The first Linux-based operating system I tried was called Fedora. Most people get started with Ubuntu these days, but a friend of mine used Fedora and was willing to help me get set up with it.
After a year or so I switched; first back to Windows XP for a few months, then to Fedora again and finally to Ubuntu. I’ve now been using Ubuntu for about half a year, and I love it! But I loved Fedora as well, and I appreciate the good points of both systems.
Here are the differences between the two operating systems, as I can see them, so that you can decide for yourself.
They have a different look and feel from each other
This is the most obvious (and the most superficial) difference, so I thought I’d at least touch on it first. Fedora’s art style is very sleek, shiny, blue and high-tech. Ubuntu’s, on the other hand, is more brown and orange, inspired by their theme of humanity and their roots in South Africa.
You can change the art styles if you like! Just by using the GNOME Art Manager — available in the Ubuntu repositories, and possibly in Fedora’s as well — you can download all kinds of new icons, wallpapers, window styles and the like. You can also change the color scheme used on your desktop, or even the screen that greets you on login.
Of course, the differences between Fedora and Ubuntu are more than just skin-deep. Here’s the next thing you might notice:
They have different software built-in
A default install of Fedora comes with different software than a default install of Ubuntu does. Moreover, they have different software “packages” available for optional install in their repositories, and the way you install things is slightly different in each. In my opinion Ubuntu’s Add/Remove feature is more user-friendly than Fedora’s, but I’ve also seen it get hung up on silly things and require me to go into the Synaptic Package Manager instead, which is not quite as easy or self-explanatory.
Ubuntu has more software available than Fedora does, in its repositories, and the software they have available for easy installation includes proprietary software as well … things like the Sun Java and Adobe Flash plugins, and the Opera web browser. Installing these things in Fedora is tricky, and requires several workarounds. On the other hand, Fedora has some things that Ubuntu lacks … like a game that I particularly liked. Fedora also has the sophisticated SELinux security software tied into the system itself, although I’ve heard it said that this is overkill for everyday computing, and just slows things down for most people.
Once you’ve picked out your favorite software and settled into using your system, you may find signs of deeper differences between Fedora and Ubuntu. This is because …
They were made for two different reasons
Ubuntu is designed to be “Linux for human beings;” an operating system that anyone can pick up and use and install on their own. It’s their goal to increase “Linux’s” desktop marketshare; indeed, “Bug #1” on their Launchpad bug-tracking service is that Microsoft Windows is still pre-installed on most PCs sold.
Fedora, on the other hand — while a free operating system like Ubuntu — serves as the testbed for a commercial product, Red Hat Enterprise Linux. “RHEL” is sold commercially by Red Hat, along with a lucrative support contract which helps to keep them in business. And while the Fedora Project is independent from Red Hat, they receive a great deal of funding from the company, and there are a lot of Red Hat employees in their community and on their governing board.
To be fair, Canonical — the company which got the ball rolling with the Ubuntu Project — has a great deal to do with Ubuntu’s success, as do the pockets of its multi-millionaire founder, Mark Shuttleworth. It’s his goal to create the most usable Linux-based operating system, however … he has specifically pointed out the ease-of-use of Apple’s Mac computers as a target for them to surpass, and has recently created a project called Ayatana which is dedicated to achieving that goal. Their first product, a new unified notification system for the GNOME desktop, sounds mundane to describe but is incredibly cool to look at, and makes the process of receiving pop-up messages on your desktop (“Connection Lost! Connection Re-established!”) a lot less annoying than on Windows or older versions of Ubuntu.
Fedora’s goal, on the other hand, is to throw together the latest software packages as quickly as possible and see what breaks. And while they do a lot of work to advance the state-of-the-art — work which benefits every Linux-based OS — the end result is an operating system which is a lot less stable than most others. They release a new version every six months, and there’s nearly always something that breaks.
Ubuntu creates a new release every six months as well, and they also have such “teething” problems … but with their focus on user experience, such problems tend to be solved more quickly, and are made into more of a priority. And unlike with Fedora, they give you the option of downloading a “Long-Term Support” version of Ubuntu, which is supported for three whole years and is a lot more stable than the twice-yearly releases.
Whether you choose to install Ubuntu or Fedora on your PC or Mac, you’ll benefit from the latest in Free / Open-Source Software. And both Ubuntu and Fedora have thriving communities, so you’ll find plenty of friends to chat with (or receive technical support from!).
Hopefully, this guide has helped you in making your decision of which operating system to use. Either way, good luck, and have fun with your computer!