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Fedora 20, revisited

Back in November when I installed Fedora 20 beta on this MacBook Pro I considered this as some kind of experiment on how long it would take me to get used to "Linux on the desktop".

Coming from MacOS 10.7 (Lion), it took me a few days until I got used to different keyboard shortcuts (Command-Tab vs. ALT-Tab to switch between applications (or Windows) Command-O vs. Enter to open files, Command-{ vs. ALT-number to switch between tabs, etc.) and to setup all these little things that are working out-of-the-box on MacOS but need manual tinkering on Linux. A few things were listed in this earlier posting already, so I won't repeat them here. But in the course of 3 months of usage, more stuff came up and I wanted to share this with the outside world:

  • WiFi, this never-ending story. And not really a fault in Linux or Fedora (since it cannot be solved on a technical level but has to be solved on a legal level), but an annoyance nevertheless. This MacBook Pro has a Broadcom BCM4322 WiFi chip and needs a firmware blob to function properly. The whole setup is easy enough, but still annoying that one has to do this manually.

  • I noticed that the keyboard backlight is gone and the keys on this MacBook Pro (F5, F6) were not doing anything to change that. I set up xbindkeys to enable and adjust the keyboard backlight. Automatic adjustment is still not possible but I didn't care for that.

  • No Twitter clients: sometimes I'd like to use Twitter on the desktop (no, not the awful web frontend) but because Twitter Inc. changed its API in 2013, many clients had to fix their codebase to reflect those changes. Fedora offeres quite a few clients, but all were in a non-working or non-usable state:
  • I use VLC to watch movies because Totem (now called "Videos", sigh...) won't play files with non-free codecs and installing gstreamer plugins did not help. But VLC won't inhibt the screensaver while watching movies. Major annoyance on a desktop system!

  • After all those years, power management on Linux with pm-suspend still has issues: pm-suspend won't work when /proc is mounted with hidepid=2 - and I do use this option. The bug is still open, not sure if this one is on anyone's focus.

  • Hibernating to an encrypted swap partition is still not possible (although the bug says it was fixed in Fedora 13), so hibernation was not an option here. But suspending resp. waking up from suspend was indeed the biggest problem on this machine. Often enough, a blue Fedora logo is displayed after waking up and there's no way to login. Switching to a text-console was possible though - but logging in here was accompanied by a strange System is booting up. See pam_nologin(8) message. One could go to init 3 and back to init 5 again but then all applications had to be restarted, not a pretty thing to do on a desktop system. Eventually this got tracked down and a fix has been released but only 2 months after initial release - quite annoying for such a basic usecase.

  • Oh, and there's still this problem with sound: I know, I've covered this already in my earlier posting but since it's such a drag, let me repeat this: sound is unusable on a MacBook Pro running Fedora Linux. Overlooking the mute/unmute issues, getting the microphone to work was even harder. After booting I always ended up messing around with pavucontrol for 10 to 20 minutes, unmuting every control, toggling and sliding all the knobs and bars I could find and sometimes, if the moon was full and the gods were benevolent, I could get the microphone to work. Until the next reboot and the cycle begins again. Looks like things haven't improved since Fedora 11 (April 2009) when it comes to sound, which is kind of a big issue for a desktop system. (See also: why-alsa-sucks.png)

That's quite a list and all those little things (and the things I already forgot about) piled up and consumed a large amount of time to debug instead of doing actual work. The sound problem and the Fedora-logo-after-suspend issue were the biggest issues for me and when the latter problem finally got fixed, some other update sneaked in and now this MacoBook's display won't come back on after wakeup - so now the whole thing has to be debugged again - this was the point when I decided to go back to MacOS, I just could not take it anymore. Yes, there's a PowerBook G4 in the closet here, working as a small file server and happily running Debian/GNU Linux for years now but maybe Apple hardware just isn't the right choice when it comes to running Linux on the desktop. Maybe I shall try again in a few years, when Fedora 30 or so comes out and I'll take another look.


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BerndH on :

Sounds awful, but thats exactly why i stick to OS X, cause it probably works and does a proper Job, especially as a Admin Workstation. When i look back, Quality Management on Desktop Linux Distributions seems to be a weak point, and it doesnt matter if we make use of Mac Hardware or other Commodity Hardware, nowadays its a pain in the ass, we have comparable Problems on our HP Linux Workstations in the Office and as i supect it wont get any better. Since 2008 i have the impression we only face major regression, especially on Linux Desktop Systems. But with SystemD the world will be better Place or soo... *sigh*

Christian on :

Well, what I haven't posted yet is how I switched to Debian/testing after the Fedora nightmare. Debian should've been the obvious choice for me, but I considered it "too easy" - and I was really curious about this whole "let's install a famous desktop OS on this MacBook" experiment. Running Debian for a week now and it's smooth sailing compared to Fedora. I intend to write another blog post on this. As for MacOS X, I just couldn't stand their whole approach any more, with every release new bloat was added, interfaces changed w/o reason and often enough I would stumble across annoyances so this whole "things just work" thing didn't really apply to me. Also, I have Linux running on so many servers, I finally wanted it running on my desktop too - so, that's the religious reason right there :-)

BerndH on :

If you want to install a famous Desktop OS... you maybe want to stick with Windows. :D about the argument... running many Linux Servers, currently i have to deal with this OS too, Solaris too as you know. But i wouldnt tend to use them on the Desktop nowadays. ;) I'm done with those experiences, i had Linux and FreeBSD on the Desktop from 2000 til 2009 the religous approach is gone. ;) What i found annoying regarding Mac OS, is the whole Icloud Junk, my cloud is running in the Cellar, dont need any Cloud Services vom $Vendors. I'm not really happy with Apple's Product politics, but i'm also not happy with Product Politics from other Vendors. That said, nowadays we don't have the perfect choice, only the choice which sickness applies best to us. ;)

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