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.