Fedora 30 mini-review on the Talos II

It's upgrade time! We're Fedora users here at Floodgap Talospace because Fedora was one of the earliest distros to "just work" on the Talos II (we've run it since F28). This is not intended as a general review of Fedora 30, just to the things that are likely to matter to Talos users. There are relatively few things in F30 that are unique to Power ISA or the Talos particularly since 128-bit long double slipped to F31, but it's still an important update all the same.

Again, for those of you unfamiliar with Fedora, it is essentially the upstream for Red Hat (or Red Hat is its downstream, depending on your point of reference). It tends to incorporate new changes earlier than many distributions and is notable for having no LTS branch per se, since RHEL would in effect serve that role. Major releases come out roughly every six months and are maintained on an N+2 system; Fedora 28 will become unsupported about one month after F30 was released, which means this week. Fedora 31 is expected around the end of October 2019.

Although you can update through GNOME Software, I prefer to do it from a text boot at the command line to eliminate any variables. The steps are the same as for F29. Virtually everything should be available from the mirrors by now for ppc64le; I have a large number of packages installed and the only thing that didn't appear in the repos was my old Perl-Qt4 bindings (this required adding --allowerasing to dnf system-upgrade download --releasever=30 to remove rather than vainly attempt to update it). Remember that if you don't have your GPU's firmware loaded into Petitboot and you have the VGA disabled, you will not see the graphical installer. While the installation will proceed anyway, you will only be able to monitor it by pressing CTRL-ALT-F2 for an alternate console, logging in as root (other UIDs are locked out) and periodically issuing

dnf system-upgrade log --number=-1

which displays the log so far. The system will automatically reboot upon completion.

One improvement this time around was the black screen lockup didn't occur after the reboot as it did in F29; the system went straight through to the login prompt unattended.

As is usual for Fedora releases F30 includes an upgrade to GNOME, this time to version 3.32. This review isn't primarily about GNOME, which people have a love-hate relationship with, and I suspect the problems in this version aren't unique to the T2 even though I don't run Fedora on anything else. But this release does seem less polished and/or more troublesome than the GNOME update in F29. On the first start of GNOME, the Dock wasn't populated, items in Applications didn't show up and some extensions didn't load. Fortunately the second start fixed most of it. However, GNOME 3.32 also broke the Mac-alike theme I use, which now has weird proportions in gnome-terminal and gaps in Settings (and of course no one spends any time on documenting exactly what CSS theme selectors go with what widgets or I'd fix it myself). In addition, the UX changes are of dubious merit, particularly the new standard app icons which to my sensibilities are garish and ugly; the icons in 3.30 weren't particularly wonderful either but they were certainly easier on my eyes. Finally, GNOME Web just sits there and spins until you make the window close, so yeah, guess it'll just be Firefox now. However, I do suspect this is a Talos-specific problem; it also occurred in F29.

Ordinarily I use X.org for windowing (a convenient startx brings me in from the text console). Since I hadn't really tried Wayland on Fedora on the T2 before, I started it up via dbus-run-session -- gnome-shell --display-server --wayland. It did seem to work fine for Firefox, GNOME Terminal and xterm, but oddly the Settings app wouldn't start, some games refused to run and window theming was inconsistent between Wayland-ready and XWayland apps. I didn't notice much of an advantage to it in terms of speed or stability, so while it's close to being a functional replacement I don't think it's quite ready for primetime. At least not for my usage, anyway.

Deepin is officially supported in F30 and is available for ppc64le from the standard Fedora repository (dnf install deepin-desktop), though GNOME hasn't made me hate it enough yet to try to hate something else.

Overall, F30 is some steps forward and some steps back, but if you're on Fedora you know the treadmill never stops. Fortunately, given that IBM owns Red Hat and Fedora is Red Hat's upstream, we can expect that Power ISA will be a well-supported platform on both Fedora and RHEL for the foreseeable future, and folks like Dan H who are more deeply embedded in the Fedora developer ecosystem help to maintain release quality. I look forward to F31 for further improvements but in the meantime F30 is still a solid release on the T2 and there's no good reason not to use it.


  1. So I finally fixed a bug that annoyed me most, gcr-prompter crashing when unlocking the keyring with my SSH keys (https://bugzilla.redhat.com/show_bug.cgi?id=1631759).


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