Fedora 7 (Moonshine) Review

Finally after many months of it being available I am able to sit down and install the latest version of Fedora, not Fedora Core, simply Fedora. The Fedora group decided to ditch the “Core” and “Extras” versions of Fedora and focus their attention on one version. I think it’s a great idea because it’s a lot less confusing.

The other day I was able to run the LiveCD of Fedora 7 and I was extremely impressed with it’s speed. Earlier this year was the last time I had Fedora installed directly onto my computer. I later removed it because I was unable to get my video card to work. I hope that is something that I can get to work this time. Since then I’ve been using Fedora in a virtual environment. I have several projects coming that will require as much performance as I can get and I’d like to have Fedora installed directly onto the computer so I can get that performance. If the LiveCD is any indication of the performance of the latest version, I think I will be happy, at least I hope so.

Installation

The installation is a fairly standard affair. Not a whole lot has changed, just new graphics in the graphical installer. I had to reboot the installation wizard once when I was configuring my hard drive partitions. I hope that isn’t an indication that I’m going to have problems. Also, hard drives are no longer recognized as “hda1”, “hda2”, they are now recognized as SCSI drives and are labeled “sda1”, “sda2” and so on. The rest of the wizard is pretty much the same as it was in Fedora Core 5 & 6. There aren’t any new applications to report in the applications section of the installation wizard, none that I can tell other than the name change of “GAIM” to “Pidgin.”

The installation of Fedora 7 went pretty quickly, I didn’t have it install anything other than the standard packages. When you reboot and get to the “First Boot” configuration wizard there is a new section that allows you to send a profile of your hardware to the Fedora developers. I highly recommend doing this so they can make Fedora run on more hardware and better.

I am pleased with the installation of Fedora. I am very pleased that I did not have a headache to deal with as far as the video card goes. I am disappointed in that the drivers that were used do not allow me to enable the fancy desktop effects. Although I prefer Fedora, I think this is something that Ubuntu has done a really nice job of. The last time I had Ubuntu on my system it asked me if I wanted to install non-supported drivers for my graphics card, which I did, once I had installed them I was able to use Beryl. I am sure I could install the proper Nvidia drivers on Fedora and I might sometime, but I don’t want to break my system, just yet.

I was also pleased when I rebooted out of Linux and back into Windows and did not receive any error messages. This is usually the case but you never know what might happen with a new version.

Speed of Fedora 7

As I mentioned previously, I ran the Fedora 7 Live CD the other day and was extremely impressed by the speed of the Live CD. Normally Live CD’s are pretty slow. I am pleased to note that Fedora 7 is just as speedy when installed directly onto the computer. It definitely feels a lot faster than Fedora Core 5 & 6.

I also feel as though browsing the Internet is significantly faster. I’ve always felt as though browsing the Internet on Linux, any distribution, is faster than browsing the Internet on Windows or the Mac but it feels even faster on Fedora 7. My video blog seems to just pop right up, but on Windows it takes several seconds for everything to fully load.

Fast User Switching

A new feature in Fedora 7 is fast user switching. This is something that has been available in other distributions for a long time now and it’s nice to see in Fedora.

Package Manager

Once you get Fedora installed you can add more applications by clicking the “Add/Remove Software” menu item under “Applications.” There are a whole lot more applications available once you get Fedora installed. The reason they do this is that they can’t include everything on the DVD so once you get the system installed you can choose to install them then, but you’ll have to be connected to the Internet to do it. There are a lot of things to choose from, games, educational tools, engineering and scientific software. Some of the applications may look confusing, just read the description and it will usually explain what it is.

The “Add/Remove” software isn’t a new feature of Fedora, it’s been there for a long time. What is new are some of the applications that you can now get by using this tool, some of the more popular applications include: Democracy (now called Miro), Rosegarden, and aMSN. I’m sure there are more applications that are new but those are the more popular ones that I recognized. In the Servers section there is now an option for a Clustering server.

One thing to note is that everytime I would go to the Servers section some of the servers would be check marked even though I did not choose them anywhere else and none of the selections I made would require those to be installed.

Power Management

With both Ubuntu and Fedora I have been happy to see that when I have Linux installed directly on my hardware it recognizes my APC battery backup. All of the configuration options are comparable to that of what you get with the Windows software. The only thing that you don’t get is the software does not send information back to APC about the utility company in your area.

A cool feature of the power management software is the Power History charts. At the moment there isn’t anything on my chart due to the fact that I haven’t been running Fedora around the clock. I think it would be an interesting graph to look at though.

My Wishlist

The first thing I’d like to see in an upcoming update or the next version of Fedora is a way to very easily mount FAT & NTFS hard drives. Ubuntu can do it and I think the Fedora developers should be able to easily implement this. I know it’s simple to do it via command line but it would be even simpler to just double click an icon in the “Computer” window.

Secondly. Whenever you open an administration dialog in Fedora 7, you have to enter your password every single time you open one. In older versions of Fedora and RedHat you could enter your password once and the password would remain active for a few minutes so you could open several dialogs without having to enter your password every single time. After a few minutes had went by and you were finished with the admin dialogs and opened another one you had to enter your password again, which wasn’t as annoying as having to enter it every single time.

Conclusion

Fedora 7 is a great update and I feel as though it is a much needed update. Everything feels a lot fresher with the better looking graphics. Everything works “out of the box” so to speak. I didn’t have any issues getting a GUI on my screen as I did with Fedora Core 6, that I am very pleased with. I’m not pleased with the fact that the driver that was installed isn’t one that is compatible with the desktop effects. However, I do understand that the driver that was installed was an open source driver and not one from Nvidia. I’m sure the open source community will continue to make the open source driver even better.

I am also extremely pleased with the responsiveness of the system. It feels a lot faster, a lot more crisp. I don’t see jagged edges whenever a menu item drops down. I think the developers done an amazing job with this release and I hope that Fedora 8 will be even better.

Now, with that said I have to point out that I think Ubuntu has got Fedora beat in some aspects. I think when it comes to packages there are a ton more packages that are much more easily installed with Ubuntu. In Ubuntu you can use the package manager to install non-supported software and drivers which drastically improve the systems usefulness. Also, now that Dell has taken on Ubuntu as one of the operating systems they are offering on their computer lineup, more people are going to be using Ubuntu and there is going to be even more development going into it. That means: better drivers, better looks, more software.

Now, as a long time RedHat/Fedora user, with the above said I have to say that I’m still partial to Fedora. I primarily use Fedora as a server. I also prefer Fedora because of the RedHat underpinnings. I’m more familiar with that environment and prefer it. I think it’s a great operating system, especially for servers. On the desktop side of things, it has some catching up to do. However, don’t let what I’ve said in the past couple of paragraphs negate the fact that I think Fedora 7 is a great release.

The Fedora Project Homepage

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom

Last month (May 2007) I wrote a blog entry about Aperture. At the time I was house sitting for my sister who had just got a new iMac. When I came home I was disappointed that I didn’t have a similar application to use for working on my photos. Last fall I had played with the Adobe Lightroom Beta and it was extremely slow on my computer so I didn’t really give it much thought. Then I decided to download the trial and give it a shot anyways after thinking that it might actually perform better now that I have a dedicated graphics card with 128MB of memory instead of the motherboard’s integrated GPU which only had 32 MB of RAM allocated to it. The following will be my thoughts of Lightroom and I will be comparing a lot of it’s features with the experience I had with Apple’s Aperture.

Features I Really Liked

When you first open Adobe Photoshop Lightroom you are asked where you want to import images from. You can choose to import images from your camera or from a location on your computer. Once you choose and your images have been imported they are placed into the Library. You’ll also probably want to change the view from “Loupe View” to “Grid View.” This will allow you to see all of the images that you just imported. Also, it’s easier to go ahead and rotate your images from this view before you get to adjusting the images. Once you do get your images rotated and you are ready to start adjusting them, click on an image that you want to work on and then click on Develop, this is where all the adjustments will take place.

When you’re in the “Develop” mode there are a lot of adjustments that you can make. The first adjustment that I usually make is the white balance, exposure and contrast. Lightroom has a few pre-programmed presets for adjusting tone curve and this is what I usually use because they seem to work pretty well for me. If you find yourself applying the same adjustments to more than one or two images you can create additional presets.

The next adjustments that I make are of the colors. This is my favorite feature and one that really makes Aperture and Lightroom worth their pricetags. My camera doesn’t do a great job of applying saturation to images, which is acceptable in some instances because the camera might apply too much and it would be hard to correct in post processing. I usually find myself increasing the saturation of blues to make skies bluer and greens to make leaves much more vibrant. If the color you see is a bit odd from what you remember seeing you can change it’s hue and luminance.

I want to talk a little bit more about the lighting adjustments that you can make using Lightroom. You can use the tone curve tool or you can use sliders to adjust the lightness or darkness of highlights, dark areas, light areas and shadows. You’d be surprised by just how much better you can make an image look by slightly tweaking the tone curve.

An adjustment that I find myself needing quite frequently is a sharpening tool. Lightroom’s got one and you don’t have to add it to the panels every time you open a new image like I did in Aperture but, I have never seen any difference when I have used this tool. I don’t know whether it’s so subtle I just don’t see a change or if my monitor just isn’t all that great. What I’ve been doing is when I’m finished with the photo I export it out and sharpen it up in an external editor.

When you have finished editing the photo and are satisfied with it you can add a star to it. You can add 1-5 stars to each image. I usually apply a 5 star rating to images that I’m going to export and upload to Flickr. There is also a feature that let’s you add images to a “Quick Collection.”

If you’ve got multiple images of the same thing and you need to compare them Lightroom has you covered there as well. The only downside to Lightroom’s comparison feature is that you can only compare one photo at a time.

In addition to the comparison tool Lightroom has a tool that I really like called “Before & After.” I really like to use this to see just how much better my images are once I’ve adjusted the lighting, saturation, etc.

Another great feature of Lightroom that most good photo editing applications are incorporating these days is non-destructive edits. Like I mentioned in the Aperture review, it is really nice to be able to make changes to images and a year later come back and still have the original images. You’ll want to make backups of course, which is built into Lightroom, but, every good photo editing application will have this.

I am happy to say that cropping images in Lightroom is much easier than it was in Aperture. At least the figuring out how to do it part. When I was using Aperture it took me a while to figure out how to crop an image, in Lightroom it was much easier to understand. What I really liked about Lightroom is that when I cropped an image and made changes to the image, if I zeroed the image out the crop would stay. I thought that was really nice.

What I Was Not So Happy With

Lightroom is resource intensive. I know I don’t have the most powerful computer on the planet, but still, it’s resource intensive. I couldn’t use the application if my computer’s display was running at 1280×1024, I’d have to decrease to 1024×768. I had to close out of all other applications that I was running. Even running Skype and Lightroom at the same time would cause my computer to lockup. Even with closing all applications Lightroom still isn’t very fast, sliders occasionally become unresponsive and images take their precious time loading. You really need a modern computer to use Lightroom effectively, something faster than my AMD Athlon XP 1700+, 128 MB GPU and 1 GB of RAM.

Features I Would Like To See

If you need to see what your image looked like before you applied an adjustment you can use the history panel. In my opinion it’s not as nice as Aperture’s ability to hide an effect by clicking on a hide icon beside of the adjustment.

Another feature that I really miss from Aperture is full screen editing. You can hide panels very easily in Lightroom, too easily sometimes, but it doesn’t compare to being able to edit an image in full screen mode. I really miss that and hope to see it in Lightroom soon.

Like I mentioned previously, in my opinion the sharpening tool does not do anything for images. I’d like to see this corrected. Also, I’d like to see some sort of tool to go along with the sharpening tool so you can further define where you want to apply the sharpening to.

Final Thoughts

Although Lightroom is missing a lot of things that I really liked when I was using Aperture, I think Lightroom is a great piece of software. It’s only at Version 1.0 at the moment so I’m sure better things are to come. If you’re needing photo editing software and you’re on Windows, I would highly recommend Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. If you’re using a Mac, I’d recommend sticking with Aperture. Both Lightroom and Aperture are $299, which in my opinion is a bit steep. However, it is cheaper than buying a copy of Adobe Photoshop and both applications are much easier to work with than trying to learn how to edit your photos in Photoshop.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom