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Ubuntu or Fedora. Which one is for you?

By   |  December 9, 2008

For some, Ubuntu 8.10 was something of a disappointment. Not because it is bad, which it is not, but because is feels more like slightly refreshed Ubuntu 8.04 rather than a new release.

For one, Ubuntu’s promised desktop interface overhaul is still not in evidence and that was promised two releases ago. And then there is the fact that apart from a few minor tweaks it looks every but the same as ubuntu 8.04. Which is not good considering the ongoing talk from founder Mark Shuttleworth of how the Linux desktop must be as appealing as Mac OS X. Right now it feels as if Ubuntu is making no ground on that goal.

Fedora 10 on the other hand, does feel a fresher and slightly more exciting but then it is hard to draw too much from the comparison because the default Gnome versions on both of these desktops is the latest 2.24.1 release. So they both benefit from great new features such as the new tabbed file manager and a host of new default applications.

One of the things that Ubuntu does get right with this release is the much improved networking tool. In fact both distributions use the same base tool but each have additional tweaks in it. Ubuntu’s approach has been to improve its 3G capabilities, which it has done exceedingly well. In most cases inserting a 3G card or USB modem will automatically kick off the connection tool and connect the user to the relevant network. This alone makes Ubuntu worth a try.

Fedora on the other hand has added the capability to create ad-hoc networks using machines in a specific vicinity. So, for example, users in a common office could create an ad-hoc network between themselves without needing to have a dedicated router. Which is ideal for occasional situations but not a long-term solution.

Much of the differences between Fedora and Ubuntu now come down to the way that the two manage applications and the need to install new packages. Fedora still has an RPM-based system while Ubuntu has an APT-based system for managing software.

Given recent developments with RPM, choosing between the two is relatively hard. APT has, for sometime now, had the upper hand when it came to resolving package dependencies automatically. But with the inclusion of PackageKit – first introduced in Fedora 9 but now greatly improved – Fedora’s package management system looks like it could be every bit as good as Ubuntu’s in the next couple of releases.

One consideration when choosing between the two distributions is the amount of support that new, and seasoned, users can expect. Because both are open source community projects this is not a case of paying for support. Rather it comes down to the amount of support available online.

There is a strong case to suggest that Ubuntu wins this battle with ease. A simple search on Google for any Ubuntu support topics turns up tens of thousands – or even hundreds of thousands – of results. Typically, Fedora also has many thousands of results for the same search but it tends to be ten or 20 percent fewer than for Ubuntu.

In most cases, choosing between Fedora and Ubuntu comes down to personal preference, although Ubuntu’s support and package management make it a contender for the best Linux distribution.



27 Responses to “Ubuntu or Fedora. Which one is for you?”

  1. jonathan
    December 9th, 2008 @ 2:21 pm

    When I click on “Ubuntu” and then “Vote”, it says “Please choose a valid poll answer”.

  2. Alastair
    December 9th, 2008 @ 2:32 pm

    Not sure why that is. I just did a couple of tests and they appeared to work. Let me know if the problem persists.

  3. Vadim P.
    December 9th, 2008 @ 4:14 pm

    Yeah sidebar poll says the same thing for me, but not the in-post one.

    Anyway, I did give Fedora 10 a try. PackageKit less than impressed me. In fact, it’s horrible – both in it’s idea of what it’s supposed to help with and implementation so far in Fedora 10.

    There are several other usability differences in Fedora too – for example, the top Menu bar. I really don’t appreciate wasting more time to get to something I’d like when it’s perfectly fine to do it in less steps. But no, you need to go to system->preferences->blah blah extra step->final item: oh, not here, try again…

  4. Gary
    December 9th, 2008 @ 4:16 pm

    Ubuntu has the edge due to apt … Fedora has the yucky yum …

  5. Ian
    December 9th, 2008 @ 5:36 pm

    The poll problem is probably caused by running an identical poll both in the article, and in the sidebar – the sidebar poll works in other contexts, but not in this article.

  6. Alastair
    December 9th, 2008 @ 6:21 pm

    Thanks Ian. You’re probably right. I’ll have to look at displaying one or the other.

  7. Buchan
    December 9th, 2008 @ 6:22 pm

    Neither, Mandriva!

    (And, please don’t fall into the Debianista/Ubuntista trap of comparing RPM to APT, compare yum to apt. yum is one of the problems – which Mandriva doesn’t have while it has rpm …).

  8. Tom
    December 9th, 2008 @ 7:21 pm

    Ubuntu or Debain, because their package management is more robust.

    Just now D-Bus in Fedora was broken by an update and that will render the system pretty broken for every normal User.

    Something like that seldom happens in a Debian-based stable system.

  9. stephen
    December 10th, 2008 @ 3:57 am

    I have not met a Linux user that didn’t think his or her Distro was the best. They are all good. I like Ubuntu because it uses apt package management and has tons of references on how to use and configure it. I haven’t use Fedora yet but I am sure that it is a very good Distro.

  10. Aditya
    December 10th, 2008 @ 7:44 am

    Everybody has a distro of his own choice, but I prefer Fedora. Ubuntu is making a lot of news everywhere, but since I started off with Fedora, I’ll stick to it. I see no big reason to switch from Fedora to Ubuntu. I find rpm more comfortable.

  11. Pipo
    December 10th, 2008 @ 1:51 pm

    8.10 killed my kde desktop, meh. But NetworkManager is HORRIBLE. It kept changing my network settings and just gave errors when I tried using it. It’s like microsoftism, shielding system settings unreachable like that. I was *this* close to switching to another dist. Found a solution for it; Synaptic -> networkmanager Mark for complete removal -> networkmanager-gnome networkmanager-kde too? Yes please! Before disappearing it changed my settings once again, evil peace of..

  12. Joe
    December 10th, 2008 @ 3:10 pm

    Between those two, I choose Mandriva :)

  13. davemc
    December 10th, 2008 @ 9:35 pm

    I use both currently and am happy with both. I have been a long time Ubuntu/Debian fan but I decided to give Fedora 10 a shot and really like it thus far. While it IS true that Fedora tends to break stuff with updates frequently (dbus, packagekit, etc.), it also is better at identifying which updates are available and what they will be “fixing” as opposed to apt which just pulls them all in and be damned with the results. Ubuntu has broken my system before with kernel updates, so this is more of a Linux problem than a distro one. Fedora 10 is very well done and just “feels” like its better done than Intrepid is, and it has fresher base packages ( 3.0 vice Intrepids 2.0, Plymouth vice Intrepids RGHB, etc). Hardy, however, beats the pants off both, but Fedora 10 nudges out Intrepid for this cycle.

  14. Shagbag
    December 10th, 2008 @ 11:27 pm

    Having used both distros for some time now, I just cannot choose between the two. There are things I like in both and things I don’t like in both. There ought to be another category ‘both’.

  15. Lunamystry
    December 11th, 2008 @ 7:07 am

    I didn’t get hardy I tried the kde version and well it broke so i went back to gnome and its great. Fedora, i dont know. I wana try it. At wits they gonna put it in six ps3 to make a supercomputer…

  16. Clement
    December 11th, 2008 @ 10:40 am

    As for me, it’s all the way with Ubuntu. I used to be Fedora fan. But from this year, I have changed to Ubuntu and there is no way back for me.

  17. Dummy00001
    December 11th, 2008 @ 1:28 pm

    Comparing apt vs. rpm, makes you look as your were being on board of Titanic: this is just a tip of the iceberg.

    apt always had an upper hand, since historically strongly RH discouraged (and still discourages) users from using foreign repositories. That’s why network part of apt is so much better: it had to deal with all the mess of package management, while rpm is generally like internal RH tool to install RH prepared packages.

    apt is so good in greater part because of excellent Debian repos and also because it had to deal with all the mess found on internet.

    apt is still better.

  18. From NBA laughingstock to ‘Top of the World’ - Boston Globe | Ubuntu Today
    December 13th, 2008 @ 2:09 am

    […] Ubuntu or Fedora. Which one is for you? – TectonicFor some, Ubuntu 8.10 was something of a disappointment. Not because it is bad, which it is not, but because is feels more like slightly refreshed Ubuntu 8.04 rather than a new release. For one, Ubuntu’s promised desktop interface overhaul is still […]

  19. Phil Hughes
    December 13th, 2008 @ 2:55 am

    Being a “KDE kinda guy”, Red Hat pretty well discouraged me away from anything related to them long ago. That is, when they were shipping a broken KDE that some felt was to help promote Gnome.

    In any case, today it is Kubuntu for me (the Linux geek) and for all the desktops. That includes the folks you see at who don’t speak English and had never used a computer before.

  20. syncdram
    December 15th, 2008 @ 10:58 pm

    I’ve been using Ubuntu since the beginning of 7.04. Basically when MS said no more xp. I scrambled to find the right distro for a month and settled with Ubuntu. The learning curve was and still is very sharp but getting somewhat less intimidating . The 2 most difficult things to get working were my printer and some sort of wireless going.

    What made things a bit easier was the use of partimage. After setting up my desktop the way i wanted i then learned how to use partimage. This way when i messed things up i just restored back. Then tried my luck again.

    I must also mention that Ubuntu is very Dell friendly. I have been very lucky on this front. All 3 pc’s running Ubuntu full time, networked and share a common printer. And Ubuntu has never crashed. I said it right, never crashed once on any of my 3 pc’s.

    No viruses, no ad aware no nothing. Its so reliable its boring! (this means in a good way)

    For the first time ever, on a live Ubuntu 8.10 CD i can actually plug in my linksys usb54gs wireless adapter and it works!!!!! But i tried to configure my dell 720 printer on the live CD and it says I’m missing something…. I’m not sure if i upgrade to this if I’ll have the same prob.

    So with that said, I’m a happy Ubuntu user thats free from MS………..

  21. wilq
    December 16th, 2008 @ 11:18 pm

    The issue about no google indexation of fedora/red hat bug tracing system and forums has been discussed several times and maybe finally the infrastructure team of both entities would solve the problem… ;))

  22. fargone
    December 24th, 2008 @ 3:13 pm

    My comparison is Fedora-KDE to Kubuntu and I had to go with Fedora though I could happily use either distro. Fedora-KDE just seems more polished around the edges. Have to agree that the Package Kit can use some work but I expect it will improve with age.

    I’m not sure that a plethora of hits on Google is the mark of better support. I’ve actually gotten more bum steers with support on the ‘buntu related forums than any other distro I’ve tried. Quantity does not necessarily mean quality.

  23. SiClyUnDeCideD
    January 5th, 2009 @ 3:00 pm

    I think XKCD’s view on Ubuntu here cannot be said any better.

  24. Morgan Goose
    January 6th, 2009 @ 7:21 pm

    I use both daily (not by choice, mostly laziness now though), and when I have a choice I use fedora. I like the red hat way of administering systems, and really cant get used to the ubuntu/debian symlinking modules to activate them for apache, or having apt-get/apt-cache vs. just yum for both. I do enjoy the breadth of packages ubuntu offers, but I also find that I want the newest now and fedora gives it to me.

    The other reason I use fedora though is that it will run on almost anything; i686, ppc, ps3, etc. Its nice to be able to use a familiar system on my toys and resurrections.

    That and I like blue more than orange.

  25. Allfo
    January 22nd, 2009 @ 7:00 am

    I started with redhat 8 and continued to use it until Fedora Core 5. Since then have been dual-booting OpenSUSE and Ubuntu. I mainly use these distros for lampp development each with its own subtle differences in configuration.

    One thing I haven’t figured out is the way nautilus file manager (Fedora nautilus) opens folders. Everytime I open a folder it is opened in another instance of nautilus. Diving into subfolders would mean opening several nautilus windows..

  26. Allfo
    January 22nd, 2009 @ 8:48 pm

    Re: Fedora Nautilus

    start gconf-editor
    /apps/nautilus/preferences/always_use_browser #value should be true

  27. Kirsle
    February 10th, 2009 @ 12:18 am

    Nautilus has a GUI to do this, just go into the Preferences -> Behavior tab, and check “Always open in browser windows”

    Ubuntu just selects this option by default, because they wanna sweep up the Windows crowd (certain circles of people prefer the “spatial view” that is default in Fedora).

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