Fedora 23 arrived a week later than originally planned, just like Fedora 22. While there are couple of Fedora spins, featuring popular desktop environments, for the past couple of days, I’ve been using the main release which is based on GNOME Shell (3.18).
It’s true that GNOME 3.18 comes with many subtle refinements and features, but one of these features (a major one unfortunately) looked confusing to me, just like I find it difficult to cope with the default desktop layout of GNOME3, which is why I only use the ‘Classic Desktop Session’ as it resembles the old GNOME2 desktop (well, to a certain degree). Fedora 22 also had let go of one majorly useful utility (systemd’s ‘readahead’ component) and unfortunately, Fedora 23 too comes without it.
However, due to my history with GNU/Linux, I’ve formed certain viewpoints about GNOME and Fedora etc, thus I was not surprised to find myself in this kind of a situation. In simple terms, I know what I should and what I should not expect. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, I’ll explain them as the article progress.
For this review I downloaded 64-bit version of Fedora 23 GNOME Shell Workstation disc image (1.5 GB) and as mentioned in the beginning, it includes the GNOME 3.18 release, Kernel 4.2.0, X.org 188.8.131.521, Firefox 40, LibreOffice 5.0 and Thunderbird 38 and features the set of applications included in GNOME Shell as well.
Intel Core i3-2330M CPU, Intel HD 3000 GPU, 4GB RAM (DDR3), Toshiba 7200 RPM (320GB) SATA HDD, Intel N-1030 Wireless adapter, Realtek network adapter ('RTL8168'), LED display with 1366x768 resolution (60Hz/60FPS). It's a Dell Vostro V-131 notebook.
I usually start off the review by describing the new features of the Installer, GRUB & boot-up logo. But except for the GRUB screen, the other two looked exactly the same. The newly added feature to GRUB is that now it shows which edition you’re using (Workstation, Server or the Cloud). I find it to be a subtle but a nice addition.
That said, I think the menu titles should be more simple. I mean I’m using the Workstation edition and who cares about the Kernel version or if it’s the 32-bit or the 64-bit version of the operating system!. A clean title that displays the name, release number and the edition should suffice. Seriously, look how ugly it is. This is not just a criticism of Fedora, this is how most GNU/Linux distributions are anyway (well, except for Ubuntu I guess).
P.S: I actually failed to mention that Fedora 23 was unable to add an entry to Fedora 22 (my main operating system) in GRUB. However, once logged into the desktop I was able to fix it by running the below command:
sudo grub2-mkconfig -o /boot/grub2/grub.cfg
Except for the new wallpaper, there are no apparent new changes on the GNOME classic desktop session. However, as soon as I started to open applications, I noticed that due to the colors used in the default theme, it’s quite difficult to read the application window titles on the bottom panel (shown below):
On other occasions however I can read (still a little bit difficult) their names, except the one that’s selected.
There shouldn’t exist such issue in the original GNOME Shell since the concept of minimizing an application is absent. And since the ‘Classic Desktop Session’ is rendered using Shell Extensions, this is probably due to a malfunctioning extension. Still, it’s quite frustrating, though I can’t exactly blame the GNOME developers since their focus has been on the original GNOME Shell layout, not the ‘Classic Session’. And maintaining two desktop shells, especially if they’re based on two fundamentally different design guidelines (or perspectives shall I say), is a difficult task.
Anyhow, speaking of changes, most of the new changes have been focused around individual applications, not the desktop itself. And one of the applications that has received a lot of subtle new changes is the file manager, a major component of any serious desktop environment. I’ll list a few that I noticed.
When entering to an empty folder, ‘Files’ (file manager) now displays a nice ‘Folder is Empty’ template. I don’t think it’s that important, but it’s a subtle enhancement.
The files places section of the Sidebar is now replaced by the single ‘+ Other Locations’ entry. Once clicked, it displays all the found networks, locally available mount-points etc. While this change has simplified the file manager’s look-n-feel, I prefer the old one due to its ability to give easy access to these locations.
Folder & file creation (and renaming) dialog boxes are also improved with this release. I like this one very much, I think it makes the desktop look more nifty.
File and folder copy dialog box has also received a major revamp. Now by default, they’re embedded into the file manager’s application window, represented by a small circle which displays the progress as well.
It all looks good now, but unless you have the file manager opened, there is no way to know anything about it. You must first open the file manager to see what the current state of the file or folder copying is. I find it very frustrating and this is a major issue for me.
In turn, I quite prefer what Ubuntu’s Unity & KDE (it displays it on the bottom-taskbar) have done actually because you can just glance at the desktop and get a sense of the current state of the file or folder copy progress. Very intuitive.
This is again just a fraction of new features of the GNOME 3.18 and I’ve no desire to go over all that. But if you have about three minutes to spare, the below video should give you an excellent introduction to what’s new in this release:
Now please allow me to share with you the performance related details. Please know that it was these details that I measured first, even though they’re discussed late into the article. And as always, to keep their readings accurate, I made sure to let the OS boot a couple of times (letting things such application first-time setups to execute etc) and then started to measure them.
For each test I took five samples, except while measuring the power since I actually use a software tool for that and it takes care of the accuracy automatically, so running it once is quite enough.
Everyone loves a fast booting operating system, bun unfortunately, Fedora 23, just like its predecessor, is not going to impress anyone. Fedora 23 was 56.5% slower to boot compared to Fedora 21 and 49% slower compared to Ubuntu 15.10.
I don’t want to repeat myself because I’ve already explained why this is in my Fedora 22 review. The main reason behind this lag in performance compared to Fedora 21 is because Fedora 21 (and some of the recent older versions) used to come with a tool called ‘readahead‘ which significantly improved the boot-up times. In my tests, in Fedora 21, it was able to improve the boot-up time by around 39%!.
But starting with Fedora 22 it has been let go of because its developers don’t use rotational disks anymore (well that’s one great reason!). Ubuntu too used to come with a similar tool (called ‘ureadahead’) and when Ubuntu 15.04 adapted ‘systemd’, those developers were however, nice enough to take the extra trouble of migrating their tool to ‘systemd’. No wonder why Ubuntu ranks far better than Fedora as far as popularity is concerned.
Ignorant people you see, always aim big, trying to come up with the ‘next big thing’, but it’s the small things that matter and there’s only little what you and I as end-users can do about these things anyway.
Memory Usage Upon Desktop Loading…
As you can see, due to unknowns reasons, Fedora 23 consumed a lot more memory compared to its predecessors (23.8% compared to Fedora 21 and 24.6% compared to Fedora 22) and Ubuntu (15.10).
Again, I don’t have the least idea of what’s behind this increase, but if you have an insight into the matter, I’m all ears.
CPU Usage at Idle…
When let to idle, I’ve never seen zero CPU usages on GNOME (it always consumes about 2-3% of my CPU time), though KDE does that!. Still, 2-3% CPU usage is pretty much nothing too. So all in all, except for the system monitor process itself, all the other process did not interact with the CPU for longer periods when let to idle.
Power Usage at Idle…
When measuring power, I turn ON the Wi-Fi adapter and let it be connected to my wireless router. I turn OFF Bluetooth and anything that can affect the accuracy of the readings (such as screen dimming, screensavers etc). Then I let the OS to idle and the only program that’s running is the one that measures the power usage.
Here however, both Fedora 23 & 22 were identical, Ubuntu 15.10 consumed the most energy and Fedora 21 was the most efficient. These days I try installing a power usage optimizer (I prefer ‘TLP’) to see if things can be improved. I did this with all these operating systems and below is the result after installing ‘TLP’:
Except for Fedora 21, all the other three rated similarly. Fedora 21 consumed 0.5 Watts more compared to Fedora 23 which might not sound much, but unlike boot-up speeds or memory usages, power consumption is a iterative process and when spanned over a couple of hours (depending on the capacity of your battery of course), 0.5 Watts does make a difference as far as the battery life is concerned.
Hardware Recognition and ACPI…
Just like its predecessor, Fedora 23 was able to properly configure nearly all my hardware devices. I reported that Fedora 22 was even able to recognize my proprietary fingerprint reader, but I couldn’t really use it because it failed to recognize the finger print. Well, in Fedora 23 I was never able to log into the desktop by swiping my finger (maybe giving the middle finger would’ve worked! 😛 ). But, once on the desktop, I was able to perform some administrative tasks such as unlocking user management utility by swiping my finger. But it too doesn’t always work.
The terminal emulator however, was able to easily read the fingerprint, on all occasions, in the first attempt. Interesting…
Other than that, the rest of the hardware were properly configured and worked without any issues.
Despite all the newer, faster and more powerful hardware, the hard disk drive is still by far the bottleneck of computing, because it’s the slowest (relatively speaking). So stressing it and then testing how the operating system behaves, makes sense.
How I achieve that or what I do is very simple. I copy a file (about 1.5 GB, though there isn’t a limit to its size) within two locations of my ‘Home’ folder and as soon as it starts, I try to open a multimedia file (here I installed VLC manually) and then try to open a couple of programs through the start-menu (if one is available) and also by searching, because the idea is to put the hard disk under pressure.
When this is all happening I notice if the multimedia playback gets interrupted, how many programs get opened and I also observe the sensitivity of the cursor. Then based on that experience I make a judgement (yikes! 😀 ). That’s it.
So how did it go under Fedora 23?
Well, LibreOffice Write was only fully opened after the file finished copying, but pretty much all the other programs were opened. Multimedia playback was interrupted couple of times, but they all were very short lived. The cursor too lost its sensitivity three or four times. It was not exactly excellent because I’ve seen better ones, still, I’m more than happy with Fedora 23’s responsiveness. I’ll rate it as being ‘good’.
As you can see, Fedora 23 did take its time when shutting down and was the slowest of the bunch (about 134.5% compared to Fedora 21, 100% compared to Fedora 22 and 88.9% compared to Ubuntu 15.10).
First of all, please remember that this review, just like the previous Fedora reviews, is based on the GNOME Shell’s Classic Desktop layout, not the GNOME Shell, so all my judgments revolve around it.
Performance-wise, its true that Fedora 23 is degraded, more or less, though, depending on what performance aspect we’re considering. But that’s not what troubles me. Because if it’s technical, then it can be fixed. What troubles me is their attitude, and unfortunately attitudes are not that easy to fix.
For instance, as mentioned earlier, they let go of a wonderful tool that could’ve been so beneficial for thousands of Fedora users who I’m sure still use rotational disks. But they seem to care less. Again, I’m not surprised at this because in my experience, this is not the first time they’ve done something like this. I also don’t like the fact that someone forgot to check the basic features (at least) of the desktop are working (yes, I’m pointing towards the theme related issue I mentioned). So emotionally, I feel like being disrespected and ignored.
I also don’t especially like the new file copy dialog box feature in GNOME, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. So all in all, this has forced me to look for an alternative. Right now I’m thinking about Ubuntu, but Unity has never been exceptionally stable compared to GNOME Shell (GNOME developers are outstanding technical gurus, I give them that). So at the end, what I have to say is this, ‘disappointed!’.
But that’s just me. If you’re interested, you can download Fedora 23 from here. Good luck and thank you for reading.