Fedora 7 was released in late May, and I found time to download, install and take it for a spin. Those of you familiar with the Fedora releases may notice the lack of the word “Core” in the title. Previously, Fedora releases were called “Fedora Core 4,” “Fedora Core 5,” “Fedora Core 6,” and so forth. But with the development of release 7, the standard (or “core”) software repositories were joined with the “extras” repositories, negating the necessity of anything other than “Fedora 7” for the name of the newest release.
Not wanting to download a 2.9 gigabyte DVD image, I opted instead for the Fedora 7 Live CD, which enabled me to try out the new stuff, without having to install it first. As I’ve mentioned in other Linux reviews, I think the Live CD is one of the greatest things about many Linux distributions, and that is certainly true here. I wasn’t positive I was going to actually install Fedora 7, but after trying it out for a bit, I decided to go ahead and install it.
I typically keep an empty partition on my hard drive for instances such as this (so I don’t lose my regular Ubuntu installation), but since I’d recently installed a pre-release version of Ubuntu (with no intentions of keeping it installed), I went ahead and wiped the drive, except for my documents and other files.
As is typical with Fedora, installation was a breeze. The standard Fedora install program – Anaconda – works just as well from the Live CD as it does from an install-only disc. I was asked a series of questions (default language, location, networking setup, password, and how I’d like to partition my drive), and that was it. Anaconda went on its merry way with little to no input from me, and within maybe 20 minutes, the computer was ready to boot. After the first boot, I had to answer a few more questions (to conclude the installation), and I was ready to go. Since I didn’t download Fedora on the day of its release, there were a few updates already, but those quickly installed via Yum’s graphic interface.
After that completed, I had a completely up-to-date version of Fedora, ready to do anything I threw at it. Well… not quite.
Fedora, as opposed to Ubuntu, is a real stickler for open-source software. As opposed to Ubuntu, which makes such codecs as the GStreamer libraries available (which allows a user to play mp3 music files and divx videos), Fedora does not. Anything that might potentially break a patent is verboten, and Fedora stays away from it. This includes, to many people’s dismay, binary drivers for most video cards.
This isn’t as dismal as it may sound, but it does necessitate – straight out of the box – adding a new repository to your source list. This is a fairly simple step, and although it’s annoying to need to do this, it does allow a user to install all the necessary libraries in order to play most video and audio files, as well as encrypted DVDs. After a bit of searching on the Internet, I felt the most logical place to get that type of software was from the Livna repositories. Livna has no official association with Fedora, and apparently the Fedora folks will never mention Livna on their web pages (to avoid any type of legal action for providing users with a way to install potentially “problematic” software), but the Livna people follow Fedora, and there should typically be no problems using their RPMs (Fedora’s package type) with a fresh Fedora installation. At least that was my experience. I installed the Fedora 7 RPM, and lo and behold, all the “missing” software was now available for download and installation.
There was really nothing that blew me away about Fedora’s set of default applications. With very few exceptions, it seemed pretty much like a standard Ubuntu installation. Included were such applications as Firefox, Evolution, The GIMP, Pidgin, Ekiga, Totem and Rhythmbox. All are famliar applications for Linux users, and most are considered best-of-breed, or close to it. Also included is the gnome-games suite of 5-minute games and the standard gnome-utils collection of utilities, which includes a calculator, text editor, dictionary and similar programs. All very basic, and all very expected. One notable exception (in my eyes), was that the word processor and spreadsheet programs chosen were Abiword and Gnumeric. In many standard (non-lightweight) distributions, the venerable OpenOffice suite is selected, which also provides a drawing program, database manager and presentation application.
Other than the “missing” OpenOffice suite (which I can’t really complain about, since I’m a big fan of Abiword and Gnumeric as well), there’s really nothing to write home about as far as program selection.
Visually, the Fedora 7 artwork is very appealing. I completely forgot to grab a screenshot of the default wallpaper (I’m back to using Ubuntu), but you can see it – along with all the other standard Fedora artwork – at this website.
About the only thing I really have to gripe about regarding Fedora is the icons, which can obviously be changed, and the naming conventions. Perhaps this is a case of being too used to Ubuntu, but I didn’t find the icons very appealing, and the mouse cursor was likewise a bit boring. Thankfully, this is easily solved by a trip to a website such as Gnome-Look.org, to grab alternate icons and cursors. The largest issue I had with Fedora, however, was in how programs were named. Instead of simply calling the installed web browser (Firefox) by its name, Fedora decided to simply call it “Web Browser.” Similarly, other programs, such as Ekiga and Evolution, were given generic names, such as “Email” (for Evolution) and unbelievably long names like “Voice over Internet Protocol Phone Client.” Obviously the name “Ekiga” doesn’t tell a person exactly what the program does, but for Linux users, that may not be the case. It’s my opinion that Fedora tried a bit too hard to make this distribution user friendly (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), at the expense of a bit of brevity.
All in all, however, I found Fedora to be a good distribution. The lack of any “standard” multimedia support out of the box – as easy as it is to install via third-party options – is a strike against Fedora. And while my preference for Ubuntu and Debian-based distributions may color my thinking, I feel that Yum is not quite up to par with Apt, as far as dependencies and speed of installing (or updating) programs are concerned. Still, for those users wanting a completely “free” desktop, without any proprietary restrictions, Fedora is a great, stable, nice-looking distribution, and while it may not be MY Linux of choice, it certainly fits well for others. Well worth a look.