Fedora 33 | Review from an openSUSE User

Keeping inline with my general theme of being late to the party, I have finally given Fedora 33 a spin. I have previously reviewed Fedora 31 and really enjoyed it very much. In fact, every time I have used Fedora, it has indeed been a great experience. I am again trying out Plasma because I have heard nothing but good things.

Fedora Logo

Bottom Line Up Front: Fedora with a Plasma spin is a fantastic distribution. DNF seems to be getting better and better with every release. I am impressed with the improvements in readability using the terminal interactions. The speed of updates has greatly improved and truly am impressed with the overall performance of the system. The world of Fedora is not standing still and in the last year, seems to have made great strides. I am quite impressed and find my time using it very worth while.

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A quick summary of the experience, the installation of Fedora is similar to what my experience has been and also it seems to have been improved substantially for those that are less familiar with the distribution. This shows that the Fedora team is really putting a lot of effort into user experience.

The initial boot screen is just as it has been and sends a distraction-free, clear message of your options. I chose the first option to start Fedora-KDE-Live 33.

When the system started up, you are greeted with the default Fedora 33 Plasma desktop that is properly branded with the Fedora logo set as the menu icon. I truly believe this is an important bit of branding distributions should do to differentiate and identify themselves. It’s a little thing but it is also rather significant.

There is one lonely icon on the desktop that gives you the option to install Fedora to the Hard Drive. Nothing against the term “Hard Drive” but is that accurate if you are using SSDs? I know what it means but maybe there is a more generic and also just as clear method for communicating this or maybe not.

The installation starts off with asking for you language preference. English (United States) is mine.

Compared to previously, I feel like this is a nice improvement. The options are very much simplified here and I can see very clearly what must be done in order to proceed with installation. I do want to caveat that this maybe a simplified installation process because I am using a spin of Fedora not Fedora proper. Please correct me in the comments or send an email and I will update this post accordingly.

My first stop was the installation destination. I am installing this on a VM because it’s way easier to take snapshots and the like, also, I like having different distributions to play with safely in virtual environments as well. I left the storage configuration automatic. I made no additional selection from here.

My next step was setting the root password. Not much to report here but I did also unlock the root account. There are arguments against doing this but that is how I like to roll. For me, it is easier to just hop into root in the terminal, do what I want to do and hop back out. ‘sudo’ is always an option but there are arguments against that too.

The user creation utility on the installer is top notch. I say this because right from installation, I can specify my user ID manually. This is absolutely a fantastic feature and I wholeheartedly approve.

This is the point where you have your final sanity check. Though it is not as “in your face” as I am more accustomed to seeing, I am well aware, that at this stage, one more click is the point of no return. When the installation is complete, the next step will be to reboot the machine. I almost had forgotten that I was doing this all from a Plasma live media session.

The installation process was so smooth and I looked forward to getting into the meat of it. Really dig into this and see if I could shape this into something similar to my openSUSE experience.

First Run and Impressions

The login screen is quite unique to Fedora but the login splash is very vanilla KDE Plasma. Nothing against that but it just doesn’t say “Fedora” to me. Not a huge deal, just a shrug and I move on.

The desktop is very spartan but I don’t mind that at all. I also notice they are using the same “kickoff” menu as default that is not my favorite to use at all. No worries because the alternative of “Application Menu” is an option and easily switchable. There were a few updates available so that was done while I was here before proceeding onward in my exploration.

I did flip the Global Theme to Breeze Dark as a dark theme is my preferred look and feel of a desktop. Reducing the brightness of the graphical elements is always a plus in my book.

At this point, I was quite happy with this setup. Sure, not everything has been changed to make it to my liking but enough has been to get into it. I do want to make one note on using this in a VM. In order to not be stuck with a small Virtual screen, I did have to go into the settings and change the model to “VGA” or else I was stuck on a 1024 x 768 screen.

Multimedia Codecs

In order to be able to stream online content or use many of the video standards locally, there is an extra step of multimedia codecs that need to be installed. Installing the Multimedia codecs is super easy to do in Fedora. I do like the terminal and I realize that the terminal method is likely not a favorite of everyone. That said, here is how you do it and this will work with any recent version of Fedora.

Set up the Repositories

sudo dnf install https://download1.rpmfusion.org/free/fedora/rpmfusion-free-release-$(rpm -E %fedora).noarch.rpm
sudo dnf install https://download1.rpmfusion.org/nonfree/fedora/rpmfusion-nonfree-release-$(rpm -E %fedora).noarch.rpm

Install the packages

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

That is all there is to it.

Smart Card Setup

One of the things I need to do in order to use a Linux distribution regularly is the ability to access smart cards. In this case, specifically, for use with the United States Department of Defense. I have instructions for that here but wanted to go through a part of that experience as well.

Splitting my screen with the terminal on one half and the web page on the other, I went through the process. In doing so, I found the usage of DNF to be exceptionally delightful. I am charmed by the readability of the output as it seems to really break it down for me to consume the information efficiently.

I also used this as an opportunity to update my directions, just to clean them up a bit which made this whole process very much worth while. I could stop here and be content, actually.

Customizing the Desktop

Since I recently published my Plasma Style and Color scheme I use for openSUSE, I thought that it might be fun to decorate my instance of Fedora to look like openSUSE, because… why not? Linux is about freedom to do whatever you want, even if it is ridiculous, so why not?

I installed the Plasma Style and Colors from the system settings utility and noticed that the icon in the corner was still showing Fedora. This was different behavior to what Plasma in openSUSE does.

Doing a little investigating, it looks like Fedora has coded the Fedora logo as the icon for each of the Menu alternatives. I found this to be clever. Simply clearing the icon from here changed it to the Plasma Style default.

I replaced the wallpaper and and set the lock screen background to be the same wallpaper and if you didn’t look too closely, you might not know that I am using Fedora and not openSUSE.

I know I am biased but now I feel like this desktop is closer to what home feels like. Really, the only functional difference as a user would be the System level tools. I think that is where the Fedora experience kind of falls apart for me, just a bit. I love YaST. It is such a great one-stop-shop for all the system administration functions and I feel just a bit lost without it. Sure, I can do the things I need without it but YaST just makes it easier. For example, again, I forgot to set the hostname of the machine before beginning the installation. So I had to do it in the terminal. Thankfully, pressing the “tab” key helps me to remember what I needed to do correct it.


The one, very slight, disappointment was the choice for default office application. LibreOffice is my preference and has been because of how full featured and easy to use it is for me. Calligra is the office suite that is installed by default and I am sure I could get along fine with it but I really wanted what I wanted. Fedora doesn’t have the patterns that openSUSE does for installing the things you want, at least, I didn’t find it so I used “dnfdragora” to install LibreOffice graphically. The GUI is fine but it doesn’t allow for me to resize the panes to my liking. Perhaps it is still a work in progress.

This feels a lot like YaST Software which made it quite comfortable. I did like how this was run as a user application and therefore the theme colors were preserved. You are asked for a password before proceeding with the installation. I like this but I also like the way openSUSE does it too. Can I like them both?

LibreOffice installed and I was happy to see that it followed my desktop theme with no further intervention from my part.

Other Things

Flatpak is installed by default on Fedora but the flathub repository was not. This was an easy fix as all you have to do is click and have Discover do its thing.

I want to also note that I wish openSUSE had this SystemD module in the system settings. I find it to be incredibly convenient to just see the units and their status. Not that I would go into this every day, I just think it is a fantastic module to have available in the Plasma desktop settings under System Administration.

What I Like

I am glad to see that Fedora 33 uses BTRFS by default. With the default setting it uses one partition for root and home. This has been default on openSUSE Tumbleweed for a while and I have a suspicion as to who is responsible for this that is active in both Fedora and openSUSE. Fedora and openSUSE seem to be doing things very similar on the file system layout. The one thing I am missing here is that openSUSE does have the snapshot active by default. That ability to rollback is something that I really don’t want to live without at this point. I’m sure snapshots can be activated somehow within Fedora.

The speed of DNF has greatly improved since the last time I have used it. Since the last time I really used it, DNF now seems to be at feature parity to Zypper for any basic tasks. I was unsuccessful in located a method for not allowing or allowing repository changes but I am not sure if DNF has the similar capabilities between as zypper does between zypper update and zypper dup. Regardless, DNF is great and I do thing it is a fine package manager.

Plasma is a generally vanilla experience so I feel like it is a kind of blank slate to begin my modifications to suit my desires. Since I don’t expect any distribution to be configured to be exactly as I want, I feel as though Fedora doesn’t trip me up with some odd configurations that I have to undo. I know that some people want to have all the right defaults but I don’t think that exists. There are only defaults that I will need to change. I think it is remarkable how much you can alter Plasma to look however you want it to look. There are so many switches buttons just waiting to be flipped and turned. Fedora’s level of customization and defaults is just enough to say, “Fedora” without smearing your face with a specified workflow.

What I Don’t Like

I just got done saying that Plasma has just enough “Fedora” about it to make it essentially perfect but I have one criticism, It doesn’t feel like to me that Plasma is quite a first class Fedora citizen. It is a small thing that happens to make it just enough not feel quite as true Plasma to me as the openSUSE Defaults. Specifically, the file dialog in Firefox is the GTK default in Fedora while in openSUSE, the standard Plasma dialog is used. It is a small, yet huge thing for me because the GTK dialog is just so terrible in comparison. Anytime I don’t have to use it is a good time, as far as I am concerned.

LibreOffice is not installed by default. Calligra is the default office application and as much as I have tried, I am just not a fan of it. This is a small thing because installing LibreOffice is trivial in Fedora. It also gave me a great excuse to use dnfdragora and see how it compares to my much loved YaST Software. I am not sure of the choice to use Calligra over LibreOffice, maybe because it is the KDE office suite.

There isn’t anything like YaST in Fedora. It may be a crutch, but I like having that centralized place to go to do all the system administration functions of my computer. It just makes it easy and rather enjoyable. I realize, openSUSE does spoil me quite a bit and it is hard to move away from that.

Final Thoughts

Fedora is great, it is a simply fantastic distribution with a vibrant and excited community. If there was no openSUSE it is where I would likely be. I think what keeps me on openSUSE over Fedora is actually the fact that it is not as forward leading as Fedora. Even Tumbleweed doesn’t seem to change as much as Fedora does but at the same time, Fedora is testing out new technologies or ways to do implement ideas and concepts in the forefront. I think the delineation, as I see it, Fedora figures out ways to do new things while openSUSE allows me to do new things. I enjoy much of the underpinnings that openSUSE gives me with the pretty wide breadth of hardware to run it on. Where I am today, as great as Fedora is and a joy to use, openSUSE just happens to suit me better. I find the fit to be a bit more comfortable for my liking.

Fedora 34 is going to be upon us very soon and I imagine that it will be even better than 33. Every Linux distribution I touch (minus one), the experience is continually improving from release to release. I love what Fedora is doing. I have been enjoying what openSUSE does. I am also thrilled with the cross community collaboration between the Fedora and openSUSE camps. This is how business should be done. It is a great time to be a Linux user!


Fedora 31 | Review from an openSUSE User

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