This is the first of a sequence of posts where we’ll take a look at a few of the main Linux distros to find out which are the most welcoming to Linux newbies.
We’ll do this test with the live (Gnome) CD to analyze: parts of the hardware that are recognized, software package installed, general usability (setup adjustments, software installation). Computer tested specs: AMD Athlon 64 X2 3600, 2GB RAM, nVidia GeForce 6100.
Fedora 9 Beta
Fedora 9 is scheduled to be released later this month. This is one of the most popular distros, gaining a lot of traction on the corporate world through its support by Red Hat. Would it be easy to handle by a Linux newbie?? Let’s see!
Once the live CD runs, we’re presented with the familiar Gnome layout, one panel at the top and another one at the bottom. This live CD already comes with Gnome’s latest release which is visibly noticeable by the integration with Pulse Audio, Transmission, and the multiple timezones in the clock application.
Since I have a nVidia card, I already expect that it won’t work properly out-of-the-box. The screen is blurry and the size is way off, I can’t even correct this through a simple settings change. I bet though once installed I can download and install the proper drivers.
My microphone didn’t work and neither did the speakers. I was able to play a video ogg file but unable to hear anything. Proprietary media formats were not recognized, but this is also quite common in the Linux world, specially Fedora. Users generally have to find a solution for it after the installation.
Good news was that my NTFS partitions were all recognized with read and write permission.
What was weird for me right from the start is that Fedora didn’t include in this live CD OpenOffice, only AbiWord and Gnumeric were already installed. Although both applications are very good, from my experience it isn’t compared to the awesome functionalities of OpenOffice. Plus, it may not be that much popular for users converting from another OS or Linux distro.
Another unique thing I’ve found on Fedora is the Firewall configuration with a GUI. I know Linux is pretty good with its inbound connections and you can configure access, but many times this happens somewhere you can only reach through the terminal. But… once I opened the Firewall configuration window it was almost next to nothing for me. It is loaded with words I`m not familiar with (yes, I’m not an expert or advanced in networks). Even the wizard couldn’t help me much.
Add and remove software interface is very user-friendly, with everything categorized or also accessible through a search option.
First impressions results?
Fedora 9 Beta is a pretty interesting and solid distro. Since a lot of my computer specs will require proprietary drivers, I can see why they wouldn’t be recognized. I understand this by being familiar with the open source philosophy and constraints. But, mainstream users want everything to function correctly out-of-the-box. So, for this I gave Fedora 9 Beta two Pinguins.I wish I had known though before I purchased this machine that so much of it came with hardware that required proprietary drivers.
I would recommend Fedora to a Linux newbie, but I would make sure I installed it and had everything running smoothly before introducing it to the new user.
Next post, we’ll take a look at openSUSE.