With the release of Fedora 10 I took the opportunity to finally switch over to 64bit Linux – including the proprietary stuff like Flash, Skype, and so on. Also, Fedora 10 itself had several rather pleasing surprises for me.
I already used Fedora 10 since it’s Beta release. However, recently I decided to re-install it, this time in 64bit, and check how that would go. Also, since I had some rather strange problems and performance issues I wondered if a re-install would fix them.
64bit in General
Switching from 32bit to 64bit on an operating system is a huge and complicated task involving effectively all larger applications. This can e a real pain – unless you have an operating system where all software usually supports 64bit anyway. This is the case with most open source operating systems and therefore also with Linux. So grabbing the 64bit image and installing it was just like grabbing the 32bit image. In case of Fedora the download link offered by default was 32bit, but 64bit was just a click away. I wonder when that will change.
There are numerous advantages and disadvantages regarding 32bit and 64bit, for a first introduction start with the Wikipedia article.
The problems regarding 64bit arise when you deal with non-Open Source software: this might only be provided as 32bit. In case it depends on any other library, the system must provide these libraries in 32bit and 64bit. While on RPM systems this is not a problem at all, this can be rather problematic when browser plugins are 32bit only, because then the browser needs to be 32bit only as well, the same is true then for all other plugins, and so on. There are wrappers to deal with that, but these are sub-optimal.
Luckily, Adobe has now released a 64bit Alpha version of their Flash player. While it is still missing several features and is not even provided as a rpm or deb file, in my first tests it worked without problems. As a side note, the 64bit versions for Windows and Mac OS are still not out there – Linux is a clear technology and development pusher here!
For the sake of completion (and since someone would point it out in a comment anyway), there are also free (as in FLOSS) alternatives to the Flash player – which are available in 64bit for quite some time now, of course.
Another issue is Skype – this is not provided as a 64bit version at all (bug report). For Ubuntu users there is at least a 32bit version modified for easy installation on 64bit systems. Btw., hardly anyone seems to know that, even the German Ubuntu wiki doesn’t mention that at all.
Anyway, that doesn’t help the Fedora community anyway – but since Fedora runs on RPM installing all the compatibility libraries is just a question of hard disk space:
yum --nogpgcheck localinstall skype*rpm
yum install alsa-plugins-pulseaudio-1.0.18-1.rc3.fc10.i386
That’s it. In my tests Skpe indeed worked, even a video test image was shown although I haven’t actually made a real video call. Also, I had problems with the microphone, but that might be due to problems with PulseAudio. I appreciate any tips on that issue.
Well, PulseAudio is a difficult thing. It has a rather strong community and people are making sure it comes up everywhere and works everywhere like it should. However, while I read all the rather long papers and documents why I should need PA, nothing of these papers really stuck, and I always wonder why it is really needed – apart from the more esoteric reasons that Alsa is not suitable for the future. Besides, I do wonder if the Alsa guys would say the same.
Additionally, in my first tests PA worked just fine – under Gnome, but not in KDE. So my first step after installing Fedora since my first contact with PA was always to remove PA.
But I always tend to give things another try, and this time I didn’t remove it. And indeed, almost everything works, and I haven’t even met a delay yet. It all just works, even on KDE with its Phonon!
So it looks like PA finally fits in well. Now what I only need some ideas what to do with it :D Seriously, what I would appreciate to see is a simple one sheet drawing with all the usual suspects of the Linux audio blob (from Phonon over xine down to Alsa) to see where PA fits in and what it does there.
KDE, Nvidia and performance
Fedora 10 now includes KDE 4.1.3 (included in the updates), and together with RPM Fusion Nvidia drivers are just a
yum install kmod-nvidia
away. While I had trouble with this way with the beta version, and general serious performance problems with the drivers installed manually, it turned out that with Fedora 10 final everything works like a charm – fast and snappy!
I am slightly surprised and wonder what was wrong with my Fedora 10 Beta setup. But on the other hand, my work machine is running Kubuntu 8.10 and there the performance is similar fast. So to me it looks like the days of slow KDE 4.x on Nvidia hardware are finally over, given that the drivers are the newest stable ones and KDE is of version 4.1.3.
This time I decided to not go with a full hard disk encryption, but rather with a home disk encryption. And while I still dislike Fedora’s disk druid for not letting me chose the disk setup in detail I appreciate that clicking a checkbox was all I had to do to activate the home partition encryption. It is even nicely integrated with the boot process.
The overall impression of Fedora 10 is very good. Most bugs I encountered running the Beta version are fixed – except for a strange coding problem, but I will survive that one.
Also, my first move into the lands of 64bit are also far less complicated than expected. Your mileage may vary, depending on the used proprietary software, but then again kvm might be a solution to work around that problem.