Fedora and the repository politics (and exploding inkscape)

My Fedora Core 4 upgrade has been remarkably smooth so far. Here are the first two complaints about Fedora Core 4. One big one and one little one.

The little one is that inkscape is useless in FC4, it seems. Segfaults when you blink at it. So just use apt or yum to update, eh? Well, then there is the big problem.

Fedora needs to fix its repository politics. All the following is my perspective as a user, not as a packaging expert. Just anticipating the nitpickers, let me say that I might be wrong on the factual background of of some things I get from my impressions, but I know for sure what I go through as a user. Third party apt and yum repositories for Fedora Core comes in two divided worlds. On one hand there is Fedora extras, considered the official repository, with FreshRPMs and Livna loosely certified as compatible. On the other hand there is the group of repositories coming under the banner of RPMForge (Web site still under construction), led by Dag and including others such as ATRPMS and Dries. You usually cannot mix these two worlds without screwing up your system.

This is the sort of thing that makes Debian folks laugh their heads off, and they're right to do so. (Of course my experience with Debian was so miserable that I'm not in the least tempted to give it another try). Worse than the lack of repository integration is the fact that the various parties have spent energy flinging mud at each other that might have been better spent in integration.

Most of the time, this doesn't matter to me. I choose one side of the fence and chug along. Every Fedora Core release I give yum and the Fedora extras world a try for a couple of weeks. I can never stand it longer than that. Yum is terribly slow. Fedora Extras and friends are terribly slow to incorporate new software. As an example, when I run a script to count the number of RPMs I've for from Dag, AT or Dries because I can't get reasonable fresh versions from Fedora extras and friends, I come up with 89. This is a sure sign that Fedora extras needs to work better with RPMForge. If I were happy with being six months behind the software curve, I would have had one less problem with Debian (I could have stuck with "stable").

So I go on to Dag and friends, and actually, I'm fine from then. Those guys do an amazing job of keeping up on new and updated software without constantly breaking my system (the constant breakage was my other problem with Debian when I went with "testing"). This big repository split only really smacks me in the face on one occasion: at the point after upgrading Fedora when I've been trying yum and Fedora extras for a couple of weeks and realize it's time to jump to apt and RPMForge. At that point I have to do all the apt set-up for the right repositories and co., and deal with the initial wave of conflicts. I'm about at that point now, and hence this rant.

How does this schism serve anything except ego? Fedora extras and co say the other side is uncooperative and will not submit to their hard-core QA. Dag and co say say the other side is uncooperative and insist on stomping on his repository all the time. Couldn't something be worked out so that in effect Fedora Extras is the equivalent of Debian stable and RPMForge the equivalent of Debian testing? I don't know if that makes sense, but surely some form of compromise is possible. The message boards are full of confused users and something really must change.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia
6 responses
Speaking of inkscape, were you ever able to install it successfully on Fedora Core 3?  None of the repositories seem to have it (or at least the one's I use) and when I try to build it from source I get the following error:

configure: error: libgc (the Boehm Conservative Collector) 6.4+, is needed to compile inkscape -- http://www.hpl.hp.com/personal/Hans_Boehm/gc
I was on Red Hat / Fedora for the last 4 years, and I had a similarly terrible experience with Debian. However, instead of FC4, I just put the newest Ubuntu on my laptop, and I have to say that I am enjoying it right now.

I had to do the ndiswrapper install myself, but everything else went perfectly smoothly (If I recall, you have a laptop similar to mine). Synaptic works like it never did in FC, I don't have to browse repositories to find RPMs, and I feel confident of avoiding the apt db crashes that plagued me when I tried debian last. I feel like Ubuntu's packages are much saner than debian proper's.

Finally, since Ubuntu uses python for nearly everything, their python package support is stunningly good, which makes my life much easier.
Just a note that Debian is a similarly painful experience once you step out of the distribution's own package repository, whether that be stable, testing, or unstable.

For a while, I tried to run a server with Debian stable compounded with various backports repositories so as to have a mostly solid and security-fixed system with hand-picked recent software where I needed it. Unfortunately, the 3rd party repositories are almost totally uncoordinated, and you're lucky to be able to install software from two different ones concurrently without running into conflicts.

I ended up picking Debian testing for the machine in question, but I wouldn't choose Debian for any new setup. I can see that people with production systems which do not get touched except to keep them running have use for the distribution, but it seems useless for desktop or developer machines.

Maybe now that they got Sarge out the door, maybe they can sit down, listen to Ian Murdock himself ( http://ianmurdock.com/?p=239 ), and do some soul-searching.

Personally, I find myself stealing glances at FreeBSD. I'll see how that goes, once I commit to the effort...
I'm running Kubuntu with some extra repositories, and it's working very well - I doubt that I'm six months behind on anything that really matters, and it would seem that the Ubuntu packagers know what they are doing.

My experiences with Fedora Core are limited to FC3 where KDE and various applications were broken in numerous ways. Kubuntu may have its faults, but you wouldn't catch me putting FC on any of my own hardware.
I'd like to second Bills suggestion and suggest Ubuntu. I'm a long time Debian user and more recently been using Red hat, then Fedora in my workplace.

Ever since redhat 9 I've been trying my best to use apt with redhat/Fedora and its pretty apparent that the strength of Debian isn't so much apt but the stength and breadth of its packet repositories. Obviously Debians downsides are well known, including the glacial speed of stable releases (to be honest I mainly ran testing on my laptop which meant I had pretty up-to-date software).

Ubuntu has the fast and stable release cycle that Fedora has with a great core of well maintained (natively by apt) software and access to the whole Debian package repository. What more can you ask for!


Sorry, forgot to answer this.  Yes, I think Fedora Extras and Dag have Inkscape for FC3/i386 (it comes on the disk with FC4).  You're talking about your AMD 64 box, right?  That might be the thing.  I checked Fedora Tracker:


(click on "Packages", then enter "inkscape" for Name, set Arch to 64 AMD, distro to FC3 and uncheck Omit unstable repositories).  I got a hit in Fedora Extras. Also when I tried RPM search


I find one in Fedora Extras for FC3/AMD64:


And one for FC4/AMD64:


Note: Fedora Tracker defaults to FC4 now, but seems to have added hardly any packaged from that version.