Fedora 18 Post-Install Tips/Tricks

I wanted to share some things that I do after I install a Fedora system and some tips for getting by with your sanity intact. More specifically, these are steps that I follow after a fresh install and not an upgrade (I haven’t had a chance to use fedup yet).

Keep in mind that this list is entirely subjective to your particular needs. Being a developer/media junkie, the packages and steps that I’ll go over here may not be to your liking or even something that you’d want to do at all. However I’m hoping that the steps would somehow come in handy for certain people. These steps cover a GNOME Spin of Fedora. Some of the steps are specific to GNOME while some are more particular to Fedora.

The first thing I do, as anyone should really, is run updates. There’s a pretty good chance that you’re going to have updates in your software channels right after a fresh install. This is actually quite common especially when you’re installing a version of a distribution that’s dated even by a few weeks. This is doubly true with Fedora which tends to be the “bleeding-edge” distribution because it contains both pretty radical changes (in some cases) and usually runs the latest kernel whereas other distributions are typically a few versions behind. Fedora uses the YUM package manager and the RPM package format. You can check to see if your system has updates available by running yum check-update, as a non-privileged user, which will print a list of all packages that have pending updates in the channel. When you want to actually update, simply run yum update as root and you’re all set.

Here’s a quick tip while speaking of updates. Have you ever run updates and then have your system start acting flaky? I’m sure the issue here though is that you’ve installed a lot of updates and you’re not sure where to start to fix the problem. You could always drop out to a single-user recovery console and check the logs. But if you want to take the Draconian approach and just roll back the updates, there’s a really easy way to do this. YUM stores anything you do with it in a transaction history. These transactions are numbered starting from one and counting forward. To show a list of the twenty most recent transactions, use yum history list as root. From here, you can get some basic information about recent actions taken with YUM. You can view details about specific transactions by using yum history info followed by the number of the transaction you wish to examine. This can help you pinpoint exactly which transaction it was that you ran the updates on. Finally, to roll back to the point before the updates, use yum history undo followed by the transaction number as root. This will undo all of the changes listed in that transaction. Keep in mind that it does this in what’s known as “leaf style” so any packages that were installed as dependencies will also be removed.

The people over at the GNOME project have a pretty interesting mess on their hands (despite them probably not thinking so). Admittedly, I’m a GNOME guy myself (always have been frankly) but even I can admit that things are getting a little out of control with this desktop environment. Don’t get me wrong, I still think it’s the best looking Linux DE available but they’re really stretching the idea “less is more” to a point where it’s going to end up being “less is actually just less”. GNOME 3.6.x takes this to a new extreme with Nautilus, their default file manager. While it’s definitely trimmed down quite a bit to look nicer, astute users will notice that missing from the button lineup is any way to access the preferences for Nautilus itself. Instead, they’ve elected to tuck it away under the application’s global menu located in the top-left of the screen next to the hot corner. So if you were looking for a way to customize Nautilus, or to get your single-click functionality back, this is where it’s been this whole time.

The magical location for the Nautilus Preferences

Sure stock GNOME looks nice but it isn’t immediately welcoming to customization. Some things you’ll want to customize for sure. Maybe the clock at the top-center isn’t showing as much information as you’d like. Maybe Cantarell isn’t your favorite font and you want your windows to use Liberation Sans. Maybe the sub-pixel smoothing isn’t high enough or isn’t using the proper smoothing method. I know that everyone wants to change those bloody gaudy-looking default icons right out of the gate (they don’t event go well with Adwaita!). Anyway, the point here is that if you want to make even the most subtle of tweaks to the GNOME experience, you’ll need to get the GNOME Tweak Tool (named, oddly, gnome-tweak-tool in Fedora’s channels). This package is a must-have for making your GNOME truly unique since it permits you to change a number of things. It even integrates with GNOME Shell Extensions so you can skin GNOME Shell as well as GTK. There are some really amazing skins for both of these utilities and they can be found at gnome-look.org.

Screenshot from 2013-02-13 06:57:45
GNOME Tweak Tool

Media playback on Linux is still a touchy subject since many media formats require proprietary software to playback properly (try playing a MP4 file on a fresh install because it’s not happening). Your open formats will typically work without a hitch (OGG, WebM, FLAC) but there’s a pretty good chance that your existing media isn’t encoded in one of these formats. Most software that’s required for this case isn’t located in the default channels that are registered with Fedora. What that means is that you’ll have to find a third-party channel that contains these packages. Thankfully, there’s a really great one from the folks over at RPMFusion.org. Setting up their channel is quite easy since they provide both a graphical way and the command to issue on the terminal to do it. Once added, you’ll want to update the system using yum update to make sure it integrates okay. From that point on, you can search your channels using YUM and it will pull down results from the RPMFusion channels you added. These channels contain additional Gstreamer packages that help for playing back files in formats like MP4 or videos encoded in H.264 as well as the media essentials like ffmpeg, lame, mencoder, transcode, and libavc. Trust me on this one because you’ll start to like Totem a lot more after you’ve done this.