I remember the good old days from India when I would wait for a train on a railway station. The public announcement would repeat the same message every 30 minutes (right before the arrival time) that the train has been delayed. A few hours later, if you are lucky, the train might arrive.
Fedora 18 made me nostalgic. It was delayed no less than 7 times, missing the November 6, 2012, 'arrival' time. Finally Fedora 18 train has arrived – but what caused this delay and how did it effect the release? One Muktware reader said that this delay will make Fedora better. Is that true? We will find out soon. Since I switched to KDE (thanks to Ubuntu for ditching Gnome Shell and moving to Unity), I went ahead and downloaded the KDE flavor. I prefer KDE due to the personalization (customization) it offers along with complete control over my system – something I would expect from an OS based on GNU/Linux. I will also see what kind of KDE experience does Fedora 18 offer.
Delays for good
It's better to release when ready than release when buggy. One of the main causes of this delay was the brand new installer and a brand new upgrade utility aptly named 'fedup', which are related. fedup has taken over the upgrade functionality from Anaconda which makes Anaconda leaner and faster.
Anaconda itself has gone through a massive makeover and I must admit, they have done a great job at it. The installation experience in Fedora 18 is totally different from the previous releases. However, the new installer may look intimidating for a typical Linux user and it does need some introduction. The developers have done a commendable job at clearly documenting it (something one would expect when a new UI change is introduced – are you listening Ubuntu folks?). It doesn't take more than 30 seconds to get used to the new installer. You must read the Storage Workflow to understand how to handle partitions for installing Fedora on your system.
Installation & partitioning
I found Fedora 18 installation to be the 'fastest' and smoothest Fedora install ever. Unlike previous experiences where you had to know so much just to install Fedora on your system; its overly simplified. Everything goes on smoothly and the first window, as expected, is of language you want to use (since I used Live disto the experience may be different if you chose the install media).
The second option, depending on your machine, could be to chose the wireless network you want to connect to.
Then comes the window where you can chose Date/time, Keyboard layout and the much anticipated 'Installation Destination', clicking on it will take you to this window .
Here you can choose the device on which you want to install Fedora , when you select the window you get this pop-up where you can check the box 'let me to customize the partition of the disks'. If you don't want Fedora to do this for you, make sure to check that box before hitting the 'continue' button.
Now comes the window which could be a bit confusing (and intimidating). This window shows all the partitions on the selected hard drive as well as the partitioning done by each OS installed on that machine, including all the mount points. It's really impressive. You can choose the partition on which you want to install Fedora and you can mount other partitions you want to mount.
Only problem I see here are the names 'Unknown Linux' for Linux or just 'Unknown' for Windows installs. It could be really helpful if it can show the name of the distros instead of Unknown, or to make it simple just show the name of the device such as /dev/sda1..2..3 etc. That would be really helpful.
Scope for improvement
Anaconda has been around for ages and this new UI is still in infancy stage, so a lot of work will be done on it to polish it further. Though the new installer caused the delay at the moment it is usable and really not that bad. I must admire the work Fedora developers have done on it. The delay it caused is totally understandable - how good is a distro which can't be installed? However, that doesn't mean it's not buggy. No software is immune to bugs and there are some noticeable bugs in this new installer as well and I recommend you to read the bugs before installing it on your system. You can read more about the installer here.
Show me a software without any bugs and I will show you something that will never be released. No software is immune to bugs, so isn't Fedora 18. However, there are some changes which are not making a lot of people happy, specially the way systemd is taking over. Since openSUSE has also moved to systemd the problem will plague the distro as well and openSUSE's community manager is concerned about getting it fixed for the upcoming release of openSUSE which would be 12.3.
KDE experience on Fedora
As I stated above Gnome is the default DE of Fedora and quite a lot of Fedora developers work on Gnome development (so much so that Mark Shuttleworth said that they felt blocked by Red Hat when it comes to Gnome - which could be the case of meritocracy and not blocking)
However Fedora does offer KDE and XFCE flavors along with some 'specialized' spins. So being a KDE user how do I feel about Fedora 18? The default install was fine, as expected. However, I missed Yast, which complements KDE as it offers complete control of your system from one window. No offense meant to Daniel Nicoletti but Apper needs more polish and at times can be more annoyance than assistance. I installed Yumex for better and faster management.
It doesn't come with a Firefox installer but it's yumex away. Calligra suite is the default word processing warehouse which has come a long way with recent releases. It's a very decent word processor, especially the tool bar at the side makes better use of screen space as compared to MS Word's ribbon UI. If you have not tried Calligra yet, I heavily recommend it. But I must remind you that it's not as feature rich as is LibreOffice and it's still buggy. You can't save files in docx format, which is the only supported formats on Google Drive or Android's Office Suites so the work you create using Calligra can't be opened or edited on Google's popular platform. While I would expect Calligra to support docx, it's much more important for Google to support ODF. However, this is not related to Fedora or KDE; I just got carried away.
Personally, I like openSUSE's integration with KDE as Yast complements it very well. I don't find a similar tool for Fedora which allows you to manage your system from one place. But Fedora is not about KDE or Gnome, it's about Fedora itself. It's about RHEL. It's about the latest and greatest technologies being developed in the GNU/Linux world. A seasoned Fedora user knows it very well and an aspiring Fedora user would pay more attention to what's in Fedora core, things like systemd, and not KDE.
Do I recommend Fedora 18?
Do I recommend Fedora 18 to an average home user? Is it for 'casual' desktop users who want to do n* types of things on their system, I am not sure. Fedora always stayed ahead of the curve and created technologies which are used by the rest of the Linux players -- they are the ones who came out with a solution for UEFI secure boot. Staying ahead of the curve and offering bleeding edge technologies also has its drawbacks -- things may not work as expected if you do too much on your system. Which also makes it less appealing for a casual desktop users as are openSUSE, Linux Mint, Kubuntu or Ubuntu.
Fedora gives a glimpse of what to expect from future RHEL; it's for sys admin, aspiring hard-core Linux developers, it's for those who 'built' latest and greatest technologies for Linux. Yes, you can run Fedora as a desktop, but finding all the needed software or codecs can be challenging. There are other minor issues which can stain the Fedora experience. I was, for example, not able to 'one click' install RPM Fusion on the system. I was not able to see Kubuntu in the Grub whereas it could see Arch and openSUSE. So, there are some rough edges and a user must be prepared for things going south.
So, I would refrain from making any judgment about Fedora. Depending of what you are looking for in an OS, I would suggest you to try Fedora and give it at least a week before making any decision. You should try Fedora just for the new installer ;-)