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Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Fedora 7: A Final Look

The time has come to say goodbye to Fedora 7. Over a week has gone by now since I installed the OS on my hard drive and later on a virtual machine. Lets take a short look and see just how Fedora 7 fares as a desktop distribution.

Installation:

Installation of Fedora 7 was a very nice experience. The installer is simple enough for almost anyone to use, but still provides enough power for even advanced users to be satisfied. Although the partitioner offered in the install is not quite as "pretty" as the one the Ubuntu offers, it does seem to have a few more advanced features and certainly does its job very well.

Unlike the Ubuntu installer, the Fedora 7 installer allows for customized package selection. This is a very important feature considering that after installation, if an Internet connection isn't present, software installation (through the package manager) is not possible. In my opinion, this option for customization alone puts the Fedora installer above Ubuntu's.

Overall, installation is a simple procedure that shouldn't take much longer than about 45 minutes, but depends on your package selection.

Hardware Detection:

I never managed to get my RT2500-based wireless card working in Fedora 7. I tried nearly every driver available, and still did not get a connection. The card was always detected but was I was never able to activate the device. I know that out of the box, it is a known bug that Fedora 7 will not allow activation/ proper configuration of rt2500-based card. However, it surprised me that none of the drivers I tried worked... not really sure if it was something that I was doing wrong, or just a stubbornness on Fedora's part. In any case, I am sure the issue will be resolved soon (hopefully in a future update).

Aside from my wireless card not working, Fedora 7 properly recognized all my hardware without any problems. Still, Ubuntu recognized all my hardware, including my wireless card, without flaw, and I didn't have to do any tweaking to get it to work, (just had to fill in my network information under the Network manager to get a working internet connection, right out of the box). Wireless support is essential for me, so I have to hand it to Ubuntu for giving me the best experience in this category.

Installation of the nVidia driver is incredibly easy on both distros, although Ubuntu has a slight upper hand with its "Restricted Drivers Manager". Fedora 7 actually works best with a custom nVidia driver from the Livna repository (follow the link for more information).

Since reviewing a distribution without an internet connection is rather pointless, I went ahead and installed Fedora 7 on a virtual machine through VMware Workstation. All my "virtual" hardware was detected, and I finally had a working Internet connection.

Look and Feel:

Out of the box, Fedora 7 looks much, much better than Ubuntu. The "Flying High" theme is elegant and very appealing, unlike Ubuntu's dreadful "Human" theme. Both the KDE and Gnome desktop environments are available through the installer, and either one can be easily installed after the other. Fonts too look excellent.
For the greater part of the week, I have been using KDE as my primary desktop environment. KDE is great because it allows me to use my beloved SuperKaramba app for awesome desktop widgets! I never really like the default KDE look for any distro, no different for Fedora 7, so I made ample customizations to suite my taste.
As with any Linux distribution, customization is endless, so if you don't like something... CHANGE IT!

Package Management:

Before I used Fedora 7, I had a downright horrible opinion of RPM style package management, mainly attributed to horrible experiences with SUSE. But, after spending just a week with Fedora 7 and yum, my opinion has made a full turn in the other direction. Yum, together with Yumex and the Livna repository, made installation of packages incredibly simple. Never once did I experience RPM hell, even when installing rather obscure, or random apps from the Internet. I really must say that Fedora 7, contrary to my initial beliefs, has proved to be excellent in managing packages.

General Thoughts:

Working with Fedora 7 has been a great experience, rivaling that of Ubuntu. However, although this is an excellent distribution, I feel that there is nothing really special about Fedora. There isn't much that sets it apart from other distributions. It isn't really hard to setup, but it isn't quite as easy as Ubuntu, and once its set up, theres not much to do that I couldn't do with other distributions. Perhaps I have not dug deep enough into Fedora 7, or I may just not have enough know-how to tell when something is spectacular in a subtle way, so I may very well be wrong. Perhaps Fedora 7 shines in areas other than the Desktop (maybe its great for servers, or for corporate solutions), which I was not able to explore. Then again, maybe Fedora 7 is just a great blank slate for you to build an ultimate desktop install, just as you see fit, free from any obstructions. If you have anything to share about what makes Fedora 7 great for you, by all means do so (just comment)!

Recommended?

Sure, why not. Really, there is no reason that you shouldn't use Fedora 7, although there really isn't any reason you should. Setup is easy enough, and all packages are up to date, if not quite bleeding edge. Still, I really do urge you to give Fedora 7 a try, as I believe it holds great potential.

Rating:

Lets say I had to give Fedora 7 a rating in the form of a number 1-10 (1 being the lowest, 10 the highest). I would have to say that Fedora 7 is a 7. The only reason it lost points was because my wireless card, although detected, could not be configured or activated (which may very well be different for other people) and just because the distro lacked that special "something" that would make it really stand out. *Keep in mind this score is very subjective, and only reflects what I feel after using the distro for a week*

Here's a quick screen shot of my final Fedora 7 desktop:

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