The Fedora Project is really a set of projects sponsored by Red Hat that comprise an operating system, a Linux distribution, and a mindset of “Doing Things the Right Way.” This project was created as Red Hat focused more on its Enterprise products, as a way to involve more of the open source community in a free product. As such, the Fedora project is completely free with no plans to close up development or require fees for the software. You can find out more about the project itself at https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Overview.
To get the latest version of Fedora, visit https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/. On that page you will find links to a number of direct mirrors to a set of CD images or a single DVD image, along with a torrent file, which is Red Hat’s preferred method of distributing images. There are also a number of online Linux retailers who provide copies of the CDs or DVDs at a relatively low price. If you own a DVD burner, I recommend going with the single DVD image. Otherwise, a live CD, which is new to Fedora 7, lets you boot and try out Fedora directly without having to install. If you like it, you can install Fedora directly from this CD. The Fedora DVD has all of the software you need and more, without requiring you to download anything. For those with metered or slow Internet connections, this might make the initial purchase of the DVD from a retailer quite a bargain.
If you are interested in Linux, then Fedora is a good all-around distribution to try out. Users familiar with Red Hat will feel at home, plus new features are often found in the latest release of Fedora before they make it into the enterprise Red Hat. Fedora actually offers a number of cutting-edge features out of the box: Logical Volume Management for the system drives (enabled by default), the SELinux system for increased security, and some of the latest and greatest versions of popular open source software.
The install disc itself doubles as a rescue disc. If you find yourself in a jam with a system that won’t boot, boot from the install disc instead and tell it to boot into rescue mode. After a few initial questions, the disc will search for any Fedora installations, mount them, and then drop you to a basic command-line environment so you (or your Linux guru friend who is comfortable a command-line interface) can access and repair files by typing in standard Linux commands at the prompt.
Price to Value (5 out of 5)
For all of the software Fedora provides, it’s hard to beat the free price. Even if you do need to order a DVD from an online retailer, the cost is still relatively minimal compared to other operating systems.
Installation & Setup (3 out of 5)
You install Fedora the same as with most Linux distributions–just boot from the disc and start answering questions. The questions Fedora asks are mostly simple; it only gets somewhat difficult when it comes to disk partitioning and choosing packages to install. All the same, a new user who is installing Fedora on a blank system could safely click the Next button over and over and end up with a solid Fedora desktop.
While the installer does do a good job with hardware detection, it still has a pretty grueling amount of questions for you to answer. That’s still fine, except for the fact that there are long sections of the install that you must sit through, only to be prompted with more questions. Even after you finish the install and reboot, there are still more dialogs to go through. Fedora should figure out a way to reduce or combine some of its dialogs, and place them all at the front, so that once you are finished, you can go get a cup of coffee and come back to a completed install.
Security & Privacy (5 out of 5)
Security is one of the high points of Fedora Core 7. SELinux (an NSA project that creates more finely grained access controls on a Linux system) is enabled by default. Plus a useful taskbar applet will alert you when an application violates an SELinux rule, making it easy to keep track of what it is doing. Fedora also provides an easy-to-use firewall tool and picks a secure default of only allowing incoming SSH traffic through. If you want to allow in a new service later, you can access this tool through the System -> Administration menu. Finally, Fedora provides another taskbar tool to alert you to any updates to your software so you can stay on top of any security holes.
While SELinux can dramatically improve security on a system, it can also dramatically increase the complexity of the system, especially when it prevents access you want to grant. Because of the complexity, some users might end up disabling SELinux altogether instead of figuring out how to allow the access they wish to grant.
User Interface (5 out of 5)
Fedora ships with a standard Gnome desktop environment. The taskbar along the top makes it simple to locate applications and tweak personal and system settings. Fedora provides a number of great system tools, and does a good job of categorizing personal preferences to not only avoid clutter in the menus, but to make it easy to find the setting you need.
Fedora also makes a point to name applications based on their function; for instance, “Email” instead of “Evolution” or “Instant Messenger” instead of “Pidgin.” This makes it much easier for anyone new to Linux who just wants to start an instant messenger and doesn’t know to look for Pidgin.
Package Management (3 out of 5)
Fedora provides a straightforward graphical tool under the Applications menu for package management. Fedora uses RPMs for package management and while you can get most of the applications you need directly from the package management tool, a number of third-party vendors do provide RPMs just for Fedora.
The package manager, while straightforward, could be simpler. It still can take some effort to find the package you want to install with this tool. In addition, compared to some other distributions, the package management under Fedora can take some time to resolve dependencies and complete the installation process. The overall number of packages is less than with some distributions, so you might find yourself relying on a number of third-party package repositories for some programs.
The rescue mode in the install disc is a nice touch, but a more guided rescue mode that repaired common system problems would be more useful to beginners. The install disc itself should group the questions together at the beginning so you aren’t required to babysit the install.
Overall, Fedora is a good distribution to consider both for an easy-to-use desktop and for a basic home or small-office server. The user interface and security features are first-class, and the rest of the environment is straightforward, particularly if you are used to Red Hat. When deciding between Linux distributions to try out, Fedora should certainly be on the list.
Red Hat, CentOS