Fedora 9 uneven slices

I diverted time away from working with Windows Server 2008 to check out the latest edition of Fedora, released last week. I routinely check out new editions of Fedora when released and put them into production soon afterward. Preliminary reports, e.g., Fedora 9 – an OS that even the Linux challenged can love, made this edition sound at least as promising as usual. Fedora 9 is promising. But it seems doubtful that Linux newbies will find Fedora 9 lovable.  If Fedora 9 is comparable to sliced bread, the slices are uneven.

Fedora is my preferred *nix platform for lots of “server-ish” things: mail, web, DNS, MySQL, Asterisk, … Linux, specifically Fedora, usually handles these chores well on relatively ancient, low-performance hardware. For a production externally facing server, I use a 450 MHz Pentium II with 768MB, and it usually idles away. I also use Fedora on a 3GHz P4 with 2GB of memory for various production purposes, including running Windows 2000 on VMware Server 1.0.5. All those things are going smoothly with Fedora 8. I also manage a couple of other machines that have Fedora 7 as a virtual machine on VMware Server on Windows XP. I’m anticipating moving all of those to Fedora 9, but having second thoughts.

First step in how I try a new edition is an install on a barely used 450 MHz Pentium II machine (512MB), to see what is changed and what administrative adjustments need to be made. Usually this is simply tweaking my scripts that work on the current edition. However, the basic network install was scrambled in the Fedora 9 install. /etc/sysconfig/ifcfg-eth0 had new fields intended for compatibility with Network Manager. These extra fields seemed to be wrong. In any case, routing outside the local subnet and DNS, even to a name server on the local subnet, did not work. Eventually I figured out how to fill in the new fields so that networking was normal and so that Network Manager would work as well. But other traditional files, e.g., /etc/resolv.conf for listing name servers, seem to have been needlessly deprecated for sake of putting similar fields in the icfg-* files.

This also seems to be yet another instance of where GUI administration breaks non-GUI administration. Microsoft seems to have figured out you need to have both, as evidenced by the “Server Core” non-GUI subset of Windows Server 2008. Why can’t Fedora (really, Linux), preserve non-GUI administration while adding GUI stuff?

Otherwise, the problematic changes from Fedora 8 seem pretty minor and easy to adjust to.

Second install test is to try a similar install in a VMware Server (1.0.5) virtual machine. So far, I have not been able to figure out to fix ifcfg-eth0 so that routing works. That makes Fedora 9 unusable in that enviroment.

I’ve also tried the “Live” (bootable CD) option. On older hardware, Live seems fine.  In a VMware Server virtual machine, the Network Manager routing problems are present with Live and make it almost useless. On a brand new Compaq SR5450F with an NVIDIA GeForce 7100 display controller, Fedora 9 doesn’t seem to have a useful driver and punts to text-only mode.

I imagine I’ll piddle around with Fedora 9 more and deploy on the real hardware. But unless I can find a resolution for routing in the VMware virtual machines, I’ll be stuck with older editions there.

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