Sunday, October 12, 2014

Fedora 21 Alpha Workstation Impressions

Fedora 21 Workstation (GNOME 3.14 Desktop GUI)

Draining the Swamp, is the title of a 2001 GUADEC presentation done in Seville Spain back in 2001 by +Jim Gettys, author of the X Window system.  Citing his remarks in an April 2014 story, Christian Schaller (Senior Software Engineering Manager at Red Hat, Developer at GNOME) writes about Gettys' vision:

(...) "We are trying to bring that ‘draining the swamp’ mindset with us into creating the Fedora Workstation product.

With that in mind what is the driving ideas behind the Fedora Workstation? The Fedora Workstation effort is meant to provide a first class desktop for your laptop or workstation computer, combining a polished user interface with access to new technologies. We are putting a special emphasis on developers with our first releases, both looking at how we improve the desktop experience for developers, and looking at what tools we can offer to developers to let them be productive as quickly as possible. And to be clear when we say developers we are not only thinking about developers who wants to develop for the desktop or the desktop itself, but any kind of software developer or DevOPs out there." (...)
That sums up what Fedora 21 Workstation is all about.

Fedora has embarked on an ambitious plan called which breaks out three distinct product lines: Server, Workstation and Cloud.  I only give my initial impressions for Workstation.  Here goes.

Shiny and New

It's a good sign when I find myself smiling, which is what happened after installing Fedora 21 Alpha Workstation.

As I write, and after a week of poking around Fedora Workstation Alpha, I am thinking:

"This is Alpha?  It's more production-ready than other general releases I have seen".  Seriously Folks, it's that stable.

The most obvious change?  Visual.

Fedora Workstation gets the proverbial face lift with GNOME 3.14.   And that is what keeps me smiling.

Adwaita Gets Some Love

In its default form GNOME is fitted to Adwaita Theme.  There are no rough edges.  Just smooth contours, gradients, delicious fonts, all composited to make the eyes feel good.   GNOME has worked diligently in shaping their Human Interface Guidelines to assist GTK Application Developers.

In other work done outside of Fedora, the Adwaita team did a major redesign which improves portability, provides maximum GTK compatibility for Developers and is now the default theme for the GTK toolset.

Bells and Whistles

Alan Day has labored and brings swarming animation.  A nice professional touch of glitz never hurts and lends to the overal professional feel.

Venturing into GNOME Software, you'll discover the newest version now offers Live Search.

Pressing the nine dots icon (or tap the Super key) to type any city name will return the current time in GNOME Clock.

As well, typing a quick calculation into the search field will return from GNOME Calculator an instant result.

Other New Features

  • Touchscreen Gesture support
  • Interactive GTK Inspector (for Developers)
  • Mozilla Location Service
  • New Animations for Activities
  • New Minimize Maximize Transition Effects

Updated Apps

  • Weather App Geolocation Support
  • Maps Route Planning
  • Boxes Multi-Window, VM Snapshot Support
  • Music Online Provider Support
  • Photos Google/PicasaWeb Integration
  • Evince PDF Reader Redesigned
  • dnf (Yum replacement) Speed Improvements

Kernel Update

During this week, Fedora 21 yum update-testing downloaded Linux Kernel 3.17, which the Linux Foundation reports includes several feature enhancements.

New Default Terminal Theme

GNOME Terminal now defaults to using the Solarized theme (below).

GNOME 3.14 Solarized Theme

New System Log Utility

For those who feign going near system logs, a new utility called Logs will come in very handy (below) and makes viewing logs simple.

New System Logs Utility

Wayland Remains Non-Default

To those who have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of Wayland production support, I say: "Good things come to those who wait." ;)

Seriously, Christian Schaller gives an update on the status of Wayland and I will say from my own vantage point while Wayland may be stable, the process of migrating GTK Apps to use Wayland is ongoing.  Schaller writes:

(...) "So we want to keep being a place where you do get access to new and exciting technologies first, but as you see with the Wayland effort we are now going to go the extra mile to make sure we offer this new technologies in a way that allows you to still use Fedora as your day to day working machine without worrying that these new features will hinder your work. So we will keep Wayland available as a separate non-default session until we feel very confident that our users are not going to be negatively impacted by the switch. Which means we want to fix and polish up the last remaining bits and pieces, make sure that performance is top notch, make sure all input hardware works flawlessly, work with NVidia and AMD to help them make their binary drivers available for Wayland before we make this the new default." (...)


As for 'Draining the Swamp', I am giving a thumbs up to the Fedora and GNOME Teams for their hard work.  Fedora Workstation really shines and despite being Alpha, I have not had any major problems aside from what gets sent in the automated crash reports.

Fedora succeeds and while the use case Target Audience includes, Students and Developers I would feel comfortable recommending it to Grandma.

Fedora Workstation product documentation can be found here.
Alpha/Beta Testers are encouraged to participate.  Get the Prerelease here.

-- Dietrich


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