April 8, 2005

My Workstation OS: Fedora Core 3

Author: Jeremy LaCroix

I have been using Linux since Red Hat 7.x back in 2000. I have tried Lycoris, Debian, Knoppix, Ubuntu, Mandrake, SUSE, and other distributions, but I've always found myself coming back to Red Hat. When Red Hat stopped development of its free operating system, I was disappointed, but I ended up liking the Fedora Core series, including the latest FC3, even better. Why do I like it so much?

Fedora is a bleeding-edge distribution that contains the best of the open source world within
its four installation CD-ROMs and DVD. I use KDE 3.3 for my desktop, Zsnes for my gaming, Rhythmbox for music, Firefox for Web browsing, and Evolution for email. Fedora includes them all in its default installation, and runs them all well. (Although KDE is my favorite desktop environment, Fedora is by defauilt a GNOME distribution that includes the very latest GNOME version at the time of each release.)

Fedora Core 3 supports a great number of third-party applications, probably second in the industry only to Debian. Almost all the mainstream packages and software are ported to Fedora first, meaning you're almost always certain that everything you're using is the most up-to-date possible. Fedora 3 contains GNOME 2.8, KDE 3.3, Evolution 2.0, and xorg 6.8, to name a few, and newer bug-fix versions are available from its online updater, up2date.

Fedora Core 3 uses Anaconda, the same installer that the old Red Hat releases used. Anaconda detected all of my hardware with the exception of my Nvidia video card. I was able to get the official driver for it installed by going through the steps outlined at the official Nvidia message board.

After the distribution is installed, you can use Yum to add software packaged by Red Hat Package Manager (RPM). RPM files are binary packages, meaning you don't have to download and compile programs from source code. Package managers such as Yum are great, because they automatically check packages for dependencies and install them for you accordingly. If there's an RPM available for an application, you don't have to worry about whether the application is compatible with FC3.

In addition to Yum, Fedora offers a version of Debian's Advanced Package Tool (APT) (called apt4rpm) and Synaptic, a front end to APT that provides a graphical user interface for it. After installing Synaptic, finding and downloading software is just a matter of clicking on it, and then clicking Apply. APT and RPM support together is very powerful.

Everyone wants to be able to use their favorite programs without worrying about them crashing, and keep their documents private. Fedora Core 3 hasn't crashed once on my machine since I installed it. As for security, Fedora was the first distribution to offer a Security-Enhanced Linux-enabled kernel with the installation, which provides better security through a set of access rules included in the kernel.

Although MP3 and NTFS support is missing, once you install Synaptic you can get almost all video files and DVDs to function, and NTFS support is just a few clicks away. Better yet, Fedora and a custom kernel compiled from the sources at kernel.org is a speedy force to be reckoned with.

The only complaint that I have about Fedora is that when GNOME or KDE releases a new (major) version of their desktop software, the updated packages are not included in Yum by default. Upgrading them from a third-party repository can result in broken packages, and can be dangerous. I love both GNOME and KDE, and being able to run the most up-to-date versions of both more easily would be wonderful.

When I have support questions, the community at www.fedoraforum.org and the Fedora forum at www.linuxquestions.org have been extremely helpful. These communities may have been built with members of the previous Red Hat communities -- a very large user base.

It's hard to believe that an OS this wonderful is free. When it comes to price, compatibility,
and options, Fedora blows Windows and most other Linux distributions out of the water. Everything works, and there's nothing more that I could ask for.

Jeremy LaCroix is a 22-year-old technology worker in the credit card industry.

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