Review WinXP/FC3 Custom Desktop Dual Boot to a WinXP/FC4 Custom Desktop Dual Boot

Well as a long time RedHat User (Circa RedHat 5), the upgrade from FC3 to FC4 could have turned out better than what I expected.

This system is an Athlon XP 2400+ with a Matsonic MS8177C with a Via Chipset which had no issues with FC3.
384 Megs of pc2100 kingston (256/128) setup
Nvidia GeForce 2 MX400 64mb graph card
ActionTec v.90 pci winmodem
2 WD 80gb Caviars (XP on primary/Linux on second with a 40GB FAT32 partition to swap files betwen XP and Linux with.
1 DVD-CDRW 52/32/52x
1 DVD-RW D/L 16x

First issue I seen with the upgrade, being I was running the latest 2.6.12 FC3 kernel, anaconda (the installer) didn’t even bother installing a new kernel.
Secon issue, being I had already upgraded to the latest KDE 3.4 the installer bypassed this in the upgrade and when I booted the first time the login manager blurped an error that KDE couldn’t be found yet KDE fired right up like nothing was the matter. Being I rarely connect to the net for updates for the system, instead while crunching I let getright under xp d/l updates then install them via RPM anyway this isn’t an issue. First 20 minutes the machine was up under FC4 (Upgraded) had a kernel level panic and the system completely crashed and zapped the user home directories partition and the entire root partition, so something sounds to me like it didn’t upgrade right, square one, reinstall Linux with a fresh install.

Pros of installer under upgrade- The installer acts and feels the same as with my experiences since RedHat 9 through all the FC flavors thus far, but was considerably faster.
Cons- My assumption is if you had only installed RedHat issued updates, there should be no problem, yet that loses the reason behind Linux IMHO, Linux has always been about a system configured to a user’s specific computer, taste, and flare.

Fresh install of FC4- Being the kernel level crash was the first I have ever had with Fedora Core (all versions) and I haven’t had one since with RedHat since RH 6.0 I did the smart thing anyway before the upgrade back up the document directories, /root, and /home/* to the 40gb FAT32 partition into sepperate tar balls and ran it. The Fresh Install of FC4 seems to slip in just right, the VIA SATA RAID ports were detected, sound, NIC on board, monitor, kb, mouse, and all other hardware excluding the winmodem were detected and configured properly, but with the via-82xx sound chips under most linux distros had to configure the volume and alsa to run with on boot. The installer was quite fast, about 1/3 to 1/2 the time with FC3 for a custom full install (approx 7gb in less than 45 minutes) which is a big plus. After reboot and the first run dialog logged in, selecting KDE as the desktop, and in less than 30 seconds was greeted to the KDE desktop as root to do the configuring and updating, and restore of backups. KDE acts crisp, precise, and snappy over running under FC3 I have noticed, especially being KDE is heavy and not the general RedHat Environment. Dialogs snap to fast and quick, a noticable improvement, restore and upgrade/configuring took about 30 minutes being I knew what needed to be done, NFS and SMB File Sharing with my Mac Powerbook G3 running YellowDog Linux 3 (FC1 Clone for the Mac), network config, firewall rules, etc. All in all, came out pretty much unscathed yet makes me leary of switching from YellowDog on the Mac to the PPC version of FC4 if I had issues with FC4 under an x86 platform cringes.

Pros- Fresh Install is quick, and even a new linux user can do it. A definite improvement in speed and intuitiveness, yet not the big expectation that was led on to believe.
Cons- Disk partioning was different from previous versions of Redhat/Fedora, being it wanted to setup a Logical Disk Volume like a RAID setup on an ATA disk, can understand if I was using my SATA RAID or a SCSI RAID, yet not on a basic disk so had to manually partition again. Lilo my prefered boot loader is gone out of the RedHat distro (big complaint) and had to install it via d/l from the net and hand write the lilo.conf file. Three, RedHat in their all high and mightyness over mp3 and any mpeg format at that removing these decoders and basically most video formats is a big issue with me recently being you have to find the xmms audio player mp3 plugin and install it manually as well as finding and installing xine video manually as well.

General opinion- Like most RedHat releases, next to Suse and Mandrake, an excellent first timer distro or for the true blue long time Redhat user, though the long time user will have a few issues.
If RedHat continues down the road they are headed, sorry but I am going to move over to Debian or BSD, thus will wait to see how FC5 if and when it comes out is like, if it is the same or worse than what I’ve seen with FC4 its goodbye RedHat.

Booting Issues- IMHO Grub which RedHat has been transitioning toward, stinks, I’m a fan of lilo being it is what I know and grub is just to comprehensive to configure. Being this is a Dual Boot System, Grub did boot XP just fine, yet I still like lilo which has no issues that I have seen on the linux forums.

Rating- 5 of 10 Penguins

Media Used- Fedora Core 4 x86 DVD version purchased at which part of the money paid goes back into the Linux Community.