I recently installed Fedora-21 after several (too many) years running Fedora-15. The experience was traumatic and I wonder whether the time has come to do as many others have -- move to a different distribution.

I should say at the start, I am not a born Fedora-hater. I have been using Fedora and its predecessors since the Redhat 3.x days. (That's Redhat, not Redhat Enterprise, not Fedora Core; i.e. from around circa 1994 or so.)

I understand Fedora's role in providing a testing ground for features that may or may not later land in Redhat Enterprise Linux, and thus its "bleeding edge" propensity.

Nevertheless, I also expect to be able to use it for real work and not just beta-testing the latest-greatest whatever. Starting with Fedora-15, Gnome has been a real problem but a tractable one thanks to Xfce.

But Fedora-21 has turned out for me be right on the edge of usability. It took an order of magnitude longer to install and fix what was broken than it's taken in the past. And a number of serious problems remain such that it is usable but my productivity is impacted.

Fedora-15, the version I'd been using up to now, also had some big problems when released. I thought those were a one-off but it seems I was wrong. After this experience with Fedora 21 coming after Fedora 15, I would dump Fedora in an eye-blink if it wasn't for the fact that I am not sure how many are directly due to Fedora (not that Fedora is not responsible for what they choose to distribute) and what are in other packages like Gnome or Xfce and are likely to be present in other distributions as well.

Here is a long, yet incomplete, list of specific problems I encountered. Several still persist...

  1. Broken scrolling. The Gnome/GTK folks, the ones that brought us Gnome 3, seem to be at it again. This time the little triangles at the top and bottom of the vertical scroll bars, useful for scrolling up and down a line at time are gone. And instead of scrolling up or down by a page by clicking in the scrollbar above or blow the position indication, that action now scrolls to the relative position in the document represented by the click point in the scroll bar. And if that weren't enough, there is some attempt at some kind of adaptive drag scrolling such that if you initially drag the scroll bar a large amount, the document will scroll proportionately as has been normal since, oh, around 1990 or so. But if one drags a small amount the document scrolls at a very small percent of the mouse movement. I suppose this was supposed to compensate for the loss of the fine control offered by the disappeared scroll bar arrows.

    But with a large document, it is nearly impossible to scroll with the mouse; the slow scroll mode is too slow, and the fast scroll mode is uncontrollable resulting in large jumps to unknown places in the document.

    The end effect of all this is scrolling using the mouse is erratic and difficult on large file and annoying on smaller ones.

    Worse, non-Gnome apps (in my case Emacs) are complete broken: A small scroll drag causes the document to move a little, then snap back to its original position and no longer scroll at all!

  2. Unusable checkboxes in Gnome dialogs. Some googling revealed that some window themes restore the scroll bar arrows. And indeed I found a few that did and out of those found one that looked ok.

    But then I noticed that many Gnome dialogs with checkbox widgets showed no check marks in the checkboxes. If I clicked on one, a checkmark would appear and disappear with no indication after whether the box had been checked or unchecked!

    Eventually after receiving no help in the Fedora mailing list, I found that all the Xfce* themes had this problem. Since this problem made the system virtually unusable, back to a non-Xfce theme. Bye-bye scroll arrows.

  3. Sticky/slow keys. These are accessibility features. The former is turned on and off by pressing the Shift key quickly a few times. When on it seems to result in automatically capitalizing each word typed (although in other cases it seems to act as though the Shift key were permanently held down.)

    Slow keys is even worse: when on the keyboard doesn't react to keystrokes for a large part of a second after a key has been typed. And I have no idea how it gets turned on or off.

    There is an Accessibility applet with checkboxes for turning both Sticky and Slow keys on and off as well as another for disabling all accessibility features. Needless to say I have them all disabled. Nevertheless, they become activated at random times (even though they still show as off in the applet)! Some posts on the internet suggest that the only way to fix this is to replace gdm with an alternative like lightdm. I've not tried yet (I'm timid when it comes to messing with things like that.)

  4. Emacs and Ibus. I often work with Japanese text which includes editing files with mixed English and Japanese with Emacs. In Fedora-15 I had to run Emacs with a particular environment variable set to allow the use of Ibus in Emacs for entering Japanese.

    That no longer works in Fedora-21. Worse, from my research it appears there is no way to make it work and the only option is to use Emacs' builtin IME -- an IME that works completely differently than Ibus (and not very well from my early experiments.) I've been forced to resort to typing the Japanese text into a some other application window (e.g. gedit) and copy-paste in into Emacs. That sucks!

    Nor can I change editors since many of the files I work with are org-mode files that only Emacs understands.

  5. Reshaping of windows near top and bottom of screen. When I drag a window to the top or bottom of the screen (usually to get it out of the way for a minute to work with some other window), I am thwarted when the window magically expands to full width and 1/2 of the vertical screen height.

    In the Window Manager setting applet, there is a checkbox for "Snap windows to screen border" which is unchecked. I saw no other setting other than this one that seemed remotely related. But the obnoxious behavior persists.

  6. Gnome menus. The new Gnome "sleek" menus seem to require an extra click to do almost anything. The File Open menu is a messy, unintelligible jumble of characters.

  7. Sparse setting applets. There were very few applets installed in the Setting menu after the initial Fedora-21 install. Each missing one required Googling to find out what was missing that did what I wanted to do, and what its package name was and then a yum install before I could change a simple setting.

  8. Gnucash insists on a password. When started on Fedora-15, Gnucash would, you know... start. In Fedora-21 it prompts me for my "keyword ring" password. I was never asked if I want a keyword ring, it seems someone just decided that I should want one (regardless of the fact all that the data Gnucash uses is in an unencrypted XML file. Classic "security theatre".)

    Worse, I run a cron job that occasinally starts Gnucash unattended in order to updates its internal database of security prices. That ran fine for years under Fedora-15 but no longer works, I suspect because Gnucash now wants a password.

  9. Configuring disks during install. From my notes made at the time:

    Disk config was pain in ass.  Forgot details after fucking
    around for 30 minutes but could not figure out how to tell
    it to erase existing partitions.  Secret turns out to be to
    select the "Automatically Configure" button rather than
    "Manually Configure", then click the "Make Extra Space"
    button (which is not selectable if "Auto..." is not selected.
    Can go back to "Manual" after that.
  10. Apache-2.4 requires config file changes. Change from Apache 2.2 to 2.4 required changing a number of configuration files.

  11. Current version of Postgresql not available from Fedora. I needed Postgresq1-9.4 but Fedora comes with 9.3. (I don't understand why this "bleeding-edge" distribution never seems to upgrade some of the software packaged for it). The RPMs from Posrgresql.org install to a directory directly under /usr (unacceptable to me). In Fedora-15 I was able to easily install and use a version from EDB but my attempts to use the EDB version on Fedora-21 resulted in some library differences that broke a several other programs (discovered over a period of days). Eventually it was suggested, and I was able, to build Postgresql-9.4 from the Fedora-22 SRPM package but it took a long time to finally get there.

  12. Other annoyances. There are many other little annoyances that weren't present on my previous system: when listening to streaming radio with VLC, it will sometimes stop playing altogether (tho the stream data is still coming in) or go into this choppy mode. Either condition requires a restart of VLC.

    Or that Undo is gone in Gedit, replaced by an undo that undoes a big block of changes back to some clock time (how many people can remember the changes they made since 3:47pm?!).

    Or that when Transmission has a problem, it now pauses all torrents and they remain paused even after a restart so that cron-driven starts are no longer reliable without human monitoring.

    I have other devices that send syslog messages to my Fedora-21 machine. Seems that journald (which replaces rsyslogd in Fedora-21) does not support receiving remote syslog messages.

All-in-all, installing a new version on Fedora from scratch, a task I used to budget 2-3 days for took almost 3 weeks to accomplish with Fedora-21 and it still has serious usability problems.