Firstly, Fedora just looks better, despite being built around the same Gnome desktop as Debian. The astronomical theme that accompanies you while you launch the operating system is carried on to the blue desktop, and there’s a distinct feeling that a lot of love has gone into Fedora’s default theme.
Secondly, Fedora manages to include OpenOffice.org 3, while Debian is still a revision behind, and Fedora’s version of Firefox keeps the original branding, rather than the confusing rebranding of all things Mozilla insisted on by the Debian developers.
You will never take our freedom!
Both desktops take a hard line against including non-free open source software, and we greatly admire this stance. Both desktops prove that a purely open source desktop is just as functional as a hybrid desktop, even if you do have to make certain compromises.
We feel that Debian’s compromise of using the vaguely Adobe Flash-compatible Gnash, though admirable, confuses things slightly. It’s difficult to tell when you go to YouTube, for instance, that the poor performance isn’t a network problem rather than a Gnash problem.
Fedora doesn’t even try, but if you do want to install Adobe’s Flash, you only need to download the RPM and click on this file once. A browser restart later, and you’re ready for YouTube.
You’ll find packages split by category, and installation is easy, with the industry-standard RPM format handles dependencies without difficulty. As you would imagine from a distribution that’s so closely related to Red Hat, updates and patches are taken very seriously.
A feature we particularly like is that the update system will inform you about the nature of each update, whether it’s a bugfix, a security update or a feature enhancement. The makes you more inclined to allow the updates to proceed, as well as keeping you on top of what is changing in your system.
As with Red Hat Enterprise and Centos 5.2, Fedora includes some bulletproof security packages. It has a firewall enabled by default, and includes a sensible set of rules that you can enable or disable using a firewall configuration window. If you’re particularly worried about security, SELinux can be enabled to lock down any wayward applications.
For every day desktop use, Fedora can’t be beaten. The choice of software is excellent, and we can’t think of anything that’s missing. Fedora’s stance on freedom is a little painful if you need proprietary drivers or MP3 support, but these issues can be worked around.
Both the Gnome and KDE desktops look and feel brilliant, and the performance of our Fedora installation is as good as any other tuned Linux distribution. It’s also a distribution that will have users of other operating systems looking over your shoulder.
Fedora might not be the easiest distribution to use, or the one with the largest package repository, but we feel it represents the very best that open source software has to offer.