Fedora 18 : The winner is MATE (so far)…


I’m a few days into Fedora 18 and I think I’ve come the the conclusion that the desktop that best suits *me* is MATE. The journey to this point has been a rather long and meandering one. Let’s cut it short and start at GNOME2.

  • GNOME2 : I was happy and all things were good.
  • GNOME 3 (GNOME Shell) : When it became the default Fedora window manager I went with the flow and stuck with it for a few months. At the time I thought it was OK. I even wrote some posts saying I kinda liked it. After a while it started to get on my nerves and I switched.
  • LXDE : That lasted about 10 minutes. Nuff said!
  • XFCE : I stuck with this for quite a few months. It’s very simple and very quick. There are a few rough edges, but nothing that really made me squirm.

Once I installed Fedora 18 I felt like I needed a change. A quick return to GNOME3 convinced me that I now truly hate it.

  • Cinnamon : The first impression was very good. It’s not officially “supported” on Fedora, but is in the repo. The Fedora version seems a little buggy, which is where the problems began. I started trying to arrange my desktop and stuff just didn’t work. I have a feeling that Cinnamon may end up being my desktop of choice in the future, but for now I’ll have to pass for something that works properly on Fedora.
  • KDE : I’ve had brief dalliances with KDE over the years. The people who love it seem almost fanatical. Every time I’ve tried it, it has driven me nuts. I had made a decision that Fedora 18 was probably going to be the version where I become a KDE fan. Two days was all I could take. I don’t know what it is about KDE, but I can’t handle it. It is by far the prettiest window manager. I look at it and I feel like I want to use it. Trouble is, when I start I feel like it is getting in my way. I can’t really put my finger on it. It just isn’t for me.
  • MATE : So we come full circle. MATE is a fork of GNOME2. I read something recently that says it uses most of the plumbing of GNOME3, but has the “traditional” GNOME2 feel.  I installed it and it felt like coming home. After a few months of being out in the cold, MATE was a hot fire, a pair of warm slippers and plate of beans on toast with a bit of cheese on top. Fantastic! My desktop is very simple and functional. The interface does not get in my way. It’s not going to make Linux the desktop of choice, but I think a lot of long time Fedora users will try it and like it.

I understand that open source is all about choice, but it seems such a shame that we have so many talented people all working on different window managers, none of which quite hit the mark. It just makes you wonder what could happen if they all worked together. Of course, it would never happen, but you can dream…

If I’m honest, OS X is better than any of these interfaces. I think Windows 7 probably is too. The bonus with having your interface dictated to you is you just get on with things and make do. The Linux desktop is definitely a case of “Freedom is slavery“. Being the Linux fan I am, I will just have to continue being a slave…

I reserve the right to change my mind at any time, so when next week I’m telling you Windows 8 is awesome, so be it. :)



Fedora 14 on my desktop…


I wrote a post a few days ago about Fedora 14. Over the weekend I could resist no longer and switched to Fedora 14 as my desktop OS. Prior to this I had been using CentOS 5 for ages.

Now remember, I do almost everything in VMs, so all my Oracle stuff is still on OEL5 x86-64. This is just the desktop I use to run VirtualBox and a browser.

So far so good. The installation went fine and VirtualBox is behaving it self OK, so all my VMs are running with no problems. For the most part it all feels very similar to CentOS 5, but because all the underlying pieces are up to date I get to run a few extra things, like Chrome as my browser, Shutter for image capture and a newer version of Gimp.

I think Ubuntu is a more natural desktop than Fedora, but I’ve been using Red Hat versions of Linux for years, so I just feel a little happier on them. Fingers crossed this will work out OK.



Desktop Virtualization Tools…


Some quick thoughts on the state of desktop virtualization tools…


If you’ve been checking out my RAC articles, you’ll have probably noticed I’m a bit of a VMware fan. I originally used VMware Workstation, but switched to the free VMware Server when it was released in 2006. I don’t have much cause to complain about VMware Server, but it’s always good to take a look at the competition to see if I’m missing out…

I guess before I start talking about virtualization, I should define what I mean by desktop virtualization. For me, “server” virtualization tools should install on the bare-bones hardware, like Oracle VM and VMware ESXi. I don’t want to waste resources on having a host OS running as well as my virtual machine. On the other hand, desktop virtualization tools should run on top of my host OS, so I can play about with other operating systems, but don’t have to dedicate my hardware to that task.

Vmware Server

Even though the name contains the word “Server”, I still think of this as a desktop virtualization tool as it installs on top of the host OS, not on the bare-bones hardware. That said, it’s the most server-like of the desktop virtualization tools I’ve used. It’s very stable and very feature rich. That’s a good point for someone like me, but may be off-putting to the more casual users.

I guess the standout feature for me is the ability to share disks between VMs. This makes RAC installations using ASM, OCFS2 and raw disks possible, which is a pretty big thing for me. Obviously, if you never do RAC installations using shared disks this is irrelevant.

I guess my only real gripe about this product is VMware are slow to add new OS support. I’ve been waiting for the final release of version 2.0 for a long time, so I still don’t have proper RHEL5 support. That said, I’ve not yet run into any problems running RHEL5 or any other OS, so I guess I’m being mega-picky considering it’s free. :)

If you’re an Apple fan you are out of luck. VMware Server is a Linux and Windows tool only. That’s not as much of a limitation as it sounds since it’s supposed to be a server tool. VMware Fusion supports Macs, but it’s not free.


I got my current laptop about 1 year ago and it came with Windows Vista. I tried to use VMware Server on it and ran into a bunch of network related problems. I knew some people who were using Parallels on Apple Macs and I saw from the website it was compatible with Vista, so I spent some money and got a copy of it.

Parallels was easy to use and “did what it said on the tin”. I had no problems running Windows and Linux guests, but it wouldn’t let me share virtual disks between VMs and it cost money. The first point was a major issue for me. The second one wasn’t so bad, but a little annoying when I was used to using a free product. :)

While using Parallels on my laptop I was still using VMware Server on my main Linux boxes. Not long after buying parallels I found a solution to my VMware Server on Vista networking issues, so I switched back to VMware Server and never launched Parallels again.

I guess Parallels trump card has been the support for Apple Macs, so you can use one tool for Windows, Linux and Mac.


This has been knocking on the door of VMware for some time. I guess two really big steps for Xen, as far as people like me are concerned, have been its inclusion in enterprise distributions, like RHEL5, and the introduction of Oracle VM. The enterprise linux distributions (Red Hat, SUSE etc.) approach is to run Xen on top of the Host operating system, making it look very much like a desktop tool. This is a bit unfair as it’s certainly got more to it than that, but that’s how it appears. Oracle’s approach with Oracle VM is to “remove” the host OS and allow it to be installed on bare-bones hardware. I say “remove” because it is still there, but it’s a very small footprint, not a complete kernel+tools installation. This is much the same as the approach used by VMware ESXi. The inclusion in heavyweight distributions like RHEL and its use by Oracle in Oracle VM send out a strong signal about the power of Xen.

As soon as I got my hands on CentOS 5, I gave Xen a try and was pleasantly surprised. It works well and has the “server clout” that some of the other tools lack. When chatting to some Red Hat staff about a year ago, the general consensus was Xen out-performs VMware for Linux VMs, but it a little slower than VMware for Windows VMs. I’m not sure if that position has altered since then and I certainly have no evidence to backup that statement. :)

I guess the biggest issue for most people will be that Xen is only available on Linux. That’s fine as far as server virtualization is concerned, but it means it drops off the map where desktop virtualization is concerned because it’s still a MIcrosoft world out there.


Available for about 18 months, and acquired by Sun about 5 months ago, I only noticed VirtualBox a few weeks ago when I was looking through the “Add/Remove Applications” utility on Ubuntu 8. A bit of Googling and it turned out to be the current darling of desktop virtualization. Of course, now I know it exists I can’t go a day without noticing someone else writing about it. So today I thought I would give it a shot, which ultimately inspired this post.

I’ve done a test drive of Virtual Box Open Source Edition (OSE) on Ubuntu and it’s pretty sweet. The interface is very simple and it works fine. I can’t speak for the paid-for product, but the OSE edition has no pretensions of being a server virtualization product, so it lacks some of the things I hold dear, like shared disks. What’s more, looking through the forum, it is unlikely to add this type of functionality in the near future, as its quite rightly not considered a must-have for the desktop.

If you are thinking about running Oracle 11g on VirtualBox, you might want to read this post by Eddie Awad.

I guess the two big plus points in favor of Virtual Box are its free, and its available for Windows, Linux and Mac. Those two alone make it pretty compelling.


I know there’s a bunch of other virtualization tool out there, but I don’t consider any of them particularly mainstream. I know Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 could be considered a biggy, but I would never use a Windows only product like this because I’m not a Windows only guy. Call me biased, but it is my blog.

Update: Look at Qemu if you need non-x86 emulation, or coLinux if you only use Linux VMs. :)


For the time being I will be sticking with VMware Server. The main reason for this is it allows me to do my RAC installations using shared disks. Added to that, I can share my VMs between my Linux and Windows boxes with no problems.

If you don’t need shared disks I would seriously consider VirtualBox because it’s simple, free and supports all the right platforms. Seems like the obvious choice for most people. :)

I’m interested to know your feelings on these and other products. After all, I’m just speaking from my experience of them and it’s always good hear differing opinions.