Monday, December 27, 2010

Fuduntu 14.7 Review

A young and rapidly developing distro, Fuduntu is a fork of Fedora aiming to sit somewhere in between Ubuntu and Fedora. The current version is based off Fedora 14, but it adds quite a few interesting features that I believe should make the RedHat cousin more atractive to the average user.


Click on image to enlarge.

To learn more about the Fuduntu project, visit its website following this LINK.

SIMILAR BUT A BIT DIFFERENT

Fuduntu is still a young distro, which means that the Fedora influence is still too evident. In my case, that is sort of bad news. I recently wrote an ARTICLE when Fedora 14 was released. Unfortunately, it didn't even motivate me to put together a review. In my opinion, Fedora is slowly taking on a specialist distro vibe, probably because most of its recent new features may be meaningful for developers, but not so much for the average user.

The Fedora developers seem to have forgotten that a desktop OS should primarily concentrate on the end user experience. I say that because I see how so many of its elements are growing old, feeling obsolete and cumbersome when compared to what other distros are doing. For example, Ubuntu has vastly improved its installation wizard, boot times, software manager, energy management, social network integration, etc. Linux Mint, PCLinuxOS, Pardus, Chakra Linux and other distros are also examples of projects investing in improving the user experience. In comparison, Fedora looks arcane, raw and definitely not as user friendly.

Fuduntu naturally inherits many of the Fedora qualities. The installation wizard, for example, is identical. The plymouth boot splash theme is custom, but very similar to Fedora's. The GDM theme (Unlike Fedora, Fuduntu is only available in GNOME flavor) is also reminiscent of Fedora's.


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Luckily, changes blossom out as soon as the desktop is loaded. Window decoration themes, fonts, controls, icons, the default application catalog... Even Nautilus shows its elementary clothes. I have to admit, Fuduntu is a definite improvement over Fedora 14.


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Small details do make a difference. Including Faenza Cuppertino as the default icon theme, the Flash plugin preinstalled, Thunderbird as the default mail client or the Cheese webcam application, to give just a few examples, certainly is welcome. Having said so, the Fedora footprint is everywhere and its weak spots easily show up. Font rendering, for example, is poor, and so are boot times and overall performance. Even with Jupiter installed, energy management doesn´t seem to be as optimized as is in Ubuntu 10.10, for example (I am getting 10%-20% less battery life on the same hardware).


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CONCLUSIONS

All in all, Fuduntu is an interesting effort to sweeten Fedora. I believe most of the changes already committed are right choices, steps in the right direction. Unfortunately, although the Fedora foundation is solid in many ways, it lacks in certain areas that are to be expected from a modern Linux desktop today. As a result, the changes/enhancements in Fuduntu still fall short somehow.

I think Fuduntu will be worth following up closely. It will progressively become more of an independent distro, incorporating many elements that should set it apart from Fedora or any other distro. For now, though, it is still too young and close to its foundation to have a "personality" of its own. My feeling is that users will experience Fuduntu as a respin of its parent distro, so whether they like it or not will really depend on how they feel about Fedora. I feel that way myself, so I would like to wait a bit longer before I complete an in-depth review.

INTERVIEW WITH FUDUNTU'S CREATOR

Andrew Wyatt (a.k.a Fewt) is the man behind Fuduntu. A RedHat certified engineer, Andrew has participated in several open source projects, including his work as part of the AuroraOS project TEAM. He also led the Jupiter project.

Andrew and I had kept in touch through our corresponding blogs. Not long ago, he asked me to take a look at Fuduntu and put together a review, the result of which you probably already read. However, since the very first moment we discussed about it, I thought it would be particularly interesting to also share his view and experience putting together a distro. How did he do it? How long did it take? Was it difficult? Why did he made certain choices and not others? If you are interested in learning more about Fuduntu in particular and Linux distros in general, check out this "behind the scenes" interview.

General Questions

- Fuduntu is a fork of Fedora, and it shows. Why Fedora?

Well, I am an RHCE and I have always been a RedHat fan. Even though I have moved from distribution to distribution over the years, RedHat 5 in the mid 90s was my first experience with Linux other than experimentation with some of the earlier floppy based Linux distributions, and I have always stuck with RedHat on servers outside of some past use of Ubuntu Server for small workgroup environments.

On the desktop side, I moved over to Ubuntu 4.10 from Gentoo when it was released, and for the most part stayed with Ubuntu until 9.10 when I decided that I needed to find something else that was more stable. After moving from 9.10 to Fedora 12, I found the distribution as a whole had matured considerably since Fedora Core 4 which had been my last exposure to Fedora. With my experience with RedHat basing Fuduntu on Fedora felt like a natural fit.

- What do you find appealing about this distro that you may not in others?

I like that Fedora is as close to the source as you can get (with the exception of Debian perhaps) in that there aren't a lot of changes to packages rolled into the distribution. I also like that RedHat puts a significant amount of their R&D dollars into the platform including kernel development. There is also the fact that it is much simpler to build and support an RPM package than it is to build and support a DEB package.

- Fuduntu includes an interesting selection of software that is not part of the Fedora default installation. Can you provide a bit of background on why you made the choices that you made?

Sure. When I started preparing to replace Fedora 13 with Fedora 14 on my laptop, I made a list of software on that machine. This list was pretty much the same list that I installed on each of the five Fedora computers that I use.

- Was that a selfish "I choose this because it is what I use", or were you actually thinking of other types of users?

Initially, I was thinking about myself. When I decided to play around with learning how to build a live CD, I just grabbed the list of packages that I used across all of my Fedora computers and ran with it. Once I realized that others were showing interest in Fuduntu, I altered those selections to align with what I would expect to be a common set for a larger audience sacrificing some of my personal selections in the process. I also created the defaults and direction survey which gave a list of choices allowing the users to decide through democratic process. I will be using the results of the survey in the future to improve the default selections.

- Jupiter is an interesting addition, and a piece of software you seem to be heavily involved with. Can you tell us more about it, what it does and where the project present and future look like?

When I decided to stop supporting Eee PC Utilities on Ubuntu in October of 2009, I had already committed to the Aurora team (then known as Eeebuntu) to build a next generation utility to manage kernel parameters, CPU states, and simple hardware devices for a wider variety of computers. Jupiter is that product. It is supported on virtually any computer that meets its package requirements under Aurora, Fuduntu, and Fedora. The project is considered stable, and is now in extended support where I am providing bug fixes for the software on those platforms. I do add additional features to Jupiter now and then, when it offers a significant improvement as I did with version 0.0.46 released this last week.

- Putting together a distro seems like an incredibly difficult and time consuming task. Why did you decide to embark on this project?

I decided to embark on this project as an experiment, simply to learn how to build a live CD since I have been breaking apart RedHat media for many years for automated delivery I actually didn't find it very difficult. I created the first version over the course of a few nights, and released it to the world in-case anyone else found it useful. Initially, I didn't expect that anyone would find a use for it, but it seems that they have so I have continued to mature Fuduntu which is now at release version 14.7.

- Did you consider joining other distro projects before starting your own?

I am already a member of another distribution project called Aurora OS. I am still active in the Aurora community, and don't see that changing any time soon since Jupiter is a core component of the distribution.

Initially, I was just going to create a Fedora respin for myself for use on my PCs at work, but before I released it to the world I read through the Fedora documentation and realized that I would not be able to call my remix a Fedora branded distribution since I included my Jupiter package which is not in the Fedora repository. This prompted the rebranding of the distribution into what is now known as Fuduntu.

- What goals did you have in mind when you started and do you feel you have achieved them?

Initially my goal was just to learn how to build a live CD so in that regard Fuduntu has far exceeded my expectations. My most important goal is to deliver a Linux distribution that is optimized to maximize performance and improve battery life on portable computers, but Fuduntu is in no way limited to portable computers. It runs perfectly well on multiple desktops too.

Going forward as I draft the Fuduntu roadmap, and analyze the results of my defaults and direction survey, I will create additional goals which should hopefully meet the needs of those who choose to use Fuduntu.

- You recently included Nautilus elementary as the default file manager. Why?

I am a Nautilus Elementary fan, and it is something that Ubuntu had recently rejected. I thought that it would fit well in the Fuduntu desktop environment.

- In my experience, SELinux is a bit of a resource eater. I see you have removed its policies in your default ISO. What are your thoughts on SELinux and are you planning to improve it, remove it or leave it as is?

I really think SELinux technology is very capable of protecting servers, but I don't see it fitting very well on the desktop. I think that it would be incredibly difficult to enforce policies on /home which is where I would target if I were to be in the business of writing malware.

I don't see it becoming enabled by default in Fuduntu, but I am open to the possibility of providing hardened desktop configurations that do have it and other security enhancing configurations active.

Look & Feel

- Fuduntu includes a custom Plymouth theme and quite an ellaborate desktop customization, from window decoration to fonts and colors. Was it difficult to learn all the different technologies that provide a theming interface?

It wasn't terribly difficult, no. I started building themes for GTK and Metacity in the mid 2000s so I already had a lot of exposure in this area. The majority of the work in the Fuduntu theme blended ideas from other existing themes like my Zami GTK theme, and the Ordinary Colors Metacity theme.

I think the biggest challenges were making the overall desktop interface fluid and nice to look at without it being over the top, and to learn how to package it all up for Fuduntu which I learned by taking apart the similar Fedora packages. Ultimately, I think the mix that I used for the desktop fits the distribution well, and so far all of the feedback from users has been positive.

- How long did it take for you to put all the Look&Feel configuration together?

I put the majority of the interface together in a day, and refined and packaged it the next.

- It seems you too like the Faenza icon theme, as Faenza cuppertino is the default icon theme in Fedora. What is it about it that appeals to you?

I think the Faenza Cuppertino icon theme blends really well with the rest of the desktop and completes the look. It has a mature, yet somewhat flashy look to it which is what I wanted as a default for Fuduntu.

Feedback & community

- What is Fuduntu acceptance so far? What's the feedback like?

Well there have been a few dozen requests for me to change the name, but I expected that when I chose the name Fuduntu. The name is designed to prompt conversation, and be humorous. The fact that it has prompted conversation both good and bad is exactly what I wanted it to do.

Beyond the name, the feedback about the distribution itself has been great, and very constructive. There is a thread at Linsux.org where I initially announced Fuduntu, one at Eeeuser.com, and one on Ubuntuforums. One of the Ubuntu forums users volunteer to seed Fuduntu torrents which was wonderful and a great help to the project.

- Are you keeping track of ISO downloads? If so, how many downloads so far?

Outside of the download tracker at SourceForge which registers over 5,000 downloads of Fuduntu, I am not really keeping track. I couldn't tell you how many people downloaded from other sources including torrents. There is nothing in the operating system to really tell me how many users there are, but I have thought about adding this capability as an optional feature in the future.

- Are people interested in joining you to develop Fuduntu? If so, are you willing to work with others?

There hasn't been a lot of interest yet, but Fuduntu is still less than two months old, so the future can take it anywhere. I absolutely am open to anyone that is interested in helping, there is a forum and mailing list for developers which are open to all. If anyone has something they think could be improved in Fuduntu or Linux in general and they are interested in helping they are more than welcome to join Fuduntu.

Future Plans

- What's in store for Fuduntu moving forward?

I have a few things on my plate, I need to work out the compatibility issue with NVidia RPMs provided by RPM Fusion, and get started on the road map. I have some other smaller goals like writing release notes, and I also have some patches that I need to send up to the Fedora team.

- Are you planning to add your own applications to make Fuduntu even more of an independent distro (ala Linux Mint - Ubuntu)?

Yes, that is my plan. I have a short list of tools that I hope to start working on in the near future to improve the Fuduntu experience for its users. I am also looking at some of the things that Mint, Ubuntu, and others are doing and starting to research bringing some of those technologies over to Fuduntu.

I would really like to thank Andrew for his time and interesting insights on Fuduntu, as well as his contribution to Linux and its community.

Thanks for reading!

10 comments:

  1. Even with Jupiter installed, energy management doesn´t seem to be as optimized as is in Ubuntu 10.10, for example (I am getting 10%-20% less battery life on the same hardware).

    If you are using the gnome battery meter, don't; it lies. Measure with acpi -t and powertop, they are more accurate.

    You still don't like the fonts after the 14.7-3 update? Hmm, not sure it's physically possible to make them look any better.

    Regardless, thanks for the review!

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  2. Hey, Fewt!

    My pleasure, I enjoyed testing Fuduntu.

    When I test energy management, I usually try to do whatever I do on a daily basis. I set GNOME energy management policies to shutdown when the battery is out and time how long the machine stays on. That usually gives me a pretty accurate idea, because I test on the same machine most of the time.

    As for the font problem, it is there in Fedora as well, so I agree with you in that it probably can´t be fixed. If you run a quick test and compare Ubuntu 10.10 using the same font and size you are using in Fuduntu, you´ll probably realize there is a slight difference. Ubuntu fonts look sharper. I wonder if that could be down to Fedora using different video drivers?

    Cheers

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  3. I'm not using Fedora's freetype, so that's why I said that it isn't possible that the fonts look like Fedora. :D

    I see about testing how long the machine runs. I haven't used 10.10, but I highly doubt that they are doing any tuning there like I am. In addition to the CPU governor I have also analysed the powertop recommendations for more than a half dozen machines and enable most of them when you switch to battery.

    Anyway, stuff to look at. Thanks!

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  4. Oh my goodness, what is happening in the Linux world ? Are all Ubuntu users idiots ? This is the worst review I have ever read. Don't get me wrong I like Ubuntu, and I use it on one of my PC's at home, but please.. for the love of God try to be objective, you are only hurting Linux in the long run. Created a script that played a video clip and a few other programs to test battery life and Fuduntu actually outlasted stock Ubuntu 10.10 by over 15 Minutes..(on Lenovo T500) Oh and fonts are mostly subjective , on a DELL 2408WFP fonts where stunning. Also lets not get into the installation wizard and boot times.. This is not a review but a rant and should be seen as such. Shame on you Chema!!!

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  5. If you spend 7 months with w$ondows7
    http://www.fewt.com/2010/10/seven-months-with-windows-7.html
    and find it to be as good as, or better than Desktop Linux, what would you do?
    Fewt, has done the right thing. He created Fuduntu.

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  6. @anonymous: I am not sure I understand those negative comments. I clearly stated that I will wait before I complete an in-depth review of Fuduntu, because in my opinion, I would be reviewing Fedora 14 right now... How come you perceived a rant in my article, if I didn't even shared my opinion?

    As for your test on that Lenovo, it proves absolutely nothing, no more than my test does, anyways. Both are one-offs, so there is really no objectivity to them. I was just sharing my experience, never claimed it was any serious benchmark.

    Fonts are subjective, alright, then why are you testing them? Wouldn't that be equally subjective? Hmmmm...

    Not sure I understand that "let's not get into installation wizard and boot times"? Why not?... Canonical has been investing time and resources into improving both of them for longer than Fuduntu exists, and it shows. Besides, the installation wizard in Fuduntu is Fedora's, so what's the point in discussing it?

    My Blog's name is "The Linux Experience", and because I own it, it's clear that I am talking about my own experience, no more, no less. If you don't agree with it, fine, no big deal, I never claimed it was the truth.

    As for hurting "Linux in the long run", don't make me laugh... If you care so much about Fuduntu, help make it better, instead of overreacting to a few well-thought-of comments. In fact, I am starting to think you didn't read my review, because all I am saying is that it is still too close to Fedora. How's that hurting anything or anybody?

    (Fewt, I truly hope that's not you going anonymous, because that would really be "shame on you")

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  7. lol, it certainly is not me, not sure why you would think it was. You know I have no problem sharing my opinion without being anonymous, so making accusations just seems silly. The internet is a big place, maybe someone is a fan.

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  8. @Fewt: Sorry, I didn't actually accuse you, just hoped it was not you.

    As for why... well, I had my reasons:

    1.- The internet is big, but the number of people knowing or even following my blog is not.
    2.- Out of those people, I can only think of a small number that would know about Fuduntu and use it regularly to know if my article was accurate or not.
    3.- Out of those few, an even smaller number would care enough to actually run a comparison back to back with Ubuntu.
    4.- Out of even smaller group, I can not think of many who would actually have the skills and time to write a script to automate a session usage.
    5.- You do mention a Lenovo T400 (granted, that comment referred to a T500, but it's surprisingly close) in your blog, on an article about Jupiter.

    Anyways, I am glad it isn't you, and I apologize if I offended you in any way. I didn't think it was you because I wrote my article from respect and you know that. However, as you can see, there are not that many people that would go so far to counter one of my articles, so I had my reasons! ;-)

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  9. I don't offend that easily. :P Your article was linked on LinuxToday, so as your analytics should show you have a very wide audience now.

    Yes, I have a T400, but haven't every had hands on a T500. Perhaps someone is trolling me rather than you through your blog. (that would be rather hilarious don't you think? LOL)

    I don't have any problem with your review. Like I said before thanks!

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  10. I installed last version of Fuduntu (Kernel 3.0.3) with my best hope about performance and everything was a completely disaster. Installation was fine but update was impossible (one error over other, and other, etc, etc...) Mi wireless card Broadcom bcm 4312 did not work and I was 15 days trying to fix it and was impossible no matter what I did it (Reinstall, change drivers, blacklist lines, Forum helps, an hundred hours working)
    I forgot Fuduntu and install Ubuntu 10.04 and everything fine in 5 minutes. Fuduntu right now is a piece of junk.

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