Fedora 18: Graphical Installer Horror

Fedora 18: Graphical Installer Horror

I am usually quick to write an article or something on the latest Ubuntu or Fedora release. But for Red Hat’s new Fedora 18 operating system, I thought I’d hold off a little and read some other users opinions before I make my own final call of judgement. Reading others opinions and reviews prompted me to check it out for myself due to the mixed reactions that I read.

To be blunt, Fedora 18 is a horrible release. Let me explain the issues that I encountered with the latest update.

On occasion, you can generally get a fair idea of an operating systems potential from running the Live CD. Upon boot, F18 seemed fast enough and stable enough to prompt me to attempt a full installation. Appearance and aesthetics, it is not too different from it’s predecessor Fedora 17. In fact, one might even struggle to determine the difference between the two. Aesthetics aside, I was determined to find what was really making it all tick underneath.

The first thing that Fedora and fellow Linux veterans will notice is the new installer. The Anaconda installer of old is gone and has been replaced with a completely new graphical installer. I have been around Linux operating systems for a long time now and have been witness to many different graphical (and text) installers. The new installer has been designed, coded and built from the ground-up. So there is nothing that remotely resembles the legacy Anaconda installer that we’re probably all familiar with.

What the Fedora developers are trying to achieve with the new installer is absolutely beyond me. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the prior graphical installer. In fact, I will put everything on the line here and claim that it is the best Linux graphical installer I have used. And I have been using it since the Fedora Core 5 release. And even back then, it was still one of the best in the business. It was a real gem for the Fedora Project to have under their belt. A lot of work had gone in to Anaconda over the course of many years and many releases and now I truly believe that most (if not all) of the hard work has been undone. And it’s an insult not only to the developers and former developers who have worked on the Anaconda installer over the many years it’s been in use, but it’s an insult on its users too.

My opinions of the new installer might sound harsh when you read them, but seasoned Linux users and Systems Administrators will know exactly what I mean once you’ve tried it for yourself. For new Fedora users, I can’t imagine how confused they must feel when they are presented with this new supposedly easier installer. In a nutshell, it’s a very confusing interface layout, makes no logical sense and lacks features which power users will be accustomed to.

Now, I know I said before that I was unaware of what the developers were trying to achieve with the new installer code base. Once you read the development notes, you begin to understand that there is a method behind the madness. Basically, previous versions of Fedora included the Anaconda graphical installer and also a text installer. They were built upon two completely different code bases. Which required quite some effort to maintain them both. Or so the developers claim. With the new installer, building it from the ground-up has given them the opportunity to implement a text installer into the same code base, therefore making future code maintenance and updating much more streamlined due to the tight integration of the two install modes. It all makes sense, yet I would have gone about it a completely different way. And the least I would have expected was to leave the legacy Anaconda graphical installer intact and available in the boot menu. And upon boot, give the user the option of which installer to use. That would have been a much more rational direction to take.

Unfortunately, my disappointments were not limited to the graphical installer. Once I had got past the installer minefield, I was presented with a very strange issue that I have not yet seen in any other Linux operating system I have ever tested. I couldn’t get the internet connected.

I have previously studied papers on Linux Networking and I tried everything in my knowledge ad power to get my connection operational, but failed at all costs. Fedora 18 recognized my USB wifi adapter and even connected to the home office network. Yet when I booted up Firefox and entered a web URL, I was constantly presented with a ‘Connection Error’ page. I persisted with all troubleshooting options at my disposal, but eventually gave up. I hereby stand defeated.

The only other Unix type operating system I have ever had issues with my USB wifi adapter was running Oracle Solaris and also the Illumos based OpenIndiana. Both seemed to lack support and a suitable driver to get it operational. Yet as stated, I have never had a single issue with any Linux operating system, until Fedora 18. This eliminates the Linux kernel itself as the source of the problem. So it’s clearly an issue with something else in Fedora 18.

Between my unhappy emotions regarding the new graphical installer and being unable to connect to the internet, I seriously can not recommend it. It’s such a shame, because Fedora 17 runs like an absolute dream and is not too far from Linux perfection. Although of late, I am beginning to have second thoughts if there is such a thing!

While I sit back, reboot Fedora 17 in its rightful and well earned place on my hard drive, I will await another 6 months and hope that the release of Fedora 19 will at least get some much needed attention to my above aforementioned issues. Somehow, I feel the glory days of the Anaconda installer have come to an end, if the Fedora developers insist that the new installer is the way forward. And my wifi adapter issues can hopefully be solved by the time F19 reaches my hard drive for testing.

Let us know your thoughts on what you think about Fedora 18’s new graphical installer.

  • aiphee

    You seriously think that someone will read article without a single image? :-D

  • Kennon

    I read the article and I agree with it 100%, except on the part where you state that Anaconda is the best graphical installer for Linux. I think both OpenSuse and Ubuntu are more intuitive and functional but we can agree to disagree on that. Regardless, the new Fedora installer is awful, and after clicking around and eventually figuring out how to get the hard drive partitioned it eventually started to install. After 30 mins of installation I felt a sense of relief that it was finished and on first boot my laptop booted to a blinking cursor and that is where it was stuck on every reboot after. I’ve been using desktop linux for about 15 years now and haven’t had to troubleshoot the install on any major distro in the last 5. This release could have been left in the oven for another month or 2 IMHO. In other news, the OpenSuse 12.3 RC1 KDE desktop is amazing ;-)

  • smakked

    Basically Anaconda is unfinished and they ruched it out to get F18 out as it was already delayed. But they should have left it out all together IMO. As for everything else all works as expected here, on my home Machine my 3 works Machines and my laptops no issues to report. What chipset is on your USB wireless? You didnt state it.

  • Hamisi Jabe

    its true fedora 18 is a horible release

  • Chrisjones

    Thank you. Perhaps I’ll take a look at the new OpenSUSE 12.3 RC release. OpenSUSE developers always produce a good KDE release.

  • http://www.facebook.com/fozzmoo Doran L. Barton

    The new installer definitely has some drawbacks. The UI is not intuitive in many cases and defies convention. However, it is a first attempt and I think it has promise. Once I figured out some of the idiosyncrasies, I was able to do a number of installs quite easily.

  • Adam Williamson

    Sorry you had trouble with the new installer, Chris. Let me see if I can clear a few things up:

    “What the Fedora developers are trying to achieve with the new installer is absolutely beyond me. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the prior graphical installer.”

    Oof, but there was. There was a whole lot wrong with it. See https://ohjeezlinux.wordpress.com/2013/02/05/anaconda-retrospective/ for a detailed explanation of why we needed the rewrite. From my reading of reviews, your opinion of oldUI was not generally shared; the typical review comment on anaconda between, say, F13 and F17 was ‘well it still pretty much works, but it’s getting pretty long in the tooth these days’ – there was a general perception that the installer was kind of old. Note that a lot of the people who did all that hard work you laud are the same people who desperately wanted to do the rewrite, because they hated the old codebase.

    “And the least I would have expected was to leave the legacy Anaconda
    graphical installer intact and available in the boot menu. And upon
    boot, give the user the option of which installer to use. That would
    have been a much more rational direction to take.”

    This is entirely impractical. The team has enough work to do to maintain one graphical UI. It just doesn’t make any sense to spend the time and effort to maintain two entirely different ways of doing the same thing. It’s a huge amount of development resources being thrown away on a duplication of effort.

    Okay, so now we’ve got through all the meta-discussion, let’s take a look at your concrete critique of the new interface…

    *gets out magnifying glass*

    …oh dear, there doesn’t appear to be one. Here’s the closest thing:

    “In a nutshell, it’s a very confusing interface layout, makes no logical sense and lacks features which power users will be accustomed to.”

    Well. Okay. That’s an opinion. It’s pretty hard for anyone to get a handle on, though. There are no details. No screenshots. No specifics. I’m not sure what to say to that – I don’t entirely agree? There are some elements of the UI as implemented in F18 that aren’t great, we’re aware of that, and we’ve already made some major changes for F19. But it’s a bit difficult to go into any detail when I don’t have any idea what bits tripped you up.

    It’d be nice if you could describe in a bit more detail what you don’t think makes sense, what you think is confusing, and what features you think are missing. That seems like the kind of information your readers might appreciate knowing, and the kind of feedback we could use in improving future builds. Right now, your 1,048 word article contains not a single detail on the installer, not a single specific criticism that we could take any kind of action on. I’m not being argumentative here – I genuinely would like you to edit the post and add some details, because that’s the kind of feedback we need. But right now, there’s just nothing we can do with this.

    Obviously you hit a big problem with your wifi adapter, but again, there’s not enough detail in the post for me to make any kind of guess at what went wrong, unfortunately. If you’d like, please do contact me directly or file a bug and include some logs (/var/log/messages for a start) so we can try and figure out what the problem is.

    -adamw, Fedora QA community manager

  • amazed

    Have you ever installed a system from a live CD before? Wow. Just, wow.

  • Chrisjones

    Please send me an email at chrisjones@unixmen.com and we can discuss this in more detail.

  • Adz

    Why take it to email? Let it come out here after all your so called “Review” was not really a review but an opinion ?

  • Chrisjones

    Indeed, it was my opinion and not a review. That’s what I clearly pointed out.