As newer Ubuntu users become more accustomed to their desktop experience, occasionally they decide to try something different—like Fedora. With my previous article, I took a stern look at OpenSUSE vs. Ubuntu. So in this article, I'll explore the differences between Fedora and Ubuntu, along with examining areas where each distribution excels or fails.
Installation Made Simple
One area where both Ubuntu and Fedora have done a great job is in making sure that the operating system's installation is as simple as possible. With both distributions, selecting the desired partitions and continuing with the installation is as easy as clicking "next."
Where things differ, however, is when you're selecting your ISO to download. Fedora provides you with the GNOME desktop, whereas Ubuntu relies on Unity. Both share some things, but for the most part, they're very different user experiences. Personally, I found Unity to be on par with a vanilla GNOME installation, as each provide much of the same functionality.
Another interesting comparable is that both Ubuntu and Fedora offer spins. For example, you can get Fedora with KDE or Ubuntu with KDE. Where things differ, however, is that Fedora largely embraces other desktop environments, like KDE, while Ubuntu, leaves these projects to others to manage.
Ubuntu has ample software available, thanks in part to the popularity of both the distro and the software creators supporting Debian packages. This is then expanded even further through Ubuntu's Personal Package Archives (PPAs). Sadly, Fedora really doesn't have as much to work with in this space. While it's certainly doable to locate RPM packages via RPM search engines, for the most part Fedora's package availability isn't that great when compared to Ubuntu.
Now, I should point out that Fedora users do have resources available. Great options like Koji allow Fedora app developers to host packages and share them with others. But perhaps the closest example of PPAs for Fedora users would be the Fedora People Repositories. Having access to these user repositories is helpful, but I would challenge anyone to show me how Fedora has greater software availability than Ubuntu because I just don't see it happening.
Under Ubuntu, software management is handled by dpkg, and the end user relies on the Ubuntu Software Center to install and remove software. The software center is helpful in allowing users to discover new software or even try a new game suggested on the front page. In addition, users can still rely on the terminal, while using APT if they prefer.
Fedora also allows users to install software from the terminal using yum. The closest thing Fedora offers to a Software Center, however, is called PackageKit. The idea behind PackageKit is similar to the Ubuntu Software Center in that you have a GUI tool from which software can be installed. The key differences between the two tools are as follows: First, PackageKit isn't as bloated as the Software Center. Second, PackageKit doesn't provide a featured software scroller like the Software Center does.
FOSS vs. Proprietary Software
Perhaps one of the biggest differences between Ubuntu and Fedora is the view of software licensing on each distro. Ubuntu is designed to run whatever works. This means providing a GUI to help install proprietary drivers, plus proprietary apps/games within the software repositories (if enabled). On the other side of the coin, Fedora accepts only FOSS-based applications into its repositories. And while it's certainly doable to install proprietary drivers and so forth onto a Fedora install, it's not as easy as Ubuntu. This lack of ease is by design, however.
To expand on the topic of Fedora's approach even further, one needs only to read Fedora's "Forbidden Items" wiki page. There you'll discover that Fedora lacks immediate access to everything from Adobe Flash to TrueCrypt. At first, this may seem rather limiting. But in Fedora's defense, they do try to offer an alternative for each proprietary option lacking in the distribution.