linux, fedora, ubuntu, distro

Distrohopping, or as I like to call it, ultimate bikeshedding. I really hadn’t done that in a very, very long time. My first Linux machine was based on Fedora Core 1. A server which mainly served files. On a (second) desktop, Ubuntu was my first distro, Warthy Warthog in fact. Memories are vague now, but I liked the warm brown color, which makes me one of the few I think.

Ever since Ubuntu has been my main and only distro. It just werks. What I recall from Fedora is SELINUX needing to be turned off to do things like access a DVD (at the time an important and frequent event). I tried Fedora briefly around the time of Core 6, and I used Scientific Linux during my masters, had a Fedora-based cluster during the PhD and briefly an OpenSuse desktop, but mostly Ubuntu. Ever since Gnome 3 the biggest change has been to use KDE Neon (again a distro I’ve been using since its first release). Gnome 3 just wasted too much of my screen, and KDE around the time of Plasma 5.5 really shaped up. But Neon is still 99% Ubuntu. Nothing beats the ecosystem around it: if somebody has some build/install instructions, they’re probably going to be for Ubuntu. I do not really like configuring and playing sysadmin you see. And I certainly do not like pet systems, I treat them like cattle. I meticulously write down/store configuration instructions, stored in a Resilio Sync share so I can restore a borked install or setup a new one within about an hour. (Why Resilio you ask, you freedom-hating cretin? I also use it to share files with family, friends, and Syncthing was not made for that use-case. Rather than having two similar-ish systems, I prefer to keep it down to the one. Fewer moving parts and all that.)

Recently I started a new job, and Ubuntu 20.04 was just out, but Neon was still on 18.04 (they only track LTS releases). Having to integrate into a new team that uses latest versions of everything as much as possible (what a refreshing change from before!), I suddenly noticed how old 18.04 is. I quickly paved over with Kubuntu 20.04, but they didn’t even bother to update things like Digikam to v7! They left it at 6.4! Meanwhile, under the banner of NeuroFedora, some commonly used packages in my new field are only a yum install away. So I decided to give Fedora (32) another try, 16 years since I last used it!. Here are my findings.

  1. Software is a lot more recent! I use the KDE spin obviously, and I find that in terms of KDE packages things are barely behind Neon, and many other packages as well. That is compared to Ubuntu 20.04.
  2. Provided you enable the rpmfusion repos, you don’t really need PPAs! Up to date packages for software like qownnotes, quodlibet, lutris, it’s all there! PPAs are nice of course, but this is not any worse.
  3. I actually wanted to try Fedora again a year or two ago, but I found that it just won’t boot on EFI-only systems, of which I now have a few. I discovered by coincidence that the mediawriter shipped with Fedora is the only way I could create USB sticks that will allow me to install Fedora on EFI systems! I tried the KDE USB Creator, Ventoy, Rufus, Unetbootin, which all work fine with Ubuntu ISOs, but not Fedora.
  4. SELINUX strikes back. Well, not really, but strange Red Hat security precautions do. In order to use the VPN for work, I had to manually modprobe a kernel module. WHAT YEAR IS THIS???
  5. A few cosmetic nitpicks: font aliasing (remember that? WHAT YEAR IS THIS? Apparently Fedora still does not allow a possibly proprietary hinting/subpixel rendering algo in its repos.) and GTK styling (there is a breeze-gtk package but it doesn’t style nearly as well as Ubuntus breeze-gtk-theme, so buttons really stand out).
  6. The reason I’ll be going back to Neon today (they rebased to 20.04 last week): why I plug the laptop into my screen with a USB-C cable, nothing happens! Under Ubuntu I could charge, see my screen and use my screen-connected USB peripherals without issue. I’m done troubleshooting this (already took my 3 hours figuring out the L2TP problem).

So, if you do not rely on those particular things, Fedora works very well and I’ve installed it on all my non-essential devices to give it longer go. But I’ve felt the pain of not having it Just Werk enough for at least another decade. I’d like to try Arch and OpenSuse someday, seem like nice projects, but all this troubleshooting is really not my cup of tea, and the truth is, on Ubuntu this almost never seems to be necessary.