Ferocious Fedora 20 review: Cutting edge Linux still as sharp as ever

Ferocious Fedora 20 review: Cutting edge Linux still as sharp as ever

Summary: If you want to a bleeding edge desktop or server Linux, then Fedora is the Linux distribution for you. If you want to play it safe, try something else.

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If you want an easy to use Linux for grandpa, check out Ubuntu. If you want to just use your computer without any learning curve what-so-ever and no security worries, get a Linux-powered Chromebook. But, if you want to get your hands deep into Linux's bleeding edge, then what you want is the latest Fedora release: Fedora 20, Heisenbug.

Fedora 20
Fedora 20 with the GNOME 3.10 interface is today's cutting edge Linux distribution.

While Heisenbug — programmer jargon for a bug that disappears or changes behavior when you try to isolate it — uses the newest-of-the-new open-source programs it's not hard to set up. Its installation program, Anaconda, as J. A. Watson shows in his step by step Anaconda walk-through, is very easy to use. If you've setup a computer from a DVD or USB stick before, you'll have no trouble with Fedora 20.

Fedora 20: Hands on with five different desktops

You also get your choice of supported desktops. Heisenbug comes with spins for GNOME, KDE, Xfce, LXDE and MATE. You can, of course, if you're a real Linux pro, add your own desktop. Cinnamon, for example, is my Linux desktop interface of choice. GNOME 3, as it has been for years, is Fedora's most polished interface.

Regardless of the desktop, under it you'll find the X Window System instead of its new Wayland display server. There is an experimental version of Wayland in Fedora 20, which will support the GNOME desktop, but the production version of Wayland won't show up until Fedora 21 ships in 2014.

Despite what some people might have you believe, the war over what displayer manager will replace X Window isn't over yet, and Wayland isn't the winner. Ubuntu's Mir is still in the fight. While casual users won't care, there aren't that many of them using Fedora. Fedora is for Linux power-users and it's firmly in the Wayland camp. Which one will eventually become the default Linux desktop display manager will be decided in 2014 as both projects mature. 

Under the graphics, you'll find the 3.11.10 Linux kernel. Red Hat, Fedora's parent company, has also bundled in Ruby on Rails 4.0, Perl 5.18, and GNU C Library 2.18 for the programmers that are Fedora's main audience.

All that's well and good, but the real proof of any operating system is how well it works. I'm pleased to report that Fedora 20 works very well indeed.

I tried it on my Dell XPS 8300. This powerhouse desktop comes with a 3.4GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor. It also has 8GBs of RAM, a 2-TB hard drive, and an AMD/ATI Radeon HD 5770 graphics card. I also used it on a Lenovo ThinkPad T520 laptop. This notebook boasts a 2.5GHz Intel Core i5 Processor, 4GBs of RAM, a 500GB hard drive and an integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000 processor. On these systems it zipped along.

You don't need that kind of power to run Fedora 20. Fedora claims that Fedora 20 will run with as little as a 1Ghz processor, 1GB of RAM, and a 10GB hard drive. I don't know about that, but I do know that on a 1GB VirtualBox virtual machine, which was in turn running on a 2007 vintage Dell Inspiron 530S with 2.2-GHz Intel Pentium E2200 dual-core processor, it was still quite usable.

While you can download all matter of Linux end-user software for Fedora, its default applications are familiar ones: LibreOffice for the office suite, Firefox for the Web browser, and Evolution for the e-mail client.

I looked mostly at Fedora's desktop features, but really the more interesting new developments are in the cloud and virtualization space. These include support for Logical Volume Manager (LVM) Thin Provisioning, which enables you to configure thin clients during the operating system installation and VM Snapshot UI with virt-manager, which gives you the power to easily make virtual machines snapshots. Useful to Joe User? No. Useful for system administrators. Yes, yes indeed.

Well they'd be useful if they worked. The LVM thin client provisioning doesn't work today. In fact, there's a known bug that makes this “feature” a bug that will lock up your computer. For now, don't even bother to try to set up LVN thin clients.

I also ran straight into another known networking bug: The firewall blocks all access to Server Message Block (SMB) Windows/Samba file-sharing. Fedora seems closer to a fix for this one. For now if you, like me, share a lot of drives via Windows Servers, Linux-based Samba servers, and network-attached storage (NAS), you may want to avoid turning on the firewall.

Last, but not least, while I haven't seen it documented in the Fedora bug list, users have been finding trouble using the IPv6 networking protocol with Fedora.

Remember what I said at the beginning of this review about how Fedora was a bleeding edge distribution? This is the kind of stuff I meant.

Yes, you do get to use the newest of the new, but often that means you get to discover the newest bugs too. If you're not willing to deal with that fact, find another distribution. If you're ready to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty with the latest code, then welcome to Fedora. You''ll love it.

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Topics: Enterprise Software, Linux, Open Source

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23 comments
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  • No, x window can't die

    I'll have to change my name!
    x-windows user
  • My complaint is regression

    It seems to me that for every one new feature, Linux gets ten new bugs and five performance regressions. Nobody seems willing to put the brakes on anything in order to fix those bugs. It's not sexy or glamorous to fix bugs, only new features. So we get three amazing new features, 30 new bugs, 15 performance regressions, and the Linux loses half of its performance over nine years. (It's an Intel study. Google it.)
    technojoe
    • Apparently, Linus Torvalds is listening

      "Linux 4.0 may have only bug fixes, no new features
      November 4, 2013
      http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9243772/Linux_4.0_may_have_only_bug_fixes_no_new_features
      "Linux creator Torvalds seeks comment on proposal for a bug-fix and stability release in about a year

      But, I wouldn't pick on Linux too much as most software today, both open source and proprietary, is similarly guilty.
      Rabid Howler Monkey
      • Grandpa (my father) is actually using Linux...

        ... but he is using Linux Mint MATE 15. It's very easy to learn and easy to use, decent, stable, secure and free. Besides it's not Amazon-Canonical spywing ecosystem like sadly Ubuntu is nowaday.

        I'll recommend Linux Mint to all, especially newbies. Time to move from Windows Gulag.
        Napoleon XIV
        • ?!

          I didn't mention 'Grandpa' in this post. Nor did I mention Ubuntu.

          On topic (at least, relative to the OP), do you believe that Linux Mint has less bugs than Ubuntu?

          Finally, please don't drink eggnog with copious amounts of rum (or bourbon) and post. :)
          Rabid Howler Monkey
    • Good point about bugs,

      Of course we need to keep in mind Fedora is basically beta version of Red Hat's RHEL.
      Gavin Engel
  • Bleeding Edge.....?

    Bugs aren't considered as bleeding-edge in my books, particularly if they are still to be found in run-of-the-mill utilities such as a firewall, after the final release? Wasn't it expected to be used in a production environment? Even hard-core enterprise admins, let alone grandpas, would need a leap of faith to tinker with such a system.
    ubwete
    • The firewall bug is not Fedora specific.

      It is an iptables issue. When SJVN states: "Fedora seems closer to a fix for this one.", I believe he means closer to a fix than any other distro. IMO, a system sharing resources via samba shouldn't need a firewall, because you would have to have the system directly connected to the Internet to require a serious firewall. You can do port-forwards and routing with the firewall that will not block SMB.

      I updated 5 systems from Fedora 18 to 20 yesterday, a few hiccups, but nothing like the old days of updating from Fedora 8 to 10. Does that make a me a Super-Enterprise Admin?
      anothercanuck
  • Regarding, "grandpa"

    Article:
    "If you want an easy to use Linux for grandpa, check out Ubuntu."

    If grandpa is neither a techie nor tech-curious, I'd recommend a Ubuntu LTS release, currently 12.04, with 5 years of update support. Frequent upgrades, every 6 to 9 months, are not something that most users want to deal with. Linux Mint releases based on Ubuntu LTS versions would also do the trick nicely.
    Rabid Howler Monkey
    • What about Amazon-Canonical spying ecosystem?

      Would it be actually better to use Linux Mint?
      Napoleon XIV
      • Don't tell me

        Let SJVN know as it was he who recommended Ubuntu in the article.

        As for spyware, I worry a lot more about Google with it's web-based services, Chrome browser, Android and Chrome OS.

        P.S. Did you not notice that I gave Linux Mint a plug in my post?
        Rabid Howler Monkey
  • Testing, stable

    I do wish Fedora/RedHat had a version akin to Debian testing- not quite bleeding edge, but more up to date than RedHat/CentOS.
    chris@...
  • Bugs overstated

    I'm afraid SJVN has rather overstated the impact of both the bugs he highlighted:

    "Well they'd be useful if they worked. The LVM thin client provisioning doesn't work today. In fact, there's a known bug that makes this “feature” a bug that will lock up your computer. For now, don't even bother to try to set up LVN thin clients."

    If you read the CommonBugs note, the bug that caused this has already been fixed and the fix released. If you do an F20 install using internet repos (not from DVD or a live image), it will work out of the box. if you do an F20 install from DVD or live image the installed system won't boot, but it is recoverable, and the recovery steps are documented in the commonbugs note.

    If you don't want to test out thinp it's not worth bothering with, but if you *do* want to test out thinp this bug is not, contrary to sjvn's characterization, a showstopper; you certainly can do so, quite easily.

    "I also ran straight into another known networking bug: The firewall blocks all access to Server Message Block (SMB) Windows/Samba file-sharing."

    It does not. It blocks SMB/CIFS *browsing*. If you know the IP address or name of the host to which you want to connect, you can do so just fine and it will work fine. There are also a few workarounds for browsing documented on the commonbugs note.
    AdamWill
    • Honestly...

      As a side note, I find it pretty galling that I spend time carefully writing an exhaustive errata page for the benefit of users, only for journalists to pick it up to use as a stick to beat us over the head with during reviews. Be honest, sjvn: if the thinp note in commonbugs didn't exist, would you even have known about this issue for the review?

      Sometimes I wonder if I should just stop writing the page entirely. It'd suck for our users, but we'd probably get more positive reviews.

      But if you *are* going to use the errata page as a source of negative points for your review, do at least please read it carefully :/
      AdamWill
      • Don't You Dare Stop

        Your acumen and acuity is necessary for many Fine Folk yet.
        SJVN may someday hone his skills. You can teach an old dog new tricks. It just takes longer. Ciao.
        PreachJohn
  • Fedora is not cutting edge Linux, I think.

    It should be Arch or Gentoo.
    dxxvi@...
  • I'm a grandpa

    ...and I don't need cutting edge. Mint Cinnamon at work, openSuSE at home. Once I figured that a separate /home partition is the way to go, I can update and multi-boot and get on with my life without drama. If not for that, I'd run Ubuntu with its EZ upgrading. Zalig Kerstfeest & gelukkig nieuwjaar!
    james.vandamme
    • Fedora upgrading

      Fedora uses FedUp now for upgrading versions. It makes it fairly straightforward to upgrade Fedora versions.
      Gavin Engel
  • Fedora 20/Korora 20 a better version on Fedora 20

    Please write a article about Korora 20 is a Fedora Remix that aims to make Linux easier for new users, while still being useful for experts. It provides a complete, easy to use computing system that “just works” out of the box.
    lpreston2002
  • Fedora 20/Korora 20 a better version of Fedora 20

    Please write a article about Korora 20 is a Fedora Remix that aims to make Linux easier for new users, while still being useful for experts. It provides a complete, easy to use computing system that “just works” out of the box.
    lpreston2002