released there was no Raspbian OS, and the recommended option was the Pi Remix of Fedora 14 (www.youtube.com/watch?v=RbWE6qF7pIM). Things have changed since then, and the original Pi is no longer supported, but this new edition for the Pi 2 and 3 offers a variety of desktops, a minimal version for use in loT and hobby projects and a Sugar on a Stick (SoaS) version for children.
If you’re coming from an Ubuntu- based distro, then be aware that Fedora idealogy is opposed to all things proprietary or otherwise non-free. So installing things like Steam, Spotify, Flash (why? – Ed), the Nvidia driver and whathaveyou is more involved than ticking a box somewhere.
Be that as it may, the patents restricting MP3 in the US expired in November, and encoding and decoding this venerable format now works out of the box, despite the availability of other, technically superior formats. Third- party repos, such as RPMFusion and negativo.org enable the installation of proprietary gubbins, with the Nvidia package offered by the latter now supporting laptops with hybrid (Optimus) graphics arrangements.
Using the Nvidia driver should now be less of a headache with Fedora thanks to the new GLVND extension and improvements to the Prime layer in Mesa. It’s also worth noting that Spotify is now available as a Flatpak, so it can be installed with only a flatpak remote- add and a flatpak install (https:// blogs.gnome.org/alexl/2016/10/26/ distributing-spotify-as-a-flatpak).
Rating 8/10
Fedora 26 Workstation
Fedora 26 Workstation
Developer: Red Hat Web: www.fedoraproject.org
Licence: Various FoSS
Features 9/10
Performance 8/10
Ease of use 8/10
Documentation 9/10
» An excellent, if incremental, release. Ideal for intermediate users; advanced users may prefer the freedom of Arch.
» Besides the standard Gnome backgrounds, Fedora offers this selection of imagery for customising your desktop.
The Arc theme spruces up Gnome, and Fedora's Media Writer will help you make more Fedora media.
» The Arc theme spruces up Gnome, and Fedora’s Media Writer will help you make more Fedora media.

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