Update: First Look Fedora 11 Live CD/USB, Misc Thoughts, cheese Sucks

Just a quick update before I get on a conference call. I’ve now booted both the Gnome and KDE versions of Fedora 11 Live from USB thanks to this unetbootin recommendation from scottro. That (old) thread at FedoraForum includes other helpful suggestions netbook users can try if they get bogged down with Fedora images. (Edit: I used unetbootin to successfully get a bootable USB stick with Fedora 11 from within Fedora 10; haven’t tried in Windows.)

Impressions? Well, the KDE version seems more stable than I recall from the prerelease image I ran a couple months back. I didn’t do much with it except look to see which apps it comes with — KOffice and other K-apps instead of OpenOffice. I then booted the Gnome version and it’s not too different from the Fedora 10 selections: AbiWord, evolution, cheese, totem, rhtythmbox, etc. That’s good because I don’t like radical changes. There’s still no hotplug support for the SD card reader (the one on the left side of the AA1 — haven’t tested the multi-card reader yet) unless you boot with a card inserted; I did see that the jmb* module loaded when I later inserted a card after (cardless) boot, it just doesn’t work yet. Beyond that, things seem to be working fairly well.

I was more inclined last night to run a KDE-based system over Gnome, but both are a bit more cumbersome and bloated than I really desire. It’s not so bad with a GB of RAM but I think people delude themselves that Linux is inherently better than Windows on low resource hardware — I think XP’s performance is still a lot better on this AA1 than Linux 2.6, especially with the chronic polling and shit that Gnome does (and KDE, too). That’s why I may go ahead and do a minimal install of something whether it’s Fedora or Debian or Slackware and then install more or less only what I want.

That last point, as it relates to default selections of software, reminds me of how many things I switched around in Fedora 10 on my AA1. I installed OpenOffice.org to replace AbiWord (because I use it at work and I needed Calc and Base as well), mplayer from rpmfusion in place of totem and cheese (see below), mksh (left bash installed in case any important scripts are full of bash-isms or call directly to /bin/bash), emelfm2 in place of whatever retarded file browser was the default, and a variety of small-ish apps I like to use. And bigger apps like Skype, which works very well now that the microphone is working.

This “cheese” webcam studio or booth thing fucking sucks. I read the FAQ and whatever else I could find to try and get it to record video without stuttering — or even minimal stuttering — but it was still so fucked up even with the smallest possible resolution I could set that I abandoned all hope for it. It basically freezes for a few seconds at the start of a capture and never really gets its shit completely together after that. Looks like the developers were more interested in useless shit like the nifty count down timer and “flash” thing that goes off (not to mention all the “effects”) than getting legitimate core features — like smooth video with properly synced audio — to work correctly. In a way, it’s typical of GNU/Gnome projects where people “major in minors” and the more important things never get finished or it’s a half-assed unfinished project that never fulfills its stated objective (see guile, which was supposed to take on TCL/TK but has languished in near obscurity behind other newer and more relevant languages).

Fortunately, there are things that work a lot better even at the higher resolutions the cam is capable of using. Here’s my alias for recording from the webcam using mplayer/mencoder.

alias record_stream='mencoder tv:// -tv \
driver=v4l2:width=320:height=240:device=/dev/video0:forceaudio:adevice=/dev/dsp \
-ovc lavc -oac twolame -lameopts cbr:br=64:mode=3 -o '

Change the encoders to suit what you have on your system. Type/tab complete the alias in a terminal and add a filename with format type (e. g., record_stream ~/Videos/today01.ogv) after record_stream and use ctrl-c to stop recording. Is it as fancy as something with buttons and can you see yourself? Nope (though it’s possible to run mencoder/mplayer so you can see what you’re recording). The captured video (and synced audio) is of much better quality than I was ever able to get from cheese.

(If you must see yourself before recording you can add an alias like “stream_test=’mplayer -tv driver=v4l2:fps=15 -vo xv tv://'” — you can also add whatever you need to listen to yourself if you need to test the sound, too, but that’s a system setting that you should set to work without constantly screwing around with it.)

I realize people drawn to Puppy and Ubuntu will throw up their hands and yell “WTF” at that, but script it through zenity or something if you think you need a fucking button to click just to do a simple task like capture video from your webcam. It’s easier my way. Really. And you can use whatever codecs you have installed — mpg, mp4, avi, mov, wmv, ogg, whatever.

Anyway, still not committing to Fedora 11 yet because there’s nothing in it that I don’t have working in 10 — just newer version numbers of the same stuff. The only reason I may install it sooner than later is because I want to reclaim space used in various other Linux partitions for one unified install, which kind of mitigates against installing from the live CD anyway because of the quirky requirement that / be ext4 and /boot be ext3, etc. Now that I’ve slept on it, I’m more convinced I want something a bit more conservative with a longer support cycle than Fedora offers. May have more time later to do something.

Still on my to-do list and coming soon: Updated DSL hard drive guide in PDF, even though DSL is pretty much dead. Could have it posted by the end of this weekend.

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