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Ubuntu 10.04 vs Fedora 13

by Joe Brockmeier

Spring is a lovely time of year, when the flowers bloom, the birds sing and community Linux projects release the fruit of their winter labours. Specifically, the Fedora and Ubuntu projects come to the end of their six-month cycles in the April/May time frame. This year’s yield is a bumper crop, with Fedora 13 including a number of interesting technologies and improvements and Ubuntu putting on its finest polish for a Long Term Support (LTS) release…

This article originally appeared in issue 87 of Linux User & Developer magazine.
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Spring is a lovely time of year, when the flowers bloom, the birds sing and community Linux projects release the fruit of their winter labours. Specifically, the Fedora and Ubuntu projects come to the end of their six-month cycles in the April/May time frame. This year’s yield is a bumper crop, with Fedora 13 including a number of interesting technologies and improvements and Ubuntu putting on its finest polish for a Long Term Support (LTS) release.

On the surface, one might expect that there would be little to distinguish the projects, since they each comprise the same core components: the Linux kernel, GNU utilities, X.Org, Firefox, GNOME and so on. But the reality is that the raw materials alone do not a distribution make. The focus of Fedora and Ubuntu is drastically different and it shows through in many ways.

The origin and ultimate disposition of the distributions gives a clue straight away as to the intended audience. Consider, Ubuntu is based on Debian testing, pulling packages from Debian after they’ve already received some work and been put through at least a minimal amount of testing and quality assurance on the Debian side. Basically, the Ubuntu Project spends time polishing and improving bits already worked on by Debian. That’s not to say that Ubuntu doesn’t do development or innovate above and beyond what Debian does. But the entire concept of Ubuntu was that Debian provided a solid base to provide a user-friendly Linux distribution, but Debian doesn’t itself provide a user-friendly distro.

In contrast, Fedora is the precursor to Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Whereas Ubuntu is a final product, Fedora itself is a staging ground for software that may ultimately wind up in Red Hat’s commercial offerings. Whereas Canonical pursues OEM deals with Ubuntu LTS releases, Fedora has an approximate 13-month shelf life, after which the project consigns the release to the end-of-life bin. In short, both projects produce usable desktop distributions, but for fairly different audiences.

As the version number implies, Fedora 13 is the 13th release coming from the Fedora Project. Lucid will be the 12th release for Ubuntu. The Fedora Project precedes Ubuntu by nearly a year, with its first release in November of 2003 and Ubuntu’s first in October of 2004.

The respective origin of each of the distros is also instructive. Fedora was offered by Red Hat as a substitute for Red Hat Linux after the company stopped its long-standing practice of releasing Red Hat Linux publicly, when it began a new product line of enterprise-focused releases. It was several releases before Fedora became a true community distribution in its own right, allowing significant community contribution and guidance.

Ubuntu, on the other hand, was designed to offer the same release to all-comers. Whether the distro was obtained from OEMs as a pre-load or downloaded by a hobbyist, Ubuntu should be the same distro. And unlike Fedora, Canonical started out with a development process that embraced the community from day one. At this point, both projects are legitimately created by co-operation between community contributors outside the companies and those employed by Red Hat and Canonical, respectively, to guide development. Let’s now take a look at how they stack up…

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    • Rahul Sundaram

      Good overview but one small correction. Ext4 is the default for Fedora. Not Ext3

    • “One of the Fedora mottoes is ‘Freedom First’, and that shapes the software that is selected for the distro. Several of the desktop decisions (Gnote, Shotwell, and Pino) seem driven as much by the fact that they don’t have dependencies on Mono as the fact that they provide needed features.”

      That’s not actually a great illustration. Freedom has little to do with the focus on finding apps without Mono dependencies; if we were terribly worried about the freedom of Mono, it wouldn’t be available as a Fedora package at all. It’s simply to do with resources. Including the Mono framework on the desktop live image is a tough fit, so we choose apps which don’t have a Mono dependency as the default apps to reduce the space pressure on the live image. That’s all it is.

    • ram


      still leaves one wondering what to use.

      Am an Ubuntu user fan and advocatist (along with open source in general)To get ubuntu to where i want it requires some work and tweaking – its really all right for a first time user then as one gets on there a need to install more stuff and tweak some things around. The beauty is the vast package repos and the superb community support

      and i guess until i use Fedora 13 am not really able to identify with the differences mentioned. So hopefully will set up a dual boot with fedora 13 and check it out over a longer term as opposed to a one off live session.


    • Great article. You kept an open mind while discussing them. As a person who has used both distro’s I totally agree with you.

    • John

      I have openSuse 11.2, Fedora 13 and Ubuntu 10.4 installed on one HD. OpenSuse was the last installed which gave me a boot problem. Ubuntu now uses Grub2 and was nowhere to be seen with either Fedora or Suse that still use the legacy Grub. A bit of tweaking to the Suse Grub menu.lst solved that.

      Those that want to dual boot Ubuntu 10.4 with Fedora, or any other distro and don’t want to get under the hood of Grub should install Ubuntu 10.4 last as Grub2 will find anything using legacy grub. Not so the other way around.

    • Dae Amarth

      Decent review but I see the typical, and I consider misleading, comments about Fedora and its usability. Ive used both Ubuntu and Fedora. There are a few more installation steps in Fedora but they are hardly difficult and worst case a user might ask why they make the second user after a reboot. Thats as far as it would go. This is far better then simply allowing the user you are running everything as to also run everything as root without at least confirmation(sudo is NOT confirmation). IMHO thats outright negligence on the account of those that pushed the feature. Users need to learn a bit of security. Also music purchasing has been available in Fedora for some time now by default right within Rhythmbox Music Player through two companies that have been around for years. Not sure why this is so touted as a new feature as its simply not. Also the add/remove software groups “Education, Fonts, Games, Graphics, Internet, Programming” etc make total sense. Those that *may* not make sense basic users dont need worry about. So even if all Ive stated is wrong I have hard core proof, at least for me, my mother of 70 now has been using fedora since Fedora Core 6 (granted rough back then) to scan, email, browse, listen to music, watch movies and even uses IRC. All of this with very little setup for her(minus the IRC). Fedora is every bit as average joe user friendly. Thats the fact. Still, a good review.

    • I agree for the most part. Most of these things have been true of both distros for the last two or three years at least. My feelings are slightly different though. Fedora 13 seemed to me to be very snappy and even polished in it’s own way albeit. The main issue I have had with Fedora is probably why I have stuck with and continue to run back to Ubuntu is package management. Not only the functionality but the ability to get the things I need fairly quickly to get working. I am very familiar with needing build-essential for my C development needs (or learning) or when you want look for any software whether it be something in the main repositories or even something from a forum post that quickly tells you how to add their repo to your setup. If I want to learn kernel hacking it seems easier to get the packages I need and most of the issues are really from the fact that Ubuntu has a very active “common folk” community that have already seemed to solve the issues and posted them for other newbies blazing behind them. This may speak more of the makeup of Debian in general since even Debian’s community lacks the corporate “business” sense that seems to guide the future of Fedora, as much as Fedora is working on changing that. I just hope they don’t make the excuse that they are more of a pro hacker’s distro and not keep moving ever so slowly in the direction of having a community that is self sufficient in some ways. That community cannot be manufactured no matter how much money or marketing is thrown at it. I still fail to understand why RPM was chosen as the package management system for standardization but most new users still experience dependency hell in RPM based distros. Is it the distros that have not seemed to get the packaging right or is it that the thinking again that RPM must be better because it came from a “real” company and not the community as a whole. I have not looked much in to the internals of RPM dependency management but I can count on one hand how many times a .deb package failed on me and it was probably when using alien to create a .deb from an RPM. I had the same experience with Opensuse as much as I like the overall feel of Opensuse’s Gnome implementation.

      Another issue altogether with Linux as a whole is package naming period. Everyday users get lost in (ie libacd-1.2.004) and even the packages that are not libraries and such. Maybe we need a DNS like system for package naming and the distro handles the naming and versioning for average users or just better frontend management tools for packages across all distros. Although Ubuntu is getting much better at this. Windows users are used to hearing a name of a program and typically find the installer with a package icon and understand the naming scheme. I know this gets more complicated then just the naming because of how Linux uses it’s dependencies in package management and such but us geeks can clean it up at the average user level I think anyway.

    • Basico

      Asking in Google, “Fedora” gives you 15.400.000 results and “Ubuntu” 51.000.000.

    • Phil

      I will never understand the obsession with having a dedicated app to download music. You can download music from Amazon from their website without the downloader. I never saw the point of it.

    • Arup

      Excellent balanced non partisan and yet detailed review that I have come across in a long time, I like both Ubuntu and Fedora for reasons you have listed but my main disro remains Ubuntu and thats what I recommend to new users, I do delve into Fedora on my other PCs without fail to check out all the cutting edge stuff.

    • DDevube

      I found some of the comments in the article about Fedora and by its’ readers misleading.

      Fedora’s installer may have a few extra steps but it certainly is not harder than Ubuntus’ and it is definitely quicker than Ubuntus’.

      Also, I disagree with the Ubuntu’s environment supposedly being more “polished”. Ubuntu’s design and core teams seem to have the idea that Mac OSX is the height of usability. Ubuntu do not care about what the user wants on their desktop and they do not follow any logical usability guide lines which is clearly shown by their poor visability theme and illogical and unfamiliar interface modifications.

      Fedora’s more ‘stock’ Gnome and KDE environments are much more user friendly and in my opinion look much better (certainly KDE, wow that is beautiful!) and without the Ubuntu patches they are not as buggy – therefore a much better and friendlier user experience.
      Fedora is definitely *not* unpolished – it is just polished differently to Ubuntu.

      RPM Hell does *NOT* exist anymore. You *do* have the same issues with Debs!
      There is package managers for RPMs now such as Yum, Zypper *shock horror* Aptitude solve the problems that RPM initially had. RPM is just a format which has a few tools included with the implemenatation. Deb is just a format with a few better tools included with the implementation. The package managers for RPM bring the user experience up to the same level as Deb with Aptitude. Admittedly Yum used to be too buggy and slow but over the past two years it has improved dramatically.

      Ubuntus’ community is with its fair share of problems. Fedora does have some unsavory people who for some reason choose to sit in support channels but you will find that the level of support is still usually higher for Fedora because of the approach it takes to solving issues. Fedora users *fix* a problem if it is in the distro and if it is an upstream problem then they fix it there too. Ubuntu users *hack* at a problem until it kinda, sorta, works – and forget upstream. Ubuntu takes the same hacky approach to their distribution and also in the community support and that is why Ubuntu has so many silly bugs and horrible guides in their forums.
      Fedora has a *great* community that does not have to rely on Red Hat as the Ubuntu community does on Canonical. The Fedora community is very friendly and cares about freedom and innovation where as Ubuntu has a “cool kids” group that don’t really do nearly as much for the free software community.

    • Nice review. I have always used Ubuntu, sometimes I tryed Fedora. But I feel it is always some kind of problem with it. Missing programs or dependies etc..
      But recently I have used Pardus 2009.2 (KDE desktop) works “out of the box” with all mediacodecs pre-installed.
      So for a linux beginner it is great. But if I like the Gnome desktop I must say Ubuntu is no:1
      Some will probably say Linux Mint, but I see it as Ubuntu with a different theme.

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    • fedora sucks

      fedora sucks. ubuntu is way better. fedora is bloated and looks like shit. ubuntu does not look like shit. kapeish?

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    • Jed

      I use both: Ubuntu at work and Fedora (for the desktop) plus CentOS (for my print/file server) at home. I prefer Fedora over ubuntu, but you can’t go wrong with choosing either distro. Good article by the way.

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    • erm….

      “fedora sucks. ubuntu is way better. fedora is bloated and looks like shit. ubuntu does not look like shit. kapeish?”

      Erm…. I think you’ll find ubuntu has much more bloat. Furthermore, in my opinion Fedora looks and feels much better. A more polished feel is you will.

      Don’t you just love these Ubuntu noobs – not content with bashing every windows user they carry on a attack every other distro. Moronic is all I can think of…Ubuntu’s great (because you haven’t the technical ability to use anything else)

    • Mike C.

      Both Fedora and Ubuntu are sufficiently lacking as a replacement for Windows or Mac OS that they cannot gain ground despite costing ZERO as opposed to $139 or $150 per O/S license. I agree that Ubuntu is gaining ground, and the Ubuntu One initiative shows that they get it in terms of making the experience easy for people who don’t care about how it works, only that it does work and stays out of their way while allowing them to get stuff done. Ubuntu might get there in a few more years; I don’t think it’s a priority (or even a motivator) for Fedora to go after mass market share and it shows in the product they release.

    • Sorry for commenting a little late on this article.

      First, very good review. Personally, I’m a Fedora user because I still run an older Thinkpad T41 and Fedora running Xfce runs better on it than Ubuntu running Xfce. Not sure why exactly, it just does. For me, Ubuntu is just more bloated “out of the box”. I think they do this to appease new users coming to Linux but that’s just my personal thoughts on that. Overall, they are both great distributions. If you don’t like what you see, change it. That’s what Open Source and Free Software is all about.

      And, fedora sucks, your comment was uncalled for. Keep comments like that out on the playground with the other little kids. If you want to write comments like that, be prepared to back them up. If you think Fedora sucks, well, that’s fine. You need to let us know why, however.

    • Mats

      Fedora is awfull. It’s the shame of whole Linux-family. You can handle it without proprierity graphic card drivers. It can’t make your ordinary printer printing documents.

      Ubuntu is hundred times better and more reliable than this crap and painfull Fedora. People – stay away from that shit. Fedora is nightmare.

    • Mats

      Making mistake: You CAN’T handle it without proprierity graphic card drivers. You need e.g nvidia-drivers…with nouveau-driver (open source shit) your screen is gonna freeze in two minutes…

    • calz

      I have tried both distros again and again over the years, installed all their new releases.

      And I am a linux noob at beginnning ang i liked ubuntu. But later when i realised the whole thing I slowly began drifting toward fedora.I have no clue in programming or a computer nerd.I fing fedora more stable tahn ubuntu nowdays,Quite the contrary to the saying. yes the recent fedora releases are becomin more stable and i like it.If u spend a little time in setting up fedora box then it would be a wonderful setup.

      Ubuntu,in recent releaess chose polish and eye candy over an important thing , stability. Its very evident even to me. The latest releses ,there are couple of system freezes.For a noob he/she is gonna think thats a linux problem,but wrong.

      And people dont comment on how a distro looks. This is linux everybody can look like anybody..

    • David Walther


      Used Fedora since release 7. Everything has gone from hard to do simple things to YES it works.
      During some of my upgrade sessions I have tested Ubuntu 8.04, 9.10 and finally 10.04.
      What has allways struck me is that averything looks better in Ubuntu and simple things as mp3 driver and so on is allmost in you nose to install.
      But after a while when the first chill has gone something in Ubuntu makes på not so confortable. It is not so stable as it should be, design is not that important anymore and it feels not as slick anymore.
      The users at the Ubuntu forum feels like a kindergarden.
      When my laptop got serious problems with my Wifi connection I gave it finally up. I installed Fedora 13 and I have not regreted once. I also suprisingly liked the looks better than those experimental Ubuntu theme looks. As usual Nvidia cards needs a bunch of commands to work, but the forum with especially leigh123 is by far amazingly helpfull.
      The feedback from the forum is outstanding and the distro is very reliable on both of my computers.
      So for me, no more Ubuntu. Only Fedora.
      If you wan’t to try Fedora don’t give up at the first fence. Seek help at the forum and you will very soon manage the system. It gives back plenty.

    • sceptre

      If your going to use google search results as an arguement for ubuntu then I geuss this is valid too:

      fedora problem: 2,460,000 results
      ubuntu problem: 9,660,000 results

    • sceptre

      And for fun:

      windows problem: 302,000,000 results

    • Roman

      An excellent, balanced review. The rebuttals were equally balanced.

      I am still a Linux newbie. I have been using Fedora and Ubuntu since version 8 and I must admit neither distros’ installation process is any more difficult than any version of Windows operating systems. A simple Google search on Linux partitioning and File System and at most 30-60 minutes of reading up on the two subjects would prepare any long time Windows/first time Linux user for a successful Linux installation.

    • Wayne

      My opinion is that LinuxUser & Developer provides a valuable resource for Linux discussions, inclusive of many differing viewpoints. Thanks for the service.

    • David Cohen

      Fedora is by far the worst Linux distribution I have ever used. For three days I tried to upgrade Firefox, but received error after error, so finally gave up. I was never able to connect to my wireless network and Radeon video drivers are impossible to find and never work.

      I installed Ubuntu 10.04 and everything was smooth and worked right out of the box.

    • ok ob

      i think nowadays ubuntu 10.10 and fedora 14 are equal, for my needs. The pros of fedora are that it is little bit snappier than ubuntu because it doesnt have to carry all the stuff that ubuntu has, auto driver, codec etc install, media player control applet etc eetc. Fedora keeps it simple and u decide how it will look and behave but reqiures a bit of work to set up things like gpu drivers. I personally triple boot xp centos and ubuntu. Xp is charm because of the support of adobe suite and games, centos is great for learning the hard way and ubuntu is for everyday computing, though slow but its ok for pentium 4. Every os had its own pros as cons. Thanks for helping me to spend time while in bus

    • Daren Scot Wilson

      I like that music band analogy!

      What would Arch Linux be in such terms?

    • Charlie

      Uhmmm… right, this needs updating:

      Ubuntu 11.04 was released recently and it has a great GUI, gnome or unity because Ubuntu have spent time polishing it with themes and thought about users who may just want to use a clean OS on an old computer, it is based at every one.

      Themes are smooth and the user end feels like a new modern computer. Ubuntu software center shows a lot of consideration and makes it a lot easier to down load stuff.

      However! FEDORA has a rubbish GUI it is still on clearlooks or old gnome or whatever. It feels old and clunky and certainly does not feel any better to the user.

      Fedora is good as a core for other OS’s: Linpus, etc. Not as fedora please get a life!

    • Jacob

      >If your going to use google search results as an arguement for ubuntu then I geuss this is valid too:
      >fedora problem: 2,460,000 results
      >ubuntu problem: 9,660,000 results

      I am not a fan of ubuntu or fedora, but appalled by your logic (above), so wanted to post this:)

      Google search for

      ubuntu: 163,000,000 results
      fedora: 46,300,000 results

    • Mohammad Arif

      the people used more, which means errors and confusions more,

      it is wrong to being telling worst os on google search results

      that fedora, ubuntu, redhat or xp is worst or good,

      all the os are used for making life cycle easy and easiest,

      so, in my opinion the more results for “xyz os problems” >=——>
      it means its popularity,
      and being numbers of users are using that particular os system,

      all people know on network behalf linux is grand than windows,

      and being provided above topics are distribution of linux

    • Barton

      > Uhmmm… right, this needs updating:
      > However! FEDORA

      I’ve recently dumped Ubu 11.4 because:
      1) Unity goes against the way I operate.
      2) Gnome 2/3 integration was difficult to achieve and Ubu broke part of the UI there:
      a) LIBOVERLAY_SCROLLBAR issues have the Ubu boneheads saying “let’s just blacklist apps that don’t play well with Unity”.
      3) General bloat… A recourse (memory, etc) hog.
      a) Wants high-end hardware for full presentation abilities to work (sounds like M$7)

      I tried as many live CDs as I could find in a night before settling in Fedora 15:
      — This OS is NOT for beginners: Days to connect to my Windows machines (Samba bug??) —
      1) Gnome 3 default desktop
      2) Several more (Xfce, KDE, etc) more lightweight or prettier environments if you like.
      a) None of these force me to change the way I do things.
      3) Runs in a couple of hundred Megs (install on an old laptop if you like) and is highly secure.

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