Registered: Jul 2006
Distribution: CentOS, Salix
Would you recommend the product? yes | Price you paid?: None indicated | Rating: 6
Stable software, good configuration tools, very secure, vanilla Gnome
Terrible installer, desktops other than Gnome generally poor
Fedora is released as live disks for various desktops, and a 4GB DVD which offers many options and will update an existing installation, but which is not live. All come as hybrid iso files, which can be put on a USB stick with dd, but not with Unetbootin. I tried the large disk in the 32-bit version.
Despite numerous criticisms from users, the new installer shows no improvement in the partitioning section, with its strange sequence of operations and misleading option names. Although I’d used it before and re-read the instructions, I still had difficulties. The only easy options are automatic installation on the whole disk or in free space, so if you’re going to double-boot with Windows, make the free space beforehand. In the configuration section, you can chose between minimal, server, or graphical installations; the desktops offered are Gnome, KDE, Xfce, LXDE, Cinnamon, Mate, Sugar.
I started with Mate, and at first thought it was missing: it takes over a minute to start after logging in. It worked well, though, apart from a segfault in one applet. The meagre selection of software was also sound: Firefox, Claws, Pidgin, LibreOffice. I added the codecs from RPMfusion, as well as Gnash and Gnome-mplayer. The video player was fine, but the Gnash plugin for Firefox only worked erratically: stick with Flash.
Then I tried Xfce. This started quickly and seemed fine. It gave me Midori instead of Firefox, but added Parole and Pragha for media, all of which were bug-free. Unfortunately, Parole didn’t actually work. Some of the configuration tools were missing, either just left out (daemons) or because they depend on Gnome (sound devices).
Finally I installed Gnome, but it was so slow on my computer that I just had to give up. The memory usage was twice that with Pinguy and Arios, and my CPU load was 22%!
It’s difficult to see why so little software is installed with the alternative desktops when there’s so much on the DVD, like Gimp, Scribus, Inkscape, Xine, Totem, etc. That brings me to package management. Unusually, Fedora has different tools for different GUIs: gnome-packagekit, apper (KDE), and yumex (the rest). Yumex is old and primitive: it took 4 minutes to display the list of available software, and that was just A-Z, not sorted into categories. The search facility is supposed to search on names or descriptions, but only works for names: a search for ‘video’ or ‘media’ will not reveal any video players. It also uninstalled Pidgin without being asked to! Stick to yum in the command line if you don’t use Gnome or KDE.
Fedora comes with good configuration tools, although some are limited to Gnome and the others may not display help without it. The fact that SEL and a firewall are enabled by default will also be a plus for many.
If you can manage the installer, this is still a useful distro, especially if you need the easy configuration and security features absent from Debian and its derivatives. But it’s best to stick to Gnome. In fact, if you like Gnome 3 with no modifications, Fedora’s a good choice, providing you have a fast computer with 2GB of RAM. It’s only supported for a year, but at least next time you can just ask the installer to do an update.