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Technical Blog of Richard Hughes - Moving from Fedora to Ubuntu

Richard Hughes
Date: 2006-10-19 15:18
Subject: Moving from Fedora to Ubuntu
Security: Public
With a little regret, I'm writing this blog entry. These are my opinions only.

Ever since I've been a Linux user (and now developer) I've stuck with Redhat and Fedora.
Back in 2002 I was happily using Redhat 8.0, then 9, then FC1, FC2, FC3, FC4, FC5 as each were released.

I don't tend to install "distro-of-the-month" as Fedora always did what I needed.
Recently, Fedora has been annoying me (yes, I know some have solutions).
  • YUM, pirut and yum-updatesd seem to want to fight with each other all the time. This stuff should just work but the interaction seems very immature.
  • It's a pain in the arse to use proprietary drivers (some hardware you don't get to choose).
  • Sometimes I need to access NTFS stuff on my windows partition.
  • Fedora Extras is growing all the time, but it is still no match to the packagers of debian.
  • A single broken rpm/yum transaction hoses my entire system.
  • Mirror balancing never worked, and often the yum update would just fail or worse, hang.
  • I was compiling kernel.org kernels by hand to get all my hardware working.
  • Upgrading from stable version to stable version / rawhide using yum sometimes breaks horribly.
So I gave Ubuntu Edgy 2 weeks on my new laptop, vowing to return to Fedora if I found I couldn't do certain things.

Things that have been great:
  • Hardware that just works, or that works correctly after installing firmware.
  • apt-get, it's faster that yum and seems to just work, Plus no meta-data downloading just to install one quick package.
  • NTFS volumes that work out of the box.
  • No arguing over what belongs in extras and core.
  • One CD installer, that doubles as a live CD. This is amazing.
  • The concept of soft-deps, i.e. where a package can "suggest" another but not depend on it. Very sane IMO.
  • Ability to install modified DSDT easily without hacking the kernel.
  • More random oddball packages (that I need for Uni) than in extras.
  • Less licence hassle. Yup, enable the multiverse and restricted repo, and done.
  • Synaptic. It's so much more mature than pirut. And it's easy and quick to use.
  • Community response. I've got better response from Ubuntu dev's in launchpad than I did in Redhat bugzilla.
  • Sane menus. I want to see Firefox and Evolution in my menus rather than "Web browser" and "Email"
  • Boot speed. Not sure what the Ubuntu guys have done, but it's 4 seconds quicker to get me to the login window.
Things that have been less great:
  • Less patches tend to go upstream from Ubuntu than Fedora in my opinion.
  • Compiling a .deb seems very complicated to me compared to a .rpm.
  • No compiz support out of the box.
  • The horror of xorg.conf is back. Fedora seemed to detect stuff automatically which is more sane.
  • No root user. Not sure this is a good thing or a bad thing. sudo seems to do what I want.
  • The grub screen is hideous compared to the Fedora boot artwork. (bug filed)
  • The Ubuntu shutdown is slower by one second.
So, after a couple of weeks, I can't imagine going back to Fedora, which is a little bit worrying.
Don't get this wrong, I love Fedora and think Redhat as a company are great, but I think Ubuntu is more the distro for me at the moment.
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Hubert Figuiere
User: hub_
Date: 2006-10-21 02:15 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
well, bug brad very hard. He does not seem to listen to requests all the time... or it takes a very long time.

Editing comment is a long requested feature.
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User: macemoneta
Date: 2006-10-21 18:07 (UTC)
Subject: Insightful perspective, but meaningless to a desktop user
Dave, your comment is certainly insightful from the development perspective. As a developer for 30 years (and an OS developer for 15 years of that), I can certainly appreciate the complexity of merging and maintaining third party drivers.

However, the end-user perspective is even worse. I've had to manually install three device drivers (one of which required recompiling the kernel, while two could be built as modules) in Fedora for 5 years.

Multiply that by the effort involved in millions of folks learning to build their kernel (and the evolving and poorly documented process), reporting kernel issues to multiple upstream developers (and having to build custom kernels for each, because they don't want to see other patches). Multiply again by the 1000+ packages in a typical installation. When you report a bug in package xyz, it's not uncommon to get a response of "did you try the CVS version?" So the typical desktop user is expected to become competent in the development of hundreds of packages, just so they can check email and browse the web?

It's easy to see why desktop users in particular want the effort to be done once by the distribution, rather than countless times by users.

To the average user, the effort is tangential to their interest - simply using the software. It's like having to learn agriculture and the specifics of growing coffee beans, just to get your morning cup of caffeine. Not interested. Desktop users really have no choice but to find a distribution that "just works".

I've been a Redhat user and promoter since around the 4.0 release, and am currently on FC5. With all the hype around Ubuntu, I tried it. It was easy, and things did just work to a larger extent than I was used to. I may be considering it for future machines.

One of the quotes I've seen in relationship to software development is "first make it work, then make it work right". If by the time the Fedora Project considers software acceptable the hardware it supports is obsolete, then Fedora (or any Linux distribution) is not meeting the needs of its user base. That should be obvious, but in the day-to-day development process it's a "big picture" message that can get lost.

I think the Fedora and related teams do an outstanding job. I'd like to see them aggressively go after the desktop market. I also think some changes will be needed to accomplish that goal. I would be very surprised if the Fedora team hasn't heard this message from users before (I've seen it in many bug reports). The question from the user's perspective is, "is Fedora listening?"
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