A week with Fedora 34 on the Late 2016 Lenovo Yoga 900
I finally got my old computer out of the bedroom, since the new computer had to go back to Lenovo for an undetermined length of time due to a malfunctioning USB hub. Even at 5 years old, the Late 2016 Yoga 900 still going strong with Fedora 34, which I upgraded to last week.
The upgrade process went off without any hitch, using the DNF system upgrade plug-in. This isn’t an official way to upgrade Fedora, but then again, what is? GNOME Software probably works, but I like to know what’s going on in the background so if something does glitch I know what went wrong.
In Fedora 33, the default file system was changed to BtrFS. While I was skeptical initially, it turned out to be the right decision. While it did not use compress by default, it was a simple matter of editing /etc/fstab to tack on the ,compress=zstd switch on the / and /home mount options and then to compress both my / volume and /home subvolume. Just as easily as tacking on a sudo to the command I found at the Arch Linux wiki btrfs filesystem defragment -r -v -czstd / and then following up with btrfs filesystem defragment -r -v -czstd /home and waiting a few moments.
Fedora 33 started the experiment of making systemd-oomd the default way of handling low memory setups and moved away from SWAP partitions towards compressed RAM, which I was also skeptical of, but Fedora 34 makes this setup even more aggressive and my system responsiveness with 16 GB of physical RAM has improved quite a bit.
At the surface level, GNOME 40 has seen some big changes too. It’s got a refreshed Adwaita theme that I can actually stand to look at and it integrates nicely with Firefox’s recent theming changes. Somewhat strangely, the dock has gone to the bottom of the screen, yet still requires you to click on “Activities” or nudge the upper left corner of the screen to get to it, which seems a bit clumsy, but oh well.
My Microsoft Bluetooth Mouse works fine with Fedora 34, without that aggravating delay after you’ve left it sit for a moment that they apparently never intend to fix in Windows.
Also new, when the lock screen is on, Fedora 34 finally powers off my keyboard backlight, and then restores it when you wake the computer.
Many performance improvements in GNOME make it more responsive, by far, than the Windows 10 Desktop Window Manager on my new laptop, which is more than twice as fast at the hardware level.
After several months of dealing with the horrors of Windows 10’s File Explorer, which operates like Excel the File Manager, I find the relative simplicity of Nautilus delightful. That’s not really a new thing, but since I hadn’t gone back and forth between the two operating systems recently, it’s worth noting again that the File Manager in Windows 10 is a chaotic wreck and the one in GNOME just works and it’s immediately obvious where everything important is.
My VPN, Private Internet Access, does not mention Fedora on their installation instructions for the official software, but when I downloaded the VPN software and set it up, it runs fine on Fedora. All I had to do to tweak it was set it to run and connect to the VPN over Wireguard protocol on system start, and enable the VPN kill switch.
It’s a little awkward in that the GNOME wifi icon turns into a question mark while the VPN is on, and there’s no system tray icon like there would be in Ubuntu, but as long as you leave the app running behind all your other windows, it works fine. To be safe, I leak tested it uing an extended DNS leak test and then checked what IP address QBittorrent was reporting to TorGuard (a competing VPN, but meh).
The one glitch I’ve noticed is that Pipewire seems to glitch out the audio a bit now and then. It’s like back when Pulseaudio was new and frustrated so many people. I wish they’d knock it off and leave things that work alone, but whatever.
GNOME Boxes claims to be able to set up VMs with the click of a button. I don’t know if that’s new or not. I may play around with it and try to finally learn FreeBSD or something if I get bored.
One of the better uses for Linux is that when Windows leaves behind perfectly functioning older hardware, if you need to give a member of the family something that’s still perfectly capable of browsing the web and editing documents and doing video conferencing, there’s no need to run out and get them a new laptop that spies on them, like a Chromebook. It’s still pretty easy to swap out a twitchy battery and keep older hardware going for years to come with Linux. Firefox, for all of its faults, is still nowhere near as annoying as Chrome, and I really find Chrome to be so aggravating that if all I used an old laptop with Linux for _was_ Firefox (and they can do a lot more), it would still be worth it to avoid a Chromebook.
And it’s pretty hard to end up with a Linux system that’s just completely hosed because some malfunctioning program someone grabbed somewhere and jammed into the OS ruined the system settings or sprayed rootkit malware everywhere, which is so well known with Windows that the news now reports hundreds more ransomware attacks in the last week (paid to keep Windows out of the article by name, but we all know what it is).
In closing, I hope these audio glitches are hammered down. Other than that, Fedora 34 isn’t a bad operating system. (At least with GNOME. The other spins haven’t been getting basic QA, at least last year which is the point I gave up on Fedora with KDE.)
I’m not feeling slowed down or weighted down with an older system while I’m absolutely certain that Windows 10 wouldn’t be working well right now, and that’s if they even still support this. (Windows 11 certainly won’t.)