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Fedora 10 An Effortless Upgrade

These days, it is very difficult to highlight the visible and noticeable changes in a distribution. As it is, there is a reluctance to upgrade in case some working application breaks. In the absence of anything striking, a reasonable position can be, “Why bother!”

If the cost of upgrading is low, more people may upgrade. Hence, aside from the noticeable differences, we will discuss a couple of lesser known techniques for upgrading fedora with less effort.

What's Different

Can a user tell that the machine is now upgraded? Of course, the boot up screen is different. There is a nice colourful progress bar as the system boots. Then, the default wallpaper is different. After that, the usage is about the same as before. My personal view is that a user not noticing a change is an advantage. It will not require retraining.

  1. Fedora 9 introduced KDE4 and it caused a lot of problems for the KDE3 users. Once KDE4.1 came, I actually switched from being a predominantly Gnome user to a predominantly KDE user. I liked the sparse desktop. I liked the Dolphin file manager, particularly the split mode and the terminal panel within Dolphin. I got used to the new menu system. Fedora 10 continues with the enhancements in KDE4. The change most noticeable for me was in the Amarok player. It left me confused. I can play the music but can't figure out at times whether I have found a bug or haven't learnt how to use Amarok! I suppose I will get used to the new interface and the additional capabilities or switch to Rhythmbox :)

  2. The other major change is in OpenOffice. Fedora 10 now includes the 3.0 version. An OpenOffice 2 user will be perfectly at ease with version 3. While I was writing this article, the KDE desktop behaviour became odd. Although OpenOffice worked perfectly fine, the KDE menus and the clock widget did not display properly when using the proprietary Nvidia driver(not supported by Fedora). But the display was fine if AIGLX option was off and Composite option was disabled. However, on Gnome even with the Desktop effects enabled, the behaviour was as expected.

  3. The login page of gdm includes a form to set convenient universal access features. The ability to increase the text size with a simple click will be especially convenient for the older users. As on Fedora 9, gdm still has a bug of not recognising xdmcp connections. A patch is available on the forums but the patched version is not yet available. As is common on Linux, a bug is not a show stopper. We can use kdm instead.

  4. Switching to the new Plymouth system initialisation system did not make a noticeable impact on the booting time on my desktops (from power on to the login page). I suspect that the speed up may be noticeable if there are lots of services which are started and more saving may come if the kernel does not have to rediscover all the devices and reconfigure the hardware every time it boots.

    A gain of the new booting process is that diagnosing start up problems on Debian based distributions, e.g. Ubuntu, and Fedora will now be similar. It all starts with /etc/event.d/rcS. I am reminded of a comment in a mainframe code: 'This is where you start, where you end up is your problem!


Fedora 10 repository now includes Sugar, the learning software environment for the OLPC project. As yet only a few activities are packaged in RPM's. I expect that more will be added as time passes. The Fedora project team hopes to get more people actively involved in the Sugar project by making the platform accessible to many more people. I would highly recommend that you try the turtleart activity, based on Logo. It is a colourful, fun way to learn programming.


In addition to the Fedora 10 release, the availability of RPMFusion repositories has been extremely valuable. The confusion between whether to use Livna or FreshRPM's is over. The migration has been transparent for all users who were using either of these two repositories and conflicts between the packages from the two have been ironed out.


The preupgrade utility has become very useful with Fedora10. The idea is that it will analyse the packages which are installed and download the required upgrades while you continue working. The utility will also ensure that dependencies are not destroyed for the packages which have been installed from alternate repositories. This is the first time I did not have to do anything to ensure that the multimedia worked for the various formats even after the upgrade. The steps involved are as follows:

# yum install preupgrade

# preupgrade

On my system, it downloaded 1.8GB of packages in 24 hours. If you stop in the middle, it restarts from where it left off. Once the packages are downloaded, reboot the system and it will install the upgrade.

The upgrade failed once. It needed about 1.5GB of free space. I could boot normally, create the desired space and run preupgrade again. This time, the upgrade was uneventful.

This step took a little over 2 hours. So, the effective down time was 2 hours. A fresh install will be faster but will need all the settings to be redone and the additional packages to be downloaded.

The migration to Fedora 10 was effortless. Everything worked fine after the upgrade, including mplayer, vlc, and playing of mp3 files.

After that, I used 'yum update' to upgrade the multimedia packages.

Using Update to Upgrade

It is possible to update Fedora 10 with virtually zero down time using an unsupported process. I had first come across http://www.ioncannon.net/linux/68/upgrading-from-fc6-to-fedora7-with-yum/ last year and used this technique for upgrading from Fedora 7 to 8 and then from 8 to 9. On both occasions, I had some problems with some multimedia packages. This time, the process was remarkably smooth thanks to the availability of RPMFusion repositories as well. The steps involved:

  1. Download the following packages from the Fedora 10 repository:

  2. Use rpm -U to update the above three packages

  3. Clean the existing repositories using yum clean all

  4. Finally, run yum update

The fourth step will take a very long time to first download the packages. On my parents' system, it needed to download 1.2GB and took about 18 hours. The update went on in the background for over two hours. As libraries and packages get replaced, some applications may give a problem but I did not face any. I wasn't doing anything serious - playing music and browsing.

If an installation dvd is available, copy the rpm's into the /var/cache/yum/fedora/packages/ after step 3 and the update will download only the missing or updated packages.

I find this method very useful for small networks. The cache directory can be shared over the network and keepcache option can be set to 1 in yum.conf. This is much easier than mirroring a repository locally. Only the packages needed by at least one machine are downloaded and only when needed.


  1. I am disappointed that Presto and Delta RPM's did not become a part of the Fedora 10 repositories. These will have to wait till Fedora 11. The Fedora 10 Delta RPM's are available at for i386 using the yum repository setting baseurl=http://lesloueizeh.com/f10/i386/updates in fedora-updates.repo. For the first update, I needed to download only 21MB instead of the 111MB if the full RPM's were downloaded. At the time of writing, Delta RPM's were not available for x86_64. See https://fedorahosted.org/presto/ for the current status.

  2. Once in a while, when the system checks a disk at boot time, the boot up delay can be long but there is no feedback on the gui to the user to be patient.

  3. The intel display driver caused a machine (3 years old) to hang. The problem is with kernel 2.6.27 and not with Fedora 10, per se. I faced similar problem on Fedora 9 and Ubuntu 8.10 as well. The workaround is to add the following option in the device section of xorg.conf :

    Option “NoAccel” “True”
  4. The other disappointment has nothing to do with Fedora. The list of mirrors selected for India are in countries around us – Taiwan, Japan, Russia, etc. I needed to change the mirror list manually to point to the US servers for better, consistent performance. My disappointment is that no Indian ISP is mirroring the common distributions even though the ISP would save a substantial international bandwidth. The couple of Indian mirrors available do not have adequate bandwidth and, in my experience, have normally been inaccessible.

Wish list

I would like to see Delta RPM support even for upgrading a distribution.

I would like pulseaudio server to just work even on remote desktops. The default setting of PULSE_SERVER variable should be picked up from the DISPLAY variable.

I would like to see Firefox 3.1 available on Fedora 10 and should not have to wait for Fedora 11.

I would like to see Gnome 2.6 included in Fedora 10, with an option to roll back to 2.4, should I so desire.

Actually, I would like to be able to upgrade my installation continuously and not ever face another new version. (More on that in Linux for You, April 2008)


I prefer to upgrade to the recent versions.

  1. The new versions of distributions contain only a small fraction which is substantially different. Most of the packages are minor upgrades, with improvements and security fixes. The major issues, if any, with a distribution are resolved very quickly and it does not make sense to wait for months or years for the distribution to be stable!

  2. It is easier to work with OpenOffice 3 on Fedora 10 than to install and maintain it oneself on a lower version.

  3. An upgrade is like an insurance policy. If I need to work with a recent application, the chances are that I would find it in the latest distributions. E.g. it is much easier to explore Sugar environment on Fedora 10 than the earlier distributions.

  4. Finally, upgrading a distribution keeps getting easier and less prone to problems with add-on packages.

Hence, should you upgrade? A reasonable position is, “Why not!”