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Sunday, 3 April 2011

Quick Look at Fedora-inspired Fusion Linux 14 - Mini Review

It seems like the same few blogs review the same distributions, but I've got a good excuse. Fedora 14 KDE finally got the better of me, it felt slow and everything generally took ages to open up, the menu was worse than the old days of Windows fade in menus (remember those?) and I removed it from my drive. I suppose this really is the last chance I gave it, KDE 4 is just not for me. Not to say that Gnome is, but at least it's more responsive.

Only a few weeks ago Fusion Linux 14 came out, which is based on Fedora 14. Unfortunately this means that support will already end in December this year. Fusion Linux is a Fedora Remix that is aiming at making it friendlier and more accessible to newbies. It comes with the same kernel version and even wallpaper as upstream and generally inherits everything from Fedora. As the name suggests, the remix is adding software and multimedia from the repositories for a better start. Some inspiration seems to have come from what Linux Mint has achieved with building on Ubuntu, and Fusion is including the mintMenu (Slab-style) and a general mix of software no matter the 'purity' or other FOSS or licensing concerns. This means all your multimedia should play straight away.

The declared aim is 'desktop usability, ease of use and latest features' over everything else.

The installer is the usual Fedora/RedHat installer with branding removed and the Fusion logo inserted instead. Nothing to see here.
Moving on to the first boot, I immediately noticed that the Grub background shone in all colors the rainbow has to offer. Sure it wasn't intended to look like this, but it stayed all the same.

Compiz is installed and enabled by default and gave some nice effects. For a few minutes this actually felt like a novelty because I can't be bothered to set up this eye candy stuff if it doesn't come out of the box. Last time I used all these flashy effects was in PClinuxOS 2007, until I got tired of Compiz/Beryl and removed it. It is not overdone here and feels quite nice overall. Looks in Fusion are generally quite good and it would get +1 for coolness factor if we were to rate by points. The icon theme is a modified Faenza theme by the way.

The Fusion ISO is a hefty 1.7GB and only available for i686 so far. For all this you get a lot, as you would hope. Software installed is a wild mix of Gtk, QT4, Mono and even Windows applications (TeamViewer) with Wine installed by default. It feels like the developers wanted to include something for everybody, and chose at least two applications for more common usage. Notably both Chromium and Firefox 4 are present. It takes a while for QT and Wine apps to start though as they are not preloaded. As something firmly directed at the consumer PC there are also several games included as is PlayOnLinux which is supposed to let you easily install and run Windows games. Yes, this is in addition to Wine. The list of supported games is long, and as recent as Fallout: New Vegas, so this should go against the perception you can only play at least six year old titles on Linux. 

If the huge choice of software is too much for you or you would rather run your machine say without Mono or QT applications in the default listing, there is another cunning way of getting Fusion onto your drive: The team kindly share their kickstart file from which anybody should be able to customize and load it once in the installer. 

All in all I quite enjoyed playing with Fusion the last few days, and still am. There are a few downsides and niggles. Clicking on Glaxium in the Games menu did not start anything. The default Alliance theme did not carry over from live session to the install and thus appeared broken (see here for a screenshot, I'm not the only one who encountered this). Similar to Linux Mint there are plenty of Mono applications in this remix. I appreciate that the developers want to give users the best experience of all worlds, but I always found applications like F-spot redundant and just not very good. Similarly, I recently got into subscribing to video podcasts, and Rhythmbox just does not want to play the video in Fusion (although it does so, launching an external non-descript player window with the movie running, in Mint Debian Edition). So I tried Banshee which is supposed to have one up on Rhythmbox with showing video embedded inside the player. Having downloaded several episodes Banshee crashed hard every time as soon as the video file was about to start.

Round-up: Fusion Linux is slightly buggy, but a good choice for home users who want everything out of the box and do not want the hassle of adding extra repositories to get codecs and then install them. If Windows gaming on Linux is your thing, this distribution could work for you. If you're not fussy about disk space and the mix of libraries thrown your way in Fusion, or you are already using Mint and are looking to move or just try out a Fedora base, this could also be interesting. And for advanced users, don't forget, you can customize the kickstart file from the start as it is available on their website. And it's an installable live medium and runs well from DVD too.

Chromey theme - notice the blue hue
SlicknesS-Blue (not included)
Update: Turns out Rhythmbox plays video just fine in Fusion as it does in LMDE. I had added the wrong feed (ogg audio) instead of the video feed. The problem with Banshee still remains.


Update 24/04/2011: I've been running Fusion now for several weeks on and off and two more problems have shown up: 1.) GDM inconsistently displays sometimes a user list, sometimes just 'other' making you type in the account you wish to use. 2.) Coming out of screensaver always results in a hard lock-up.
Think I'm going to give Fuduntu a chance next.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, I have been evaluating Fusion and Fuduntu myself recently. I noticed that Fusion had LOTS of games, but missed the Wine and Play on Linux. I'll have to check that out. Fuduntu didn't seem to install any games, while Fedora 15 starts off with 3 general interest ones, so it seems to hit the sweet spot.

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