Fedora to Ubuntu, A walk to remember

On the night of 16th December 2011, i couldn’t find peace in music, i couldn’t find a movie entertaining, i couldn’t stare at fb wall feed anymore, couldn’t read more articles and couldn’t stay awake anymore. But a giant cup full of very strong coffee, on an ordinary night does something to you (unlike the exam days when it seems like a glass of hot steaming water). It turns you into an insomniac. I looked at the clock, it was 4:00 a.m. I begged to god to give me sleep and he clearly ignored. After staring at the ceiling for next 10 minutes, i decided to do something i was planning on doing for a long time.

During the times when VIT was being washed in rains and students were cursing the well known friendship of exams and awesome weather, i was deciding to move to Linux completely for all my future development and learning process. My plan was to create a system image of my existing Windows 7 installation, take back up of all data i own on usb hdd, followed by cleaning all of windows partitions and installing Linux only (converting all windows NTFS partitions into Linux ext4). I downloaded latest copy of Fedora (Fedora 16 x86_64 dvd) and did all that i had planned, over the night, morning actually.

Many of you might ask why Fedora and not Ubuntu? Well, that is one of the most debated topic among Linux users these days. Both distros are one of the best out there, often one of the most downloaded distros on DistroWatch.com. I see them as a distro with cutting edge technology in its purest form (Fedora) and a distro with always dreamed of stability and populated repository (Ubuntu). Fedora always comes up with some really nifty under the hood stuff like enhanced virtualization support, latest kernel (kernel 3.1 in Fedor 16), ready to use cloud support and more, untouched. Ubuntu is not lagging behind (never has), Ubuntu is more like a chance taker, courageous Linux trying to establish legendary grounds with more support for different hardware, huge repository of packages & extensions, turning Linux into an everyday use os like windows and mac. Ubuntu is undoubtedly much stable compared to Fedora. Right there is my reason to choose Fedora over Ubuntu.

*I believe you learn more when you practice, when you trouble  your head a lot and Fedora would give a user more such opportunities compared to Ubuntu (clear reason of stability). Hence i installed Fedora 16  after cleaning up every bit of windows. But i do need windows! A lot of designing work is always in my to do list for which i cannot depend of GIMP and the kinds (no matter how much an open source fan you are, c’mon, you must be kidding if you are saying GIMP is as good as photoshop or illustrator. They are ages ahead of GIMP!) But i chose to not run both OSes parallelly. Why? Answer this, what would you choose if i offer you an awesome cheese burger/ a healthy-veg-brown-bread-made sandwich everyday at breakfast? The awesome burger right? It is the same with windows and Linux running parallelly. I will most often choose windows for the amazing sound quality it offers and support for dozens and dozens of media file formats. To move to Linux completely i had to choose to not dual boot. Hence i decided to install a virtual machine (using Fedora 16’s default KVM, also probably the most powerful VM available on Linux). Here is when my walk from Windows to Fedora turns memorable.

I installed Fedora, installed packages for MP3 encoding, media players, some dev tools and finally kvm packages. Following that, i began trying to install windows 7 from the system image i had made on a 70 gb Linux virtual disk. The image was on my external hdd. My first tour of treasure hunting began here, when i started digging out online documents and articles on sharing usb drive over kvm (process was actually pretty simple but i missed it at first look). I couldn’t find it directly through Fedora’s VM Manager (GUI). I figured the way out after reading articles in kvm’s documentation and started trying them out through the terminal. I did succeed and shared my hdd over vm but several other problems popped up when doing it through terminal like minimum disk space, minimum ram and more. I figured it all out and my virtual machine booted up successfully but really, did you expect it to succeed just yet? If you didn’t you are smart (or i am terrible at it). Everything worked fine but the problem was i was trying to install a 64-bit version of windows on a VM running 32-bit arch processor. I couldn’t find a way to change the architecture via terminal after an hour of trying (sounds dumb i know but i couldn’t figure out the attribute for it. There was no help document of “qemu” command  on terminal and online documentation failed to be a help). I then started running through the GUI of VM manager, exploring every pixel of it and finally, tears rolled out of my eyes when i saw that beautiful option there hidden inside the add new hardware window (too cheesy eh? i know. :P) I felt dumb, really but the experience was something. qemu is one powerful command and lets you do much more than what VM manager offers.

I felt like in heaven when that black colored window (with grey-ish borders) said “Starting Windows”. And the next very moment drove me crazy like anything. I was able to connect my hdd via terminal but it won’t detect it during the installation process when running via VM manager. I then chose to do a fresh install. The installation began and after 10 minutes (installation is running) my laptop abruptly shut itself down. I couldn’t figure what happened. I repeated the procedure and the same happened again. After going through the same thing a third time, i realised this whole process was turning my laptop into a volcano. It would get so heated that it would stop running. It only used to happen on windows when i would play a high GPU intensive game for like 4-5 hours at a stretch. I was surprised to see the poor power management by Fedora. I left the idea and installed a separate copy of windows (dual boot) but choose to not use it unless needed. I would always boot into fedora (and i loved using it, really! I love fedora and gnome 3!) But i could not use my GPU completely. I decided to install latest ATI drivers (ATI readon HD). I downloaded a .run driver file from ATI’s website and installed it. Next i know Fedora won’t boot to GUI anymore. It would show me a system failure error every time i try to boot. I logged into root through other terminals and tried to uninstall ATI drivers. And it didn’t help. Then i booted into the recovery mode and tried to uninstall all graphic drivers, then reinstall Fedora’s default open source drivers. I managed to boot to GUI. But i could still see ATI Catalyst installed on my app list. As a result, GNOME would crash every now and then, screen would go all blurry for a sec etc etc; total mess! I thought running an update might help. I ran yum update –y and after around half an hour, my laptop was running on latest version of Fedora 16. I rebooted my beautiful Fedora with great expectation and boom, the system failure screen! I have spent several hours trying to fix GPU drivers and yet nothing!

If you wondered while reading this article, why the line “I believe you learn more….” (para 4) has an asterisk at the start of it. Here is the reason. It BACKFIRED! I wanted to learn but i was unaware of how unstable Fedora can be sometimes. After doing hours of research i found out Fedora has always had such issues. Graphic card vendors are lagging behind Fedora’s quick release schedule (every 6 months), forcing users to depend on open source gpu drivers shipped by default in Fedora. Also Fedora’s repository is limited to around 2000-3000 packages while in case of Debain, the figure is >20,000!

This really was “A walk to remember”, it sure was not as romantic as the movie is but it was touchy (for some folks) :P Okay, kidding. It might actually have bored you to sleep (Sorry for that, will buy you a coffee, promise!).

Today, i have decided to move to Ubuntu 11.10. Frankly, i don’t like Unity so much, i feel GNOME 3 is much better and offers more compelling experience but it differs person to person. I personally prefer GNOME 3 over Unity and might switch to GNOME 3 once done with Ubuntu installation. Ubuntu’s stability will surely hinder my learning process a little but it offers me lesser black outs and headaches with more control over my laptop’s hardware. I believe that matters a lot! Specially when i am a web developer (not a package developer).

PS: I love Fedora! Yes, it is unstable but i love it, it is untouched and pure and one can do anything with it, can even create a new distro out of it. Fedora and Ubuntu are targeted on totally different crowds hence a comparison is meaningless. Both are the most powerful Linux out there. My article is not meant to change your views on which OS you love the most.

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