Korora 19: not a great advance on Fedora

Bruce SpringsteenIn my review of Fedora 19 (in the last entry), I noted that I thought Fedora had abandoned the idea of end-users using Fedora and were targeting distro developers instead. There is a Fedora derivative called Korora which has been in development for some time; it is called Korora and appears to be largely a one-man show. It bundles the things Fedora won’t, such as codecs (the code that lets you play MP3s and other common media files) and the Flash player, as well as making Google Chrome easily available in a repository. Korora 19, codenamed Bruce (I think that’s him on the right), was released the same day as Fedora 19, the first for this distro which had normally been developed from the “stable” Fedora release rather than alongside it. I downloaded the GNOME version of Korora, which is a live CD (there is no net-install or comprehensive 4Gb DVD unlike with Fedora itself). However, it’s not a huge improvement on Fedora itself.

When booting the live CD, the graphical environment (i.e. the desktop with the windows and stuff) took ages to appear; there was about a minute or so in between the loading animation disappearing and the desktop appearing, during which time I could switch to a plain text login screen. This made it look like it had crashed, or was not compatible with my graphics card. Finally it did appear, though. GNOME has not been customised much besides the pretty nice Korora desktop background. One complaint I have (among many) about GNOME itself is the ridiculous lock screen it puts up when you leave the computer for a while; it requires you to click the mouse near the bottom and push it up, rather like unlocking a touch-screen device. It doesn’t make sense when you are using a mouse.

Installation, sadly, is done with the same old (or rather new, as the old one was much better) Anaconda. I did learn that you could in fact install it across more than one disk. I still couldn’t set it to mount a Windows partition (which you can with pretty much any other partitioner) but when I clicked on both disks in the “installation destination” screen (or at least I think that’s the reason), it specifies that the bootloader was going to be installed on my first disk (as is usual), and when I booted, I actually got the proper boot menu, not a GRUB rescue prompt. When installing the software, it immediately said “Installing software (100%)”, which did not change throughout. There was no choice of what software to install; it was just the GNOME desktop, Firefox, GIMP and LibreOffice and a few other packages. That at least got rid of the pointless Fedora software selections.

On booting the first time, there was no mouse pointer — I could move the mouse and things were highlit as the invisible pointer moved over them, so I logged out and it came back again. The software installation utilities are dreadful, however. When I first used the program marked “Software” (a front-end for PackageKit), I clicked on all the categories and the result was a message saying no packages were found. I could still search for packages and find them, however. I then did a package refresh and the categories were populated. However, it also produced a number of “package selections” and any attempt to install them failed, and worse, it didn’t put up an error message but just did nothing. When I used “yum”, the command-line package installation utility, to search for groups, I found that several of the groups listed in “Software” were not in the list, which perhaps explains why it couldn’t install them, but doesn’t explain why it didn’t tell me what, if anything, it was doing. Basically, “Software” sucks. It sucked in Fedora 18 and it still sucks now. The KDE equivalent, Apper, has a different problem (of categories radically changing with the first refresh) but the “doing nothing when I apply changes” problem isn’t there. It works a lot better than “Software”. One very positive point is that Korora 19 has the best font rendering of any Linux distro I’ve ever tried, and this applies to Linux native fonts as well as Microsoft ones. It’s smooth, without the missing strokes (especially on Times New Roman) that are so common elsewhere.

Essentially, Korora is a slight improvement on Fedora 19 but it’s hardly “Linux Mint: Fedora Edition”. It’s not a patch on any of the now mainstream distros. It’s still not suitable for anyone who isn’t an expert to use. If Korora had a few more developers, it could make a difference and make a usable Fedora-based distro, but you’d need a huge overhaul of Anaconda (or a whole new installer) and the software installation program (or a whole new one). I’m not sure it’s worth basing a distro on Fedora anymore, though. The quality is just not up to that of Debian or OpenSUSE.

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