Because problems with KMail and Plasma’s crashes were driving me mad I decided to kick Kubuntu off my desktop PC and install Fedora 16 after being impressed with F16 and GNOME 3.2 on my laptop. As I said earlier, I might not have experienced as much problems with Kubuntu 11.10 if I had chosen to do a clean install instead of a messy trajectory of updating from 11.04 (or 10.10?) through development releases, but I like to distro hop once in a while.
However, a lot of work needs to be done to change the brand new installation of any Linux distribution from its state of tabula rasa into something which is customised to your own taste, has all the software you need and lets you work efficiently. A quick search with Google revealed to me that there are more of this kind of guides, like these. But I feel most of them contain too much unnecessary stuff or miss things and wanted to create my own, which I share with you.
Right after the installation I decided to download all 251 updates first, through Activities → Applications → System Tools → Software Update. Meanwhile I set Nautilus to use single click to open stuff, the default setting is to double click which I feel is unnecessary. Having worked with Dolphin for quite some time which also has single click as the default setting contributes to that. I’m also used to delete selected files in a file manager with the Delete key, but someone thought it was a good idea to change this and let the Delete key do nothing. Fortunately the behaviour is easily changed. I set search keywords in Mozilla Firefox for the Google and Wikipedia search engines, so that entering w <search term> in the location bar searches for that search term on Wikipedia. I added some extensions for GNOME Shell to address some issues I have with it. These include an extension to show the option to power off the computer in the status menu and an extension to hide the accessibility menu.
After the update I decided to download the proprietary drivers for my Nvidia GPU. Unlike Kubuntu, Fedora doesn’t want to ship certain proprietary stuff and it doesn’t provide any means to download them automatically. So you have to do it yourself, for which the RPM fusion repository can be used. There are easy instructions on how to add the repositories. Then the instructions here need to be followed. The free software nouveau driver doesn’t implement power management completely, so the fan on my GeForce 7800GT kept making noise like a vacuum cleaner. The proprietary drivers keep it quiet, so the this step is quite essential as nouveau is not an option for me. Of course you can also get the proprietary AMD drivers if you have one of their GPU’s.
After this I installed all the extra basic software I need. LibreOffice is probably too big to include on the GNOME Live CD. The missing GStreamer packages which are required to play non-free audio and video formats are proprietary so they’re not shipped by Fedora, but are included in the RPM fusion repository. Flash is also proprietary (free alternatives like Gnash aren’t good enough) and can be downloaded from a repository provided by Adobe, for which instructions can be found here (just installing the flash-plugin package sufficed, the other packages mentioned in the instructions were not necessary for me). The GNOME Tweak Tool is useful to change the font and decrease the font size used by GNOME, which is too big for me by default. I like the Google Droid fonts more than the default fonts used in GNOME. Because some websites need Java I need the IcedTea browser plugin. The mozplugger package is necessary for me because Blackboard, the VLE used by my university, wants to embed PDF documents in its pages. With mozplugger you get an option to download them instead of an error message complaining that a plugin is missing.
yum install libreoffice libreoffice-langpack-nl gstreamer-plugins-bad gstreamer-plugins-bad-nonfree gstreamer-plugins-ugly gstreamer-ffmpeg flash-plugin gnome-tweak-tool google-droid-sans-fonts google-droid-sans-mono-fonts google-droid-serif-fonts icedtea-web mozplugger
Fedora’s default font rendering can be vastly improved by installing the patched freetype packages of Infinality. A Fedora package repository is provided with instructions on how to add it there.
LaTeX with XeTeX support, the Memoir document class, the biblatex package for bibliographic facilities with support for the APA style and the Linux Libertine font is a must have for me. However, again it is better to add a separate repository to get a more recent version of TeX Live 2011 with the most up-to-date packages instead of TeX Live 2007 which ships with Fedora 16. Take a look at the info here on how the repository can be added. I installed the whole texlive-collection-xetex package, which downloads 251 packages worth 90 MB. That way you probably won’t miss any useful packages, but you also get a lot of useless stuff like Thai fonts for example (unless you need support for Thai fonts, but I don’t). Installing just the package texlive-xetex and texlive-memoir would have probably pulled in all necessary dependencies without the bloat. After having installed all this my LaTeX documents compile without problems, so no need to install packages manually because that package is not packaged for Fedora 16 or because the packaged version is to old. This is not like Kubuntu where I did have to hunt for the latest version of specific packages. Jindrich Novy who is working on packaging TeX Live 2011 and wants to introduce it to Fedora 17 rocks!
yum install texlive-xetex texlive-collection-langdutch texlive-memoir texlive-biblatex-apa texlive-libertine
I have taken a look at other GTK 3.x and GNOME Shell themes on GNOME-Look.org but none of them were better than the default in my opinion. At the moment installing themes is troublesome not only because there’s no option for it in GNOME 3.2 (yet), but also because some key applications still use GTK 2.x and have not been ported yet. These include LibreOffice, Mozilla Firefox and GIMP. This means that if you want to install the popular Zukitwo theme for example, which has matching GTK 2.x. themes, you need to install additional theme engines. This is an extra hassle. Yet after doing all this, I’m not entirely satisfied because GNOME needs more work in general (in bringing back certain options) and Evolution is frustrating to use, but more about that later.