As you may already know, the pre-release (beta) version of the Fedora Linux distribution was released two days ago. This release comes just more than a week after Canonical released the 10.04 version of their wildly successful Linux distribution, Ubuntu. Because of this, I was curious to see what aspects of Fedora 13 would be similar and unique in comparison to the newest Ubuntu release. On Thursday, the day of the release, I decided to try the new version of the popular distro, and in the time I spent exploring it, I found it to be very promising.
Fedora’s installation process was very straight-forward and user friendly. The Anaconda-based installer proved to be very simplistic, and the configuration screens of the installer (post-partitioning) had a friendly graphical user interface. To me, this is important because it means that a non-novice could install Fedora on their own simply by answering the questions proposed by the installer. The importance of this goes beyond the Fedora distribution, and shows its significance in the overall movement of Linux use by home users, as it makes the transition that much easier. One thing that impressed me with the installer that I do not remember seeing in previous versions of Fedora was the ability to add additional repositories during installation. This could be useful to a user who wants to customize their operating system at a pre-installation state, as opposed to installing additional packages after the installation.
After being greeted with the familiar Gnome (version 2.3) desktop and configuring my network connection, I was pleasantly surprised to see updates available on the beta operating system that had been released only a matter of hours earlier. This is very telling of Fedora’s dedication to providing a stable and up-to-date operating system, and gives me that much more confidence in the distribution.
Software-wise, Fedora 13 comes sporting OpenOffice.org 3.2, as well as Mozilla Firefox 3.6.2; the most recent versions of both applications. While this doesn’t come a a surprise by any stretch of the imagination, this follows the philosophy of most modern distributions in the sense that it ensures that the operating system is usable by the end-user out of the box. Further, the fact that the most up-to-date versions of these applications are available upon installation makes the operating system (and subsequently its users) even more productive.
Another application which I found myself very impressed with was Shotwell, an photo manager that handles photos and events in a very iPhoto-like user-friendly like interface. Playing around with the application for a few minutes, I was able to successfully import my somewhat large photo library, and found it to be super user-friendly. This applies the same principal that was illustrated with the easy-to-use installer; the fact that a user-friendly interface is likely to bring a greater number of users.
As much as I liked the overall user interface, there were a few things that kind of annoyed me. For example, “Messaging and VoIP Accounts” for the Empathy instant messaging application are made available under the “Preferences” tab under “System”. While this isn’t a big deal, I definitely don’t see the management of instant messaging accounts as being a “system” task. I believe that the re-organization of the menus would make the operating system much more user-friendly, as everything would be put in a more logical place.
All in all, Fedora 13 seems to be a promising operating system, and with a few modifications, I believe that this operating system can be made even better. However, it’s important to realize that this is only a beta release, and that in order to see what is in store for the final release, we’re going to have to wait a couple of weeks. Additionally, Fedora’s user-friendliness in installation and use further illustrates my ongoing theory that the producers of Linux distributions are working to make their operating systems appeal to the masses; home users.