I know it sounds crazy. Fedora is more a test-bed for the enterprise-grade RHEL. Fedora is cutting edge software that evokes images of users fixing more issues than enjoying user-friendly software. Fedora is for those who already know; Ubuntu is for those that do not. Right? Wrong. Those assumptions are wrong on numerous accounts…especially since the release of Fedora 13.

I haven’t spent too much time covering Fedora Linux. In fact, if you search TechRepublic, you will find my last article around the year 2007. That may as well be 1957 in computer years. Why is that? Well, somewhere around Fedora 9 the distribution was just too broken to bother with. I realized I needed to concentrate my efforts on distributions that wouldn’t send the users packing their bags back to Windows. So I left my Fedora hanging on the door and found the communal hugs of Ubuntu. It felt right. It was a good choice.

But now – things are starting to change. Over this last week, I dusted off that old Fedora (it now sported the number “13” on the side) and realized how much that old “hat” was starting to really fit well. Really well. So well, in fact, that Fedora could easily (with the right marketing and push) usurp Ubuntu as the most user-friendly Linux distribution.

Of course I am aware that with 10.04 Ubuntu has made some additions and changes to their distribution that have taken it to yet another level. But with the new release, Fedora has done something that, in many peoples’ eyes, is much more important…they have released an amazingly rock-solid operating system. What happened to the good old days of installing Fedora and then having to spend time tweaking it to get it to work right? Now it’s just install and go. And go it does. I have two machines, both of them Shuttles. One of them is spec’d out to be my main machine and the other spec’d to be my test machine (the main machine being the much more powerful machine is the point). On my main machine is Ubuntu 10.04 and on the test machine is Fedora 13. Which machine would you guess feels faster and more stable? If you guessed the Fedora machine, you deserve a prize (not really, there are no prizes being given away today).

But not only has Fedora finally become much more stable out of the box, it is growing ever-more user friendly. Yes, one can still see the primary focus is on the well-versed, but the newer users no longer need not apply. Even the bug reporting tool is now the Automated Bug Reporting Tool. Bug reporting made easy? Say it isn’t so!

Of course there are some things Fedora needs to change before it could seriously usurp Ubuntu from its throne. They are:

  • OpenOffice was NOT installed by default. Why? I can not think of a single good reason not to include OpenOffice. And while you’re at it – please re-include The GIMP!
  • Menus need tweaking. The default menu layout still holds on to the old-school Linux ideal that everyone who uses the OS is an administrator. I would suggest offering, during installation, two layouts: User and Administrator. For the User layout Fedora could follow the Ubuntu layout. For the Admin layout, Fedora could stick with what their current default.
  • Add/Remove Software needs to be more obvious. By default the user has to dig through System > Administration > Add Remove Software. This is not terribly “new user friendly”. Put this entry at the bottom of the Applications menu where it makes sense.

It’s been a long time since I have seen Fedora Linux as a viable candidate for the new user. With the release of 13, I am slowly changing my tune. Will it dethrone Ubuntu as the king of new Linux users? Probably not – at least not yet. But with some minor alterations, that very thing could happen.

If you are looking for a powerful, incredibly stable Linux distribution to try, and you haven’t given Fedora a go for a while, I highly recommend you install Fedora 13 on a machine and see how far this “sand box distribution” has come. I would recommend a good dusting off of the Fedora for experienced users as well as new users.

Fedora Linux has found its way back into my heart. It will work alongside Ubuntu as my top two Linux distributions. We’ll see just how they place (1 or 2) with the next iteration.

Bravo Fedora Linux. I tip my hat to you.