Sunday, August 23, 2015

Fedora @ FOSSCON 2015 wrap-up

Corey Sheldon and I attended FOSSCON 2015 in Philadelphia yesterday.

Remember that Corey is an experienced Fedora Ambassador, but I was brand new.

The table was indeed very busy.

Dozens of people grabbed F22 workstation DVDs. However:

  • It was awkward explaining that respun media was just released, and that they would need to spend about 30 minutes (Corey's estimate) of updating from the current media, so perhaps they should grab the respun media instead.
  • We only had 64-bit Workstation DVDs for some reason. Several people asked about the lack of 32-bit. Only a few people needed 32-bit though.

In my experience, many Windows users are unwilling to install Linux on their current laptop/desktop that are "working fine." However, they are willing to install Linux on their old laptops/desktops that get slower over time running Windows.

The performance of your cheap Windows laptop will certainly degrade over time. The operating system has massive overhead, combined that with the slow spinning HDD, bloat-ware that typically ships with Windows laptops and all the additional 'essential' software, it's basically a forgone conclusion this is going to happen. In five, or even just three years your cheap Windows laptop is going to be even more annoyingly slow, while the Chromebook will keep working as it did on day one.

I pointed out that many proprietary freeware applications for Windows (such as Adobe Reader and Skype) have mandatory upgrades to new major versions. Both the free and paid anti-virus have mandatory upgrades nowadays. This makes your Windows laptops/desktops run slower over time, even if you never upgrade the OS.

Many people expressed their concern that Fedora is "Red Hat Unstable." So I pointed out the following:

  • Red Hat employs 8 people on the Fedora QA team. (I hope I got that number right.)
  • Fedora QA is working on automated testing with OpenQA.  The OpenSUSE guys helped us set it up!

Those 2 points were very persuasive.

The OLPC running SUGAR was very popular amongst both kids and adults. It certainly drew people to our table.

  • Multiple people asked which exact model it was, but we did not know.
  • The fact that the OLPC originally ran Fedora, and still runs Fedora, was the perfect example of "stay close to upstream."
  • The ACPI power button still worked! I was impressed.

Multiple people asked what the minimum requirements were.

  • Corey and I forgot that the requirements for 64-bit workstation are on the back of the DVD case.
  • 1 person mentioned that they had a system from 2006 with an Intel "dual-core" CPU and 4 GB of RAM. I recommended MATE instead of Workstation/GNOME. 
  • Other people asked about running Fedora on Pentium 4 (2001-2006) systems with 1GB of RAM. We recommended LXDE, but pointed out that Firefox would be the limiting factor no matter what desktop environment they use. I suggested using Midori instead of Firefox.

Other topics from experienced users:

  • The notion of 3 different flavors was well-received. Many experienced users agreed that workstation should have a different installer than server, and that workstation should have a different default partitioning scheme and default filesystem than server. I emphasized that the flavors are not a limitation because all the packages are available after install. They replied that they already assumed that because "they use the same repos."
  • At least 2 Linux Mint users asked for the Cinnamon desktop environment. I remembered that it was already it is packaged, but Corey corrected me that it is not yet official until Fedora 23, so we should not suggest it to people yet as ambassadors.
  • The idea of "Install graphical apps from GNOME Software, but install command-line apps via dnf" was well received.
  • Many experienced users of other distros felt that RPM and Yum were terrible. They were delighted to hear that Yum had been replaced with DNF, and that RPM is continuing to improve. So while the Yum to DNF transition may have been difficult for Fedora users, it is great for marketing Fedora.
  • In particular, a Debian user was delighted to hear about weak dependency support.
  • One user called himself "old school" and said that he uses IceWM on Debian. I quickly installed IceWM on my Macbook Air (running Fedora Workstation with GNOME + MATE) via dnf. However, GDM did not immediately recognize that IceWM was installed after I logged out. So I rebooted my laptop, and he was glad to see IceWM on F22.
  • The fact that numerous desktop environments and lightweight window managers are available, and that they integrate via features such as icewm-xdgmenu, is the perfect example of Fedora's values.
  • rEFInd running on my 13" Macbook Air (mid-2011) was also popular :)
  • A gamer was delighted to hear that a Fedora games spin was available, and it eased his concerns about Fedora being nothing more than what Red Hat wants.
  • The fact that GNOME Software runs on other desktop environments was well-received and highlighted the work of
  • People were impressed to see GNOME on Wayland. But it was hard to tell apart from GNOME on X11! Ultimately, I used "System Setings", "Details", "Graphics" to show it, or I searched the terminal for running process.

Other topics from novice users:

  • Many novice users (as well as experienced Windows/Mac developers that are new to Linux) used "Ubuntu", but did not know what desktop environment they were using (Unity.) So it was difficult to explain to them that Unity was not available in Fedora. However, once they saw the GNOME 3.16 desktop environment running on my Macbook Air, they felt comfortable trying it.
  • To show how easy GNOME 3.16 is, I showed them that they could press the Windows (Apple Command) key, start typing the name of an application (like "fir"), and hit enter to launch it ("firefox.") This was well-received.
  • "Workstation Edition" was difficult to explain to novice users. So I said "version for desktops and laptops".
  • GNOME Software was very well-received. I loved showing that the install button is now also the progress bar.

I received feedback from an ArchLinux ARM developer. They had numerous ARM devices on display there.

  • He was very grateful for the work that Red Hatters do on hardware enablement.
  • We agreed that Fedora's policy of "stay close to upstream projects" is similar to The Arch Way.
  • He stated that the reason why ArchLinux ARM can support so many devices is by staying close to upstream.
  • He suggested I run ArchLinux ARM on my (2011) EFIKA MX Smarttop.

Overall, I had a great time and look forward to going to more conventions.



  1. By this quote: "
    Multiple people asked which exact model it was, but we did not know.",
    are you talking about the XO laptop? If so, open the battery to see the model number in a future.

  2. Reading your blog, here is a few correction so you will address them in a future:

    1 person mentioned that they had a system from 2006 with an Intel "dual-core" CPU and 4 GB of RAM. I recommended MATE instead of Workstation/GNOME.

    Fedora Workstation/GNOME can run with 1GB-RAM minimum but 2GB-RAM is recommended for 32 bit OS. I used to daily run it on a 2007 Sony VAIO powered by a 32bit Intel Core Duo and 3GB-RAM until I gave it to my relative insisting to get the laptop.

  3. @Luya, thanks for both pieces of advice.

    IMHO, the problem is that every time you upgrade to a new release of Fedora, you upgrade to a new release of GNOME, which has higher CPU, memory and I/O requirements. So if someone has an older computer, I recommend sticking with MATE, which purposely keeps its requirements low (but not extremely low.)