Fedora Core 5: A very personal review
As previously announced in an ealier article, I have finally completed the migration of my laptop from Debian Etch to Fedora Core 5.
I would like to write about it and my impressions after 5 days of using Fedora.
Fedora Core comes in a set of 5 CD-Roms, but you can install it from the net. I chose the first option, and it is important to actually have the 5 CDs ready for the installation (contrary to what one guy told me earlier). The installation was a breeze. Anaconda, the graphical installer, is a little bit less good-looking than the SuSE or Mandriva installers, but its even more effective.
I will not focus on the installation phase, but let me just say that nobody can fail its installation of Fedora Core 5.
I chose to install both Gnome and KDE, and Fluxbox as the lightweight desktop environment. I used to have these three desktops installed by default even on my Debian system (in case something goes bad with RAM, I can use a lightweight environment. It may sound stupid but well, I guess everybody customizes its system the way he/she wants).
I guess what you may want to know is how Fedora ran on my system: Fedora ran as expected, and even better than that: it ran perfectly; every device ran just out of the box (except the printer but I still have to configure it properly) . USB keys that were not recognized on Debian were working instantly. I have to say that all this was a big relief after some time of struggling with hardware problems ... Now let's get into more specifics.
As a fan of the Gnome DE, I have to say that Fedora is really the distro for Gnome users. Fedora Core 5 comes with Gnome 2.14, which is the latest and greatest stable Gnome release. I don't know of any other distro out there that ever managed to make Gnome more attractive and efficient. Not even Ubuntu, or the Novell entreprise desktop.
KDE, however, is rather ugly, but working very well nonetheless.Fedora Core 5 ships with KDE 3.5.1 and I have come to enjoy KDE's recent releases. But my preferences still go to Gnome, anyway.
In terms of package management, I think Fedora is actually a very big surprize for all the people who have come to worship Debian's Apt Get and Synaptic/Aptitude tools. Fedora uses yum as the package manager by default. While it is possible to use Apt-Get for RPM instead, it is not recommended (for reasons I can't clearly explain here). I read how to use Yum in command-line and found it to be surprizingly clear and easy to use. More to the point, I have realized that yum is actually more sophisticated than apt-get. Apt-get has more options, but yum handles conflict resolution better than apt and manages the packages and configuration cache better than apt.
That said, yum's graphical interface is not on par with Synaptic. While it tries to be and has some good ideas that need maturation in some respect, it still falls short of anything close to the ease of use of Synaptic, YAST or Mandrake Control Center.
In any linux distribution review however, there comes a time where the negative sides of the distribution in question have to be discussed. It is actually the most interesting part of the article not so much because I'd expect you to be picky but because most of the time people will judge by the drawbacks of a distribution; the good points are rarely a surprize, much less a reason to switch from one system to another. So what did go wrong with Fedora?
Several things were actually not that good and easy to understand. I should first point out that I didn't find Fedora to be a distribution tailored for newbies. Aside the installation phase I have the feeling that this distribution is targeted at the typical people who are part of the FOSS community. It's not too hard to configure, and still it does not fit the newbie users needs so easily. And there's no warning sign and pop up boxes that tell you you are about to do a grave mistake. Now, this is not a drawback to me: Fedora is THE mainstream distribution out there. If I could compare it to a car (this has been done before but I still think it's worth doing it for the sake of clarity and analogy), I would compare it to a VolksWagen. Apologies to my North American readers, but when I'm saying Volkswagen here, I'm thinking of the Volkswagen cars you get to find all over Europe'corners and streets. These are good cars, not the most beautiful nor the fastest ones, but cars that don't make you look lame either; a little rough on the edges, and rather common at that. They are not the most expensive ones, but obviously you dont look like you're driving a Lada either. That would be the idea I would like my readers to keep in their minds about Fedora: Fedora = Volkswagen ...
One of the problems I got into with Fedora is actually not Fedora's problem itself: because Red Hat and the Fedora project do seem to be extremely concerned by legal issues concerning music and multimedia in general (guess who puts them under pressure), the multimedia tools and codecs are either limited, either not configured properly.You have to browse through repostories that are well-known inside the Fedora community to know them. Helas, these repositories sometimes don't keep their updates as fast as the Fedora project, causing some packages to be notoriously absent from the overall distribution packages'pool.
Much in the same line, the setting up of multimedia is sometimes tedious and takes some time. To this day I managed to get everything up and running except Shoutcast play lists (*.pls links) so if anybody has a good idea I'll listen to him/her.
Another thing that didn't bother me but may bother others is the lack of graphical finition in the overall work. Understand me: this distribution looks great but progress bars in browsers and mail clients do not behave properly, for example.
Although I mentioned it before, the lack of coherent or comfortable graphical front end for package manager could rebuke some users.
Compared to other distributions, Fedora could have more choice in internationalization and localizations (try to do better than Debian and Mandriva...) but it's a tough thing to achieve.
All in all, I am happy with my migration, notwithstanding the fact that I didn't lose one bit of my data. Fedora is a stable system that has some finition problem but it does the job, and, compared to my former Etch system, it does it without moaning not putting difficulties where they shouldn't be. Fedora will stay on my desktop for quite some time, although I didn't turn my back to Debian. Debian is still on our servers here, and will remain there for a long time.
We are fortunate enough to have good quality distros, and more than one at that, so I guess all we have to do is sit back and enjoy the level of excellence the FOSS communitiy has achieved today!