Fedora 11 (Gnome)

It’s been ages since I last did a review of Fedora. I had planned to do one of Fedora 11 at ExtremeTech but I couldn’t get the beta to install properly in VMWare (my preferred tool for doing Linux distro reviews). Fortunately the final release is in much better shape and I was able to finally do this review.

Please note that this is the Gnome version of Fedora 11. I will be taking a separate look at the version that uses KDE later on. As you may have noticed from some of my ET reviews, I have always tended to be more of a Gnome person than KDE. Nothing wrong with KDE, it’s quite nice. But for some reason I always leaned in the direction of Gnome.

The Fedora developers are continuing in the Four Foundations tradition:

Freedom represents dedication to free software and content. We believe that advancing software and content freedom is a  central goal for the Fedora Project, and that we should accomplish that goal through the use of the software and content we promote. By including free alternatives to proprietary code and content, we can improve the overall state of free and open source software and content, and limit the effects of  proprietary or patent encumbered code on the Project.

Friends represents the strength of our community. The Fedora community is made up of people from all walks of life, working together to advance free software. There is a place in Fedora for anyone who wants to help, regardless of technical skill level, as long as they believe in our core values.

Features represents our commitment to excellence. The Fedora community creates many of the technical features that have made Linux powerful, flexible, and usable for a wide spectrum of  millions of users, administrators, and developers worldwide.

First represents our commitment to innovation. We are not content to let others do all the heavy lifting on our behalf; we provide the latest in stable and robust, useful, and powerful free software in our Fedora distribution.

The Fedora 11 Desktop

Fedora 11’s desktop is clean and uncluttered (albeit a bit bland).

New Features in Fedora 11
There’s quite a bit of new features in this release, more than I can list here but here’s a small sampling of new stuff you’ll find in Fedora 11:

20 Second Start Up
Anaconda Storage Rewrite
Automatic Fonts & Mime Installer
ext4 Default File System
Fingerprint Reader Support
Firefox 3.5
Gnome 2.26
NewTexUI Installer for Anaconda
Improved Power Management
Python 2.6
Synaptic Update
Better Volume Control
Xfce4.6

You can check out a full list of new features here.

Installation
Since Fedora 11 is a Live CD you get the option of running it without installing it. Booting into the Live CD posed no problems and I soon had my installation going in VMWare. The installation took just a few minutes. After it finished I had to add my user name, etc. and then I was able to login to my Fedora 11 desktop.

This release seems very fast to me. When I played with the beta it was just god-awful slow. If I had to characterize this release in terms of boot performance for the Live CD, I’d say it’s much quicker than before. And thank goodness. I detest slow-loading distributions that waste my time when I’m writing a review.

After booting into my installed desktop, I noticed the performance was still very good. The Fedora developers really seemed to have cleaned up the slowness of previous versions. At one point I’d more or less written off Fedora as it seemed just way too chunky and slow but those days appear to be over.

How to add OpenOffice.org to your Fedora 11 system.

How to add OpenOffice.org to your Fedora 11 system.

Desktop & Apps
Booting into my Fedora 11 desktop was quite pleasant and, as I noted above, fast. The desktop is uncluttered and the default wallpaper is attractive enough albeit rather bland in comparison to what you get with the satanic version of Ubuntu.

If there is a weak area in Fedora then it is with the number of apps included with it by default. Now I’m a bit of a hypocrite here because in the past, in other reviews, I’ve complained about “app overload” where a developers pack in huge numbers of apps and bloat up a distribution unnecessarily.

However, Fedora has gone in the other direction and, frankly, ought to offer more apps installed by default. Here is a list of most of what you’ll find broken down my menu section:

Accessories
Archive Manager
Calculator
Character Map
Indic Onscreen Keyboard
Screenshot
Text Editor
Thesauraus

Graphics
GIMP
gThumb Viewer

Internet
Firefox Web Browser
IM Client
Transmission

Office
AbiWord
Dictionary
Evolution

Programming
OpenJDK Policy Tool

Sound and Video
Audio CD Extractor
Brasero Disc Burner
Chese Webcam Booth
Movie Player
Rhythmbox Music Player
Sound Recorder

There are some system tools available as well but, other than that, this is about what you get with Fedora. OpenOffice.org is missing (which I very much disagree with, it should be in all distributions by default) as are many other useful programs.

The problem, of course, is where do you draw the line with what’s included by default? I really don’t know and that’s one reason why I like the idea of letting users pick the packages they want during the installation process. For some reason this seems to be the exception and not the rule and, frankly, I find it disappointing.

Fortunately it’s quite easy to add additional software via the Add/Remove Software tool. However, this really should not be necessary in the case of must-have applications like OpenOffice.org. Adding apps like that ends up wasting the user’s time and it really should be included by default.

Fedora 11 includes the Firefox 3.5 beta.

Fedora 11 includes the Firefox 3.5 beta.

Problems & Headaches
My gripes about the lack of bundled software aside, I really didn’t have any significant headaches with Fedora 11. As I’ve said before, I rather hate when that happens because it doesn’t give me much to talk about in this section. Well boohoo for me, I guess. Heh.

Who Should Use It?
In the past Fedora would not have scored particularly high on my recommendation list for desktop distros for casual Linux users. With this release I no longer have that hesitation.

I would certainly place this on the same level as any of the Ubuntus in terms of ease of use when it comes to installation as well as speedy performance. Ditto with PCLinuxOS and others. A newbie to Linux could and should consider Fedora for his or her desktop distro of choice. It really has improved that much.

Final Thoughts
What a pleasant surprise to find Fedora 11 in such good shape. Frankly, I had expected it to be as it was before. But the developers of Fedora have done a truly good job in making it better and that deserves to be recognized. In short, this is not your father’s Fedora. If you haven’t tried it yet, go grab a copy and check it out. It’s well worth a download.

Summary Table:

Product: Fedora 11 (Gnome)
Web Site: http://fedoraproject.org
Price: Free
Pros: Much faster than previous versions. Boot time is 20 seconds or so and desktop performance is delightful.
Cons: Lacks some useful applications such as OpenOffice.org that should have been installed by default.
Summary: An excellent upgrade to a previously chunky and slow Linux distribution. I give Fedora 11 a big thumbs up. Check it out.
Rating: 3.5/5