As the ZaReason Limbo 5440 runs folding@home in the background, allow me to continue with the series and talk about the operating system currently running it.
Before I start, though, it should be noted that one of the things — one of several things, actually — that sets ZaReason apart from its competition is that they offer a variety of distros on their hardware. Other Linux hardware providers will give you any distro you want, as long as it’s Ubuntu. ZaReason has your back on the distro front, though, offering the *buntu family as well as Debian, Fedora, and Linux Mint (not to mention “no operating system,” if that’s you’re pleasure).
So it comes as no surprise that when ZaReason sent me the Limbo 5440 to put through its paces, they knew of my reputation as a Fedora guy. Since this reputation precedes me (for better or worse), I was given the latest Fedora 16 “Desktop” — for those of you scoring at home, “Desktop” in Fedora parlance means GNOME 3, the default desktop for Fedora (why they just don’t call it “Fedora 16 GNOME” is one of those mysteries, like how gravity works or like the end of “2001: A Space Odyssey”). Fedora 16, code name Verne, is the latest and greatest of Fedora’s semi-annual releases. Native to Fedora releases since Fedora 15 is the somewhat controversial GNOME 3 desktop environment which, of course, is currently running on this machine.
Now, those of you outside my family who regularly read this blog know that I’ve had some — how can I put this tactfully? — problems with GNOME 3, most notably not being able to run it on my hardware. GNOME’s fallback mode made for an inadequate “consolation prize” too, so I switched to Xfce with Fedora 16 on a laptop I regularly use. So this is the first chance I’ve had to actually put GNOME 3 to the test.
If you’ll pass the salt, I’ll just eat some crow here before I continue. Now that I’ve used it, I was wrong about GNOME 3 being a spawn of the Prince of Darkness. With the GNOME Shell Extensions under the GNOME 3.2 desktop, the desktop environment hums along and works a lot like the GNOME 2.x that I missed dearly in the last Fedora release. In fact, for those of you who, like me, did not like what GNOME 3 had to offer, this setup — with the extensions — brings together the best of both worlds: The improvements (yes, there are many) of GNOME 3 with the functionality that we’re used to in GNOME 2.6. The desktop’s tweakability, which many felt was lacking in the later GNOME,
Note to developers: Four desktops. How hard is it to make that a default, as it’s been in days past?
This is not to say I’m going back to GNOME — on the laptop, I’m going to keep Xfce because I have to — but GNOME 3 with the GNOME Shell Extensions is much better than the pitchfork- and torch-bearing naysayers lead on, and I’ll go out on a limb and say it’s a pretty remarkable desktop environment. Also, in comparison to the default desktop environment on Ubuntu — I dare not speak its name, lest I fly into a homicidal rage — GNOME 3 is head and shoulders above it and, by comparison, is heavenly.
Meanwhile, back at the hardware, putting Fedora 16 — installations, updates, etc. — through its paces on the ZaReason hardware went without a hitch. GIMP flies on the hardware, as does much of the LibreOffice suite — two things I used specifically today because my SCALE presentation needed tweaking. One comment that I hope will echo throughout this series with the use of other distros on this machine (you knew that was coming) is that the Limbo 5440 will handle all that’s thrown at it with agility, ease and grace. I can’t say that for some of the other hardware I’ve owned, and at the risk of being redundant, it’s a breath of fresh air to have a machine that does what I ask without breaking a sweat.
Coming tomorrow: A Week in Limbo, Day 3: Shifting gears
(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started testing and developing software in his new home office, which is the development side of Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, United States.)