Fedora 31 | Review from an openSUSE User

Fedora is a Linux distribution that has been around since the beginning of my Linux adventure and for which I have incredible respect. I have reviewed Fedora before, and it was a good experience. Last time I used Fedora, I used Gnome and since I am kind of Gnome fatigued right now, I thought it better to use a different desktop, one that I can easily shape my experience to my needs, clearly, there are only two options but I chose to go with the primer, most easily customized desktop, KDE Plasma, ultimately, I want to compare my Fedora Plasma experience with my openSUSE Tumbleweed Plasma experience. I have no intention of switching distros but I do like to, from time to time, see how other distributions compare. Of all the distributions available outside of openSUSE, Fedora and Debian are the two that interest me the most but for different reasons.

This is my review as a biased openSUSE Tumbleweed user. Bottom Line Up Front. Fedora is a nearly perfect [for me] distribution that is architecturally and fundamentally sound from the base upward. It is themed just enough, out of the box, to not annoy me with any irritating impositions. It really feels like I have been given keys to a fantastic house, albeit a bit spartan, waiting for me to make it my own. Technically speaking, there is nothing I dislike about Fedora. I could get along just fine in Fedora Land but openSUSE Land edges out for me with the Tumbleweed convenience and the broader hardware support.

Installation

I want to be careful how I describe my experience here, I do not want to disparage the installer at all and blame any issues I had with it on me. What I appreciate about the installation process, I grateful that I can go right into the installation immediately.

There is something spectacularly simple and clean about the boot screen. No frills, no fluff. Just down to business. If that doesn’t say Fedora, I don’t know what does!

The next step will be to set your language and location. The next screen is an Installation Summary screen. I like this and I also don’t like this. I like it because it allows me to jump around, I don’t like it because I am not used to this layout. You can’t proceed with the installation until you complete all the steps, so that is good.

I started with the Root and User creation settings. This is very straight forward. I like the root options that are presented to lock the root account and whether or not to allow SSH Login with Password.

For the Installation Source, I am less impressed with this section, as compared to the openSUSE installation method. Maybe I don’t understand this part exactly, I was a bit confused. The correct choice would be “On the Network” from here and leave it on “Closest mirror”.

What I like about the openSUSE method is that it uses local and the remote sources together, not a selection of one or the other. This is entirely a preference thing but if the local packages are just as up to date as the remote packages, why not pull from those as well. I will admit, I don’t know whether or not this installer is doing that automatically, but my impression is that it is one location or the other. Again, not a big deal, just a head scratching moment.

The Software Selection tool is blow-me-away fantastic. I love this, it is just super to use and makes perfect intuitive sense. Since I want KDE Plasma Workspace and some of the Software Categories, that is what I selected. I think this is a great feature.

You can do this with the openSUSE Installer and it is a bit more granular but not as approachable as this, in my opinion.

The Installation Destination tool is a nice interface. Select the destination and go with it. I didn’t do any complex partitioning but this interface is pretty great.

I can’t say whether or not this is as feature rich as the openSUSE Partitioner but I do prefer this to many other distributions.

Select to begin the installation, it will go through the process without any propaganda and when complete, select the Reboot System in the lower-right corner and you are ready to fire up Fedora.

First Run and Impressions

Fedora boots up with the stock Plasma Splash screen and a very stock Plasma desktop, beautifully stock desktop. A desktop that says, I am ready to be shaped to your requirements. That is a huge “thank you” to Fedora.

..mostly. The first order of business was to fix my menu. The Application Launcher is not my favorite to work with. That is altered by going to the “Show Alternatives” Where I switched to the Application Menu.

Fedora is running Plasma 5.17.4, same as Tumbleweed Snapshot 20200110 (time of writing). I really don’t know if Fedora keeps this updated or if it will be updated at Fedora 32. Either way, this is something I will keep an eye on.

The next step was to fix the theme. Like many distributions, Fedora goes with the odd Light theme which just looks too “Wonder Bread” to me. I prefer something with a little more awesome factor, so I go with Breeze Dark.

That slight tweak makes Plasma all that I want it and as I’ve said for every other distribution, dark should be default.

I may have missed it but I didn’t see the spot to set up the hostname through the installation process of Fedora. That is not a big deal, really. I did search to see if maybe there was an admin tool for this but nope. There isn’t a graphical tool as you would find in openSUSE but again, not a big deal.

Making the adjustment in the terminal is kind of a fun exercise.

A fun little command you can use to check this is hostnamectl

To change your host name, run in the terminal as root:

vim /etc/hostnames

Change the hostname there to whatever it is that you want.

To input text in VI, you will have to press “i” write whatever it is you want to make the hostname, press the “esc” key and type :wq to write and quit and you are done.

To verify the change, type hostnamectl in the terminal and make sure you are set.

Edit: Due to some feedback from those better studied than me, you can set the hostname during the installation process. I missed it. So, in case you miss it like me, you can fix your mistake as I have.

Multimedia Codecs

Setting up Fedora to do multimedia things is not difficult at all. I have previously demonstrated this and I will put it in here too. It is nice that this process hasn’t changed at all in the last two years.

There is a base recommended multimedia set of packages for the codecs:

dnf install gstreamer1-{ffmpeg,libav,plugins-{good,ugly,bad{,-free,-nonfree}}} --setopt=strict=0

If you prefer xine over Gstreamer:

dnf install xine-lib* k3b-extras-freeworld

For using to internet radio streams and things, you will need a few more packages:

dnf install gstreamer1-{plugin-crystalhd,ffmpeg,plugins-{good,ugly,bad{,-free,-nonfree,-freeworld,-extras}{,-extras}}} libmpg123 lame-libs --setopt=strict=0

This process is easy enough for a novice Linux user do on to set up, so long as they aren’t afraid of working in the terminal. If you want a graphical interface for this you will have to search elsewhere or perhaps not use Fedora.

What I Like

Fedora is a blank slate, an industrial grade system that will do its job and work. It doesn’t have all the wiz-bang tools like YaST that I appreciate and rely upon in openSUSE but that’s okay. There are plenty of resources and guides out there to get you though any of the core system configurations.

Multimedia setup on Fedora is very straight forward. Not any more difficult than openSUSE but is less convenient than how you accomplish this on Ubuntu. I understand and don’t fault why Red Hat and SUSE dictate the separation as they are very concerned about the potential litigious consequences of having it included.

Fedora is a solid, well thought out, well plumbed product that has a very robust installation system. The package manager, DNF, has very easy to understand syntax. The output from its interaction is very well formatted and readable as to what it is doing. It could use a little more color, like Zypper, but I am good with single colored text.

Fedora enables a firewall by default. Firewalld is not only installed by default but the interface is there, ready to be used. I applaud that as it seems like there are many distributions that do NOT have a firewall activated by default and whatever the excuse is for it, I don’t buy it.

What I Don’t Like

As nice as the installation system is on Fedora, there are some User Interface bits that are a little different and therefore takes a bit to understand what needs to be done. It is a nitpick issue as if I were in Fedora for an extended period of time, I would be fine with it. I just don’t like it as much as some others.

When using DNF, I find it isn’t as feature rich as what I accustomed to on Zypper. DNF is good, real good and there are ways to get around what DNF doesn’t have. For example. If I want to see what KDE packages are installed on openSUSE with Zypper, I would run zypper search -i kde. That would only show the installed “KDE” packages. There isn’t an equivalent command with DNF, but you can do it with the RPM command, rpm -qa | grep kde. I admit, I am not as well studied in DNF and there may be a way to do it but it wasn’t completely obvious to me.

Edit: I have been corrected on this point. DNF does have a search ability, although my method of using rpm does work, you can use the DNF method as such: dnf list installed \*kde\* This does indeed work as expected and gives a great resulting list.

Firefox doesn’t have the kfiledialog patch applied to it like you would have on openSUSE. I didn’t realize how much the default file dialog box annoys me until I had to use it on a non-openSUSE Plasma system. This is almost irritating enough to make me choose a different browser. This is not a hyperbolic statement, I am quite sincere. I don’t understand why Fedora and Kubuntu, for that matter, can’t apply this same patch that has been available for as long as I can remember, 10 years, maybe? I don’t know exactly.

Just a little thing, but the sudoer file is empty or rather, set up as such that I can’t “sudo <some command>”. I have to su than run some command as root. Not a huge deal, but just a minor annoyance.

Final Thoughts

Fedora with KDE Plasma is a great choice. All my issues with Fedora are just nitpicks and not show stoppers, at all. Though, I don’t understand why they can’t copy openSUSE’s use of the Kfiledialog patch. I will concede that perhaps it’s more complicated than I understand. What is absolutely clear to me is how the underpinnings are well orchestrated on Fedora as it is certainly well tested and usable.

I would absolutely recommend anyone try Fedora. Just understand, this is an industrial-grade Linux distribution that is not as heavily focused on the desktop experience. Fedora feels well tested which makes the final product for the user a great, solid and smooth experience. I don’t know if I would recommend Fedora for the “brand new to Linux” user unless they are already technically inclined. You certainly cannot be afraid of the terminal when using it but if you are good with it, it is an incredibly positive experience.

Would I switch from openSUSE Tumbleweed to Fedora? No, I would not. The reasons are very specific too. Number 1, I like the rolling model of Tumbleweed with the safety-net of the BTRFS snapshot system. Fedora doesn’t have this out of the box but I am sure you could incorporate it if you wanted. Fedora’s DNF is decent, has a great syntax but I don’t know if it is at feature parity to Zypper and it would take more time of me using it to determine that. DNF is newer so it is likely to get more features in the future. openSUSE seems to support more hardware than Fedora. I don’t blame Fedora for that as it is a very forward-leaning distribution. Lastly, I think openSUSE just has a more fun logo. I agree that it is a superfluous reason but none the less, I do like that chameleon.

References

Fedora Linux Home
CubicleNate Fedora 27 Review

8 thoughts on “Fedora 31 | Review from an openSUSE User

  1. You can change hostname on install – I think it is in the network settings, long time since I tried Fedora in a VM though so can’t be more definite than I’m afraid.

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  2. Thank you so much for doing this, and being straight forward in regards to you bias (which we all have), and even more so explaining why you come to the conclusions you did. I wish all reviews were made like this!

    Last time I used SUSE was – well, I don’t have enough fingers to count the years as it is. I’ve used Fedora since FC6 and spend my time with CentOS/RHEL and the same family of distributions. So I’m very familiar with the aspects you’re seeing for the first time, and it’s a fresh breath to see your comments. A couple of explanations to some of your observations:

    Hostname: You absolutely CAN do this – it’s under network. Since you’re new to the installer interface you may have missed it in the lower left corner.

    Repos – there’s nothing preventing you from having local repos. It’s just not a very flexible/scalable way. There are a ton of 3rd party upstream repos, including the new app-streams. In other words, you can have a ton of repos enabled. And you can customize the installer’s use of repos too – but it’s more common to do that post-install. As to caching packages – that absolutely happens with Fedora. However, it only caches once. Meaning, when you want to install a package, it’s cached – so often your cache is just as current as what’s installed. If not, for instance if you run an update after you just aborted one, it will not redownload packages it already has. Another key aspect here is PackageKit which will work in the background, downloading updates etc.

    dnf search: dnf list installed \*kde\*
    If you want to just see packages with the word “kde” in them. “dnf search” searchess the whole repository and uses descriptions/keywords too.

    sudo: The user you created during install will have sudo-rights.

    Please file BZs with RFEs if you have ideas on how to improve KDE and other features of Fedora.

    You’ve made me want to take a look at OpenSUSE (again?) – thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I may have done something wrong with the user creation as it was done at install time but regardless, that is a tiny nitpick issue and shouldn’t be considered a complaint. That is like complaining which side of the radio is the volume knob. As far as the DNF search, Thank you! Another thing I must have missed or at least maybe not in the forefront of the guilds out there.

      The only thing I can think about Fedora is perhaps some of those wiz bang tools I know you have being available by default or at least a pushed recommended.

      Fedora is pretty darn great and I am quite comfortable there. I think it is a great Plasma experience and the only thing I would file would be that kfiledialog patch that openSUSE uses. Outside of that, no complaints… unless you want to make a green theme with a Geeko in the corner. 🙂

      Whatever you are doing there in Fedora Land, keep it up. I love what you are doing with it. I also think that your focus is on target for the purpose of the distribution. It’s clear you are forward leaning.

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  3. Why are so many reviews, including this one, so shallow and lacking in depth? Who cares about the installer or the visual setup, you only do those once. What about ease of installing programs, updates, development tools, user installations, overall speed, and other daily activities, which make or break a distro. The only things I found annoying in Fedora were the SELinux and FirewallD programs, the former being integral to many failed installs and overall annoyingness. Love the regular updates, easy to install php/lampp stack, browsers and program groups in DNF (which is quite slow to reload). After that, Fedora XFCE became the perfect canvas.

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    1. Many reasons, actually. I am taking these for a “spin” to see, could I live there. I am not a distro hopper but I like to play with other distributions from time to time. I do this to see what the experience is, how I go though the installation process. For the most part, ANY Linux distribution will work, long term and rather than focus on the nuances of why I don’t like a distribution, I would rather focus on what there is to LIKE about it. To call out “regular updates” as a feature of Fedora is nothing that stands out as an openSUSE user. My target audience is for those that are unsure about trying something out, not someone that is deeply technical. Those that are in development making a decision such as that will look for their favorite developer tools (not covering those) to see if it is going to work. Most people don’t care about firewalls, they SHOULD, but they don’t. FirwallD is great but so is UFW for most people and I like Shorewall for other things. I am not going to write up how to make a Franken-distro either. If I try a distro that is causes me lots of issues, I will not write about it. Also, Fedora XFCE may be a perfect canvas… for you but that is not universal. To recap, you are correct, these are shallow “experience” and “Impression” reviews that focus on the positives and some areas that I think could use work.

      Thank you for your feedback!

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  4. If you use FirewallD for more than a few hours you notice it blocks many things including some installs, so that is a big no-no for me. Many people end up putting it in learning mode – which defeats the whole purpose of running it. I hate configuring firewalls for a desktop, especially when they are unnecessarily complex like firewallD. FirewallD is designed for a server or multiuse desktop. Most people only need UFW. Latest OpenSuse had too many problems for me, and I don’t ask for much as a developer – only that things should install and work, that’s it. Apparently OpenSuse has gone downhill in the latest releases, but I wouldn’t know as I’ve never used it before this attempt. Who really cares about the installer, they’re all much the same.

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    1. I appreciate you input. Personally, I like FirewallD with my only complaint is not seeing more notifications from the applet. I could probably look into it more. I do agree that the Firewall does appear to block a lot of applications but I appreciate that, actually. I want my Firewall to force me to know and agree with any traffic on my ports. Most distros don’t even ship with an active Firewall so I appreciate the choose of openSUSE and Fedora to have it activated by default.

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