Fedora 28 Workstation Review Supplement: Installation

June 1, 2018, 6 p.m.

by ORDINATECHNIC

Fedora's default Anaconda installer features a new approach to installation in Fedora 28 Workstation. Anaconda now performs an OEM style installation where the user is created after installation on first boot as part of an expanded GNOME Initial Setup program. Other than this new approach, installation with Anaconda from a live image remains largely the same since the last major change -- the addition of the optional Blivet-GUI partitioning component in Fedora 26.

This article presents the installation steps of Fedora 28 Workstation as well as some of Fedora's resources for users related to installation.

Instroduction

Installation using Fedora's Anaconda installer is quick and simple for those who are already familiar with it. For those who didn't like the partitioning and partition selection method of Anaconda prior to Fedora 26 have the option of using the Blivet-GUI, introduced to Anaconda in 26 but available in Fedora's repositories since 21.

The big change this year is Fedora's adoption of an OEM style of installation, where the user is created after installation on first boot in an expanded GNOME Initial Setup. This program also lets the user specify common system settings before allowing them to start using the OS.

There were two things I didn't like about this change. First, is that the there was no way to set the hostname in the installer or the initial setup program. In past versions of Anaconda -- which is still used as the installer of the KDE Spin -- this aspect of networking configuration was part of the installer. Second, when rebooting after installation, the user is subjected to messages on the console before the desktop starts and the initial program is displayed. It seems to me that if Fedora developers expend the effort to refine the desktop user experience of the distribution by using an OEM type installation with an initial setup program, some effort should have been made to hide the aesthetically jarring messages. This issue is not just a symptom of the two stage installation, but the normal behavior of Fedora 28 during boot, unlike in Fedora 22, my last review of the distribution which was so polished during startup it seemed like a mainstream OS.[1]

Other issues that I thought could have been prevented are that the swap partition was not included in /etc/fstab and that the real time clock was set to local by the installer, which is not recommended, and also caused a conflict with the other distributions on this laptop which were set to recognize that the RTC is reflecting UTC time.

Download

The Fedora 28 Workstation download link is prominent on the Fedora Project home page. Not only that, but the website developers make it easy to find everything else a user may need related to downloading and installing Fedora. This includes easy to find links to resources, such as gpg signatures, sha256sum checksums, and instructions for using these to verify the integrity of the download and the authenticity of the ISO. This is not always the case with some distributions which require users to dig around the website and sometimes even google for these items. The download page also has links to the release notes, common bugs, and the installation guide. This is the kind of good infrastructure that is unfortunately available with distributions that have corporate sponsorship.

  • The Fedora 28 Workstation Download Page
    This page also has links to alternative downloads and resources.
  • Verify Download Link
    After activating the download link, a convenient link to download verification signatures and checksums, as well as instructions to verify the download are provided.
  • Verify Download Page
    The Verify download page has step by step instructions for downloading gpg keys and checksums and performing the verification of the download.
  • Release Notes
    Link to the release notes as well as other resources are provided on the download page.
  • Release Notes
    The release notes indicate that Fedora 28 uses GCC 8.1, a very cutting edge version.
  • Links to Resources on Download Page
    These resources include the release notes, installation guide, and known bugs.
  • The Installation Guide Accessed from the Download Page
The Fedora 28 Workstation Download Page
Convenient links to the gpg signatures, sha256sums, and instructions for using these for verification instructions are listed on the download page. Links to other resources such as the release notes and installation guide are also given.

Verification

I appreciated that Fedora makes the required files to verify the integrity of the download and the authenticity of the ISO easy to find as well as providing good instructions on using these files to perform the verification.

  • Verify Download Link
    After activating the download link, a convenient link to download verification signatures and checksums, as well as instructions to verify the download are provided.
  • Verify Download Page
    The Verify download page has step by step instructions for downloading gpg keys and checksums and performing the verification of the download.
ISO Verification
Fedora makes it easy to find the necessary information to and files to verify the download integrity and the ISO authenticity.

Installation Media

The Installation Guide has instructions on creating an installation medium using various methods including the command line program dd. I determined the block name of the USB thumb drive using lsblk, and blkid, instead of the suggested method of using dmesg, and used dd to write to the thumb drive.

  • Installation Media Creation Instructions
    The Installation Guide has instructions on creating an installation medium using various methods including the command line program dd.
  • Creating a USB Installation Medium Using dd.
Creating Installtion Medium
I determined the block name of the USB thumb drive using lsblk. and blkid., and used dd. to write to the thumb drive.

Installation Steps

Installation using Fedora's Anaconda installer is quick and simple for those who are already familiar with it. For those who didn't like the partitioning and mountpoint specification method of the past versions of Anaconda or have advanced configuration needs have the option of using the Blivet-GUI.

Anaconda Using Traditional Partitioning

Selecting the Custom item under Storage Configuration on the Installation Destination screen starts Anaconda's traditional partitioning tool.

  • Fedora 28 Workstation Live Environment
    The live environment displays a welcome message with the choice to start using the live environment or being installation.
  • Installer's Initial Screen
    The first step is to select a system language.
  • The Anaconda Installer's "Hub" or main screen.
    Note that the Network and Hostname component has been removed in this version.
  • The Time & Date Screen
    Since I was already connected to a network, the timezone was correctly set.
  • Network Time Settings
    Selecting the "settings" icon on next to the Network Time button on the previous screen opens a dialog that alows setting of NTP servers. The Fedora NTP server is preconfigured.
  • The Installation Destination Screen
    This screen is displayed when activating the corresponding item on the Hub. This screen shows the available disks and allows adding other disks.
  • The Installation Destination Screen
    I chose both available disks because I wanted to place the root filesystem, / on the SSD and the home filesystem, /, on the secondary HDD. Although the screenshot does not reflect this, I chose Custom under Storage Configuration.
  • The Manual Partitioning Screen
    Selecting Done on the previous screen brought up the existing partitions categorized by existing Linux installations. This screenshot shows the Unknown Linux installtion's (Sabayon) / partition selected, with its properties displayed in the right pane.
  • The Manual Partitioning Screen
    The same partition as in the previous screenshot is selected, except here I changed the properties so it would be used for the new Fedora installtion, most importantly the mount point. I set a new label for the partition, selected the filesystem type and checked the Reformat option.
  • The Manual Partitioning Screen
    After clicking the Update Settings the settings specified will be used for the installation.
  • The Manual Partitioning Screen
    In this screenshot, the Sabayon installation's home partition is selected, with its properties displayed in the right pane.
  • The Manual Partitioning Screen
    The properties of the Sabayon installation's home partition changed so they will be used for the Fedora installation's home partition. The mount point is set to /home and Reformat is selected. I also changed the volume label.
  • The Manual Partitioning Screen
    The EFI partition selected, displayed as part of the existing Sabayon installation. I chose a mount point of /boot/efi and retained the existing partition label. Note that the Reformat option is not selected, as this will delete all existing firmware bootloaders in this partition.
  • The Manual Partitioning Screen
    The swap partition is selected. The partition is recognized as a swap partition. It is impossible to set a label without causing it to be reformatted, undesirable as this will cause the /etc/fstab references to the swap partition by UUID to be incorrect.
  • Partitioning Summary Dialog
    Clicking Done on the Manual Partitoning screen will display the partitioning summary dialog.
  • The Hub screen with all settings completed (the orange bar at the bottom is gone). Clicking Begin Installtion will start the installation process.
  • Installation
    The upper part of the screen is conspicuously blank, maybe the Fedora project should put a slideshow here in addition to the messages at the bottom.
  • Installation
    System Monitor and Terminal with top running. Anaconda is in the background.
  • Installation is Complete
    Clicking Quit will close Anaconda.
Installation Using Anaconda
Installation of Fedora 28 using Anaconda and its tradition partitioning method.

Anaconda Using Blivet-GUI Partitioning

Selecting the Advanced Custom Partitioner (Blivet-GUI) item under Storage Configuration instead of Custom on the Installation Destination screen starts the type of partitioning tool that is typically found in other distributions. Available disks are displayed in the left pane. Selecting a disk shows the partitions on that disk in the right pane. If a partition is selected, it can be manipulated, either by right clicking or choosing the menu icons at the top of the pane.

  • The Advanced Custom Partitioner (Blivet-GUI)
    Selecting the Advanced Custom Partitioner (Blivet-GUI) item under Storage Configuration instead of Custom on the Installation Destination screen starts the type of partitioning tool that is typically found in other distributions.
  • The Advanced Custom Partitioner (Blivet-GUI)
    Selecting the partition and clicking the settings (gear) icon provides and additional menu with items such as Set mountpoint.
  • The Advanced Custom Partitioner (Blivet-GUI)
    Selecting the Set mountpoint menu item in the above screenshot opens a dialog for entering the mountpoint for the selected partition.
  • The Advanced Custom Partitioner (Blivet-GUI)
    Clicking the "light bulb" icon shows the properties of the selected partition.
  • The Advanced Custom Partitioner (Blivet-GUI)
    Selecting the partition to be used for the root filesystem and choosing the Set mountpoint item opens a dialog where the filesystem type, mountpoint, and partition label can be set.
  • The Advanced Custom Partitioner (Blivet-GUI)
    Selecting the partition to be used for the home filesystem and choosing the Set mountpoint item opens a dialog where the filesystem type, mountpoint, and partition label can be set.
  • The Advanced Custom Partitioner (Blivet-GUI)
    As in the traditional partitoner, selecting Done displays a summary of the operations to be performed on the partitions, and a button to accept the changes.
The Advanced Custom Partitioner (Blivet-GUI)
Installation of Fedora 28 using Anaconda and its newer blivet-gui partitioning method.

Testing Anaconda's Capability for Mounting Additional Partitions

When using Anaconda's traditional partitioner, I experimented with specifying the data partitions I usually add to mounting the data partitions that I usually add to /etc/fstab after installation during installation. The partitoning component of the installer allowed me to select the existing partitions and set a mount point without complaining. However, this causes a serious error in the installed system where none of the folders and files that would normally be in the users directory are not created.

Some distributions would allow this without any errors -- even creating the directories that would be used as a mount point automatically.

  • The Manual Partitioning Screen
  • The Manual Partitioning Screen
  • The Manual Partitioning Screen
Installation Using Anaconda's Optional Partitioner
Installation of Fedora 28 using Anaconda and its newer blivet-gui partitioning method.

Conclusion

I installed Fedora 28 workstation three times (actually Workstation two times and the KDE Spin once), the first time as an experiment, attempting to add my data partitions to mount points in my home directory using Anaconda's traditional partitioning tool. I found some installers, most notably the openSUSE YaST installer, are capable of this, even creating the specified directories used for mounting. This experiment did not go well as, despite the installation completing without errors, the actual installed system had problems.

The second and third installations, using the Blivet-GUI (Advanced Custom) partitioning tool and the traditional partitioning tool, respectively, without the above experimentation went smoothly and quickly. I did have an issue with removed functionality in the installer that was not added to the GNOME initial setup program, namely that the hostname was not able to be specified. Other unrelated issues include that the RTC was not set to UTC -- the installer could at least query the user as to what the setting should be -- and that the swap partition was not made available for hibernation. Also, the console messages that are displayed during the first boot after installation, before the GNOME initial setup program is encountered, detract from the polish that the Fedora developers are attempting to provide to the distribution with the change to an OEM type install and an initial setup program.

If these issues are addressed Fedora will provide an even more excellent installation experience than it already does.

Notes:

  1. [1]

    A similar regression in startup aesthetics occured in Ubuntu after the switch to systemd, but Fedora 22 used systemd.

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