Review: Fedora 7: Page 2

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Desktop and Software Selection

Fedora 7 boots in a mixture of log messages and splash screens. The first time you log in, the first-boot configuration wizard completes installation by displaying a license notice and stepping you through creating an everyday user and configuring security settings and sound -- although not, for some reason, printers.

The wizard ends with Smolt, a new hardware sniffer that asks to send a summary of your equipment back to the Fedora project for development purposes. You can read the summary before you do anything, and the default is not to send the summary (although that selection triggers a confirmation dialog asking you to reconsider). Still, coming after the security configuration, Smolt does seem to send mixed signals to users.

Like the installation program and the login screen, the default desktop features the Flying High theme by Diana Fong. Predominantly blue and vaguely reminiscent of artwork by Corel, the theme consists of towering clouds and mountains, and an armada of balloons rising towards a quarter moon. What you think of this design will depend on what you think of New Age air-brushed artwork and about having your distro's name on the desktop.

However, one major weakness is the cursor icon that indicates that a process is underway. Featuring a segmented blue line orbiting the pointer, the cursor is effective by itself, but becomes almost invisible on top of many of the blues in the wallpaper. The desktop itself is sparsely populated, with icons for web browsing, mail, and applications in the top panel. The menu is similarly plain, with listings for only the most commonly used applications.

The result is a desktop unlikely to intimidate new users, although the menu might have included the Alacarte menu editor for those who want to add items. The software selection is mostly a roundup of the usual suspects found in any distribution, such as the GIMP and Firefox, with version numbers that are current as of late spring 2007.

However, several features are included by default that most users do not need, such as support for Bluetooth file transfers and Wacom drawing tablets. By contrast, a few near-standards are not included, such as Scribus and Inkscape. Even some old perennials like AbiWord, Gnumeric, and Epiphany are missing, no doubt on the principle of including only one type of application to avoid creating anxiety options in new users.

Admittedly, pleasing everyone with defaults is impossible, but, Fedora 7's selection does seem less well-rounded than it could be. The one real standout in the software selection is Revisor, a wizard that helps users to create their own custom distribution based on the repositories and software that they choose. According to Spevack, the creation of Revisor is a direct result of Fedora opening up its release management process, and the tool is at once so obvious and so useful that it justifies the changes in Fedora's operations by itself. Revisor was not included in the release candidate I tested, but I understand that it should be in the package repositories for the final release.

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