After trying Ubuntu 8.10 for two days on my Macbook, which proved to be a success, I now take Fedora 10 for a spin. Read on to see how my two days experience was with this Linux distro.
Before we start
Fedora is a popular Linux distro (ranking number 4 on Distrowatch), sponsored by RedHat and developed by the Fedora Project community, with a 4-6 month release cycle. Actually, it may be considered a “beta” version of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Red Hat’s supported distribution with a release cycle of 18 month.
Red Hat recommends Fedora for developers and highly-technical enthusiasts using Linux in non-critical environments. I’m neither a Linux developer or highly-technical when it comes to Linux, but at least I’m enthusiast.
Because both Ubuntu 8.10 and Fedora 10 use the latest versions of Gnome and Nautilus, they look quite similar.
Editor’s note: Bogdan is the resident Mac geek, and has just started using linux. This article is not an in-depth comparison between Ubuntu and Fedora.
The main features that differentiate Fedora from Ubuntu are:
It uses RPM packaging and YUM for command-line package management, which some may find slower than Ubuntu’s apt-get and aptitude, but I didn’t notice that much of a difference.Community is smaller, number of pages indexed by Google is smaller(31 mil compared to 75) but the forums are active and you will definitely get your questions answered.It is considered leading-edge, because it always integrates the latest open-source technologies. (For example: OpenOffice 3.0, that didn’t made it to Ubuntu 8.10)Comes only with FOSS. So you don’t have MP3 support out of the box.because security is one of the most important features in Fedora, it has Security-Enhanced Linux(SELinux) which provides advanced security policies trough the use of Linux Security Modules(LSM) in the Linux kernel.
Fedora’s installer, called Anaconda, looks like a mature installer, with a lot of options if you know what you are doing (fully unattended installation with scripts or VNC support).
Partition configuration is easy and more intuitive than Ubuntu’s and you can also choose which software packages to install. During installation, you are asked for the root password. In Ubuntu I had to search the forums to figure out how to do a sudo, because the installer did not ask for a root password.
Logitech USB Webcam, Fuji Digital Camera, Wireless and Dual Monitor support worked OOB. To enable Bluetooth I had to modify a config file, but it worked great. My Canon MP520 printer refused to print with the generic drivers and no plug&play 3G internet connection with my Nokia phone. Overall, the experience was acceptable. Power management, suspend and hibernate also worked flawlessly on my MacBook.
Look and feel
As mentioned, because of Gnome, Fedora looked very much like Ubuntu. The default Nautilus is striped down – no side panel, no buttons and no tab browsing. One little glitch I encountered: folder icons on external drives were represented with file icons.
I liked the Solar theme with it’s desktop wallpaper and the wait cursor. The boot loading bar is quite original, but the start-up tune is awful.
No luck in enabling desktop effects. It would just hang, requiring a restart. I tried to install some Compiz Configuration packages, but at every boot, it just loaded a blank screen. I had to reinstall Fedora. So no eye-candy for me. Reinstalling Fedora because of Xorg video framework errors is highly unnecessary; just remember to back-up the config files, then boot into the failsafe terminal to restore them. Unlike Ubuntu, the configuration tools are organized in folders and are easier to find.
Something very useful I didn’t notice in Ubuntu 8.10 is the File Sharing (SAMBA) configuration utility. This applet lets you easily set up a shared folder locally or access already shared resources.
Yum’s graphical front-end (gpk-application or Add/Remove Software) is somewhat similar to Synaptic, but a little less ergonomic and the number of available applications seemed smaller. To get the software that Fedora Project did not want to ship you need to install RPM Fusion.
Every time I tried to install a downloaded rpm package, I was greeted with some annoying warning messages and had to click “Copy File” and “Force Install”. To add to the frustration, no finish message was displayed, leaving me to think something bad happened.
I don’t know if this behavior is general, or specific just to Fedora and other RPM-based distros, but it is very annoying: I can’t install an rpm while another rpm is being installed.
Editor’s note: This is a security feature of SELinux.
Updates seem to come very often. Unfortunately, after a round of updates I started to receive Kernel failure errors. Just my luck.
In order to do some of the basic things they are used to on Windows or Mac, new Linux users must be fairly tech-savvy. This is why the ‘newbie friendly’ factor is important in attracting new Linux users from the other operating systems.
Ubuntu emerged as the most easy and user-friendly Linux distribution. I can say Fedora is not that far behind, but I wouldn’t recommend it to someone completely new to Linux.
I agree with the consensus that Ubuntu is intended for the desktop, while Fedora, with its high degree of configuration and professional feeling is intended for developers, linux enthusiasts or server machines. Or NASA geeks.