fedora 32

I downloaded the latest desktop release of Fedora from https://getfedora.org/en/workstation/download/ the other night and installed it in a VirtualBox VM. It installed without any hassles whatsoever, almost as if it was based on Ubuntu.

When it booted into the desktop the first time after installation I was able to pretty much get right to work, checking out its various features and capabilities. Out-of-the-box so to speak it was able to mount the shared macOS folder defined in its VirtualBox VM definition. When I added my Fedora account to the vboxsf group, I was able to see all the files in the shared folder. This was achieved without having to install the VirtualBox guest additions. It looks like the kernel work with VirtualBox shared folders really works, which is amazing after all this time.

The only reason I might want to install the VirtualBox guest additions is to gain the ability to have the Fedora desktop resize when I resize the VM window. Right now it won’t do that. I have it configured for 1680 x 1050 scaled to 150% (this is a MacBook Pro with a 15″ Retina Display). The Fedora desktop fits the MacBook screen quite well, and the mouse cursor moves seamless between the MacBook desktop and the Fedora stock Gnome desktop. I can’t think of a really good reason to install the guest additions so I’ll just leave it as is for the time being.

The Fedora desktop is also running with the Wayland manager/compositor, and I discovered it runs much smoother than either other desktop manager (classic Gnome and Gnome with X.org).

I’m also quite pleasantly surprised by the version of the tools that comes with this distribution. GCC/G++ are both at version 10, as is Clang/LLVM. Python and Git are also right at the top, release-wise. I managed to install Visual Studio Code right from the Fedora repositories without having to add any other repos to def. That also included htop. I have yet to not be able to install anything I might need. I even went looking to see what versions of Java I might be able to install, and I found Java 8, 11, and 14. All of these are OpenJDK, not Oracle, which makes me quite happy. I’ve not installed them yet, but I know I can if I need them.

All joking aside this looks to be one of the best Fedora releases I’ve touched in years. I haven’t been this satisfied with Fedora since 2013, when I installed Fedora versions 16, 17, and 18 starting late 2011 on a bog standard Dell laptop where I was working at the time. When I took a look at Fedora again, it was 2014, and it was an attempt to install on a VirtualBox VM. From that point things were touchy and I just stayed with Ubuntu. But now I have to admit its pretty (shockingly) good. This particular Fedora VM is a keeper — so far.

initial ubuntu 20.04 musings

Ubuntu 20.04 in dark mode

tl;dr — I installed Ubuntu 20.04 inside VirtualBox 6.1.6 r137129 and kicked the digital tires. I may have stubbed my virtual toes.

Environment Setup

The VM configuration on macOS. Unless noted below all other settings were the default.

  • 4 GiB memory
  • 40 GiB disk
  • Floppy disk taken out of the boot order
  • 128GiB video memory buffer
  • Two processor cores
  • Graphics controller VMSVGA with 3D Acceleration enabled
  • Networking is bridged adapter with vertio-net adapter
  • Shared folder with ~/Shared

Base OS Installation

Ubuntu was installed as a minimal desktop with Firefox browser using the ZFS filesystem. The basic build environment, which includes gcc and the kernel headers, is installed after first boot. I installed with the ZFS file system because I was curious and wanted to try it out for a bit.

If you want to install gcc and all the build tools and libraries, then do a single ‘apt install dkms’ and everything will be pulled in. You need to do this if you are going to build and install the VirtualBox Guest Additions. You’ll need to build them if you want:

  • a seamless desktop experience between the Ubuntu virtual desktop and the macOS desktop, and
  • to use the shared macOS folder within the Ubuntu VM.

And before you can actually see the shared folder inside Ubuntu without sudo, you need to add the regular user login to the vboxsf group as defined in /etc/group.

Additional Tool Installation

I also installed Google Go, Clang, Git, Vim, CMake, htop, and Visual Studio Code. Which brings me to my first criticism of Ubuntu. Go and VSCode aren’t regular apt installable, but are only available through the snap tools. That would be fine, except the versions are not up to date (Go is one major release back at 1.13, whereas Go is currently at 1.14.2). Snap is a great idea as long as its tools are up-to-date, but I’ve not yet found a snap package that wasn’t behind in some way. In the case of Go, it can be pulled from go-lang.org as a tarball and unpacked under /usr/local. VSCode can be pulled from its Github distribution area as a deb file and installed locally. And that deb file brings up another issue: the default when you click a deb file is to unpack it, not install it. Now you have to right click and then select from the context menu to install it. I’m assuming this is considered a security feature, but if it is, it’s dubious at best.

My First Impressions

Overall I believe the distribution is OK. Nothing to rave about. Almost boring. But believe me when I say that boring is good, especially with operating systems. Absolutely no installation drama whatsoever.

This is the first LTS distribution I’ve installed with the full Gnome desktop. I still have Ubuntu 18.04.04 installed on my ancient Samsung R580, and it’s running just fine, thank-you-very-much. For the time being I won’t be trying to upgrade the R580 to 20.04, and I may never do it. And not because I don’t believe a 10-year-old notebook can’t handle it.

While I certainly appreciate its boring stability during installation and setup, I’m not all that impressed with this latest and greatest. If you’re careful and paying attention it does have the latest tool releases (which is what I’m always interested in). But there are little things (minor things to the general user community, I’m sure) that bug me a bit. The biggest annoyance is that the desktop, using Xorg (not Wayland) is not fluid when working with it, such as window manipulation on the Ubuntu desktop. It has these little hesitations as you move a window around or resize it. I have Ubuntu 19.10 installed as a VM as well, and that release runs a notably smoother as a VM in the same VirtualBox release. The Ubuntu 20.04 desktop is also a bit more of a memory hog than I’m used to with older versions of Ubuntu.

I’ll hang onto this installation, using it for functional testing and to try out the latest gcc and clang releases. Overall I think it’s a great release. Personally I believe that a bad install/day with Ubuntu is always better than a good install/day with just about any other distribution, so there’s that. If you’ve got the hardware horsepower I’m sure it will run a lot smoother than what I’ve experienced so far, which makes me tend to believe I need yet another new computer, something I really don’t want to spend money on. After all, I’m supposed to be retired, with a fixed income that can’t support multiple-thousand-dollar computers. My MacBook Pro is a mid-2015 machine, while the Samsung R560 with Ubuntu 18.04.04 was released over a decade ago. Situated in the middle of those two is my mid-2012 Mac Mini Server, purchased refurbed in 2014.

Ubuntu 20.04 is more than functional for my modest needs. I guess I was expecting a bit more pizazz than what I found. As long as 20.04 is stable and reliable, then I’ll trade that for pizazz and move on with my life.