Usually I wait until later in the pre-release cycle — a few weeks before Beta on average — before I move to the pre-release of the next Fedora operating system. But for Fedora 19, I’m too excited to see GNOME 3.8 and all the other improvements, so I tried out the Fedora 19 Test Candidate 2 (TC2) during lunch yesterday. I burned it to a USB key and was happy with what I saw. I decided it was time to move over now and fit in with the cool kids.
Getting ready to install
Now, I could have just thrown caution to the wind and installed right away. But since I wanted to move over on my main workhorse laptop, a ThinkPad x220, I really needed to back up my user files first. I hadn’t done that in a month or two (I know, I know!) so this was a must. I figured, if I was going to have a little downtime for the backup, I might as well make it worthwhile and install the Fedora 19 Alpha TC2 while I was at it. Thankfully, this afternoon was free of meetings so it was a good time to be offline for a short while.
I keep my backups in several places, but the easiest one to get to right away, with the fastest write speed, is a portable USB 2.0/FireWire enclosure I keep around for my own backups. It has a 500 GB SATA drive inside and plenty of room for my data. I was already running the Fedora 19 Alpha TC2 using the Live USB. I attached the disk, and of course it was mounted up for my convenience. I used the Disks utility to unlock and mount my home volume from the encrypted hard disk, and used the rsync utility to freshen the backup.
Installing Fedora 19 Alpha TC2
I decided to do a network installation rather than just burning a Live image. There were a bunch of other packages I wanted, and I figured I might as well grab them all during installation; plus, I wanted to see how that process was working. I burned the F19 Alpha TC2 boot.iso to a USB key and booted up.
I was hoping to hold on to my current partitioning setup as part of the installation process. I have a /boot partition on /dev/sda1, and an LVM physical volume with a single volume group, subdivided into separate logical volumes. Some are encrypted, including my /home folder. Unfortunately this is where I ran into my first issue — the current F19 Alpha can’t handle custom partitioning in the installer interface. I don’t believe this is required in the release criteria for an Alpha, so it’s not a huge surprise.
Nor was it a huge impediment; fortunately, the installer GUI is not tied that closely to the OS version or package content anymore. That means I was able to boot off a Fedora 18 boot.iso (written to USB), and simply point to a Fedora 19 mirror as the software source. I used the existing (and working) Fedora 18 installer GUI to do my required custom partitioning, so I could retain my current partition setup. Then I was off to the races, while I worked on other things.
There are some cool interface changes during login. A finished desktop screen expands nicely from the center rather than having elements appear gradually in sequence. There is some work being done on an initial setup routine, kind of like an orientation for new users of GNOME 3. It’s still a bit rough, and there are bugs, but you can see where things are going: it’s definitely a useful feature.
I love the fact that the screensaver reports notifications gathered while the screen was off. This would be useful for things like chat where you might want to know whether someone was looking for you before you decide to log in. I’m thinking of quickly getting on the console to answer IRC pings, but I suppose, reading back, it might just as easily be used to avoid people. Heh. But again, neat improvement. Another nice notification improvement: the larger bar introduced in GNOME 3.6 also now confirms for you that you have no new notifications, a nice added visual cue.
The control center has a smorgasbord of upgrades, from a privacy control, to per-application notification settings, to easier to read layouts for numerous controls including NetworkManager. And the overview search now is easier to read as well. And of course, none of the changes sacrifice my ability to navigate around by keyboard instead of mouse, which I really like.
Are there bugs? Sure, although I haven’t hit any identifiable ones yet. I’ll keep playing with the pre-release over the weekend and file some bugs as I poke around into the corners. But so far, I really like what I see, and I think Fedora 19 is going to be a great release!