Fedora 14 Upgrade to Fedora 16 and GNOME 3: Not for the faint hearted...

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Submitted by AlReaud on Sun, 02/26/2012 - 20:21

After waiting until Fedora 14 end of life to occur, I upgraded all systems to Fedora 16 except for one that had insufficient memory. Though the documentation says 768M, you should have at least one GB of ram and three times that in swap. It is important to note, before you start, that the upgrade process works better from a root shell than from the X-Windows GUI. Editing inittab may be required to allow this.

The first thing you want to do with this upgrade is, obviously, back up any critical data onto a machine that you can still operate with, such as a laptop or onto non-volatile media such as good quality DVDs. However, if you don't have another computer, I would recommend that you do an extra dose of your medication of choice before you start. Next install grub2 via the command yum install grub2, if it isn't already installed. This will save your ass when the install doesn't start. Having grub2 will allow you to manually start the upgrade via the grub command line or fall back to the old kernel version if all else fails.

Next we need to install preupgrade via the command yum install preupgrade. Now before starting, insure that you back up everything that you hold dear. That includes pictures, records, videos, anything that you can't afford to loose. Some things may not work as expected or may not work at all after the upgrade.

The next command that needs to be run is preupgrade-cli "Fedora 16 (Verne)", which starts the upgrade process. It requires one yes answer and takes a while even with high speed Internet. Figure approximately 1.8-3.4GB depending on what you've had installed previously. Fedora 17 is also now available. After completion of the upgrade, a reboot is required. Now it becomes interesting…

The first problem I came across is that on reboot, grub can't find the proper image file. If you have another computer that can browse the Internet, you're fine, otherwise hopefully you printed this page out. To get past that issue, one has to manually control grub. That is performed by typing a "c" at the grub prompt window. That opens up a grub command shell. In that shell type the following:

linux /upgrade/vmlinuz preupgrade repo=hd::/var/cache/yum/preupgrade
initrd /upgrade/initrd.img
boot

We thank Paul on Bugzilla for the lifesaving advice on how to get past this fatal bug. After this we can boot into Fedora 16 and Gnome 3.

Gnome 3 in Full Mode is an awesome interface, if one can get past the bugs and idiosyncrasies. It's almost like the developers took the play-book that Microsoft used when they upgraded from XP to 7. Maybe it's because I didn't go through Fedora 15.

Some of the more advanced features are:

  • Full use of all of the screen.
  • Overview display of favorites, current workspace, workspaces and widgets.
  • OS X-like favorites bar on the left side of the screen.
  • On-the-fly workspaces.
  • Windows key has functionality to bring up overview.
  • Drag and drop applications between workspaces.
  • systemctl replacing service as a significant upgrade of command line service control.
  • Better use of available memory.

Interesting changes and problems that have cropped up (pre-3.2.7-1):

  • Couldn't install on system with 768MB RAM. Found this out after running preupgrade-cli… angry
  • Lockups of gnome-shell on start and logout intermittently requiring reboot.
  • Screen saver interaction issues causing hard lockup requiring reboot.
  • Hard lockups that require power cycling rather than root login through the secure shell to reboot.
  • No menu editing capability other than editing the .desktop files.
  • No menu categorization capability other than editing the .desktop files.
  • Some classic useful panel widgets not ported over.
  • Older software can't be compiled due to library issues causing loss of some applications.
  • Service re-configuration may be necessary for some services like sendmail.
  • Drivers may need to be recompiled.

All in all though, the GUI is impressive once we get past the bugs. It seems to take the best of the OS X and Windows worlds and combine them into an awesome interface experience. BTW: Don't ditch the old kernel files as upgrades happen. I've already had one instance where the kernel was upgraded to 3.2.7-1 but ancillary packages weren't upgraded at the same time, resulting in gnome-shell lockup on reboot. A further upgrade fixed this, but having the previous kernel version available was a lifesaver.

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