I wrote about an Ubuntu user's experience with Fedora last year when Fedora 16 came out. It was pretty impressed with Fedora 16, and now Fedora 17 is out so I wanted to share my experience about F17. But, I also realized that how different is it going to be from the previous review. One of my friends helped me out. He threw a challenge at me that what if he takes my Ubuntu box away from and leaves me with Fedora 17, will I survive? Sounds interesting so I took up the challenge. [Read Detailed Fedora 17 review here]
I don't review any hardware or software unless I play with it for at least a day or two. I have been using Fedora 17 for the last 24 hours and have not faced any problem.
Fedora 17 vs Ubuntu 12.04: Which One Is More User Friendly
Gone are the days when using GNU/Linux was rocket science. Today a majority of GNU/Linux-based distributions are easier to use than Windows or Mac. Yes, we are not talking about Arch or Gentoo. Today what you can do with Y can be done with X as well. Of course if you are switching from one OS to another their will be some quirks, but more or less there won't be much difference. So, my drill is will I be able to do everything with Fedora 17 that I am used to be doing on Ubuntu.
So, let's start. Just a note, this is not a technical review. I don't want to simply rephrase what's written in the release notes. If you are looking for a more technical review I will heavily recommend SJVN's review on Zdnet.
Warning: This is not a death match between Fedora and Ubuntu. It's just a way of celebrating the diversity that we GNU/Linux users can enjoy. It's not a religious crusade. Use what works for you. Help other users in making it work for them.
I downloaded the LiveCD of Fedora 17 from this link and went ahead for installation. The installation was smooth and I had no problems with it. Fedora teams have an excellent guide for installation, you must have a look at it if you are new to Fedora. Installation is always tricky but unlike Windows installation, you won't have to reboot your PC couple of times. The installation was fast and easy, and if you pay attention to this guide, you won't face any problem.
First Impression: Gnome 3 Shell vs Unity
I don't use Unity for numerous reasons . I have written about it extensively. I use KDE with Ubuntu (unfortunately Kubuntu 12.04 seems to be extremely buggy as Gnome apps crash without warning. Liferea will crash the moment you open a link). I will pick Gnome 3 Shell or KDE over Unity any given day also due to the lack of customization. But since there is no 'official' Gnome 3 Shell flavor of Ubuntu if I want to use pure Gnome 3 Shell all my options are outside Ubuntu. The good news is later this year Ubuntu will come in a Gnome Shell flavour as well.
What I love about Ubuntu is the way it has made it easier to use Debian. Ubuntu Software Center is an excellent tool to install/remove applications. The concept of AppStore has been around for a while under GNU/Linux. Ubuntu also enjoys the huge repository that Debian has. There are thousands of packages available for Ubuntu users. Then Ubuntu's PPAs make it easier for users to gain access to the latest packages.
However, I don't use Ubuntu Software Center as I find it slow and it can't help me in installing packages that I need. When I install iBus, it can't install m17 engine which is needed for support for languages like Hindi. I find its easier to use Synaptic as it not only allows me to install application and packages. Fedora doesn't have any tool like USC, but Yumex is an excellent tool which is cousin of Synaptic Package Manager. I prefer Yumex to the default add/remove software tool as. The add/remove software tool is slow and is not very user friendly. If you search for gnome tweak tool it will be buried somewhere under the huge list of packages, making it hard for a user to find and install it. Yumex on the contrary shows the package you searched for smartly. It doesn't have the bells and whistles of USC, but it does the job. As I said its a close cousin of Synaptic Package Manager.
I installed Thunderbird, LibreOffice, GIMP, Liferea, Chrome, Avidemux and Miro. So, everything that I use under Ubuntu was also available under Fedora 17. I can't comment on the fact how fast Fedora is in keeping the latest packages available. I will be able to comment on it later. That said, from software point of view there was nothing in that I missed under Fedora 17.
This is one tricky area. Under Ubuntu you now don't need to add any extra repos in order to install non-free drivers. All you need is to install 'restricted' packages from Synaptic and it will take care of it. Under Fedora you need to enabled repos in order to install codecs, drivers and some applications. It has more to do with stupid patents and licenses, once these repos are enabled you can easily install the desired drivers and codecs. You will be able to play MP3, MP4 and YouTube videos. And once you have VLC installed you don't have to worry about any video files.
Only tricky area could be non-free GPU drivers. But then unlike Ubuntu I did not need to install Nvidia drivers in order to use Gnome 3 Shell. So, here I will give Ubuntu more points for making it easier to install non-free drivers. Beyond that both ditros are on even level.
What I Did Not Miss
I don't miss Ubuntu One as I can't use it under Ubuntu due to numerous reasons. Since it's not available for other distributions I prefer a cloud service which I can use from any platform. So until Google Drive arrives for Linux I will use Dropbox or Spider-Oak.
I also don't miss Unity as it doesn't help in improving productivity. It is constantly in my face. Global Menu is one of the biggest culprits and even removing it doesn't help as at times many applications will slide above the top bar and I will have to use Alt+ Mouse to bring it back. Constant struggle and instead of getting work done, I am have to work to make my system work.
And since I don't use GM (also due to the fact that I have a huge monitor and I want menus to be on the window of the app) HUD also becomes useless for me as it needs GM to be running. Same goes with lenses and scopes. I must admit I never understood these two terms. Under Unity its video lens lens can't find any of the YouTube videos that I want to watch. All it does is open YouTube in the browser, same is the case with other lenses like Wikipedia lens. Why would I invoke Dash and Wikipedia lens when I am already in a browser like Firefox and can easily look up wikipedia or search for YouTube video I want to watch. I appreciate the effort that Ubuntu teams are doing but I don't see any value add.
Adding Value To Linux
I was recently asked what did I mean by this value. I will cite the example of a distro which is bringing real value to Linux. As I stated above what you can do in Ubuntu can be very easily done under any other GNU/Linux distribution. At the same time there are a lot of things that the mass market wants which you can't do outside Windows or Mac world, whether it be Fedora or Ubuntu. So, this is the value I am talking about.
ChromeOS seems to be a better alternative to Windows in the mass market as it offers almost everything an average user wants. You can use movie streaming services such as Netflix, LoveFilms. You have complete Flash support, availability of we-based games and much more. Google worked really hard to bring such services to its Linux platform. They are the ones who brought Angry Bird to Linux. They are working with companies and content providers to bring their services and products to Linux. They are adding value to desktop Linux, just the way they turned Linux into a leading mobile platform.
So when I compare Fedora with Ubuntu and ChromeOS, I find a very tiny gap between Ubuntu and Fedora. There is nothing that you can do on Ubuntu can't be done on Fedora. But the moment Chrome OS enters the picture everything changes. The gap between Ubuntu and Chrome OS grows as big as a valley. This is the gap Ubuntu has to fill in order to become a true alternative to Windows or Mac. In my opinion Fedora doesn't have that challenge as its goal,from what I understand, is different from the goals of Ubuntu. Fedora is birthplace of a lot of technologies, it is the alternative for those who don't want to use non-free technologies. I think with Beefy Miracle Fedora scores full points.
In my 24 hour long experience Fedora 17 has been extremely fast, stable and useful. If you are an Ubuntu user should you try Fedora? Yes, of course you must try every distribution so that you know what is available. But, if you are an Ubuntu user should you switch to Fedora? No. I can't tell you which distro to use. Unity, Ubuntu Software Center, HUD may be the perfect solutions for you. Just because it doesn't work for me doesn't mean it should not work for you as well. I like red, may be you like green. So, I can't tell you which distro you should use. If you are an average user who just want things to work, stay with Ubuntu. If all you need is a browser go buy a Chromebook. If you love to play with GNU/Linux distributions try and play with as many distros as you can.
As I always say the only OS I am fan of is the one that works for me whether it be Fedora, Ubuntu or openSUSE. The only condition I have is that it must respect the free software philosophy and spirit. I am loving Gnome 3 Shell experience under Fedora 17 and it looks like I will stick around for a while. But then I have openSUSE and Ubuntu installed on my systems so I will be switching among them.
As far as 17 goes, its definitely a feather in Fedora!