The Spectre of Math

May 27, 2010

Ubuntu vs. Fedora

Filed under: Technology — jlebl @ 3:42 pm

Before I go off to Europe, I wanted to reinstall my system with an encrypted hard drive since I am getting more and more paranoid about someone stealing it I guess. So apparently I must have been bored since I decided to install Fedora this time instead of simply going with Ubuntu.

One thing I have to say is that I like the default look of Fedora way nicer than Ubuntu. The purple login screen was already giving me nightmares. The other thing that I’m really happy about is that X is actually working perfectly. With Ubuntu it was touch and go and every once in a while it would recognize the wrong number of monitors or wrong resolution. Given that Ctrl-Alt-BS no longer works by default you have to work blind if the login screen appears on a monitor that doesn’t exist. Yes I know you can enable Ctrl-Alt-BS, but that’s only for your login session. I never got it enabled for GDM (I didn’t try to hard, but what I tried didn’t work). I never understood why Ctrl-Alt-BS is so bad that it has to be off by default. It is not a combination I ever pressed by mistake. I’ve also never stabbed myself in the throat with a drill by mistake, or accidentally strangled myself with the phone cord. I assume those are about as likely as pressing Ctrl-Alt-BS by mistake.

Outside of a few minor glitches it is mostly working. One should also note that Fedora installs a broken LaTeX system with a few key files missing due to some license puritanism. For one thing, pcatcode.sty is missing. You have to grab it from a working installation and stick it in /usr/share/texmf/tex/latex/amscls/ and then run texhash. Otherwise the AMS classes won’t work which means that the latex installation is useless to a mathematician. On the other hand floatflt.sty is not missing while it is missing in Ubuntu for licensing issues. Fedora still uses texlive 2007. It seems from Fedora wiki that the next fedora will have texlive 2010.

One thing to notice is that even after enabling extra repositories, there are lots of packages missing. Oh well. The other thing to notice is that the GUI interface for installing packages in Fedora sucks! … no really, I mean IT SUCKS. It feels like it was written by a 12 year old. I’m sure the infrastructure behind it makes CS types all warm and fuzzy inside, but the GUI is terrible! While way too much information about the package version and other implementation details are seeping through the GUI, it gives you NO feedback as to what it is doing. The feedback it is giving you is useless. Sometimes it refuses to install anything without even complaining, the Apply button is just dead. Either make it something like synaptic (which has it’s own GUI nonsense) OR make it user friendly. You can’t simply take the worst of both worlds and stick it together.

The encryption (it’s the whole drive that’s encrypted) is actually reasonably transparent. Copying lots of files (moving my home dir back onto the drive) slowed down the whole machine to the point of being useless, but that might be simiar without encryption, since it seemed most of the slowdown was waiting for the disk. Given that it’s a two core machine, I doubt I will see much slowdown in most tasks.

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