Fedora 27 Gnome - Downhill and down

Updated: December 8, 2017

Snow, chestnuts, holiday festivities. Or perhaps, darkness, smog and dry cough. For me, the distro testing recently is definitely heading in the wrong direction, with release after release od mediocre, underwhelming, zero-QA-ed systems. But maybe Fedora can redeem us all?

My impression of the predecessor was not good. Fedora 26 is definitely not as polished and smart as Fedora 26 minus one, so I'm worried. We'll be running the experiment on the olden but golden LG RD510 machine, with 4 GB of RAM and Nvidia graphics. Sit down, relax and read.

Teaser

We are live

The distro booted fine - except the boot sequence was ugly, full of spurious text messages in both low and high resolution. Then, you're asked whether you want to try the system or install it. This window wasn't centered as you normally see in Gnome, it was kind of positioned more to the left. Odd.

Fedora 27 comes with a familiar Gnome look - including the full set of inaccessibility, like missing min/max buttons, the pointless Activities, icons that looked old in 1998, all except brand new Firefox 57, which is shiny and bright. Well, there's nothing to it. Rudimentary live testing, and then we can sort of pimp things into high order.

Live desktop

Activities

Networking

This one worked rather badly. Wireless, fine, Bluetooth, once we install. Samba sharing is a no-go, I'm afraid. Completely no-go, not by name and not by IP address. Mega fail. This also means no ability to print to Samba devices. At the very least, my Wireless printer was correctly identified.

Samba, no connection

Printers, no Samba option

This is the most crayon GUI I've ever seen.

The WORST part about this is, again - a total lack of consistency. This amateur approach to releasing software out there into the big world isn't just an Ubuntu problem, and please do take a look at the three brave musketeers, to see how the whole Aardvark experience went - Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu. Fedora 26 offered relatively decent connectivity, and this one does not. Regressions, nonsense, sadness.

Accessibility & fonts

Quite bad. Apart from the fact you can't have icons or shortcuts, the fonts are also rather pale and weak. This is yet another change. We've talked about Fedora fonts probably half a dozen times, and pretty much every release does it differently. The last time fonts were truly decent was about two years ago or so. Anyway, I will try to fix this after install the system and configure proprietary graphics drivers.

Fonts, live session

This screenshot does not tell the full picture, and you will soon see why.

Multimedia playback

How the mighty have fallen and risen. Ubuntu wasn't able to play MP3 songs, but Fedora, the Defender of the Libre Salient, did it well. Rhythmbox actually almost worked well this time. The program launched and actually played a song. Golly. HD video was fine, but we will talk about this some more later.

HD video

MP3 playback

What's with the color, you wonder. Ah.

Color me surprised!

We have the color problem again! BOOM. I saw this on Korora 26, and also in Ubuntu 17.10, and it's here too. This seems to be some pointless Gnome nonsense with Nouveau, because it does not happen with Nvidia. If you take screenshots of the application buffer and not the whole screen, you lose one of the channels. I think blue. I guess this is related to that whole night-use blue-color bullshit that everyone seems so excited about. In other words, it's become a trend, like crossfitting and vaping, to imagine that working on a computer before sleep affects your sleep, and that you need to change the color balance to cope with that.

Well, let me express myself. First, if you're too excited before sleep, it means you haven't done enough exercise during the day, and/or your diet is bad. Second, changing light levels on your screen is stupid if you don't take into account the ambient lighting as well, and there's a huge range on indoor lighting spectra, making any attempt to recalibrate colors utterly inaccurate. Third, the focus once again seems to be on developers, and we have another nerdy feature developed for nerds without any real ergonomic consideration for the wider world. Fourth, this only became popular recently, because we need things to be trendy, right. Fifth, cope. You're an advanced biological weapon that has evolved to survive saber-toothed tigers, blizzards and social networks. A little bit of light from your computer screen shouldn't bring you to your knees. Sixth, before solving a problem that isn't really a problem, how about fixing all other glaring, atrocious ergonomic issues in the Linux desktop before fixing something that has no real bearing to life. Seventh, forget all of the above, the big problem is that MY SCREENSHOTS LOOK MESSED UP!

Webcam

It worked - I'm mentioning this because it did NOT work in POP!_OS for instance. It's fine here, but if you take a screenshot, the buffer is empty. What. Why. Then, we will check what happens with Nvidia drivers, and I'm guessing we will have a completely different result, because the Linux desktop is all about super quality and consistency.

Webcam, no video in screenshots

And half a million releases later, Cheese STILL comes with a DARK theme, even
though the desktop uses a LIGHT theme. Pro to the core!

Webcam, full screen

Here's the full screen result of the same.

Installation

To be honest, this distro, like many others, does not warrant any installation, but hey, let's proceed and see what gives. This time, I decided to try Blivet GUI, the new old partition wizard that actually follows the basics of human logic and top-down left-right direction with (most) languages. It's okay, and it works fine, but it will stack invalid operations onto the changes log. For instance, I selected to format the swap partition with Ext4 first but then changed this to swap. Both entries are there, even though it does not really make any sense. You also need to format the swap partition if you want it to be automounted in Fedora.

Partitioning

Accept changes, odd entries

Speaking of consistency, this is another sad moment in Linux - Ubuntu and friends does not require that you mark swap, but Fedora does. Manjaro and some others require that you manually set mount point for /boot/efi, while others yet do not. OpenSUSE is one of the rare distros that offers separate home partition by default. And so it goes.

Fedora 27 installed fine. Super quick. Maybe five minutes total, which is quite interesting. Contrast this with say Mageia 6 that took half a century to commit. Same laptop, same user. Then Mageia also did offer Nvidia drivers out of the box, beautifully, while POP!_OS couldn't even boot with its dedicated Nvidia-drivers ISO as the driver was too new for the laptop's card. This is just me and my humble set of machines and distro testing. All of this in the span of about two weeks. Should I electrocute myself to numb the pain?

Installing

What's with the hotdog thingie?

Work ... station

Fedora now booted nicely - no random text messages, a nice hi-def Fedora logo banner, all good. Slow but it did launch without any problems, and the Wireless connection was preserved from the live session. There's also the quick wizard that lets you configure location services (what, on a desktop), online accounts and such. This would really work well if only the rest of the ecosystem actually worked in a manner that justifies these so-called touch choices.

Desktop

Package management & updates

Software is marginally better and rather more accurate than it was in the past, but it's still nowhere near as good as USC in olden Ubuntu. But if you really want to work, you should go for the command line. At the current pace, with even more abstractization added into the Gnome desktop, it will be nothing but a wallpaper in 3-4 years.

Software, main

Software

The color issue remains; btw, different apps have different window colors and sizes.

Software, full screen

I added RPM Fusion repo right away, to actually be able to use the distro like a human being and enjoy all the fun software that people need. If you're interested, easyLife seems to have stopped with Fedora 25, and the Fedy script returns a 403 error. So it's up to you to do the pimping manually, the same way I've shown you in my two namesake articles.

RPM Fusion

BTW, I'm not sure how to edit software sources through the GUI - Ubuntu at least gives you this. No drivers were offered, certainly not Intel microcode firmware. At the very least there was an update prompt within seconds of logging into the session, but it comes with this pseudo-Windowsy restart & update option that is completely, completely unneeded, as it will stop you from working while installing packages. After installing the updates and rebooting, pretty much all of my issues remained, including instability, crashes as well as Samba problems.

Updates

Updates running

Applications

The default set is okay - Firefox 57 actually, which is neat, Evolution, Cheese, Rhythmbox, LibreOffice, Shotwell. Not bad, but then, it can be better. I also added VLC and GIMP from RPM Fusion. Yonder, Steam is broken, so I had to use the Negativo repo to get the app installed and running.

Apps, menu

Apps search

Apps

Anyway, back to the Steam issue. I really wonder what went wrong with RPM Fusion, and why they didn't package the software correctly. This is what happens - and as I said, use Negativo to get around the problem.

Problem: conflicting requests
- nothing provides libtxc_dxtn(x86-32) needed by steam-1.0.0.54-11.fc27.i686

Steam installation

Steam

Smartphone support

This one was kind of all right. I was able to mount Windows Phone, Android as well iPhone 6s with iOS 11 (review coming soon). I was also able to play music from both these devices, but only in the newly added VLC and not Rhythmbox. It segfaulted, the same way I've reported a hundred times in the past two years, and no one will ever fix this. I'm sure there's a long debate around this on who is to blame, Rhythmbox or MTP. The answer is the former of course, because VLC plays using the same libraries without any issues.

rhythmbox[4593]: segfault at 30 ip 00007f17691a5546 sp 00007ffd289fc8f0 error 4 in libmtpdevice.so[7f1769198000+15000]

The GVFS/MTP protocol also died after I connected the Android phone, but after that I was able to use the device. Speaking of stability, quality and consistency. And if you think I'm being anti-Fedora or anti-Gnome, please READ my Fedora 25 review. It was one of the better distros in a long, long while.

gvfsd-mtp[2795]: segfault at 18 ip 00007fa99e27ca99 sp 00007ffcfea8a820 error 4 in libgvfsdaemon.so[7fa99e26f000+25000]

Windows Phone

Android phone

Fonts, more

The issue is most likely caused by the default AA settings. Hinting is set to grayscale rather than LCD screen. Once you change this and relaunch apps, things look slightly better, if still inferior to Ubuntu and/or friends, and the lack of some of the fancier and more legible fonts also makes Fedora lag behind competition. On the bright side, at least changing the font settings does something now, yay!

Fonts, contrast

Fonts, AA options

Customization

As you may have noticed throughout the article above, I've started applying liberal amounts of new stuff onto the stock desktop to make it usable. But this also proved to be a bit of a chore. If you want to add new extensions, you must install the relevant Firefox addon the first time you visit the Gnome extensions site, but then also install the host connector nonsense, most aptly named chrome-gnome-shell.

After this, I installed Dash to Panel, added some nice new icons and themes, tweaked the fonts, grabbed a bunch of extra software with its own range of obstacles, and finally, the desktop started looking presentable.

Customization 1

Customization 2

If you search for a firewall utility - it's not there, even though you have a running firewall on your box. It takes
almost 5-7 seconds for the search results to display the Software install recommendation.

Customization 3

I continued tweaking and fiddling, trying to make this a presentable and usable desktop. In the end, you will succeed, by having to add all the stuff that Gnome strips out by default for the sake of some nebulous UI model - desktop icons, a panel for icons and/or shortcuts, window min/max buttons, correctly calibrated fonts, system integration, apps, and more. So very unnecessary and sad. Minimalism does not mean stripping away functions. That's not it.

Music extension, system area integration

Extensions

Notice the top bar toggle - it does not match the in-window toggles in any way. Ubuntu 17.10 has this issue, too.

To wit, final looks:

Final looks 1

Final looks 2

Hardware compatibility, stability

Well, this was a tough cookie. Smartphone wise, we already saw what happened. Bluetooth did work just fine. Power management seems like a joke - I couldn't find any way to configure the power button, for instance. So very rudimentary.

Bluetooth works

Notice the different borders, literally within the same element - Gnome FTW.

Power options

A different sub-screen of the settings menu, different borders, yay!

Suspend & resume is another interesting one. You CANNOT suspend with Nouveau drivers on this machine, similar to Xubuntu Aardvark misery. You just end up with a black screen and a dead session. With Nvidia drivers, which I did eventually configure - spoiler, see below - you can suspend, but then you end up with the ATA link reset nonsense.

The system was also quite crashy and buggy - Gnome Shell crashed about three times in the span of one hour. The desktop would also occasionally hang and freeze for a few seconds, and this seems to be related to Nouveau. More about that when we discuss performance. Furthermore, at some point the volume did not play and Fn buttons stopped responding, and only after rebooting did I get them back. Horrible.

Gnome Shell crash

Crashes

Audio error

And then with Nvidia, the webcam - and screenshots - work fine!

Webcam works with Nvidia

Nvidia drivers

Well I did kind of spoil the results for you, but it's okay. So, Fedora 27 does not have an elegant way of providing proprietary drivers. No dedicated utility, nothing. Even Software returns nothing, which is stupid, because there should be a consistency between GUI and CLI. I was able to find Nvidia drivers using dnf, but I wonder about the Intel microcode still.

Nvidia drivers

If you try to install transitional packages, you'll hit a conflict between the 387 and 340 series, and only the latter is supported correctly on the old GS 9600M card that this ancient laptop has. Anyway, I tried the following:

sudo dnf install xorg-x11-drv-nvidia-340xx xorg-x11-drv-nvidia-340xx-libs

A reboot later, it worked! The boot sequence was ultra-long, almost five minutes, and I thought the system was not going to recover, but then it was fine. Double Nvidia splash, but the driver was up and running, and the color issue was gone. I think this is one of the few rare times that the repo setup worked. Still, if in doubt, please do check my Nvidia tutorials - the generic guide and the Fedora 23 article.

Nvidia running

Performance, resource usage

We get average performance here. Not too bad, not fast either. If you do multitask some, you will experience a bit of a slowdown. It took me about two hours to hit the swap space. In general, it's quite usable. With both graphics drivers, memory usage is about 1.4 GB on idle, and CPU utilization round the 8-9% mark. Responsiveness is okay, with Firefox decidedly faster in its Quantum guise.

Resources, Nouveau

Resources, Nvidia

The one cardinal difference is that the desktop would stutter a little with the Nouveau driver, including the mouse going unresponsive for a good few seconds. Checking the logs, there's a lot of garbage there. Some would-be workaround to some other issue I guess, and it might correlate to the performance lags:

[  176.359609] nouveau 0000:01:00.0: imem: PRAMIN exhausted
[  176.373846] nouveau 0000:01:00.0: imem: PRAMIN exhausted
[  176.417038] nouveau 0000:01:00.0: imem: PRAMIN exhausted

Will Samba ever work?

I continued trying to fight the Samba issues. It's there, and it's not going away, even with the full set of updates. I installed almost every single package that spells out Samba in some way in the repo, and nothing helps. Nothing. I also installed Nemo and Dolphin, and still nothing. Anyway, the only warning/error I can see related is:

smb1cli_req_writev_submit: called for dialect[SMB2_10] server[192.168.2.101]

But if you do use smbclient from the command line, it's perfect. With Ubuntu, we merely had a half-minute delay before opening the shares. Here, no go. Perhaps the neutering and removal of features will help us get to the Nirvana state where the system is just a static wallpaper. That would probably be stable and consistent.

Other observations

If you want to change the desktop wallpaper - you MUST use the Pictures folder, you cannot source any other. And even then, only jpg images. The png files are not shown. There are a few other small issues, but I think we've had enough fun for one review. And so, we say goodbye to Fedora, and it is time to conclude.

About

Conclusion

Fedora 27 is another in a long string of passionless, apathetic, badly stitched autumn releases that just make the Linux desktop look ever sadder and less relevant than ever before. Tons of hardware problems, crashes, bleak and useless UI, fonts and color problems, broken Samba. On the upside, media and smartphone support is good, performance is reasonable for an ancient box, and Nvidia drivers setup was elegant.

But remember, this is 2017. You need tons of extra, unofficial software just to make the desktop usable, there are so many inconsistencies it drives me mad, and if you just compare across the board, there's literally NOTHING in common with any which distro. For me, Fedora 24/25 was the highlight of this system, a brief glimmer of hope. If you feel the need, go ahead, but I'd say skip, wait, cry. Grade 2/10. On to the next tribulation.

Cheers.

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