I’ve been using Fedora Core 6 pre-release for a couple of days now, and I’m ready to write about my experience so far. Overall, there are both good and bad things about Fedora. Here are some things that I like about it:
- The default desktop background is stunning. I like the DNA inspired theme and the Fedora logo. It has a professional and trustworthy appeal, but is free from the usual corporate seriousness.
- Beagle is integrated into Firefox, something that’s actually quite useful. With a regular desktop search, results from both local files and web pages are neatly presented in the same window. A cute puppy icon in the lower right corner of Firefox tells you that Beagle is there indexing the pages you visit. However, the actual search tool is unfortunately well hidden. I had to manually add a search icon to the Gnome panels.
- The graphical part of the startup process is very polished and professional. It feels like it’s using the native resolution (1440×900) of my screen, although I can’t verify that. See below, though, for my comments about the text-based part of the startup.
- I like how grub displays a nice image and hides all scary details by default. Ubuntu could learn a few things here — their grub version is not themed at all.
- The mouse cursor theme is nice. I like the Firefox-like dot spinning when the cursor is busy.
Things that could use some improvements:
- The icon theme feels really outdated. It’s like going back in time if you compare with the Human (Tango-inspired) icon theme in Ubuntu.
- Speaking of outdated, after using Ubuntu 6.10 with Firefox 2.0 (beta) for over three months, Firefox 1.5 feels really old. I know the latest stable release is still 184.108.40.206, but the step back compared to Ubuntu is definitely something you notice, especially when you realize just how much better Firefox 2 is. I find myself searching for a close button on the tabs themselves. Since Fedora already comes with a beta version of Gaim 2, why can’t it also ship with a beta of Firefox 2?
- Fedora Core starts up and shuts down horribly slow compared to Ubuntu. And it’s not just a perceived difference. Ubuntu starts up in almost half the time of Fedora on the same hardware. The big reason for this, I’m guessing, is the insane amount of system services started by default in Fedora. Not much has changed here since the old Red Hat days (back in the 20th century when I first tried Linux). Processing so many scripts one by one is bound to take a while.
- The initial text that appears when you start Fedora looks like a scary virus or something. If I wasn’t a nerd, I’d think my computer was broken. Of course, if I wasn’t a nerd, I wouldn’t have written all this, would I? To be fair, Ubuntu is not perfect here either, but it doesn’t display nearly as much mumbo jumbo as Fedora!
- The system updater struggled a lot when trying to install some sixty new software updates. I got many errors saying e.g. “Package gdm-2.16.0-10.fc6.i386.rpm is not signed.” Every time the error appeared, I had to uncheck the affected package and retry. After about six tries, the remaining updates installed without problems. It must be said, though, that I’ve never ever experienced a problem like this with the Ubuntu updates. It was rather annoying.
- Fedora Core 6 is advertised as coming with “Compiz/AIGLX which provides all those fancy [desktop] effects“. However, it is not installed by default, and enabling it during install is not straightforward. Even if you manually add the compiz package, you’re still left with a non-functioning option in System > Preferences > More > Desktop Effects. You simply get no effects by default.
Fedora Core 6 seems to aim more for the corporate desktop than the end-user desktop. It has shortcut icons for boring applications such as OpenOffice.org’s Word, Excel, and PowerPoint equivalents. As if that’s the first thing I want to do with my new computer!
The general feeling after using Fedora Core 6 is that it’s not as “polished” as Ubuntu 6.10. Some examples of what I mean:
- In Ubuntu, the media keys on my laptops (Dell Inspiron 6000, Latitude D620, and Inspiron 8600) work as expected. In Fedora Core, they don’t do anything. You need to configure this manually in System > Preferences > Keyboard Shortcuts.
- Ubuntu includes a nice sound theme that plays e.g. a melody when logging in and out of Gnome. In Fedora Core, you hear a horrible system BEEP instead when GDM is ready, but no actual sounds. This happens because, for some reason, GDM is configured to play a sound when GDM starts, but the actual sound file is not set. You can activate a sound theme manually in Fedora Core via System > Preferences > Sound, but I recommend not to. The sounds are absolutely horrible.
- The system notification icon about new software updates is not clickable. It doesn’t matter if you click or double-click it — nothing happens. When right-clicking, however, a pop-up menu appears. This is counter-intuitive. Granted, a big balloon with information is shown then first time the icon appears, but clicking the icon should at least bring back the balloon. Not simply ignore the user interaction.
- In Ubuntu, you are asked for your password when performing administrative tasks. This password is then cached for a few minutes, allowing you to perform other tasks without re-entering the password. In Fedora Core, you are forced to enter the root password every time you administrate your computer. This can be annoying if you need to restart an application to verify changes.
- Ubuntu detects and enables your network card automatically during installation. Fedora Core detects it, but doesn’t enable it by default. You need to click Edit and enable IPv4 and IPv6 options manually. This is really absurd to me. Who wants to have their network card disabled by default? I hope this is just a bug in the preview version of Fedora Core 6.
Bottom line: Fedora is a great Linux distribution, but not the best. I feel that — now more than ever — there are real reasons why Ubuntu is the most popular distribution. It’s not just a conception, it’s a fact . More specifically, it’s a long list of small things making Ubuntu more thought out. Granted, some things are better in Fedora, but that’s mostly just cosmetic, such as the grub/gdm theme, desktop wallpaper, etc. On the other hand, Fedora has a less appealing icon theme and window borders, so they’re really even in that respect. Anyway, good luck to the Fedora developers! Fix some of the issues above and Fedora will get even better.
 Not really; it’s a matter of taste. Your mileage may vary. :-P