Once, Fedora was the most popular GNU/Linux operating system on Distrowatch. The arrival of Debian based Ubuntu changed this equation for ever. Ubuntu was targeted at the home/desktop users, while Fedora stayed as the test-bed for RHEL.
In my meetings with Red Hat executives, I found the company had no intention of making Fedora a competitor to Windows or Mac at home user end. Enterprise or business customers were the company's target.
Given Microsoft's anti-competitive business practices, that was a wise decision. This is one of the reasons RHEL and its derivative CentOS are the most popular operating systems powering the servers of the world. Fedora is mainly for developers, the contributors - to look under the hood, work on it and make it better. Which eventually makes the entire GNU/Linux environment richer.
That brings us back to the question of what should a home user expect from Fedora? If you think of Fedora as a replacement of Windows 7 or Mac, you are going in for a big disappointment. Fedora has not been designed for that purpose. It is a good OS as a work-station in offices, but not at home.
Ubuntu, on the other hand, has been polished for home users, with increasing focus on enterprise segment. So, the lines were drawn already. However, I did go ahead to compare Fedora 14 with Ubuntu 10.10 to see what differentiates Fedora from Debian-based Ubuntu, from a home user's point of view.
Installation is one of the tests which show how comfortable a user would be when he/she comes across a new operating system.
I did a side by side installation on an Oracle VirtualBox. The Installation option itself says lot about the difference in focus of the two operating systems. Fedora offers options suited for an IT admins, while Ubuntu offers options for a home or ordinary user.
Ubuntu simplifies things for users, using generic terms, like -- where do you want to install the operating system. Fedora throws heavy, geeky jargons: Basic vs Highly specialized Storage device. I don't understand what did that mean.
Oops. It gives some crazy error which asked me to re-initialize the hard-drive. I once lost my data on the hard-drive where I was attempting to install Fedora. That was the last time I tried to install Fedora anywhere but a Virtual Machine. This is a serious problem. Which *fails* Fedora as a operating system for home users.
On the other hand, under Ubuntu, if you choose use entire hard-drive you won't get any bothering options. It is recommended to use manual partition of hard-drive so that you can allot space accordingly.
The time zone selection of Fedora disappoints big way. The map is too tiny to see your country and the zoom function is quite useless. The dropdown list is pathetic, you have to 'scroll' all the way up or down, entering 'a' or 'g' wont take you to America or Germany/ I wanted to go to Berlin Germany, but I had to scroll all the way to Europe and then Germany. On the contrary, under Ubuntu it not only shows the world map with time zone (something that actually makes sense), but also allows you to type the name of the zone/country.
Fedora asks for the root password in the beginning where as Ubuntu moves to the Languages setting.
Fedora asks what you want to do with your hard-drive, options are too many to scare a user. Ubuntu, is now asking for the info it needs to create your account.
Fedora warns again, where as Ubuntu moves ahead. You can also notice that while you are going through settings, Ubuntu has already initiated the installation process thus saving time – smart OS.
Another notable difference here for Desktop users is the whole installation experience. While Ubuntu installs in the background, its gives beautiful slideshow of the cool features it has, contrary to Fedora's plane screen.
Both systems installed within the same time frame. Considering Ubuntu was installing additional apps like OpenOffice, which is about 200 MB, I would say Ubuntu install was faster than Fedora 14.
The installation was over and Fedora needed a reboot, on the contrary Ubuntu allows you to continue to work after installation.
Post Reboot: More work to do
After reboot, Fedora is yet not ready to work. It takes a user through at least 6 windows, asking for username and password, time & date, and that if the user wants to send hardware profile to Fedora team. I would like to send this information so that the developers know what hardware I am running, it is a big no-no for ordinary home users.
In my opinion, which is based on the installation process, Fedora 14 is a nice upgrade to Fedora but it is no where close to becoming favorite among home users.
Once installed Ubuntu is ready to work for you. Fedora needs more work from you. First of all you need to install OpenOffice.org, if you want to do some serious work on this machine.
In developing countries like India where broadband can be a problem this is a drawback. Additionally, if you are going to recommend it to a non-Linux user, this is going to be a major trouble as he/she will have to install word processor in order to start working.
Installing New Software: Ubuntu's Cheeta Vs Fedora's Sloth
Finding new software could be a challenge under fedora, the same task is like a charm under Ubuntu. The Ubuntu Software Center -- Ubuntu's own App Store is amazingly powerful, efficient and beautiful.
It was ready to find and install apps when started. Fedora's Add/Remove Software took couple of minutes to connect with repositories. Entering 'Image' under Ubuntu Software Center shows some of the most used image related apps. I find it similar to Google's Instant Search, the results were appearing as I was typing each word. It also gives a nice screen shot of the app you are about to install. Installation is extremely easy under Ubuntu, just click on the Install button and it will install the app.
Under Fedora, the search for Image did not return any relevant results. The first result was CD/DVD Image Manipulator. I had to enter the word GIMP to find GIMP. There were dependencies pop-up which a user must allow – another turn-off for home users. If I have chosen to install an app just install it without bothering me about the dependencies. Yes, you may ask for as many dependencies as you want if I am using the terminal.
Ubuntu's Software Center is extremely useful for ordinary home users who don't know the name of software and can still install software depending on their requirement.
While Ubuntu downloaded and installed GIMP and I was ready to edit images, Fedora was still downloading the files. Ubuntu comes will a lot of software meant for ordinary users. Fedora does have a few of those but misses some of the most used ones, especially a word processor.
One of the most important user-friendly feature under Ubuntu is "Additional Drivers". There are chances that you have some proprietary hardware like Nvidia video card of Broadcom chips. Ubuntu makes it extremely easy for a used to install drivers for such hardware. In most cases if will show you a pop-up on top panel if it detects any proprietary hardware on your machine. Under Fedora you have to struggle to find such drivers.
As a conclusion, I found Fedora 14 to be yet another release with some improved packages. The operating system stays away from the ordinary home user. It may be a good OS for enterprise customers needing an IT admin to install and prepare the desktop. It is neither ready for homes user, not shows any signs that it will ever be.
The fact remains that Fedora Project innovates, develops some of the most important technologies used by other GNU/Linux based distros, including Ubuntu. However, it is not yet recommended for home users.
Ubuntu has emerged as the undisputed champion in this death-match. If Canonical pushes the envelop to promote it well, Ubuntu can be the Android of the desktop world. It is not only ready for home users, but also excels over Windows and Mac on many grounds.
It was a comparative review from a home-user's perspective. We are inviting(PaidAuthor) a technical review of Fedora 14, from the point of view of a developer or an SysAdmin. Anyone wants to do similar side-by-side comparison? How about Ubuntu vs Mac and Ubuntu vs Windows 7? Write for us under PaidAuthor program.