In this review I will look at Fedora 20 from an average Linux user’s point of view and would focus on features of things that an average user cares about.
Fedora 20 has been release and I downloading it without wasting any time. I must admit I have never been impressed by Fedora so much before. Fedora was the first OS that I used other than Windows. That was back in 2005 when I started working with LINUX For You magazine’s EFY Group.
I revisited Fedora again with v16 when I was looking for some decent alternatives of Ubuntu which had started to move on its own isolated path. It looks like things have improved quite a lot between F16 and F20.
This time when I installed Fedora 20, my impression of Fedora has changed. The installation was fairly simple and easy (albeit a bit different from that of openSUSE or Ubuntu). When I booted into Fedora 20, I couldn’t believe it’s same Fedora; it’s extremely polished and works out of the box.
Let’s talk about the polished part first.
Somehow everything looks beautiful out of the box – fonts are rendered very well in Firefox as well as across the OS. Since Fedora uses Gnome as the default DE and so does RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) it already looks mature & polished. Though if you do use Mac OS X you will see heavy influence from Mac and iOS (Gnome has always followed Mac UX – remember the top panel in Gnome 2, so no surprises there).
No to be clear Fedora uses Gnome 3 as the default desktop environment and all that polish comes from Gnome 3, what I meant by polish is somehow font rendering works fine out of the box. Since I just experienced Steam OS (which also uses Gnome 3 as the default DE for desktop) and there you can see what I mean by polish. So kudos to Fedora team for giving me an experience which did not need any tweaking.
Everything worked out of box
Talking about tweaking and I can’t appreciate F20 enough everything worked out of the box – sound, video, wifi and even printer. The reason I am saying so is I installed it on a high-end machine which has quite a lot of non-free hardware. Printer is one area where even openSUSE gives hard time but under Fedora when I opened the printer tool it detected the networked printer and offered the appropriate driver. So I can say that everything worked out of box in Fedora 20 – including my Nexus 5 which was detected and I was able to transfer data without any issues.
I didn’t try to install nVidia drivers and I din’t need them the open source drivers that Fedora offers worked just fine.
Cost of free software
There are pros and cons of Fedora’s adherence to the principles of Free Software – which means they they don’t include any non-free software in their repositories. So you can’t install stuff like Flash plugin from repos. So installing things like Flash plugin need some extra effort (though it’s not difficult at all and it’s one time process) [check out our ‘Things to do after installing Fedora 20’ article].
Once I installed VLC I was able to play all video formats and Rhythmbox was playing MP3 well. So, you won’t have to worry about multimedia playback in Fedora 20.
So while it was one extra step to install some non-free software I really like Fedora’s approach towards non-free software as does make users aware of the different between free and non-free software which many populist distros ignore.
What do you get?
Fedora is available with the desktop environment (DE) of your choice including – Gnome, KDE, Cinnamon, Enlightenment, XFCE, LXDE & MATE. However Gnome is the default DE of Fedora – that’s something RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) also uses. So in order to get the pure Fedora experience I downloaded the Gnome ISO.
I had always been a Gnome user till Canonical decided to ditch Gnome 3 Shell and work on their own Unity (why they always fork the path instead of working together?). That’s when I found KDE, but that’ another story. Initially Gnome 3 suffered mainly due to the huge user-base it had through Ubuntu which was left high-and dry as Canonical moved to Unity and getting Gnome Shell to work on Ubuntu is still a pain in the proverbial back. So Gnome lost the testers of users who could have given valuable feedback. It went through transition and by version 3.8 it has become quite pleasant to work with.
Gnome love everywhere
Fedora 20 comes with Gnome 3.10 which is mature and looks stunningly beautiful. Despite being a hard-core KDE user, I do boot into Gnome from time to time for change.
Since Red Hat teams lead the Gnome development Fedora is the best OS to check out what’s cooking in Gnome’s kitchen. Many new features of Gnome can be seen at work in Fedora 20 which enhance user experience.
F20 comes with typical Gnome applications and tools such as ‘Software’ which is developed by Gnome teams (which are comprise of mostly Red Hat/Fedora people). Software is a tool similar to App Store of Ubuntu Software Center which makes it easy to browse and install applications. Software makes use of AppData Specifications, and once again Fedora contributors have combined their efforts to offer assistance and patches for AppData support to upstream projects.
As a user I do crave for a preference option in ‘Software’ so that I could manage repositories easily as I did enable some 3rd party repos to get those packages not available in main repos due to patent and licensing issues.
I found Software to be more polished than Ubuntu Software Center which gives an inconsistent user experience (shows ‘buy’ for free apps) and needs Ubuntu One login for non-free applications – I think as Canonical moves closer towards mobile it may become mandatory to log into U1 in order to install applications from Software Center.
Other user-centric features include Gnome Documents which allow users to connect to Google Drive etc. It now also offers native integration with ownCloud. You need to add/log into the service provider from Online Account options to be able to access document stored on services like ownCloud or Google Drive. One enabled you can easily search the documents saved on your cloud service. On the note of privacy no keywords are sent to or saved by Fedora server, unlike Unity Dash which stores such keyword as Canonical is exploring revenue generation opportunities through Dash. So your privacy doesn’t get invaded as it does in Ubuntu.
Gnome Photos also works with Online Accounts and you can access images that you stored on services like Flicker from your desktop. There are two new apps, one is Gnome Maps, which offer Google Maps like feature on desktop and Gnome Music, which is a minimalist music app. Beyond these there are many other default Gnome apps such as Rhythmbox, LibreOffice, Firefox, Contacts, Evolution, etc which takes care of one’s entire computing needs.
So once you installed Fedora you are all set to start working.
Why Fedora, Who is it for?
There are so many factors that make Fedora a unique and a very important distribution. The most important factor is that Fedora (Red Hat) developers lead and drive the development of core Linux technologies which are used by the rest of the Linux world. Fedora is the breeding ground for latest technologies, that’s why it is called a bleeding edge operating system.
At the same time Fedora is also the base of RHEL, which has made Red Hat the first company in the world to earn more than $1 billion in revenues based on purely open source software.
If we look from a user’s point of view, its not an OS which is compromising the desktop for the sake of other devices. It’s not struggling with identity crisis trying to find where it belongs – smartphones, tablets, TVs or may be desktop. Fedora continues to keep the desktop relevant.
Fedora also tries to remain a pure ‘free software’ operating system as it doesn’t include non-free components in its repositories. Least but not the last, Fedora respects your freedom and privacy and doesn’t track anything that you do on your PC.
I like to support those believe in the larger Open Source community and contribute to make it better for everyone. When you use Fedora (or openSUSE) you use the work of the same people who are building the technologies which have made possible the existence of distros like Ubuntu. So if you are a conscious user who want to use the work of those who are developing – the Linux world – (which is a way of saying thank you) then Fedora (or openSUSE) would be the obvious choice.
If you need one more reason then – Linus Torvalds also uses Fedora
So if you have not tried Fedora yet go ahead and download it.