Fedora Core 2 Review
Open Source (Free)
Fedora Core 2 is the newest release from The Distro Formerly Known As RedHat. Updates include the 2.6 kernel, KDE 3.2, Gnome 2.6, X.org replacing Xfree86 and numerous package updates. Having played around with SuSE 9.1, Arch .6 and Slackware 9 with the 2.6 kernel, I was interested in seeing how the Fedora team did with this release.
Installation was a breeze. I like that Fedora provides the opportunity to test your discs. This is an idea Mandrake would be wise to copy. It is frustrating to get to disc 3 of an installation only to find that it didn't burn properly. I give the distribution credit for making this easy. The install was fast. It installed 3.5 gigabytes in about 20 minutes. They myth that Linux is hard to install is not true for most modern distros. Hardware detection was great, my USB mouse and keyboard worked immediately. My onboard Nforce ethernet controller wasn't recognized like it was with SuSE, but I didn't expect it to be. My normal ethernet card was recognized and setup with no problem.
My first impression was that it looks like RedHat 9. I don't care for the default icon set or the menu layout. The fonts look great, but that has become my expectation. There isn't a reason for ugly fonts anymore, so to trumpet the fact they look good feels silly. The panel is filled with Openoffice.org icons but missing a terminal icon. The boot splash screen is very attractive, if that is your thing. The odd thing about Fedora is that it seems to be aimed at novice users but is inconsistent. We are given the choices Web Browser, Email, Music Player and Audio Player, but left with Kopete, Kget, Emacs and so forth. Either your user knows what Kopete is or they don't. If you are simplifying the menu, do it across the board or don't do it at all.
This inconsistency extends to the system itself. It is pretty and newbie friendly at first, but if you need basic functionality such as mp3 playback you must hand edit the yum configuration file. Up2date freezes, but the command line program yum works well. This leads me to my biggest problem with Fedora. On one hand, it is a great introduction to Linux. It installs easily, works well and is attractive.
On the other hand, it plays right into the hands of Linux's biggest critics, which is the mistaken notion that it is unfinished and most things don't work. You are given a browser with no plugins, so if you jump online excitedly with your new system, there are a lot of things that won't work. You load your favorite mp3s, then find out you cannot play them. God forbid you have a dvd drive. You notice the red exclamation point telling you there are updates available, but up2date freezes leaving you unable to get them. I know there are fairly simple solutions to these complaints, but the fact remains that not everyone who tries Fedora will know how to do it. They will just feel disappointed by a system that lets them down, deciding that this Linux thing is not ready for prime time.
A program that would set up unofficial repositories with a few clicks would take care of this, along with some prominent documentation telling you how to get the things you need. I could not find any real documentation at the Fedora site, except for RedHat 9. This may be due to my lack of time to search for it, but if it exists, it should be clear where it is at. Despite my complaints, there are things I like. The system is very responsive. Programs load quickly. With the exception of up2date, Fedora is stable. The splash screens look great. The look and feel, while not my cup of tea, is consistent throughout the applications.
This is a nightmare. Add/Remove Applications provides me with the original list of applications from the install. If I want Mplayer, Bittorrent, or Xcdroast there doesn't seem to be a way to install them with the default package manager. I am spoiled from using Arch, where I can get just about anything by typing a few commands. I know that by configuring yum or getting apt-get I can do this, but I am reviewing the system as provided. Up2date didn't work for me.
I didn't care for this release. Fedora just isn't for me. I appreciate the work that the volunteers put into it, and I think they have put together a nice system. There is just too much that doesn't make sense to me. If I am going for ease of use, why do I have to work to get basic programs installed? If you are going to hold my hand, hold it the entire time. If you are giving me a crippled system for patent and licensing reasons, tell my why and how to easily get around it.
Ultimately, it is a shame that a distribution is done so well, but lacking in basic functionality. Fedora should decide who they are aiming their distribution at. If it is novice users, then focus on them and their needs. If they want veteran users, take some of the hand holding away. I can easily install the programs I have complained about being missing. The point of Fedora, I thought, was that I could just use it and not have to think about those things. If I am compiling programs, why not just run Slackware? If I want easy package management with some configuration, why not learn Arch? If I want an easy distro with all of my multimedia needs taken care of, why not run Mandrake. I guess the bottom line for me is: Why should I run Fedora? The new release doesn't answer that question.
ConclusionThe Good - Pros
- Visually attractive
- Responsive and stable
The Bad - Cons
- Default package management is lacking
- Limited documentation
The Ugly - Issues
- Lack of basic multimedia support
The Verdict - Opinion
A nice system, but I can find no reason to use it instead of other distributions.