Saturday, December 20, 2008

Installing and configuring Fedora 10

I still like Debian and Debian based distros like sidux or Ubuntu most, but - as always, if something works too well - I wanted something new... As I recently joined a training course at Red Hat and a new release of Fedora just hit the servers, I went for Fedora 10.

I think the main difference between Fedora and other "big" distros is the fact, that within a Fedora release, you'll receive major version upgrades of applications and even the kernel itself. I think this is a pro, though you might argue, this might have a negative affect on a distro's stability. So far, I couldn't find any big issues.
As you can read in every review about Fedora, it comes strictly with open source software only. No playback of mp3 files or Nvidia drivers. It's very easy though to add those features, if you know how. If you're used to Fedora, you won't find anything new here. If you're a first time Fedora user or even new to Linux, this post might be of help. I just put together all the useful information I found on the net and I will always refer to the original text. A good starting point is "The Unofficial Fedora FAQ".

OK, start with downloading the Fedora iso image of your taste from the Fedora servers or from one of it's mirrors. I downloaded the full DVD image for x86_64. Burn it to CD/DVD and boot from it. If you opted for one of the Live images - once booted - you'll need to doubleclick the installer icon on the desktop. The installation process can't be easier, it consists of all typical steps: language, timezone, host name, root password, partitioning, boot loader and software selection. (By the way, at least until KDE 4.2 I'd stick to Gnome...). After the first reboot, remove the installation media and boot into your new Fedora 10 installation, which will greet you with a few more easy setup questions (create a non-root user, adjust date and time, etc...). Once you're done, you may login.

Here comes my first tweak: the default umask for users is 0002, which results in new files being group writable. This is no big thing and no security risk, because each user has it's own primary group, but coming from Debian I'd rather like my files to be group readable only. So, first thing I'd do is change this behavior by opening a terminal and editing my .bashrc:
echo "umask 0022" >> ~/.bashrc

(Please consult this article from Fedora's documentation for further details.) Log out and in again to make this change work.
Then it's time to make the first and maybe very big update. I prefer doing this without X running, so open a terminal an type:
su -
init 3

This will shutdown X and leave you with a text login. So, log in again and update yum first and then everything else:
su -
yum update yum
yum update

The last step might take a while. Say "yes" when asked to import the gpg keys by Fedora. Once this update is through, reboot:
shutdown -r now

Now you're running an up-to-date Fedora installation.

Adding RPM Fusion yum repository
To play mp3s or install proprietary binary video drivers we need to add RPM Fusion to our yum repositories. To install free and non-free (like Nvidia drivers) software run this command (as described here):
su -c 'rpm -Uvh http://download1.rpmfusion.org/free/fedora/rpmfusion-free-release-stable.noarch.rpm http://download1.rpmfusion.org/nonfree/fedora/rpmfusion-nonfree-release-stable.noarch.rpm'

I had to edit the repo files manually to make them work (You can check with 'su -c "yum update"'. If you receive errors not finding the repository, than you need to edit them, too). Open the following files in your favorite editor (i.e.: su -c "gedit /etc/yum.repos.d/rpmfusion-free.repo")

/etc/yum.repos.d/rpmfusion-free.repo
/etc/yum.repos.d/rpmfusion-free-updates.repo
/etc/yum.repos.d/rpmfusion-nonfree.repo
/etc/yum.repos.d/rpmfusion-nonfree-updates.repo


Have a look at the first entry of all those four files and remove the first "#" in front of "baseurl=http://..." and instead place it ahead of the next line "mirrorlist=http://...". Leave the rest as it is and then save the files. Now run
su -
yum update

and you should receive new package lists from RPM Fusion (and maybe some updates). Again, say "yes" when asked to import RPM Fusion's gpg keys.

Installing Nvidia proprietary drivers
If you like to install Nvidia proprietary drivers, run this command:
su -
yum install kmod-nvidia

Once installed, reboot and now you may enable desktop effects (if you like them...). By the way, as ATI drivers are now open source, my next video card will be ATI (or AMD).

Configuring PackageKit
The default setting of PackageKit is to remember your root authentication when installing packages. If you like this behavior, you can skip this step. If you don't, open "System -> Preferences -> System -> Authorizations". Under "org / freedesktop / packagekit" and "org / freedesktop / policykit" you can change this. I chose "Admin Authentication" on nearly each option. (I found the solution on forums.fedoraforum.org.)

Adding MP3 support
I guess this depends on your default desktop, KDE or Gnome. As I'm running Gnome, I installed nearly every "gstreamer-plugins-*" package. I don't know for sure, but for KDE it could be "xine-lib-extras-freeworld". You can add and search for those packages by using PackageKit: "System -> Administration -> Add/Remove Software".

Animated boot screen
With "plymouth" you'll have a nice animated boot screen - if you own the right hardware... If, like me, you're using a Nvidia video adapter, you need to activate a frambuffer device manually. To do so, we have to add some boot options to the kernel. Edit /boot/grub/grub.conf as root and add vga=XXX to the end of the kernel line. In my case XXX=791, which shows the boot screen in 1024x768 resolution and 16bit color depth. You can find an overview of possible vga values in the Ubuntu Wiki. Make sure it is supported by your hardware. If the value is wrong, your boot screen will be black until X starts - just wait, then alter grub.conf and try again.

By the way, if you're running multiple OS'es on you're machine, it might be useful to add a "#" ahead of the "hiddenmenu" option in grub.conf. This will actually display the boot options on system startup.

Turning off sshd
If you're running a standard desktop system, chances are high you won't need a running ssh daemon. To turn it off run the following commands:
su -
chkconfig sshd off
service sshd stop

You may then alter the firewall settings and close ssh port 22. To do so, go to "System -> Administration -> Firewall", deselect "SSH" and save this configuration.

Following those steps should leave you with a working Fedora 10 installation. Adding software is very easy via GUI ("System -> Administration -> Add/Remove Software") or the command line via "yum". I still think that rpm packaging systems can't compete with Debian's apt, but yum comes a little closer to it and is somewhat faster than openSUSE's yast (though I didn't test the latest version in openSUSE 11.1).
One of the main improvements of Fedora 10 should be the faster start up. Well, I couldn't find Fedora 10 booting very fast. sidux and Ubuntu are doing this job faster. Well, I don't think this is so very important...

Is Fedora 10 suitable for new Linux users? Well, it can, but you have to do some reading first. If you want it quick and easy, I'd recommend Ubuntu. Do I like Fedora 10? Yes, I do and I will continue using it for a while!

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