Review: Fuduntu 2013.1

One of the new features in Fuduntu is the Jockey utility, a program which probes the system for hardware which can make use of third-party or non-free drivers. The Jockey application then offers to download these proprietary bits and install them. The Jockey tool has been popular in the Ubuntu community and I am happy to see it spread to other desktop oriented projects. Fuduntu is also the only Linux distribution of which I am aware which has included both the Netflix desktop software and Valve’s Steam client. The Steam client is native Linux software designed to assist users in purchasing and downloading games. The Netflix desktop package is, in fact, Windows software that has been bundled with WINE to allow users to watch videos from the Netflix catalog.

The Fuduntu distribution can be downloaded as a DVD ISO in both 32-bit and 64-bit builds. The downloaded ISO is approximately 960MB in size. Booting from the image brings up the GNOME 2 desktop. A welcome screen appears on the desktop providing us with links to the project’s documentation, forum, blog, social network websites and IRC channel. Should we run into problems there are certainly many avenues by which we can seek assistance. Dismissing this helpful window we find a classic desktop environment with the application menu at the top of the screen and a launcher at the bottom of the display. A single icon for launching the system installer sits on the desktop. The desktop’s wallpaper shows a tiger. My first impression of the graphical environment, with its dynamic launcher and big cat image, is that Fuduntu is trying to make users of OS X feel at home.

Fuduntu 2013.1 – the default GNOME 2 desktop
(full image size: 1,574kB, screen resolution 1280×1024 pixels)
Fuduntu, following its Fedora origins, uses the Anaconda system installer. The graphical installer walks us through confirming our keyboard layout, setting a hostname, providing our time zone and creating a root password. The partitioning section is fairly powerful, letting us set up LVM volumes, RAID or regular partitions. Encryption of partitions is supported. The version of Anaconda that comes with Fuduntu has a few issues. For example, the root partition we set up must use the ext4 file system and the installer demands an additional partition be created for GPT. The last screen of the installer allows us to configure and install the boot loader, GRUB2 in this case.

The first time we boot into Fuduntu a graphical wizard appears and walks us through some final configuration steps. We are shown the project’s licensing information and then we are asked to create a regular user account. The following screen lets us either set the system’s clock with the current time or enable clock synchronization using time servers. With these tasks completed we are brought to a graphical login screen.

When I first logged into Fuduntu one of the first things I noticed was an icon for Jockey which appeared in the upper-right corner of the screen. Clicking this icon allowed me to install non-free drivers for my video card if I so desired. Shortly following the appearance of the Jockey icon I also noticed another icon in the system tray which indicated software updates were available in the repositories. This is where I ran into my one serious issue while using Fuduntu. This distribution uses PackageKit, as do many other distributions. PackageKit has a bad habit of locking the package database and not letting go, occasionally for a long time. The first day I was using Fuduntu any time I tried to install third-party drivers, run the software updater or make use of the package manager whichever program I was using would sit idle, waiting for the package database to become available. PackageKit would never release its lock and so I was left waiting. Eventually I solved this problem by disabling the PackageKit service and, from then on, managing software was smooth sailing.

On the subject of package management Fuduntu provides a regular graphical application for package management referred to as Add/Remove Software. This program provides a simplified interface which allows people to search for packages and add or remove software. Other than being a touch slow at times, this graphical front-end to YUM worked quite well. There is a second program in the application menu called Ailurus which can also be used for basic package management. Ailurus is part package manager, part system settings tool and part repository manager. Despite the fact Ailurus takes on several tasks, it has a nice interface with clearly labelled buttons and I found it a useful program to have, especially when it came to customizing the desktop environment.

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