2012-01-19

Review: Fuduntu 2012.1

I'm back! Thankfully it looks like too many people know about how bad the SOPA and PIPA bills are to not take action, and it looks like sponsors of those bills are dropping like European honeybees. Now let's get back to the main post.

I've reviewed Fuduntu a couple times before. There's a new release out, so I'm reviewing it now.

Fuduntu used to be based on Fedora, but then several months ago the lead developer announced that it would fork and maintain an independent codebase. This would serve two purposes: one would be to provide stable rolling releases, and the other would be to maintain GNOME 2 as long as possible. Indeed, Fuduntu uses not MATE, but good old GNOME 2.32.

I tested the live session using a live USB made with MultiSystem. I tested the installation in VirtualBox inside a Xubuntu 11.10 "Oneiric Ocelot" MultiSystem-made live USB host with 1024 MB of RAM allocated to the guest OS. Follow the jump to see what it's like.


After getting past the boot menu, I saw some residual console warnings that stuck around; they didn't go away until the login screen came up. Once that did happen, though, I waited a few seconds for the automatic login to become effective and was taken to the desktop.

The desktop looks as it always has, and the applications remain the same too. There really isn't much new here except for newer package versions, so I won't be repetitive here.

Nautilus Elementary + Skype
Chromium is present at version 16, which is good. As always, multimedia codecs are included by default, as YouTube and Hulu worked fine; at the same time, my laptop's volume keyboard shortcuts were recognized fine.

At the same time, I was eager to get right into trying out desktop effects. They worked fine without any hitches; the manager for desktop effects is still the same minimal program bundled with Fedora, and this has evidently been carried over into the Fuduntu codebase.

The default productivity suite is the web application Google Docs as before. That may suffice for a large number of people, but in my daily use, I have found I need LibreOffice or something comparable. That's when I went to the package manager PackageKit to install it. I did find it in the repositories, so I went ahead and installed it. The download process took quite a while, but that's understandable considering just how big the set of LibreOffice packages is.
Chromium
After that, the installation proceeded smoothly, but then some things started happening. First, the dock on the bottom started looking odd. I thought maybe the installation of LibreOffice had indirectly triggered some other events turning off desktop effects, but then I soon saw it was more serious than that. As I tried clicking on various parts of the desktop and open windows, they disappeared one by one until I was left with only the cursor and the background. At that point, I was forced to perform a cold reboot. (This is also why the pictures look a little different from my usual repertoire). I was almost tempted to give up and leave it at that, but then I figured I should give it at least one more chance, so I did. (Incidentally, after booting back into Fuduntu, although it didn't display the first time, the second time around the nice Fuduntu-branded boot splash did display.)
There are a few possible explanations for why the installation of LibreOffice caused the system to crash and burn. The first is that LibreOffice was too big to fit on the live USB for the rest of the live session. The second is that LibreOffice is problematic when installed on live sessions. The third is that there may be something wrong with the way Fuduntu packages LibreOffice, because now Fuduntu has its own codebase. The fourth is that Fuduntu generally has problems with packages being installed at runtime. I'm certainly open to comments and other suggestions/hypotheses, but I'm going to give my guess now. I don't think it's the first because there is 1.5 GB of free space on the live USB, and there is no way LibreOffice is bigger than that. I don't think it's the second, because I've installed (not just used) LibreOffice on other live sessions before at runtime. And I don't think it's the fourth, because as you will see shortly, other packages did install fine; to be fair, though, LibreOffice was installed from PackageKit, while the others were third-party programs whose RPM files were downloaded from other websites. Thus, I will be checking to see if PackageKit in general works OK in a Fuduntu live session. For now, though, I'm going to go with the third explanation. Whatever it is, though, it doesn't inspire confidence.

Anaconda Installer
After I got back into the desktop, I wanted to just see at this point if Skype and Google Talk would work. Skype was not available in the repositories, but I was able to successfully download and install the appropriate RPM file from the Skype website. One annoying thing was that the first few times I clicked the RPM file to get the RPM installer to work, the program would lag a lot and then spit out an error message. Finally, after about the fourth attempt, it worked. Skype did recognize my laptop's webcam and mic, which was good.
Installing Google Talk was much the same, minus the hassle of trying four or five times, which was good. It too recognized my laptop's webcam and mic, which was also great.

At this point, I decided to try PackageKit again. This time, I installed Gnumeric, which I knew would be far lighter and would probably work a lot nicer than trying to install LibreOffice. (Gnumeric is also significant for me right now because it is the only spreadsheet application other than Microsoft Excel that has functions that I need now for my UROP, like contour plotting and Fourier transforms.) This worked fine, and I was able to use Gnumeric without crashing the desktop. Thus, I think it's an issue either with the way Fuduntu has packaged LibreOffice or with how LibreOffice interacts with the Fuduntu live session. Neither option is particularly nice.

Post-Installation Configuration
It was here that I ended my time with the live session and started the installation process. Despite the fact that Fuduntu has forked from Fedora, the Anaconda installer has been retained with minimal changes. The usual suspects, like locale, keyboard layout, hard drive partitioning, and root user creation are all there and the same as before. Surprisingly, the actual installation and post-installation configuration only took 3 minutes, which is among the fastest I've seen. After that, I rebooted the VM.

After rebooting and getting past the boot splash, I was greeted by a program tying up some final loose ends: it did things like make clear what the GPL is and allows, allow for user creation, et cetera. After that, I was able to log in and use the desktop much like I did in the live session. Thankfully, there were no crashes here when trying to install LibreOffice. And that's where my time with Fuduntu ended.

I think it's safest to say that Fuduntu really had problems with LibreOffice in the live session. This is probably mostly my fault, now that I think about it, considering that I tried doing a similar thing many months ago in trying to "test" KDE 4.6 on a live session to disastrous results. That said, I have been able to properly install LibreOffice on other live sessions, so I don't know what the deal is here, and that means that despite an otherwise flawless live session, this big problem is at least in part the fault of Fuduntu. This is definitely one of those times when I would have liked to have an external hard drive to perform an actual installation and then test the installation of LibreOffice on the installed system. In fact, I was almost about to buy one this winter break, but I have decided to hold of on such a purchase for a while because of high hard drive prices stemming from the floods in Thailand from a few months ago. But with all that in mind, the crash was still a major problem that I can't deny happened (whatever the cause), and because of that, I think I'll hold off on fully recommending this release. I'll probably skip the next release too and test the one after that.
You can get it here.

32 comments:

  1. There is a problem with our LibreOffice package (my fault) that causes it to use a lot more space than normally necessary (over 1GB). I'm working on a fix, but you probably saw your system run out of memory and oom killer ate some of your running processes.

    Sorry about that.

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  2. @Fewt: Wow, so I'm glad that I was able to diagnose (by taking a total shot in the dark) the problem as a packaging issue. I hope there will be an updated image soon, because I am eager to try Fuduntu again after hearing this. Thanks for the comment!

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  3. Do you really think that it's as helpful or as interesting a choice as it could be for you to present a review based on a live session? It leads you to conclusions which my long term use of Fuduntu on my own laptop could not support.

    I would prefer a review that detailed your experiences using the machine installed on a typical 2010/2011 era laptop, and I also think that review would be fairer to such a distribution and, by extension, to the people who spend time producing it.

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  4. @Anonymous: Read the comment above yours (and mine) and then try to tell me that such a review method isn't useful. "I would prefer a review that detailed your experiences using the machine installed on a typical 2010/2011 era laptop, and I also think that review would be fairer to such a distribution and, by extension, to the people who spend time producing it." You seem to have some rather specific requests there. I just explained why I am not yet doing real installations, and for the record, the laptop I use both daily and for testing these live sessions is from 2010. If you are finding a dearth of such reviews, why don't you go ahead and write one yourself? I seriously don't mean this with any sarcasm; I anticipate reading it!

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  5. Yes, you're right there - Fewt is a really nice guy and is always helpful in his responses.

    I see an explanation as to why you didn't install this distribution to an external hard drive - is that what you meant?

    I'd just prefer it if your conclusions hand't been 'I'll hold off on fully recommending this release...' without adding 'as a live distribution on which to install Libreoffice' as without that it seems your conclusions are rather weakly justified.

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  6. @Anonymous: But that sort of misses the point. The point is that the issue with LibreOffice installing (and in this case it refers to the live session, though it may or may not be generalizable to the installed session) is a big enough deal-breaker that I cannot in good conscience recommend it, having had a bad experience. It may not be a deal-breaker for you, but it is a deal-breaker for me, and that's what's important in my post. And frankly, what's wrong with saying "wait a release or two before trying"? I never said "don't try it at all".

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  7. GNOME 2 looked good back in the XP days but now, like XFCE it's just fugly. Let GTK2 die an honourable death people.

    I'm knida' with anon on this review though. I think it is valid to do a distro review using a VM but I think you should at least install it in the VM.

    I also think one should use the OS their trying for a few weeks minimum to see how stable and current their updates are. How good their forums, wiki, documentation, etc. is.

    You know actually have some experience with it from which one can form an opinion from.

    I'm not trying to bash you but "live session + install" reviews are the norm yet don't even scratch the surface. For example, Kubuntu gets kicked around as an inferior KDE distro but I use the KDE Betas on my Box and haven't reinstalled since KDE 4.2 came out.

    It did take some problem solving but how many distros can do that?

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  8. @Shaun Hunter: Are you saying that GNOME 2 is aesthetically or technically (i.e. from the standpoint of a programmer) ugly? If it's the latter, that may be true, but if it's the former, while I agree that stock GNOME 2 looks pretty bad, Fuduntu looks really pretty. I guess you missed the part about how I did install Fuduntu in a VM and how I did most of the review using the live session on real hardware, but I do agree that there certainly is room for expansion and improvement. Once again, it will happen...once I get that external hard drive. Also, there may be some residual bashing going on, but as far as I can tell, Kubuntu has been praised as a first-rate KDE distribution since at least the most recent version, if not since the version or two before that. Thanks for the comment!

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  9. install software in a live environment is a nightmare, in every distro you can try there are some errors, or at least glitch that cause every error you can imagine... A good review is made when software is installed in a real or virtual machine, live cd are a good thing, but some software and the stability of the distro is only a matter of luck... even sabayon has a live dvdfull of software, really good, but if you try to installa anything in live session,there are always crashes... in a virtual setup, there are no such things.. the same occur using a opensuse live cd...and the setups of this distros are stable as debian is.

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  10. Perhaps this should have been named a "live" environment review because basing it totally off of that experience only covers a small portion of a distro's capabilities and character.

    Thanks for the effort of writing one up though. Hopefully you can try Fuduntu in the future and give it a fair chance.

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  11. @enrico: Well, I guess you missed the part where I did try installing it in a VM, and it worked out fine. The reason why I'm withholding my full recommendation for Fuduntu this time around is because I give more weight to the live testing, because it is done on my laptop's actual hardware, and that (not a VM) is what I would use if I were to use Fuduntu on a regular basis. Furthermore, my entire point is that I have tried a number of times to install LibreOffice within a live session when it is not already present, and this has worked the vast majority of times, so saying "there are [always] some errors" sounds a bit like a cop-out to me.

    @Anonymous: I guess you're right in that this review doesn't cover nearly everything there is to Fuduntu. Maybe I should have been more explicit in directing readers to my earlier reviews of Fuduntu, because the point is that one of the good things about the fork from Fedora is that (aside from the big LibreOffice issue, which the main developer Fewt acknowledged a few comments above as a bug that needs to be fixed soon) from the perspective of the end user, not much has changed.

    Thanks for the comments!

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    1. The problem with LibreOffice is just that the binaries in the RPM haven't been stripped so they are bigger than they need to be. That means it takes up more space, and if you are using a live image it can use more than you have available memory.

      I wouldn't really call it a problem though, because live media isn't really intended to be used for software installation etc. :)

      That said, I will have a replacement package soon.

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    2. @Fewt: Well, in any case, thanks for the clarification!

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  12. Not related to fuduntu, but I want to share.

    I remember reading a live cd review where the author recommended installing distro x. i asked about package manager and he didn´t know. He said he never bothered because he just uses the vanilla distro and doesn´t install anything new. Yet I think it´s kind of unfair not mentioning and not looking at methods of installing new software.

    Yet a fuller review, where one installs and uses the distro for about a week as his main system and really tries everything he/she normally does, is rare. Understandable. Because Linux still sucks that much. It´s great but it sucks that much that You have to face these hickups.

    I installed Kubuntu on my laptop and thought it was great. Updated to latest KDE SC...ah. And then my girlfriend was unable to set up wireless. And she was right. The issue is now fixed but I can not blaim her. Sometimes You really need another PC to google Your problem.

    So, it´s easy to say: write a full review. An I agree that some reviews are really, really shallow, often barely more than a summary of the release notes and screenshots (not PV´s though).

    This is all free. Open a blog, download the distro and start writing.

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  13. @Anonymous: "Linux still sucks that much." It really depends on what distribution you're using though. For a total newbie. I would still only feel comfortable with something Ubuntu-based and something with GNOME, MATE, or Xfce. Did you try something like Ubuntu, Xubuntu, Linux Mint, or Pinguy OS? I feel like those might have worked better; you're right that it's unfortunate that KDE still has basic issues like wireless connection issues, but I don't think it's entirely fair to pin it on Linux as a whole. Thanks for the comment!

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    1. I use Windows 7 99% of the time and over the last two years I must have tried hundreds of different linux distros and there's not a single one that doesn't have it's bugs and problems. I don't find the repositories in Fuduntu that great (you can't get DeVeDe for example) but it's no better or worse than others. The people who thought that Gnome 3 was a good idea must be on a different planet to me it's absolutely awful! At least Fuduntu has an easy accessible dock at the bottom

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    2. @Montee: So the real question is, are these "bugs and problems" just differences when compared to Microsoft Windows 7 or are they real bugs and problems? Because I have basically come to the opposite conclusion of you; there will be some distributions that are better than others, but most of the good ones are far, far better than Microsoft Windows. Thanks for the comment!

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  14. @PV: That sounded too harsh, I´m sorry. I meant it in this sense: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xkgahANeq14.

    I still use Kubuntu (low fat settings) on my old laptop and I like it.

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  15. I aplogize I didn´t post the nwer vid: http://youtu.be/Ukd-Am2bbDo. This is the most recent.

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  16. @Anonymous: I actually apologize for being a little too harsh about your "Linux sucks" comment. I agree with many of the conclusions posited in this video because while I personally have had a very small number of minor issues with Linux, I know of many other people who have had more significant problems with it. I sort of assumed the "Linux sucks" comment was from the "Linux sucks, Windows rules, and eat poop you freeloaders!" camp rather than the "Linux sucks, and here's why, and here's what we can do about that" camp. Thanks for the clarification!

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  17. A new LibreOffice (3.4.4) is headed up to testing, this fixes the fat binary problem.

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  18. @Fewt: I sure hope it does! Thanks for the tip!

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  19. I was really impressed from _64 versions of 2012.1 I usually use archlinux or lxde based distro as I like simple, however it seems to me a well balanced distro and very fast( except packages managing probably,I like yum however is slower performance than fedora16. Have to overcheck repos but general impression not reactive and immediate like pacman.
    It i snow on my home pc , gonna try on asus netbook

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    Replies
    1. @ema: Well, I'm glad that it has worked out for you. Thanks for the comment!

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  20. I have been distro mad as of late and have tested over 10 in the last couple of weeks, including Chakra,Luninux, PCLOS, Mint, Debian, Bodhi etc etc. I was really delighted when I booted Fuduntu for the first time - it looks great and performance is nice and snappy. It's nice to see a sensible menu in the current mess of Gnome 3 and KDE distros (I particularly dislike the default KDE menu).

    I thought I'd finally found a Linux home, especially since Fuduntu is the ONLY one I've tried that detects my touchpad and works perfectly out of the box. Alas there were a couple of problems that I wasn't able to fix - In Chromium, Thai language does not display correctly. Text shows as empty boxes regardless of what kind of encoding I use. So I tried Firefox which did display Thai text correctly but for some reason refuses to connect to certain websites including Facebook which I hate but my wife uses daily.

    I've gone back to OpenSuse for now but if I can find a fix for those 2 browser issues I will be switching to Fuduntu for the long term.

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    1. @crabdog: If openSUSE still works for you, then you should probably just stick with that. Thanks for the comment!

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  21. Hey can you do an evluation about solus OS? the new kid on the block!

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    1. @Anonymous: I was actually thinking of doing it this week, but that didn't happen because of my busy schedule. I can probably do that next week though. Thanks for the tip!

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  22. hi i am also using fuduntu i have a problem i am not able to login as root i think fuduntu dosnt allow to login as root
    su root working fine on it but i need to be root for some work and i want to login as root so i dont need to type all the time su in terminal du have any idea for that sorry if i am posting this on wrong place

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    1. @rajjj: It usually isn't advisable to log in as the root user directly, but if it is really needed, I think the root username is just "root" with no password. That said, it's possible that on the live medium, it isn't possible to log in as root for security reasons. Does anyone else have any thoughts on this? Anyway, thanks for the comment!

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    2. open as root /etc/gdm/custom.conf
      then add this and save it:
      [daemon]
      AllowRoot=true

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    3. @Hotel L'Antico Pozzo San Gimignano: Thanks for the tip!

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