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The many faces of Fedora

June 16, 2011

There’s no doubt that Fedora is one of the most popular versions of desktop Linux. As I write this column, Fedora is currently at #3 on Distrowatch page hit ranking. Only Linux Mint and Ubuntu beat it in DistroWatch’s page hit ranking system. That’s pretty good for a distro that sometimes doesn’t get nearly the same amount of attention and accolades as Ubuntu.

Some folks might be unaware though that Fedora comes in a number of different versions; each designed to appeal to a particular audience. Yes, it’s true. Fedora has many faces and here’s a brief look at each of them for those who might be interested in taking another look at this fine desktop distribution.

Fedora On DistroWatch

Fedora On DistroWatch

Fedora Games
It might surprise some to know that a games respin of Fedora is available. Linux has never been considered a great gaming OS but there are some good games available for it, and Fedora Games might be worth the consideration of gamers.

Fedora Games has a number of different gaming genres, including first person shooters, strategy, and puzzle games. You can also download additional games via Fedora’s add/remove software tool.

Super Tux Kart

Super Tux Kart

Foo Billiard

Foo Billiard

Alien Arena

Alien Arena

Here’s a very brief sample of the games you’ll find available in the Fedora Games Spin. Visit the Fedora games page for a full list of more than one hundred games.

Battle for Wesnoth
Alien Arena
Scorched 3D
Flight Gear

The Fedora Games Spin might not be the most well known gaming distro right now, but I think it will carve out a healthy niche over time as more and more gamers discover it.

Fedora Design-suite
In the past Fedora has usually been considered more of a developer’s distribution than something for creative types (not that developers aren’t creative, they are but in a different way). Fedora Design-suite blows that stereotype out of the water by providing a distro geared toward designers.

Here’s a sample of some of the design software available in Fedora Design-suite, and you can also download more in the add/remove software tool.


Fedora Design-suite

Fedora Design-suite

I suspect that your average desktop user probably won’t need this respin of Fedora, but it’s still a nice option for those who gravitate toward design. The included applications are a great set of basic tools in that regard and it’s very easy to download supplemental applications to broaden the set of applications.

Fedora Electronic-Lab
FEL is Fedora’s Electronic Laboratory. Here’s some background information on what it’s all about:

Fedora’s Electronic Laboratory, an opensource hardware design and simulation platform, is dedicated to support the innovation and development brought by opensource Electronic Design Automation (EDA) community.

Fedora Electronic Laboratory provides a complete electronic laboratory setup with reliable open source design tools in order to help you keep in pace with current technological race. It reduces the risk assessment of open source hardware development and enable electronic designers tapeout quickly and efficiently.

Fedora Electronic Lab targets mainly the Micro-Nano Electronic Engineering field. It introduces:

A collection of Perl modules to extend Verilog and VHDL support.
Tools for Application-Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) Design Flow process.
Extra standard cell libraries supporting a feature size of 0.13µm. (more than 300 MB)
Extracted spice decks which can be simulated with gnucap/ngspice or any spice simulators.
Interoperability between various packages in order to achieve different design flows.
Tools for embedded design and to provide support for ARM as a secondary architecture in Fedora.
Tool set for Openmoko development and other open source hardware communities.
A peer review eeb-based solution coupled with an Eclipse IDE for Embedded/Digital Hardware IP design.
PLA tools, C-based design methodologies, simulators for 8051 and 8085 microcontrollers and many more.

Fedora FEL

Fedora FEL

Obviously general desktop users are not the intended audience for FEL. But it’s still a very interesting respin of Fedora that seems well suited for its intended audience.

Fedora Security Lab
Security is a perennial concern for many in the computing industry. The Fedora Security Lab is designed to provide a testing environment for those interested in system rescue, security auditing and computer forensics. This Fedora spin is managed by a group of security developers and testers.

Fedora Security Lab uses the LXDE desktop environment and comes with tools useful in rescuing a system or running security tests. While Fedora Security Lab is probably not of interest to all desktop users, it has the potential to be incredibly helpful for those engaged in the field of computer security.

Fedora Security

Fedora Security

On the next page, I’ll take a look at some of the other versions of Fedora that use the KDE, LXDE and XFCE desktop environments.

Fedora KDE
There has always been a bit of a split between KDE and GNOME users, with each sect promoting its desktop of choice. The nice thing about Fedora is that you can use the default desktop version (which uses GNOME) or you can opt for the KDE version.

KDE has much to offer any desktop user via its cool Plasma desktop interface. You’ll also get some great KDE applications such as KOffice, Ktimetracker, Akregator, Kaffeine, KMail and many others.

Plus you can load your KDE desktop up with useful and fun widgets to enhance its functionality. There are also plenty of fun desktop games available too, including Kolf, KGoldrunner and numerous others.

Fedora KDE

Fedora KDE

So if you’re a KDE fan you should definitely check out Fedora KDE.  See the about page for more details and a download link.

Fedora LXDE
While KDE and GNOME are arguably more popular, you should note that there’s an LXDE version of Fedora available too. Fedora LXDE is geared towards those running older machines or who simply want a slimmed down desktop environment without the bells and whistles found in KDE or GNOME.

Here’s some background on LXDE from LXDE.org:

The “Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment” is an extremely fast-performing and energy-saving desktop environment. Maintained by an international community of developers, it comes with a beautiful interface, multi-language support, standard keyboard short cuts and additional features like tabbed file browsing.

LXDE uses less CPU and less RAM than other environments. It is especially designed for cloud computers with low hardware specifications, such as, netbooks, mobile devices (e.g. MIDs) or older computers. LXDE can be installed with many Linux distributions including Ubuntu, Debian and Fedora. It is the standard for Knoppix and lubuntu.

Fedora LXDE

Fedora LXDE

Fedora LXDE is particularly well suited for netbooks and mobile devices as well as older computers. It’s definitely worth checking out if you are a minimalist or if your computing hardware is modest or aging.

Fedora XFCE
LXDE isn’t the only game in town if you need a minimalist desktop. Fedora XFCE has much to offer in that regard as well. The XFCE version of Fedora will give you the power of Fedora in a lightweight desktop environment that is perfect for older hardware.

If you aren’t familiar with XFCE, here’s a brief bit of background from the XFCE about page to fill you in:

Xfce is a lightweight desktop environment for UNIX-like operating systems. It aims to be fast and low on system resources, while still being visually appealing and user friendly.

Xfce embodies the traditional UNIX philosophy of modularity and re-usability. It consists of a number of components that provide the full functionality one can expect of a modern desktop environment. They are packaged separately and you can pick among the available packages to create the optimal personal working environment.

Another priority of Xfce is adherence to standards, specifically those defined at freedesktop.org.

Fedora XFCE

Fedora XFCE is an excellent alternative to the more bloated desktop environments and should be considered by minimalists and those running aging or limited hardware.

Fedora Desktop Edition (GNOME)
As great as the other versions of Fedora can be, I can’t resist including the default version of Fedora that uses the GNOME desktop. If KDE, LXDE and XFCE don’t appeal to you then be sure to grab this version.

If you’ve never used Fedora Desktop Edition before, be sure to check out the features and screenshots page. There’s quite a lot of information on that page about Fedora Desktop Edition’s features and applications. Suffice to say it compares very well with the other Fedora spins and GNOME users will probably like it a lot.

Final Thoughts
As you can see, Fedora has a great deal more to offer than its default desktop version. It has become a jack of many trades and has penetrated a number of important niches. Although Fedora was popular before, its respins will probably help increase its popularity even more as more and more users find out about them.

The Fedora developers have taken what used to be regarded as a bit of a “fuddy-duddy” distro and turned it into a multi-faceted Linux distribution with great appeal to a number of important audiences. If you get a chance, check out whichever Fedora spin appeals to you most.

What’s your take on Fedora’s spins? Are you interested in any of them? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


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7 Responses to The many faces of Fedora

  1. Brian Masinick on July 2, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    I have not gotten into a lot of the fancy respins, but one Fedora 15 spin that I REALLY like is Fedora 15 Xfce. The Xfce desktop is arguably the most mature desktop, at least of the four major desktop environments generally available: KDE, GNOME, LXDE, and Xfce. Originally created in 1996, using the available Xforms at that time, in the early 2000s Xfce was rewritten from scratch, replacing Xforms with Gtk+, the same technology used to develop GNOME software. Many of the installable, replaceable parts were also revamped, several scrapped or renamed, but all that was years ago, when Version 4 was conceived. Xfce is now stable at Version 4.8, and it is a great way to harness and leverage the power of Fedora – or any other Linux-based software, for that matter.

    Fedora 15 Xfce uses the same themes as Fedora 15 KDE, so if you enjoyed them, you will enjoy Fedora 15 Xfce as well. Fedora 15 KDE has more features and is the richest desktop experience available, but quite a bit of it is, frankly, unnecessary for every day use. If you just want to get things done, then Fedora 15 Xfce is a great way to go.

    Note that Fedora 15 Xfce does not come with non-free stuff built in; it’s the Fedora way. However, it is easy to search and both Fedora forums and search engines are a great way to find non-free extensions, whether firmware drivers, fonts, codecs, or non-free applications, they are out there for Fedora, just as they are for most other solid Linux projects.

  2. Rev. Lou M on June 23, 2011 at 12:15 am

    As a guy who got his MCSE in the same week as 9/11, I never got into the field. As a hobby, I started reno-ing older machines for charities a couple of years ago and was introduced to Ubuntu by a fellow at my “dayjob” as a way to install an OS without running afoul of licensure. Since then, I have tried HARD to find a good distro, as ALL of the things I have tried run like an old snail going uphill…Fedora to the rescue!

    I was SO impressed that I loaded a machine with it for myself!

  3. Russell Hollander on June 17, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    Great write-up. I use Fedora’s Xfce spin on my netbook and as a VM on my (windows) work computer. It’s light and fast, and was my first introduction to Xfce, which is now my desktop environment of choice with Slackware and Linux Mint that I run on my other machines.

  4. ghabuntu on June 17, 2011 at 10:29 am

    OK thanks a boatload. Never knew Fedora had all these facets as well. Hope I don’t double post. Getting an error here

  5. ghabuntu on June 17, 2011 at 10:27 am

    OK thanks a boatload. Never knew Fedora had all these facets as well.

  6. Jim Lynch on June 17, 2011 at 2:59 am

    Thanks, Brian. Glad you enjoyed it.

    I think you might be right about them broadening their appeal. Although they are already doing quite while on the distrowatch ranks, it never hurts to have more users if you can get them.

  7. Brian Masinick on June 17, 2011 at 2:49 am

    Nice roundup, Jim. I had read about the respins project. They’ve had some type of respin capability available for at least a couple of years, if not longer, but over the past year or so they have really revamped and reorganized the way that they do things, and the result are a great number of nicely tailored distributions for a great number of different needs and interests. Though I knew about the project, I had not been following it closely enough to realize just how many variations and respins that they have nowl that list is quite impressive. Fedora, openSUSE (with Studio), and Canonical, both with their own versions and the scores of variations created by others in the “Ubuntu camp” have a huge number of varieties, and we can’t discount the great number of Debian-derived distributions, of which we can even count Ubuntu. But Fedora may really be on to something here, and this may help them re-create and greatly enhance the brand, leading more people to have familiarity with the Red Hat way (and therefore have to skills to use and support RHEL on the job).

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