Why Fedora Matters

by Chris Tyler

Recent blog postings here on the O'Reilly Network and articles on Slashdot (including a recent review of my book) have generated some really strong negative comments about the Fedora project. Does Fedora really matter?


2006-11-28 23:35:59
"Fedora isn't for everyone." - that's correct. Fedora is for people that don't care about stability, availability, and security of their systems.

If going to production, or you just want your life to be easier - stay away from Fedora !

Chris Tyler
2006-11-29 05:26:48
"Fedora is for people that don't care about stability, availability, and security of their systems."

I can understand the stability comment, if you're referring to the 6-month release cycle (some would consider Debian to be stable, though others would consider a 2-3 year release cycle to be glacial). But as for availability and security: state your case! Tell us the basis of your comments.

For myself: I use Fedora in multiple production environments and it is solid for me, and SELinux (and ExecShield and other tools) provide a strong security foundation.

2006-11-29 06:10:18
Bleeding edge software, unnecessary default running services, overall system complexity, feature-bloat, revolutionary- rather than evolutionary changes, poor packaging system, and inclusion of tainted binaries are main reasons for not using Fedora in any serious/production environments. Sad but true.
Chris Tyler
2006-11-29 07:31:03
Some of those are arguably a matter of perspective. I've heard Fedora criticized by some for being "bleeding edge" but by others for using "older version of packages" (?!). As a distribution designed to promote the rapid development of FLOSS, I expect that the packages will be recent but not alpha.

The same subjectivity applies to the packaging system; you can argue RPM+YUM vs RPM+APT vs DEB+APT vs anything else until the cows come home, but the current version of Fedora's package management system (RPM+YUM) has reasonable performance and excellent stability. It supports multiple archs on one system (x86-32+64 for example, something APT isn't strong at handling) and has graphical and command-line interfaces (and optional alternate interfaces, if you want to find an exact match to your personal preferences).

You comment about tainted binaries makes my ears perk up; that sounds like a serious concern and contrary to the project's policies. What are you referring to? Do you mean tainted from a license point of view?

2006-11-30 13:44:45
Linux development model actively permits development and use of quasi-"open source" drivers operating by feeding hardware with magic numbers or module/HAL binaries supplied exclusively by hardware vendor. No one can audit these drivers and when vendor drops support for the hardware (thus forcing you to buy new one) no one can take the driver source and continue to maintain it.
These drivers are built only after signing various obscure non-disclosure agreements Linux developers sign just for "make it run and don't care about anything else" sake.
Caitlyn Martin
2006-12-05 15:21:48
Chris, I agree with you and fully disagree with anonymous. rpm may have been problematic back in the '9os but it is a very good packaging system now, one that is arguably easier than dpkg to get one's head around.

The six month release cycle isn't unique to Fedora. Ubuntu is the same and it is widely popular. Red Hat's model is that Fedora is cutting edge and that Enterprise Linux is the long-lived, ultra-stable version. I should point out that RHEL is Open Source as well and binary recompiles stripped of Red Hat logos such as Centos and WhiteBox are readily available. So... Red Hat offers a choice of delivery models. Anonymous prefers slower release cycles so Fedora is not for him/her. That doesn't make Fedora any less important or relevant.

Finally, you have to make revolutionary changes sometimes when new, radically improved technology comes along. Most Fedora releases do NOT have radical changes but some do... just like every other Linux distro.

Anonymous, please give a specific example of where something included in Fedora to make hardware work really isn't Open Source. I want to see a valid example.

Oh, and just making things work is sometimes a good thing if you want people to actually use it. I'm glad madwifi, for example, is included in Ubuntu and Vector Linux, for example. The average user isn't going to be happy having to compile drivers. I don't know how many people have complained to me that their WiFi didn't work with Fedora or RHEL. When I told them to download and compile drivers I get dross eyed looks and comments about how difficult Linux is and how much easier Windows is. Grrr...

Eldon Ziegler
2006-12-05 15:37:20
It's my view that FC isn't doing enough rather than too much. If the objective is to get Linux onto the desktop, and I think that should be an objective, printing MUST be a no brainer and it's not that today with CUPS. Using a printer on a Windows machine is not easy but people should be able to expect it to be. If running new printers on Linux takes making printer drivers developed for Windows work under Linux until the printer manufacturers wake up, so be it. Let's get on with it.
Dave Turvene
2006-12-11 07:09:04
As someone who has to support Linux on a wide variety of desktop and laptop computers I have these comments about my choice of distro, Fedora:

* It includes everything by default, which is really nice to get a laptop up and running. The "kitchen sink" approach is clearly preferable when one does not have oodles of time to figure out why, for instance, a customers USB flash key works on XP but not under Linux. If package bloat and memory are really an issue, I custom build a kernel, stop unnecessary services and remove unnecessary packages without requiring a daily status report to a client. One nice big-little feature is a customizable suspend-to-disk that, to me, works more seamlessly under Fedora.

* Yum and its derivatives are very reliable for package upgrade. The only problems I have ever had are installing upstream packages that supercede the dependencies in the FC distro. But I would rather have those dependencies and overcome them when I must have a REAL bleeding edge package.

* Many laptops have new hardware due to the Wintel borg who's mission statement is: We must sell more software in order to sell more hardware in order to sell more software, etc. I have been very happy with video and wifi support in Fedora. Typically Fedora supports video hardware that is over six months old, which is a lot better than other distros.

I have had to hunt for support of obscure Wifi cards and the whole ATI/Nvidia video card mess in the past. There is a huge amount of bad/inaccurate/out-of-date advice out there. And let's not even talk about the whole nice-but-difficult-to-debug sysfs/devd/hotplug framework. Those experiences have made me appeciate Fedora.

* Security is a big issue for some clients, especially for laptops that can be physically compromised. I haven't had an issue with Fedora, and I'm curious to what some of the criticisms refer.

So in summary, give me everything working and a happy client quickly. Then I can customize/upgrade/install/remove at my own pace. And is it really that much of a burden to shut down a few unnecessary services?

Zaine Ridling
2007-06-12 16:18:49
It's June 2007, and this topic could still be written today, but let me chime in as one n00b who's switching from Windows to GNU/Linux, I've installed and worked with nine different distros. Would it surprise anyone that Fedora 7 was only one of two distros I had no trouble with? The other was PCLinuxOS. But Fedora 7 installed quickly, recognized both my new Samsung widescreen monitor and HP printer (something even Vista did not do! nor Ubuntu), displayed fonts with crystal clarity (again, unlike Ubuntu, which I could never get fonts right despite two days of patches and fixes), and I wasn't overwhelmed by Fedora 7.

Fedora has tons of support online and the people have been very friendly. Another thing I love about Fedora is the philosophy of actively promoting FLOSS. Red Hat's is not a preachy approach, but a gentle one: "download and use whatever you want, but here are better OSS options." Besides, the flame wars among distros are such a grand waste of time, the same arguments are used among browsers, word processors, and other software for my lifetime. It's easier to sidestep all that by loading and running Fedora 7 for a couple of weeks. It's pretty amazing from where I am -- n00bville, that is.

For a serial of this transition, visit:
My journey from Windows to Linux