Thursday, April 18, 2013

Fedora Got Game: Leading Edge Technology, Stability and Standards

by Dietrich Schmitz

I was disappointed when Fuduntu announced that it would close its doors the other day.  So much potential, but I do understand the reasons why +Andrew Wyatt chose to do so and retire.

I didn't waste time looking at my alternatives.  First, I took Manjaro 0.8.5 OpenBox for a spin.  Suffice it to say, Manjaro has great potential but I encountered some install issues which took it off of my list.  Then, someone in my private LA community mentioned ArchBang.  So, I went straight away and gave it a spin.  The install went smoothly, but when it came time to install software, I was faced with having to go to AUR, download a tar.gz, unzip, cd into the directory of the software, run makepkg which errored out.  The error put me off and if I was ten years younger I might have battled with it to figure out why, but I really don't want to do that anymore.

So, I thought for a while and considered all of the pluses about Fuduntu and realized that Fedora is probably the best option, but with which GUI?  +Pete Mazzaccaro thinks we all will come around to using Gnome3 and quipped yesterday in the LA community about it.  As for myself, I am not ready for that, so I installed the Fedora 18 KDE spin and lived with it all day yesterday.

KDE Plasma Workspace 4.10.1 is what comes with this spin.  Let me tell you, KDE is the best Desktop GUI, bar none.  Hats off to the KDE Developer Community and to +Aaron Seigo on a great product.  It's really more than one product, to be accurate actually.

But, my meager Acer Aspire One D260 with 2GB ram was feeling the strain.  I turned off 3D Desktop Effects which helps but it still felt sluggish and so at the end of the day yesterday, I decided to install Xfce.  (Incidentally, I am aware members of the KDE Developer Team are working on a lightweight version of KDE Workspaces, named KLyDE.  I think that is smart and I hope to test-drive it soon.)

Doing the install was as simple as opening a terminal window and typing:

$sudo yum groupinstall "xfce"

About ten minutes later it was done and I quickly logged out and selected Xfce from the login manager session list and logged back into Fedora 18.

Sweet relief.  Night and day speed difference.  No disrespect to KDE.  We all know why, but then KDE is so flexible and gives you whatever you want.

The price to pay for giving users everything they want is that KDE's memory footprint is somewhat larger.  Now, on today's Desktop systems with 4GB ram or better, that is a non-issue, so that isn't meant as a criticism.

So, I went about doing a few customizations, removing the bottom dock (I like cairo much better), turning on compositing, moving the top panel1 to the bottom, changing the theme, background and I was good to go.

All of the basics are satisfied by Xfce, and it isn't a victim held hostage by Gnome either.

Fedora 18 running stock Xfce Desktop

Someone on my LA community asked, why not go back to Xubuntu?  A fair question, but as I explained in Debian: A Speedbump on the Road to Innovation, Debian has been a drag on innovation and I am not going to use any Debian derivative.

And, as I wrote about it in YUM: A Breed Apart, yum is simply better technology than APT.

So, what does Fedora have that satisfies my needs?  Let's take a look.


Fedora has a great repository system and yum technology backing it up (yes yum is being upgraded but is not production ready yet).  I love using yum, but you have the default YumExtender and several other gui front-ends if you prefer not to use the terminal command line.  I also love being able to roll-back any yum transaction set.  That feature by itself puts yum ahead of the competition.  Yum is a wrapper on Red Hat Package Manager (rpm), which is certified as Linux Standard Base compliant (LSB).  LSB is a POSIX based specification.  In a story I wrote called The Linux Desktop Mess, I wrote about the issue of standardization.  Two key points were made.  1) Adhere to the Filesystem Hierarchy Standard (FHS), and 2) Collaboratively develop a cross-Distro Universal Package Manager.  In fact, rpm has been designated as the package management standard in LSB.

Both of those two issues are included in the LSB specification and the latter alone would bring stability and eliminate variation, confusion and cost in deployment of Linux Distros and applications.  Red Hat and Fedora understand this and are LSB-compliant.  The importance of that cannot be overstated.


When it comes to security, Linux has always had a good reputation. Fedora has SELinux sandboxing technology standard.  While not the easiest to use (AppArmor is easier, but path-based), SELinux is bullet-proof.  SELinux was designed originally with guidance from the National Security Agency, for those who care to know and is standard in Red Hat Enterprise Linux.  No messing around there.  Okay enough said on security.  The firewall is iptables, of course.  All rules can be maintained via command line or through a gui written by Red Hat, called Firewall-Config.


I liked the minimalism of Fuduntu, and they didn't load up the Menu with every application under the sun.  Just the basics.  With Fedora and Xfce minimalism still prevails.  Yet, as with most Distros, you are only a step away from adding your 'favorite' application.  As more and more people become connected to the Internet, the need to have applications available from the installer becomes less important.  Just go get what you need in the repo!


This is probably the most important consideration of all.  The breadth of the Fedora/Red Hat Developer Community is quite large, and that means we are not going to see 'end of life' for this Distro.  Also, we can be assured that continual refinement will occur.  As new technology ideas are forged in Fedora, they routinely merge to Red Hat Enterprise Linux when stable.  For those not aware, Red Hat is a publicly-traded company with +$1B annual sales.  The relationship between Red Hat and Fedora in terms of governance is good and that Oracle and CentOS spin their own Distros based on Red Hat is a good indication of the overall quality of their codebase.

So, when I say to you standards matter, I hope you will take in context the ideas I set forth in prior stories and keep in mind that while Cookie Cutter Distros are okay and represent the right to fork Distros, they potentially harm and do nothing for innovation.  Only a handful of Distros show merit and are actively bringing new ideas and software innovation to the table.  The rest are simply deviations, derivatives and copy cats that offer nothing else.

Fedora Got Game.

-- Dietrich

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