I have been holding off installing Fedora 21 on any of my physical computers and have spent a bit of time playing with it on a couple VMs. Of course one can never get a true feel for how it will be until one takes the actual plunge and installs it on a computer that is in constant use.
I finally took the plunge and my original impressions are still fairly accurate.
The new Fedora 21 installation options pretty much suck. Really badly.
I appreciated and liked the new Anaconda installer that appeared in Fedora 18. I found that, although it had some initial issues, those were mostly resolved in later Fedora releases. It was also faster for many types of installations in terms of making installation choices.
Over the last couple releases, and especially with Fedora 21, however, the number of choices available during installation have become severely restricted.
Three ISO Images
Fedora 21 has undergone a major repackaging. There are now three different “flavors” of Fedora and therein lies the start of our problems. Each flavor is intended for different audiences, and while that is fine, the installation choices for the two I have used are extremely limited and that is definitely a problem.
There is a Workstation image which is a basic GNOME desktop. This ISO is only available as a live DVD – it is just a bit too big for a CD. And it offers only a few very restrictive installation choices, i.e., none, that you would expect from an advanced operating system.
The only way to install a KDE desktop during the initial installation is to download the KDE live spin ISO image, which is what I did. How many noob’s would know to do that?
The Workstation installation does not allow for configuration of the network. The only option you have here is to specify the hostname. The apparent assumption is that this will be a DHCP network configuration. This can be a major problem if you are required to have a static IP address and no DHCP server is available.
Another huge drawback is the fact that the Workstation installations do not allow installation of application packages such as LibréOffice. The premier office suite for Linux should have been part of the Live CD or at least available as an installation option. There are no choices whatsoever available to allow you to install any optional software. None. Nada.
It appears that the only option for installing any software at all is to use do it after the initial installation. While that is not a problem for those of use with a bit more knowledge, it can be a real trial for those who know little or nothing and who just want to do the installation and start working.
There is a Server image which allows the installer to choose the installation of various server software packages. It does not offer a GUI desktop option. That is probably a good thing on a server. However there may be exceptions to this.
Again, while many server options are available from which to choose, there are severe limits on the other software available during the initial installation.
I know nothing of the cloud installation as it is not something I intend to use. I can only assume that it is quite limited as well.
The Workstation and Server installations allow you to choose between automatic partitioning and manual partitioning of the hard drives during installation. I always choose manual partitioning because the default automatic partitioning does not do a good job of sizing the root and home partitions. While automatic partitioning may work for very new users installing Linux for the first or even second time, it is not good at all for more experienced users.
But this is not new to Fedora 21 and has been the case for a long time.
Now after complaining about all of this, I have to say that I mostly do a basic installation on new Fedora boxes anyway. But that does not mean that I didn’t use some of the previously available options many times. It just makes many installations easier when those options are available.
However over the years I have come up with a fairly long and complex post-installation script that I use to overcome the inherent limitations of any installation process. This script enables me to choose from among various options that install workstation applications such as LibréOffice, various development packages, a number of servers such as Apache, BIND, DHCP and more, as well as several desktops like GNOME, KDE Xfce, Cinnamon and others.
Well the rest of working with Fedora 21 occurs after installation and it is not so different from previous recent releases of Fedora. By and large the same packages and applications are available for installation and the same administration tools are available.
Fedora 21 still uses systemd rather than the venerable and obsolete SystemV start scripts and init. It continues to use firewalld which appears to be little more than a complex wrapper around IPTables.
Fedora 21 works as well as other recent versions of Fedora and provides a very fine Linux experience for new and experienced users — once you get past the installation and can actually install the desktop and applications of your choice.
One of my favorite aspects of Linux in general and Fedora in particular is that there are many different applications and tools that perform the same or similar functions depending upon my needs. There are multiple file managers, office suites, web browsers email clients, graphics programs and more. I can use whichever ones meet the needs I have at any given time.
While I really dislike the horribly limited installation options and procedures for Fedora 21, I still find it to be my favorite distribution for many reasons.
All of my favorite applications and tools are still available. It works well and is stable enough for most users. It has the advanced, some would say near bleeding edge, features that give it the capabilities that I need and want. I do find that some hardware support can be problematic from release to release, but I have always been able to resolve or circumvent that. And updates usually take care of those issues rather quickly.
Although I do tend to upgrade more frequently than users of other Red Hat based distributions, such as Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and CentOS, I find that to be a minor inconvenience.