I’ve been using Linux since the Redhat days. Since then, it has grown from a curious look to a hobby, and more recently to my main operating system. Due to starting out with Redhat, I admit to being partial to the Redhat/Fedora series. Don’t let that concern you though, as I’ve tried all of the mainstream distributions, even Lycoris and Linspire.
Even though Fedora is currently my distro of choice, my experience with it has not always been top notch, with each version so far there are ups, and there are downs. Fedora Core 1 was overall a pleasant experience for me, while it was slow it was very basic, stable and it got the job done.
Fedora Core 2 was where things went downhill for me. I had high expectations, which may have been part of my bad experience with it, but for me personally I found it an unstable, bug ridden experience. My system would constantly crash as soon as I loaded the closed-source Nvidia drivers, and the only salvation was recompiling the kernel and disabling a few things that corrected the problem from crashing once a day to once every three days. An improvement, but I still couldn’t depend on my system with FC2 installed. With bugs from the test version remaining in the final release, I went distro to distro until FC3 Test 2 came out, and since then I’ve been curious to see if FC3 would make up for FC2. Did it? Read on to find out my findings.
My test system isn’t the most up to date machine you will ever see. In fact, it’s quite outdated, but it still gets the job done.
Processor: AMD Athlon 900mhz
Hard Disk: Western Digital 80GB 7200
Video: Geforce FX 5200 128MB
I downloaded the DVD, since it seems much more convenient to me to have all four cd’s on one DVD. Prior to my installation of the final version, I have went from Test 2, to Test 3, to the Release Candidate, and then to the final version, upgrading each time. Each upgrade in succession went smoothly, but took about an hour. However, believe it or not, upgrading to FC3 Final took about 7 minutes. I don’t know if its because it’s a DVD (Doubt it, my DVD drive is old and slow) or because there hasn’t been many changes between RC1 and Final, or maybe they optimized the install speed? I am not sure. Nothing has changed here though, this is Anaconda, the same one you’ve used since Redhat and the logos are slightly different, that’s it.
Honestly, it’s really nice to be up to date with Gnome 2.8, and KDE 3.3, but I really don’t see how they’ve changed since Gnome 2.6 and KDE 3.2. Gnome has a different method of selecting panel items, which ends up slowing me down and making customizing my panel much more annoying. KDE has a brand new, wait, get back with me on that, I don’t see anything new. Gnome still has spatial browsing, which is easy to turn off if you don’t like it. For those of you that don’t know, this basically means all icons you click on open in new windows, like they did in Windows 95. Gnome folks added the name “Spatial Browsing” to it and considers it an innovation.
When it comes to speed, I have found FC3 to be slightly faster than FC2 but not by much. FC2 was already faster than Windows on my PC, FC3 is a slight improvement in that area. When it comes to other innovations, Evolution 2.x is here, and Xorg looks absolutely beautiful. Everything is cleaner, crisper, and brighter, and is one area where FC3 shines.
As I’ve said above, FC2 in my experience was a bug-ridden mess. Maybe it was just me. Ever since I installed FC3 Final, system has not crashed once, I even have the closed-source Nvidia drivers installed and my favorite games seem to work faster than they did prior.
SELinux is back, and this time it’s a default. It’s easy to turn off, and turning it off was the first thing I did. I might be willing to give it a shot, but with FC3 Test 2 and Test 3, it sometimes made my system unbootable and would give error messages as I booted, Same thing it did with FC2. No thanks, if it takes that long to fix it, I don’t want it.
FC3 isn’t exactly perfect. My first complaint is not directed to the Fedora team, because they don’t control it, but instead to the folks that work on Gnome and KDE. I like both, and I don’t favor one over the other. Last week I was using primarily Gnome, this week I am using strictly KDE. I don’t know what I will be using next week. Anyway, my complaint is that KDE 3.3 and Gnome 2.8 has changed little, if at all, from their predecessors. KDE 3.3 should’ve probably been named 3.2.4, and Gnome 2.8 seems more like a 2.6.x release if anything else. Don’t get me wrong, they are both great, but if you only have the prior versions, you’re not missing much.
When it comes to the Fedora team, I feel a great aspect to improve would be the look and feel. Most of the themes, icons, and widgets are the same you can get in any distro, except for Bluecurve but if you like that one, I am sure you can probably download it or import it into any distro. Regardless, KDE and Gnome are opensource. Fedora could really make an original, raw-looking desktop if they wanted to. (We will probably have bluecurve based themes for the next few versions at least). Other things in this department that could use touching up, would be the Bootup screen (this is the third Fedora release to use the same boot screen) and adding a shutdown screen, maybe even a cooler looking login screen.
Even though I have a few small complaints, the complaints I do have aren’t really the most important you will ever read. Most importantly, my system hasn’t crashed since test 2. It looks like the focus of FC3 was to include the latest Gnome, KDE, Selinux, xorg, and Evolution, but stability was definitely a goal, for the first time since FC2 I can depend on my Linux PC again. Despite minor complaints, Fedora is my main distro again. Stability is the main thing I’ve been wanting, and I finally recieved it. If any of you try it, I hope you find it as stable.
In closing, I’d like to bring up one last point. My largest dissapointment with Fedora is that it may never defeat Microsoft. As you all know, it is the testing ground for new technologies that may make it to Redhat Enterprise Linux. I highly doubt we’ll ever see it in a shiny box next to Windows on store shelves giving casual users a choice, instead it is mostly limited to those with broadband and a burner, or a generous friend with a burner and DSL. If a distro is to truly challenge Microsoft, sadly it won’t be Fedora that pulls it off. That’s okay to me though, because I know how to navigate FTP mirrors very well, but your average “Joe User” probably doesn’t know what “FTP” actually means. Will Linux take the Microsoft throne? I surely hope so, it will be a number of years before Longhorn is released, and I hope Linux vendors take advantage.
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