Quick look at Fedora

Lately I’ve been messing around with Fedora. I’ve been using and developing Ubuntu for over 2 years and I decided to take a little break and try something different. Right before the Gutsy release I had a brief look at openSUSE 10.3 betas. I think it’s very valuable for Ubuntu contributors to see what else is going on in the Linux/FLOSS landscape so that we can “think outside the box” and maybe better server our users.

So I’ve been running a dual-boot of Ubuntu and Fedora for a while. Fedora 8 was really pretty nice. Red Hat 7.2 was the first Linux distro I’d used and I tried a few of the early Fedora Core releases before landing in Ubuntu. I always found it a professional looking Gnome-based distro, though it often felt sluggish and experienced the dreaded RPM/yum hell. So, I was very pleasantly surprised to find in Fedora 8 a quick and responsive OS. Once the initial shock of using RPMs instead of debs wore off I found Fedora’s package management quite impressive.

One of my main complaints with openSUSE 10.3 was painfully slow and difficult to work with. In contrast, yum (and the yumex GUI) are very user friendly and responsive. Additionally, Fedora provides repo packages for both smart and apt that allow you to seamlessly use smart/apt/synaptic with Fedora repositories. Cool! Additionally Fedora 9 (which is currently a pre-release Preview) comes with PackageKit, which honestly seems like a less useful gnome-app-install. To be fair though, I haven’t played with it much so I might have missed some things. I can’t figure out how to install more than 1 package at a time which is a real deal-breaker to me. I’d love to be wrong about that though.

The Fedora artwork and polish are very impressive. I’ve always been impressed with Fedora’s artwork in general. It seems very consistent and professional. Ubuntu 8.04 has made some good steps in this direction. The Heron wallpaper is beautiful, in my opinion, and Ubuntu’s artwork seems to be getting a bit more consistent.

As far as hardware support goes both Fedora and Ubuntu work beautifully on my HP Pavilion dv6000. The only issue I’ve had is with my university’s wifi. The wifi network they’re currently phasing out uses a MS pptp VPN. Ubuntu has a nice network-manager-pptp package that works wonderfully. however that doesn’t seemed to have managed to end up in Fedora’s packages. I also got the new uni WPA wifi network to work fine in Ubuntu but it seems I’ve hit some sort of kernel/driver bug in iwl3945 in Fedora. I’ve gotta give huge props to Dan Williams who is the Fedora Network Manager guru. He spent several hours with me debugging my wifi problem. The Fedora/Red Hat developers I’ve interacted with have been very professional and knowledgeable so kudos to them. Hopefully we’ll figure out my iwl3945 issue soonish.

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14 thoughts on “Quick look at Fedora

  1. hello,

    I am a opensuse user (not a developer). I agree with u that package management is a little bit slower than ubuntu & fedora but I do not agree that fedora has better artwork. IMO, its sucks.

    For PPTP vpn connection, have u ever tried pptpconfig in fedora. I use that in opensuse. I think fedora should have rpm.

  2. Hi..if your network issue is with a WPA2 – PEAP network, may I know how you did make it function under Ubuntu Hardy? I have hit this problem some weeks ago and so far I have been unable to connect to my University Wireless Network. I have not been the only one either. It seems it is a bug related to mac80211, and that it has come to the spotlight since the support switched from ipw3945 to iwl3945. See also:

    http://www.intellinuxwireless.org/bugzilla/show_bug.cgi?id=1507

    Many other people reported related bugs on the launchpad. Therefore it might be that your problems in Fedora are due to the drivers, not the system itself…but obviously I cannot know. In any case if you have a solution for Hardy, I think there would be many people glad to hear about it! 🙂

    Thanks!

  3. Thanks for your review 🙂 Regarding PackageKit: Gnome-app-install will be improved and ported to PackageKit so that all distributions can profit of it afaik. The great thing in PackageKit is that GUI applications can be independent of the package management system by using it. For example, NetworkManager could install vpn packages in a consistent way on all distros supporting PackageKit.

    One of the reasons why I prefer Fedora over Ubuntu is that it ships with the latest Kernel releases in the stable distro. That way you don’t have to use a development version when you get an unsupported device where hardware drivers exist in newer kernels only. They also ship the latest releases of other software like Pidgin and Transmission and it seems to be easier in Fedora to fix bugs in stable releases than it is for Ubuntu which means that the processes are easier.

  4. @Shuai: yeah, artwork is a funny thing that way. I think openSUSEs artwork is pretty nice as well, I just think Fedora at this point has the best artwork of “big” distros.

    @Luca: actually in Hardy it “Just Works”. It is indeed a WPA(2)-PEAP network all I did is fill in the details (cert, username, password) in the Network Manager prompt and it connects. In working with the Fedora NM guy it seems like we narrowed it down to a driver/kernel issue. Thanks for the bug link.

  5. @laserjock: I know some one prefer fedora, but I prefer openSUSE. I am feeling comfortable with suse especially command line work (I started linux from fedora 4 and only last for less than six months). BTW, why u mention “big” distros? suse is also one of biggest distros, no matter the company behind and community.

  6. Hi!

    I am a Ubuntu fan that was forced to use Fedora for a while. It became a sort of a standard in my company. So, I disagree with you in a few points:
    * Fedora’s yum is really slow, although their repositories seem to have fewer packages. We have been using both here and everybody feels the same.
    * Using apt-get/synaptic makes yum unusable after some time
    * Ubuntu’s artwork is far more polished than Fedora’s. Ask any designer. We have lots of them here.
    * People here had a lot of problems with Nvidias and Fedora 8. I had none.

  7. @shuai: I am including openSUSE in the “big” distros, I’m just saying that I feel like Fedora and Ubuntu have nicer artwork. Of course it’s quite subjective.

    @aldo: Here’s my thoughts on each of your points (which are pretty much right on):
    * yum is significantly faster than any other package manager for RPMs that I’ve tried (like YaST and zypper in openSUSE) however you are right that it’s probably slower than apt. One interesting thing is that yum basically does an apt-get update at the beginning of *each* yum operation. This means you’re always up-to-date but I’m sure it’s a big slow-down. I additional have issues trying to use yum when I don’t have an internet connection. apt-cache is a work of beauty 🙂
    * yeah, I can imagine that eventually they’d start having issues. I’m mostly just impressed that Fedora’s done *anything* in terms of apt usage.
    * I think Ubuntu 8.04 artwork is rather good. However, there are some things like booting and hibernation/resume where Fedora seems more consistent and professional.
    * I’ve only considered looking at Fedora because my new laptop has almost entirely Intel hardware which means I don’t have to go hunting down proprietary drivers. My old laptop had an Atheros card and getting madwifi drivers for Fedora a deal-breaker for me (at least on the laptop).

  8. I switched from Ubuntu to Fedora sometime ago and have been very happy with it. It is installed on a few machines ranging from an old Thinkpad to a new core 2 duo and works well on all. Your comments on yum are spot on, it is easy to use and powerful but a bit slow. Gets even slower when you add a few eatra repos as it updates each one every time.

    I have a 3945 wifi card and found it worked well with my home wpa2 network after activating NM etc. Of course your university site will be different.

    On the subject of artwork I don’t think any of the big distros have good artwork. The best I have seen is Sabayon but that only applies to the look of it.

    Aldo – as far as nVidia cards go my GeForce 8400 worked fine and even better after I installed the nvidia driver from the Livna repo.

  9. Good to see some feedback.

    # yum -C if you don’t have a network connection and want to run off the cache

    https://bugzilla.redhat.com/show_bug.cgi?id=443807 for a review request of NM-pptp. It is already available via the Koji build system web interface at

    http://koji.fedoraproject.org/koji/packageinfo?packageID=6096

    It should be available in the main repository soon if not already by the time you see this. Note that Dan is the upstream developer and not just the Fedora maintainer and he originally wrote and initiated it as a Red Hat Project

    http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Interviews/DanWilliams

    PackageKit does not really compare to distribution specific frontends. Refer http://packagekit.org for more details. Note that you can queue transactions in Packagekit and hence double clicking on a package one by one will queue and install them together. A RFE to improve this is at

    https://bugzilla.redhat.com/show_bug.cgi?id=439325

  10. @laserjock

    It is very strange what you report on WPA networks…I am not the only one with similar problems here, I just met with another guy who could not connect using iwl3945 and Ubuntu 8.04 (I am also using the linux-backports package). We have the same connection specifics as your campus wireless network, it would seem. Could you please specify which driver version and kernel are you using? I would really like to get this fixed 🙂
    And no problem at all for the bugzilla link, spreading the voice is in my own interest 😉

  11. Oh and before I forget – sorry for the double post – could you please tell me how do you fill out the various fields in Network Manager? I do not believe I am making a mistake at that level – I have a wpa-supplicant configuration file provided by the University itself, which I tried fruitlessly – but one can never know. Thanks again for the attention 🙂

  12. (wanted to post it earlier but it obviously failed)

    Thanks for your review 🙂 Regarding PackageKit: Gnome-app-install will be improved and ported to PackageKit so that all distributions can profit of it afaik. The great thing in PackageKit is that GUI applications can be independent of the package management system by using it. For example, NetworkManager could install vpn packages in a consistent way on all distros supporting PackageKit.

    One of the reasons why I prefer Fedora over Ubuntu is that it ships with the latest Kernel releases in the stable distro. That way you don’t have to use a development version when you get an unsupported device where hardware drivers exist in newer kernels only. They also ship the latest releases of other software like Pidgin and Transmission and it seems to be easier in Fedora to fix bugs in stable releases than it is for Ubuntu which means that the processes are easier.

  13. @pirast:
    Sorry, you got stuck in my spam filter. Regarding the stable release update. If you’re just looking for newer software you should look at the Ubuntu -backports repository. I agree that it’s easier to get fixes in Fedora but on the other hand I’ve heard of Fedora becoming more unstable with all these updates. Somehow we need to find a good balance between keeping the user’s system stable and being able to comprehensively fix problems in the stable release.

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