Fedora vs Ubuntu

Ubuntu is the Linux head-of-state but Fedora offers an exciting alternative

July 19, 2010
Fedora vs Ubuntu

There was a time when Ubuntu was the upstart: a new Linux distribution that was more promise than substance.

When it was launched in late 2004 it was up against a number of distributions that had been in development for years: Red Hat, Fedora, Suse Linux and Mandriva (then still called Mandrake). These were well-developed distributions with their own fans and unique features. Ubuntu, based on Debian, had a solid base but had a long way to go to be as user-friendly as it planned.

Fast forward almost six years and Ubuntu has delivered. For many users it has been the perfect starting point for their Linux adventures. For others it offers the stability that they want from an operating system. It also has a huge fan-base and is the dominant voice in Linux marketing.

The Linux market is changing, however, opening the way for old and trusted favourites to re-emerge. Among these is Fedora which is increasingly offering a compelling alternative to Ubuntu.

Best of open source

While Ubuntu has largely focused on being as user-friendly as possible, Fedora has gained a reputation for being more experimental than most Linux releases. As the community edition of Red Hat, Fedora is a test-bed for its commercial big brother. Technologies such as new filesystems, new virtualisation techniques and much more are regularly tested in Fedora before being polished up and incorporated into Red Hat. But Fedora is more than just a test-bed for Red Hat. It is also a standalone operating system of its own, and one that is of high quality.

The difference between Ubuntu and Fedora lies primarily in their approaches to the end product they produce. Ubuntu’s approach is to produce an easy-to-use desktop alternative to Windows. While not a Windows clone it is designed to be used by anyone keen to leave Windows behind. And in this it is remarkably successful.

Fedora, on the other hand, strives to make a desktop operating system that offers the best that the world of free and open source software has at the time. It routinely includes software that many other distributions consider too experimental to use and yet, somehow, manages to team that with stability.

Over the years Fedora has consistently been closer to the cutting edge with its features than most other distributions. Things such as KVM (kernel-based virtualisation) were first tested out in early Fedora releases. Today KVM is widely used by most distributions. Similarly, support for BTRFS, the new-generation filesystem in Linux, was added early on in Fedora’s development. Most distributions now have some support for BTRFS.

As far as usability goes Fedora has included features such as automatic print-driver and language pack installation in recent releases. It also has advanced management features for managing monitor calibration, users and networks as well as experimental 3D support for Nvidia drivers using open source software.

Fedora is not for everyone. Its tendency to include the most recent software in its releases makes it exciting and full of new learning curves, which will appeal to long-time Linux users but probably not newcomers. And for those looking to see what the best of open source software looks like, Fedora is one of the best places to start.

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