Fedora 17 LXDE Review: Just the Facts Ma'm
Fedora 15's stability and usability didn't disappoint when I ran it through its paces last year. What convinced me not to keep Lovelock 15 was Gnome 3, which crippled my productivity to no end. After the somewhat lackluster Ubuntu 12.04 Unity LTS, I was looking forward to Fedora 17 on an LXDE desktop.
Unless you have plenty of time and prefer to set up your OS from scratch like the many ArchLinux fans out there (including me), Fedora 17 Beefy Miracle LXDE is an excellent canvas to build your fast and efficient Linux system. Fedora 17 LXDE is slim with very minimal applications - perfect for those users who prefer to select their own utilities and productivity applications without having to uninstall the included applications.
There is very little to discuss when it comes to installing Linux distributions any more other than two important points I liked from Fedora 17:
1. Installation was super-fast. It took less than 15 minutes to go from LiveCD to the LXDE desktop, beating even the likable Lubuntu installation (sans extras like codecs).2. The option to "Add to administrator group" during setup was a brilliant addition. Longtime Fedora users may decry this extra option as a security risk, but I think users coming from other distros would love this option. I thought that this "small" addition shows just how much effort the Fedora devs are taking to make Fedora more friendly and less snooty. Disclaimer: Since I skipped Fedora 16 Verne, this may be an old addition already, but I was happy with it nevertheless.
I've historically had issues running any Fedora release on VirtualBox with Guest Additions, networking, or just the desktop not working. Fedora 17 was not only nimble on VirtualBox with 768MB of Virtual RAM, but the mouse integration worked even without updating the Guest Additions. Shared folders worked like a charm, though users would still need to mount the shared Folder as Root even after modifying Fstab.
There was only one "issue" I encountered with running Fedora 17 LXDE on VirtualBox. After exporting Fedora 17 as an appliance, Fedora 17 LXDE would not load to a functioning desktop. X and terminal would work but nothing else would without additional configuration. This setback may discourage users from using a fully-configured 17 as an importable VirtualBox appliance.
"Requested Datatype Primary not Available" Error
One inclusion in Fedora 17 LXDE that may seem like a good choice is Yumex - a popular package manager for Fedora that has received good reviews over the default package utility frontend, PackageKit. Unfortunately, after running Yumex and successfully installing updates, I could no longer run Yum via the command-line. User forums have noted this issue before and it is clear that Yumex and Yum on the command-line do not work well together. The error is persistent even after following the advice of Fedora user forums to modify the repository files and running yum clean all.
Disclaimer: This may be only an isolated incident or limited to the LXDE 17 release. Yumex may very well work without problems on the mainstream Fedora 17 version running on Gnome 3.x.
The solution for the primary DB error? I installed a fresh copy of LXDE 17 and uninstalled Yumex and focused on just using yum on the command-line to set up my system. Did I miss the convenience of GUIs like Ubuntu Software Manager, Yast, PackageKit, or even Apper (KDE)? No. Even non-administrators can set up their applications with only a minimal amount of Terminal commands. Without Yumex, I was able to update Beefy Miracle, install Lyx, Google-Chrome, XML Copy Editor, Grsync, SMPlayer, VLC, Adobe Flash, the new Gimp release, Cherrytree, and the gstreamer codecs using the rpm and yum commands. Users who prefer a GUI for installing applications and running updates may want to use the Smart Package Manager, though I myself haven't tried the well-received utility.
"Cannot Find 'True' Font" Error
One odd glitch already filed in the Fedora bug reports is the error regarding the True font. It's a harmless error indicating that Grub can't load the "True" font for displaying text options at boot up. Users can ignore it though the fix is fairly easy and can be found in the Fedora forums.
Set up PCMANFM to load LXTerminal as default
Surprisingly, users will have to configure PCMAN File manager to use LXTerminal as default as well as open a folder as Root. Although it's a small extra step that involves just typing lxterminal on the settings and installing beesu (as outlined in the PCMANFM wiki), Lubuntu and Knoppix never needed any additional configuration.
A New Contender
This review may paint a picture that Fedora 17 LXDE has a lot of bugs and requires additional post-installation steps. On the contrary, I didn't have to struggle with the typical issues (e.g. SELinux) that new Fedora installs typically come with. Everything worked without a hitch and it was a pleasure not having to uninstall a bundle of redundant applications like I do with my openSUSE machines. Even with the True font, Database repo error, and minor configurations to PCMANFM, I thoroughly enjoyed running Fedora 17 LXDE. The speed and frugal selections alone make it a better choice over Fedora 17's mainstream release or other spins. In fact, it would be interesting to run tests between Fedora 17 LXDE and the more popular Lubuntu, which also wins my approval as a slim install.
Although my favored desktop openSUSE 12.1 KDE includes a ton of technologies and applications I really don't get to use, Fedora has also historically had a reputation for throwing in everything but the kitchen sink and alienating casual and new users with obscure inclusions. As a desktop user and not a power user/network administrator, Fedora 17 LXDE is a welcome release and one that comes dangerously close to supplanting Lubuntu as my favorite lightweight distribution.