Upgrading success, at last


Here is a long-ish post about my trials and tribulations upgrading to Fedora 17 and what I found there.  The only real upgrade problem is anomalous and induced in part by my own creative behaviours.  What I found in the new upgrade was "not much" which is largely a good thing.

I'm always nervous when I upgrade my Linux distribution.  Sometimes it goes swimmingly, more often than not there be frost giants. 

Long ago
This time, a release or two back, I got clever when I wanted to converted my file system from ext3 to ext4: I shrunk my current volumes for root and home to free half of my hard disk, I created new volumes that were ext4, and then I copied the files from the old ones over to the new ones.  I then kept the old ones as "temporary" backups.  This was desirable because there was ext4 metadata that wouldn't exist for my existing files if I just upgraded the file system in place.

However, I forgot about the old volumes and they lingered, unmounted for the ages (months).  Then, when I used preupgrade (+ anaconda) to update my system to Fedora 17 the other day, it ended up finding the old volume and trying to update based on that.  I'm glad it failed to when it couldn't find the old partition that had since been overwritten.  However, it left me puzzled for a while and messing with my fstab.  In the near-end, I ended up realising it was using the wrong partition (anaconda has wonderful debugging information available, hooray!) and then used system-config-lvm to obliterate the slumbering frost giants/volumes. (I double-checked that I didn't want to preserve anything from that.)  You might think I should have noticed that I only had half my hard drive space, but it's a 500GB HD and I've only been using 160GB of that so I wasn't running into any space constraints. 

Stabbing fstab
Unfortunately, as noted above, I had started tinkering with my fstab and ended up rendering my LUKS-encrypted /home partition inaccessible.  The answer was slightly obvious but I messed up the first time I tried it so I ended up swinging my sword at it for a few hours before I came back to the start and got it to re-mount.  Hooray?

Finishing the upgrade
As usual, preupgrade + anaconda does a good job of updating existing installed packages and adding new dependencies, but I still have to do some extra steps to make sure some packages (like yum) are current and that some new packages aren't missed.  After upgrade:
$ yum distro-sync
$ yum grouplist | grep -v "Support \[" | less
I review which groups are available (skipping language support and capturing the list in less so I can scroll it easily) and then do
$ yum groupupdate "<groupname>"
to update groups, like "GNOME Desktop Environment" and "Base" and get any new packages that are a part of them.

This has impacted my productivity for the past two days a bit, with me mostly accessing the Internet via my phone.  However, at least I have a (slightly?) shinier Fedora.


speed and systemd

I think it actually feels faster.  I'm not sure why.  Boot feels a bit slower.  Is that because more things are done with systemd?  I notice that system-config-services doesn't let me disable services now.  I suppose I have to relearn that.  I think that GNOME Shell might be running more smoothly with my Intel graphics though. :)

wacom tablet support
I have a tablet PC, a Compaq tc4400.  When I try to calibrate it with the wacom support in System Settings, however, my screen starts trying to murder me with brilliant and rapid flashing of light.  The system also freezes up in the background.  When I'm not busy, I'll have to induce this cataclysm again and then check for error logs, I guess.

themes work
YES!  yum install gnome-tweak-tool gnome-shell-theme-* gnome-shell-extension-*
GNOME Tweak Tool has given me control over some nifty extensions (modifying font-size, whether some icons appear, enabling old tab switching behaviour, so alt-tab does both windows of the same app and different apps (no longer need to use ctrl-` for windows of the same app), switching themes).  Changing themes is the feature I'm second-most interested in (after modifying font-sizes to increase information density).  That was part of what intrigued me about GNOME Shell's choices for technologies: the promise of more interesting themes.  Hehe.  A friend and I were a bit disappointed with GNOME 3.0 due to the lack of options for this.  In GNOME 3.2, there were shell themes and Tweak Tool, but they didn't seem to work.  It appears there was one line in a .js file that needed correcting.  Anyway, if you'd like some help finding these, go to:
Mostly I'm glad to have a light theme which is proving notably less depressing.

keyboard shortcuts
My ctrl-alt-t shortcut for the Terminal is gone. :(  I've gone back and re-added it though through the Keyboard section of System Settings, and it was quite simple.  Hooray!

GNOME Documents
This now works on my computer.  I'm not sure what to do with it though: it gives me a mostly blank window and I don't have any real options.  When maximised, it enters a pseudo-full screen mode which confused me for a little while.  I did get one document to appear in it magically (but none of the others?  Perhaps they have to be under the XDG Documents directory?) but then when I tried to click on it, I first got an error, then I got told that the document type wasn't supported, then I clicked on it again and it showed me a preview.  I think the first two were happening when it was generating the preview and it wasn't complete?  When I have a moment, I will try to file a useful bug.  If you have any tips on how to get more out of it, let me know!  I read that there are collections.  I look forward to it reaching a comparable level of usability to my beloved shotwell.

Remote Desktop
Since F16, I started getting an icon in the bottom-right system tray for Remote Desktop and whenever I would click it to see what it wanted, it would crash.  It still does.  I bet that's just to do with my configuration.

Neat, gimp 2.8 is here.  Also, it has single-window mode (under the Window menu).  I like that, because it's an interruption to switch which window is on top just to switch brushes, and it's extra work trying to manually arrange the windows to not cover one another each time.  I'm eagre to try out its other goodies.

A bit annoyingly, I don't get a dialogue window asking me where to save them but now they go into my XDG Pictures directory.  Annoying because I put my actual camera photos in there, not screenshots and other images.  It's nice to not have to fiddle with a dialogue though, and I am guessing I can probably change its destination somehow. :)  I just can't find it with dconf.   I also miss being able to copy a screenshot directly to the clipboard from the dialogue that used to be provided.  (UPDATE: Aw, -i returns those features, just need to add that to the keyboard shortcut.)

Online Services
I'm still not sure I trust this. :)

All around smoothness
Everything feels smoother and cleaner.  I'm actually a fan of GNOME's reductionism.  I understand the idea that the Operating System and its Desktop Environment shouldn't be a Thing that the user really thinks about at all.  It should just function correctly in the background supporting your core tasks.  I used to spend a lot of time tinkering with panel applets, custom scripts, etc, but now I wonder why.  Even the tweaks offered by GNOME Tweak Tool feel non-essential (though I'm so grateful to have a light-coloured theme again).

Some of my favourite improvements are underneath.  Boot text is very cleanly organised now (thanks to systemd?).  Switching VTs is trivial and safe and easy.  I can do user switching without wondering whether GDM will crash.  I know these aren't all just in the latest release, but they make me feel incredibly comfortable inside GNOME and Fedora and I'm almost at the point where I'm willing to recommend it to more people.  Whee!

Final Note
I sort of object to the code name Beefy Miracle for Fedora 17.  I didn't want to complain so instead I just ignored this development cycle completely.  (Normally I pay attention and will test alphas and betas and file some bugs.)  The emphasis the release name brought to the exploitation of animals as something to be celebrated was a bit grotesque.  Given the inclusive nature of Fedora and open source in general, I hope we can strive for more sensitive and neutral naming.  (Though I'm all for fun naming. :)


  1. Thanks for the -i tip! I got stuck for 20 minutes with the screenshots because I didn't notice the pictures were saved automatically on ~/Pictures (I had several files there).

  2. Thanks for the tip about putting GIMP into single-window mode. >.>b

    Also I agree with you about GNOME's shininess, GNOME Documents' confusingness ... and Fedora's name.

    I think the ethical situation is more complicated than simply "meat = exploitation", but I agree that the name was a bad choice that showed an unethical way of looking at things, plus it needlessly alienated people who care about that. I took it as a signal that I'm not welcome in the Fedora community.

    Of course, I also take the guys with the Fedora logo taped over their mouths on Planet Fedora as a sign of protest against inclusiveness and user-friendliness as such a signal.

  3. Hey I'm working on Documents as my GSoC this summer :) Documents syncs docs in your Downloads, Documents, and Desktop directories. Also Google Docs if you set up your online account and enable it in gnome shell (add gmail and switch "Documents" to the on position in Online Accounts). Not sure what happened with the view option --sometimes it's slow to sync everything. There is an improve new user experience bug if you want to comment:




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