After reviewing Ubuntu a few days ago, I thought I would give the 64 bit version of Fedora 12 a go, just as a comparisim before I decide on my preferred Distro.
Fedora 12 is based on the same Linux Kernel and GNOME desktop based system you get with Ubuntu, some of the visualisations are different and work in a different manner, but the concepts are the same.
My First Impressions are, Fedora is not a simple beast to install compared to Ubuntu! You do get install options based on "Roles" but you also get the ability to customise the install based on millions of packages available on the Install CD and the Web, this maybe a bit too complex for the end user. To compare, Install probably took slightly longer than Ubuntu.
Interestingly enough, bearing in Mind Fedora is based on the same Linux Kernel as Ubuntu, boot times were slower.. It took Longer than Ubuntu, and lacked the finese of Ubuntu. Fedora also contains some of the applications available in Ubuntu, such as OpenOffice, Firefox & Thunderbird, but it lacks the range of applications that Ubuntu "Preinstalls" by default, primarily games.
Fedora had no problem detecting my hardware again (Canon printer/Webcam/Sound etc), but it was unable to detect and install an accelerated 3d driver for my Nvidia graphics card, the instructions provided on the web were very complex and not friendly for the end user. I did not attempt this and sadly Fedora has a black mark for not making it simple.
Fedora is also let down by the package manager, it simply is not friendly! It is very hard to search and locate software packages you would find for Ubuntu. I was unable to locate Virtualbox on the Fedora Package manager, It is available for download on Ubuntu. The Fedora Package Manager also gives the impression of giving you the raw data, rather than a user friendly version.
In addition I managed to Install WINE, the Windows Emulator on Fedora, but was unable to configure it, it would just keep crashing. Under Ubuntu, I managed to install, configure and run some Windows Games on the same version of WINE, with no problems at all, so I am baffled as to why it doesn't work here, sadly another negative.
In conclusion, I feel Fedora is for the more advanced user, it targets a different segment than Ubuntu, you have to do a lot more to setup your system than what you would do for Ubuntu, I will probably be switching back to Ubuntu on my system.
For those of you who have never heard of the Fedora Project before, it is basically a community off-shoot of Red Hat's Linux project 'Red Hat Enterprise Server'. Red Hat release all of their code as open source, and the Fedora team then re-builds it & brands it 'Fedora'.
What is this Linux thing anyway?.
Well, its a highly secure, virtually virus-proof, hacker resistant OS that is developed entirely as an 'Open Source' OS. In other words, it is written entirely by enthusiasts as a free-to-modify alternative to Windows.
It is also where programs such as Openoffice, The GIMP, Blender & Scribus all started-out.
Can I install it beside Windows?.
If you have a big-enough hard disc, then 'yes' you can install it beside Windows. It comes with a built-in partition management program that allows you to either shrink your current Windows partition, or use free unpartitioned space on your drive. However, be warned, RESIZING YOUR WINDOWS PARTITION MAY LEAD TO DATA LOSS, SO BACK-UP YOUR DRIVE FIRST.
So whats it like?
About as unlike Windows as you can get to be honest. It is built on Kernel 2.6, and has both the main gui's installed (Gnome & KDE), along with a few others.
I must admit that although I am a seasoned Linux user, Fedora 10 is quite unlike anything I have come across before. The desktop is completely devoid of icons, and the menu system is very strange indeed. Click on the 'f' button, and instead of a standard Windows-style menu, you are presented with a pop-up box. Along the bottom of which are various icons depicting the various types of 'sub-menu' such as 'Settings', 'Applications' & 'Most recent'.
As you move across these icons, relevent menu items appear above them, from these you can select a program to run or another sub-menu. I found that you really need to concentrate on your mouse actions, as I frequently found myself wandering across a nieghbouring icon and dropping into a completely different sub-menu instead of launching the program I actually wanted to.
The software package manager included is 'KPackageit', and unlike 'Synaptic', it really can handle a variety of file types. Not only that, but its a breeze to use. Just type in the name of the program you want to install, and then scroll down the list until you find the correct one, then click on the 'cross' & select 'ok'. The package manager will sort-out all the dependencies (all the other programs and modules that will need to be installed or upgraded) and download and install your chosen application.
I ran Fedora 10 with the KDE 4.1 desktop environment, and found it quite interesting to see just how much has changed from KDE 3.4. The whole think is smoother and sharper than before. It now looks more like a highly polished piece of work, and less like something from Windows 98.
Fedora, like almost all Linux distros, can read & write to Windows NTFS partitions, so accessing info from your XP/2k/Vista partition on a dual-boot system is easy. Also, as part of the user account setup, you can specify network login for use on a server environment.
Another feature is the ability to build your own distro. Once you have installed all the programs you are going to need, you can select the menu option to build a liveUSB image. And hey presto! you now have your own .iso image to burn to CD (with K3B) and give away to friends, distribute on the net etc.
Package features: GNOME 2.24; KDE 4.1; Eclipse 3.4; RPM 4.6; Faster boot; An enhanced version of the PackageKit package manager; An updated PulseAudio sound server; Improved Apple Macintosh hardware support; Improved HDTV support in X.Org; A new icon theme called Echo; Remote virtualization.