Using Fedora and why

TL;DR: The story of how I found Fedora and why I keep using it.

I have been using Linux on and off, for more than 20 years and the first time I encountered it was on a school machine running Yggdrasil Linux, the first ever paid Linux distribution. Now back then I was used to Window, Dos, and Apple System, so Linux was weird, yet strangely familiar. Already back then Linux and Apple System had things in common, at least Yggdrasil and Apple System. Since that encounter, I only had sporadic meetings with Linux and only used it when at school or in a virtual machine, until 2005. In 2005 I got my first, and only, Windows laptop running Windows XP (good times), but I had no real clue about antivirus software and other security measures, which resulted in 3 months of virus and problems with Avast, AVG, and BullGuard. Additionally I had to reinstall my machine from scratch 2 times in that period. At this point, I hadn’t really touched Linux for roughly 4 years and remember only on systems people had already setup. But I remembered it and that it was more familiar to Apple System. So I started looking and back then Debian was raining king of “easy to install” and I tried it in a virtual machine first and thought what the heck, let us try. So it became my daily drive, dual booted with Windows, as I need Word and PowerPoint for specific tasks and let us be honest at this time OpenOffice sucked. I also had some weird problems with my WiFi card for some reason I never truly figured out and it pissed me off. However, in 2004 a new distribution had seen its birth, Ubuntu, the distro for newbies and back then I was newbie. I happily left Debian behind and jumped at the new shiny distribution. I used for a solid 2.5 years until I went back to Apple and more specifically macOS Leopard 2008 and say what you want Leopard and Snow Leopard was the two best iterations of OS X. However, I had a virtual machine with Ubuntu and I used it almost everyday for some weird task OS X could not do at the time or I had gotten use to a program only available on Linux. Then came spring 2009 and I was asked to make a project for friend, as cheap as possible and as stable as possible. Another requirement was the project had to be done in Java. This gave me the freedom to look outside Windows and the ability to test the project on different operating systems. As I squared the internet for options, a lot of people said Debian or RedHat for servers, for some reason CentOS was never mentioned. I later found out that people back then in general regarded it as a useless toy. But, then I found some who said that for a hobby project RedHat maybe to expensive, so try OpenSUSE or Fedora. I was intrigued, I had heard of OpenSUSE before but never used and Fedora I had never heard of. So I spend some time setting up both servers and a long the way kept strict notes on what I did, the problems I ran into, and how I fixed them. Essentially this was my first lab notebook. Afterwards I compared my notes and came to the conclusion that Fedora had been way easier to setup and trouble shoot, so I went with that. During the process I had also had time to setup both as a desktop system and Fedora had been much easier than Ubuntu, at least for me. So I decided to swap my Ubuntu VM for a Fedora one and here we a decade later and I am still using Fedora, not only as a VM. But also as my main operating system at work.

So why do I keep using Fedora? What is it that keeps me in the blue? Is it the colour? Is it the hat? Is it familiarity? Let me answer two of those really quick, of course it is the hat and not it is not the colour. Familiarity certainly has something to do with it, it is always nice. But it is not my main reason for always returning to Fedora. I actually have a few.

First of yum/dnf vs apt. One of the reasons, I decided to look for another distribution than Debian and Ubuntu in the first place, was that I had a lot of problems with apt-get at the time often corrupting my system when I did updates. Which drove me to the brink of insanity and beyond. It made me hate .deb and apt based distributions for quite a while. I have only once had similar problems with yum once and that was in Fedora 17. Now this issue has been fixed in both Ubuntu and Debian and I do use both on servers from time to time today. Another thing with yum is the command names makes more sense to me and instead of having to use apt-SOMETHING to do a search or install, everything is bundled into one command in yum which I like a lot. It makes the system must more consistent to use and it is easier to remember commands.

Next Gnome or more precisely Vanilla Gnome. Gnome has for desktops and multi-monitor setups always been my favourite desktop environment. But most distributions, have always add their own sugar. Majaro is in my opinion a horrific example. I want a stock gnome a work my way up from there, I want to enable things not disable things. Also, sorry Majaro/Ubuntu/Other Gnome Theme designers, most of the available themes seems tailored to fit either Mac or Windows users looking to adopt, and neither option often does it well. Therefore it is a huge bonus for me that Gnome comes pretty vanilla in Fedora.

Then we have updating to the next version. So I usually update to newest Fedora 3 months after its release, just to get the worst bugs that maybe, out of the way. In the “old days” this meant a clean install. But today we can use a dnf plugin for system upgrades. Can be installed like this; dnf-plugin-system-upgrade. Which makes it super easy to upgrade to the next version of Fedora. I do need some time to clean up old packages and left over dust from the elder days :p Now! I do love rolling release and I am envious of ArchLinux and Majaro ease of update. But this is as good as it gets without being rolling.

Finally and this is actually the big one. Ease of use. For the longest time I recommend Linux Mint to newcomers. It is a good solid distribution and in my opinion better than Ubuntu for newcomers. But since Fedora 30, I actually switched to recommending Fedora. The installation processes of Ubuntu, Mint, and Fedora has become very similar and it is super easy. Even installing third-party non-free drivers is easy. Additionally, when you go to websites for help, the Fedora community has become much more mature and welcoming to newcomers, than we where five years ago. This makes Fedora much more approachable than it use to be. Which means I quickly can get a new PhD student, PostDoc, Sys Admin, developer, or some else dirty quickly without having to babysit the person through the whole process. Increasing both out productivity. I also manage servers for projects and some use RedHat, others CentOS, and again others Fedora Server, and the benefit of having a shared ancestry and close family bond, makes it easy for me to switch between these systems with minimal effort, again increasing productivity.

So these are the reasons I use Fedora and keep on using Fedora. Now I wanna make it clear that I have jumped to other distributions on occasion, I used Manjaro for 2 years, Arch from time to time, Gentoo, and SlackWare. The later still has a very special place in my heart.