I’ve been a Fedora user since Fedora Core 5, and to a large extent, have enjoyed the overall experience, and being part of the community. We all know that competition is a good thing in FOSS, and there is plenty of it in other successful Linux Distro’s. So let me take some time to ask – What is the focus market for Fedora, and what does the future hold?
First, let me go over just some of the main reasons why I’ve stuck with Fedora these last few years. For one, I always appreciate the approach to bleeding edge software. For instance, when I was using Fedora 12, the Fedora KDE team bumped to KDE 4.4, mid cycle. And also when the Firefox 3.5 pre-release was included in Fedora 11. Maybe, too, it was the push for a better startup experience, implemented in Fedora 10 with the introduction of Plymouth, subsequently adopted by Ubuntu in release 10.04. There are other things, too. Like Richard Hughes‘s current work on integrating the Distro Upgrade procedure with PackageKit. This will be a great addition to Fedora, for sure. Or perhaps it was that I was impressed with Fedora’s effort to make NetworkManager more stable than ever, back in Fedora 8. In fact, if you want a better idea of Redhat’s contribution to Upstream FOSS projects, see this useful wiki page
The competition in the Linux userspace is stronger than ever. These are just a few things I like about some other distro’s. Firstly, it’s well known that Ubuntu think long and hard about user experience (for example, the 100 paper cuts project used for releases 9.10 and 10.04 to iron out some of the most pedantic glitches in these releases). I do like recent efforts to polish the Gnome notification applets, adding a few of their own, for networking, weather forecasts, and easier communication. I also like the way that the current Ubuntu process for upgrading from one distro release to another, is tightly integrated into the update process, used for package updates. Finally, I also recently came across OpenSuse’s Installation Mode. It does look particularly shiny. More so than I last remember. Of course, there are dozens of features in each distro release aimed at ease of use that I love, that I could bore you with.
Recent Fedora Releases
I’m sure that I’m not alone when I say this – I haven’t been blown away by the feature lists for Fedora 13 and Fedora 14. This is not to discredit the great work the Redhat folks, and volunteers who contribute. But to compare, here are some of the user-centric features from earlier releases (8 to 12) that took my eye: bluetooth enchancements, Better Printing, 20 second startup, Fingerprint Reader Support, and the Gnome Feature Clock Applet. Now, compare this to the features for releases 13 and 14, it’s more difficult to get excited, purely from a ‘casual user’ point of view. In Fedora 13, the two most notable additions were Better Webcam Support, and Automatic Printer Driver Installation. I have to be honest and say that the release of Fedora 14 didn’t bring anything exciting to my PC or netbook. A lot of work has clearly been done on virtualization technologies, clearly pushed by Redhat, such as the Spice project, and having Fedora 14 on Amazon‘s EC2 infrastructure. More of the same is promised in Fedora 15, with the BoxGrinder project and the addition of Xen Dom0 capabilities. But I have to say, ‘features’, such as the rebase to KDE 4.6 aren’t really Fedora features. I’d expect to see KDE 4.6 in every modern distro following its release on the 26th January 2011.
Indeed a couple of Fedora 14 reviews echo these sentiments. One, from the renowned blogger over on This Week In Linux concluded that he ‘ was not blown away :/ ‘. Also, the Fedora 14 review in January 2011′s release of the popular Linux Format magazine, it concludes: ‘It has plenty for sysadmins to get excited about, but less for the end user who may not notice enormous differences from Fedora 13, bar the usual kernel and environment updates’. In agreement, the review over at desktoplinuxreviews.com state: ‘there is not much of significance here for desktop users. Most of these new features probably appeal to administrators or developers more than your average desktop user‘.
The Future for Fedora
As has been well documented, The Ubuntu project will be switching from Gnome, to the Unity shell by default for the 11.04 release. It’s certainly an ambitious step, certainly in light of the upcoming release of Gnome 3.0, in March 2011. But this does give other distro’s the opportunity to gain support from those who are looking forward to the new Gnome shell in 3.0. That includes Fedora, and I believe Fedora 15 will be the first distro to ship with Gnome 3.0, which is very exciting to see. I’m also quite keen to recent change in policy for the development repository, rawhide. Does this mean that developers get more freedom, more time, in the unstable playpit to make bigger strides between each distro release? Time will tell, but I’m hopeful.
For a Linux distro to survive in the long term, it needs a unique position in the Linux-sphere. OpenSuse is a powerful distro for Sysadmins with tools such as YaST. Linux Mint has a strong position, aiming for pain-free Linux adoption, and is built on top of the well supported Ubuntu releases. So in which direction is Fedora heading? Are we to expect more webcams supported, and better fingerprint reader support? Or are we to expect our very own Fedora version of something as powerful as YaST, a powerful, configuration portal for all the needs of even the most nerdy Sysadmin?