Fedora 8 (werewolf) on Virtual PC 2007

My "Running Linux in Virtual PC" posts seem to be some of my more popular reading, so let's have a go at the recently released Fedora 8 (It's no longer Fedora Core).

As with most distributions, if you try to install it right off the ISO, you will rapidly hit the "screwed up graphics".  Virtual PC 2007 does not support 24-bit color, and guess what mode is used by most Linux installers?  Good times :)  You could install in text mode, but as it is no longer 1992, let's do this in graphics mode.  Unfortunately, the tricks I list for installing Ubuntu do not work for Fedora.  Oh well...

First off, you will want to download the ISO here: http://fedoraproject.org/get-fedora

Create a new virtual machine, and at the first screen hit "tab" for additional options.  You will want to add "vesa" to the end of the boot parameters to fix the screwed up video problem.  Booting at this point will introduce you to the other problem plaguing recent distros in Virtual PC... a non-functional mouse.  Fortunately, I have the fix for this as well :)  Add "i8042.noloop"

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Hit enter, and you will end up in Anaconda (the Fedora installer) with functional graphics and a working mouse.  WOOHOO!

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The next few options (language, keyboard layout, etc) are all quite standard.  It appears that the Fedora team has decided to go with a knock-off of Apple's Aqua glowing orb circles.  Interesting...

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We get the standard option to choose what packages are installed (Office and Productivity, Software Development, or Web Server).  You can select the checkbox for "Additional Fedora Software" to get packages that were not chosen for inclusion on the DVD. 

If you are not up for an hour of hand-picking which packages are installed, Fedora 7 introduced the concept of "spins" (special ISOs of the distribution with custom package sets).  At the time of this writing, the available spins (http://spins.fedoraproject.org/) are:

  • Fedora 8 Live Games i686
  • Fedora 8 Live Developer i686
  • Fedora 8 Live FEL i686

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Next comes "grab some coffee" time while Fedora installs. Avoiding a problem that has plagued installers since the beginning of time, Fedora doesn't even bother to estimate how much time is left.

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When you are done installing, go ahead and reboot.  Graphics will work fine, but the mouse will not work again.  <sigh...>  make sure to stop the reboot at grub, press "e" to edit, and add our hallowed i8040.noloop parameter to the 2nd line (the one that starts with kernel).  After editing the line, hit enter and then "b" to boot.  We'll have to do this one more time later to save the change for good.

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Now you can finish booting and walk through the first-run setup wizard!

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After walking through the options, you will finally be at the (somewhat funky looking) Fedora login screen.

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After logging in, let's fix that mouse problem for once and for all.  Well... until Fedora updates the Kernel, then you'll have to repeat these steps. 

Go to Applications --> System Tools --> Terminal

Normally, I would do the following commands with Sudo, but I get a message that I am not in the sudoers file.  Wierd... feel free to fix that if you'd like and do the following with sudo.  I'm just going to violate security best practices and elevate to root with SU.  So:

  1. "SU"
  2. nano /boot/grub/menu.lst
  3. Arrow down to the line starting with "kernel".  Arrow to the end of the line and add i8042.noloop
  4. ^O to write out
  5. Enter
  6. ^X to exit
  7. Type exit and hit enter (twice).  Once to exit your elevated root prompt, and once to exit the terminal.

Hooray!  You should have a working mouse from now on :)

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So what is new in Fedora 8?  Ars has a great writeup here, and the official feature list can be found here: http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Releases/8/FeatureList.

  • New PulseAudio sound daemon (which allows users to set the volume for each application individually, just like Vista
  • New Codeina utility that allows users to purchase proprietary codecs
  • New PolicyKit authentication system
  • New Look/Feel (I much prefer it to Ubuntu)
  • Compiz (although it is not enabled by default, and which likely does not work on Virtual PC's anemic emulated video card, although I have not tried it)

Taking a look through the UI, I see that only FireFox and Evolution are in the quicklaunch.  OpenOffice has been relegated to a menu, where even the OpenOffice branding has been removed.  I wonder if there's a story behind that?

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In any case, once you get the mouse and video working, Fedora 8 works like a champ and runs great.  It sure would be nice if they did a bit of testing on Virtual PC (as that is a platform that is baked) so that we did not have to diddle around with the video and mouse, but unfortunately that is a bar that only Novell/Suse seems to be able to hit.  All in all, great distro!