Fedora 37 mini-review on the Blackbird and Talos II

It's been kind of a wild ride getting the Talos II and the Blackbird upgraded to Fedora 37, but we're there, so it's finally time for a mini-review to summarize the current state. As I always like to remind folks, Fedora was one of the first mainstream distributions to support POWER9 out of the box, it's still one of the top distributions OpenPOWER denizens use and its position closest to the bleeding, ragged edge is where we see problems emerge first and get fixed (hopefully) before they move further downstream. That's why it's worth caring about it even if you yourself don't run it.

Another important reminder is both my 'Bird and T2 are configured to come up in a text boot instead of gdm and I start GNOME (Blackbird) or KDE (T2) manually from there. I still test GNOME on both systems, but I've pretty much entirely migrated over to KDE Plasma on the T2, so I'll talk about both the GNOME and KDE experience in this and future mini-reviews. I strongly recommend a non-graphical boot as a recovery mechanism in case your graphics card gets whacked by something or other. On Fedora this is easily done by ensuring the symlink /etc/systemd/system/default.target points to /lib/systemd/system/multi-user.target.

As usual, the process is, from a root prompt:

dnf upgrade --refresh # upgrade prior system and DNF
dnf install dnf-plugin-system-upgrade # install upgrade plugin if not already done
dnf system-upgrade download --refresh --releasever=37 # download F37 packages
dnf system-upgrade reboot # reboot into upgrader

I did the Blackbird first, and immediately got a broken packages error because this was the system I had tested Pantheon on for Fedora 36. Just in case you didn't get the memo, new for F37 ain't no more Pantheon in Fedora (though there is a Copr). I just removed them instead (elementary-wallpapers-gnome, gala-libs and switchboard and switchboard-plug-tweaks). It booted into a graphical installer and rebooted without incident. The kernel release as of this writing is 6.0.13.

On the Talos II, which has the Raptor BTO option AMD WX7100 workstation card in it, even with GPU firmware loaded into the PNOR there was once again no graphical installation. If you manually select the kernel from Petitboot, it will at least show a text installation process. Alternatively, you can monitor on the serial port, or from a connected system viewing the serial console over the BMC's web server, or by logging into another VTY with CTRL-ALT-F2 or as appropriate as root and periodically issuing dnf system-upgrade log --number=-1 to watch log updates.

Although installation on the T2 also seemed to successfully terminate and reboot, Petitboot subsequently puked because it couldn't handle the state the updater left it in (the root is XFS and it had a stuck journal log entry). Fortunately the Blackbird was able to rectify the filesystem once the SSD was moved to an external device for recovery.

Both systems failed to update the grub2 configuration, requiring me to do so manually with grub2-mkconfig -o /boot/grub2/grub.cfg. This is a regression from bug 1921479 and can be detected in dnf with the same error message during a kernel package update (/etc/grub.d/10_linux: line XXX: test: XXXXXXX-pXXXXXXX: integer expression expected).

Additional problems were afoot on the Blackbird when starting a GUI, which is a basic 4-core using the ASPEED BMC for graphics. At least on the ASPEED, GNOME was rife with graphical abnormalities, worst of all in Wayland. (Starting Wayland from the command line also got more complex: I had to do something along the lines of XDG_SESSION_TYPE=wayland /usr/libexec/gnome-session-binary --builtin to get it to start; the regular gnome-session bombed out with an argument error.) Wayland is still restricted to 1024x768:

But that wasn't the worst of it. Trying to do even simple tasks yielded a lot of tearing and refresh problems. This is a picture of the screen because I couldn't even get the screenshot utility to work reliably.
So definitely a regression for Wayland. But even Xorg (still starts with startx, may need XDG_SESSION_TYPE=x11) had some unusual problems, like some apps' titlebars being transparent and causing graphical glitches:
Oddly, it wasn't all of them, though the Terminal was most affected. Newer or recently refreshed libadwaita-based apps seemed relatively immune, as did apps like Firefox that adhered to older GTK APIs. I keep the Blackbird as stock Fedora as possible, and I ran another update just prior to writing this up and didn't see any improvement.

KDE was not affected by that issue, though I observed — at least with Firefox and Thunderbird — that I had to grab the window and move it around a bit to get click point coordinates to be correctly reflected when the apps are full screen (then, after giving them a little shake by the titlebar, I could maximize them again and all would be well). I don't know whose bug this is exactly.

That particular irritation persisted on the Talos II, but none of GNOME's graphical problems that I saw on the Blackbird's BMC graphics. In fact, GNOME performed rather well for a change: I didn't need to force a rebuild of libgraphene this time to get improved performance and the UI was very smooth in Xorg. It also appears that the colour management issues I used to have where the screen would get blue-tinged have been rectified. Wayland GNOME had occasional animation stutters and a mild bit of lag but was otherwise useable, which is invariably the most I can say about Wayland.

Also in the positive category is that the bustage churn from the long double update in Fedora 36 is now almost all behind us, and the toolchain successfully built Firefox and other large projects without any new problems.

Overall F37 is a mixed update, more good than bad, but with some unwelcome regressions. In particular, if you are running BMC graphics only, even in Xorg GNOME has picked up some new glitches and in Wayland is once again a big mess. Systems with a GPU will largely be spared these issues — or just don't run GNOME. Likewise, be prepared with a second system to do any filesystem recovery if you're a long-time Fedora user and your root is still XFS; it may be time to convert it over to something else if you get pounded by it every time you do an upgrade.


  1. I also have a Talos II with AMD WX7100 and at my place the graphics installation works but I did a trick with the monitor. I have three monitors hooked up to the WX7100 and one of them still has a VGA input to it I hook up the output from the card built into the motherboard. This solution works perfectly.

  2. I was using Fedora before, but since I switched to Gentoo it's been a much better experience.


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