In December 4th, 2005, I published my first blog post about Linux. I wrote it on Ubuntu 5.10 “Breezy” after installing it on my faithful iBook G3. Many years have passed, and I’ve become a full-time Linux user now, having used no other operating system in the past 5 years.
But in the meantime Ubuntu has become annoying in various ways, so it was time for a change. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great distribution to start with, but after using it every day for a while, I realized I needed a bit more power in my hands. Ubuntu is simply fantastic for beginners. I guess I’m just not one anymore.
The things that have annoyed me the most in Ubuntu are the following:
- Lack of recent packages in its
aptpackage manager, which means scouting the interwebz until you find that what you’re looking for is (hopefully) packaged as a
*.debfile, or (tough luck) only available through
./configure && make && make install… so good luck installing all the dependencies.
- Their knee-jerk reaction against Flatpak and their insistence in using Snap instead, an inferior package manager meant to lock users into the Ubuntu ecosystem, filled with annoying issues, and not offering anything else to the table.
- Related to the previous point, the fact that Firefox was installed by default as a Snap package in the latest versions of Ubuntu was the final straw.
I found that installing a whole operating system just to replace one of its core components (Snap) with another (Flatpak) was really stupid. I wanted to change to a distribution where this wasn’t an issue. So I settled for Fedora 38.
Of all distributions, why Fedora? The other two distributions I’ve considered were Debian and Arch. But having played around with RHEL at work I felt that I would feel comfortable using Fedora right away, and my perception was true. I also wanted a mainstream distribution with packages available for those software titles not available on Flatpak or
dnf, as is the case with Debian
*.deb packages; There’s a lot of
*.rpm packages out there for Fedora, which means that instead of
sudo dpkg -i package.deb now I needed to
sudo dnf install package.rpm.
The installation of Fedora 38 on my personal 6th generation ThinkPad was as simple as expected; fill a short form, click the install button, and wait for less than 5 minutes. Fedora 38 comes bundled by default with exactly what’s needed to be immediately productive. And after a few weeks of use, I gotta say that I’m really pleased.
- It recognized and worked with 100% of all of my current hardware, no questions asked. This included my HP LaserJet printer and scanner, my Logitech webcam, my Lenovo ThinkPad dock, two screens, and more.
- Fedora 38 comes with Podman built-in by default. Simply perfect for my container needs.
dnfpackage manager has pretty much all the latest versions of everything I needed to install, including many programming languages. For the rest, in particular desktop apps, there’s Flatpak.
- Speaking about which, Flatpak is installed by default, and since version 38, both the
flathubremotes are available off-the-box, opening the door to lots of excellent software.
- Even better, Firefox is not a Snap package but installed in
/usr/bin, as it should, ensuring all of its extensions work properly.
- GNOME 44 is very slick and modern, feels very intuitive to use. I’ve added a few extensions to customize it my way, just as I was doing with Ubuntu.
dnfhas some neat subcommands, such as
dnf swapto exchange a library by another, or
dnf providesto find out which package contains a particular program.
To be honest, the biggest issue I had was not directly related to Fedora 38 per se, but to GNOME 44: they have (for some reason) decided to get rid of taskbar icons, which means that I had to install the AppIndicator and KStatusNotifierItem Support GNOME extension to get them back. I suppose the new “background apps” feature was supposed to replace them, but in the current incantation it’s a buggy and incomplete thing, definitely not ready for production yet. I suppose they’ll fix it in future releases.
Another issue I had was related to Firefox not correctly displaying some video formats, which I solved by installing the non-free version of FFmpeg on my machine. Since I had installed the free version first, I used the command
sudo dnf swap ffmpeg-free ffmpeg --allowerasing to migrate from one to the other.
All in all I’m very satisfied with this change. Fedora 38 feels much more stable, fast, and more flexible than Ubuntu, to such a degree that I migrated my work laptop to Fedora 38 before flying to attend the Red Hat Summit in Boston last week. It’s a fantastic productivity environment.