Linux Comparison: Fedora and conclusion

My first experience of Fedora came with Fedora 7, not long after I first used Ubuntu. I had difficulties getting it set up correctly, especially when it came to downloading new applications, but once it was running the way I liked, I much preferred it to Ubuntu. My first impressions of Fedora 10 are good, but there are some clear issues that need addressing, especially when it is put up against Ubuntu and openSUSE.

Installation a mixed experience.
At first I didn't think I was going to be able to review Fedora. The LiveCD loaded to 100 percent within a few minutes, then sat there, apparently doing nothing. After waiting five or so minutes, I walked away and did something else. Fortunately, when I returned 15 minutes later, it was finally displaying the login screen.

The installation process was a mixed experience. The first question asked for me to give the computer a ""hostname" � I knew what it was asking for, but would a new Linux user? The installation was better from there on, with it detecting a weak root password and an easy to use section for editing the boot menu. The partitioner correctly found my Linux partitions and also had a selection for choosing whether I wanted to overwrite the Linux partitions or format the entire drive, as well as a few other possible configurations.

The installation itself was very quick.

First impression - wow.
My first few minutes of using Fedora made me start thinking whether I would choose Fedora as my favourite of the three. It displayed a graphical boot menu to me, before going through a simple, yet still attractive, boot process.

The login screen in Fedora 10 looks quite different compared to how login screens usually look in Linux. The default wallpaper isn't something I'd usually comment on, but in this case it really is quite good. Not only that, but there is a good selection of other high quality desktop wallpapers included for you to choose from, something I've not noticed in a Linux distribution before.

The default Fedora desktop wallpaper is really quite good.

One of the first things I noticed was the theme in Fedora 10. In Fedora 7, the theme was basically a blue version of Ubuntu's theme, but the new theme gives Fedora a more polished and unique feel. With it's blue and light grey colours, Fedora feels as soothing to work with as openSUSE did.

Things start to go downhill...
Unfortunately, my first impression of Fedora began to take quite a few knocks, and it is hard to defend it. I'll start with video drivers, as one of the first tasks I tried to perform was to enable desktop effects. Doing so made my screen go completely white and stay that way until I pressed the Esc key. It wasn't quite what I was expecting � no prompts about video drivers not being installed, no "will revert after 15 seconds", no messages to say that pressing Esc would revert.

To be fair, it was probably a bit foolish to even try the effects without first installing any video drivers. As a web developer though, I have always been taught to take into account everything a user may try and do.

Anyway, I moved on and begun trying to find and install the nVidia video drivers, which turned out to be impossible to find! I added numerous additional repositories and still couldn't manage to find them, despite reading many third party resources saying that it would work. I can only guess that there are currently none available for Fedora 10, or I would need to obtain them from the nVidia site and manually install them.

...and continue.
Although not entirely down to Fedora, the update system quickly started to annoy me. The updater itself initially looked good, with the importance of updates displayed clearly. As expected, I was asked for my root password to start updating, however, due to the earlier addition of extra repositories, it began asking for my root password for any action relating to these new repositories. It seems a bit over the top to me, considering that I had to provide root authorization in order to add the repositories in the first place.

Another thing is the default menu organisation. While Fedora relies on simple menus just as Ubuntu does, the positioning of some items seems to lack logic. Perhaps I am just being picky, but items that I would consider to be clear system functions, such as the system monitor and software log, are under the "Applications" menu. Meanwhile, items that I would consider to be of more common use, such as the updater and "Add/Remove Applications", are under the "System" menu. Fortunately, as with Ubuntu, this can easily be changed.

It's not all bad though.
Codecs were easily sorted. I imported my media library into Rhythmbox, which immediately asked me if I wanted to find codecs for my music. It found and proposed the installation of all the correct codecs. It was quick and easy, just like Ubuntu, and installed the relevant codecs for video playback at the same time.

Installing codecs in Fedora was as easy as in Ubuntu.

What applications are included?
The default selection of applications seems a bit baron compared to Ubuntu and openSUSE, although that isn't necessarily a bad thing. The usual pairing of Firefox and Evolution are there, as well as Pidgin IM. What isn't there is OpenOffice, with Fedora including AbiWord instead. I've tried AbiWord before a few times and have had no problems, but for some reason on Fedora it ran the CPU at 100%, making everything slow. I eventually discovered this was being caused by the automatic grammar checker, and once I disabled it there were no more issues. I may add that it considered everything to be grammatically incorrect, so quite what it was doing with the CPU, I don't know!

Wanting to use OpenOffice, I opened the program for adding and removing applications. It initially looks clear, with categories on the left, but the list of programs on the right is a little less clear. Fortunately the search tool is pretty good, allowing me to get a list of all the OpenOffice packages quickly, although this left me to search through the mountain of language packs for the modules I needed. Thankfully, once I selected the word processor module, it grabbed the rest for me.

The Add/Remove Applications program is both easy and hard at the same time.

I have fond memories of Fedora 7, and despite the initial "wow" factor, Fedora 10 seems a bit disappointing. Overall I don't think Fedora 10 is as bad as it sounds, but in my opinion, it lacks that extra something that would make it special, and therefore, much easier to finish on a positive note. Unless you count the wallpaper selection.

Overall Conclusion
Linux still fascinates me. Less because of it's difference from Windows, but more because of the difference found between each distribution. Despite most Linux distributions being essentially the same, each system is unique enough to be compared directly. Ubuntu is easy to use, openSUSE is logically designed and Fedora has good wallpapers (sorry Fedora, all I could think of).

I hope that this comparison has encouraged those who haven't already to try Linux, and those who have, to consider trying another distribution. Even if you still prefer Windows, another Linux distribution, or other operating system afterwards, you will at least know why. So give it a try.

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