New to Linux? Fedora, Please!

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This is fairly off-topic for my blog, but it deserves to be said anyway.

I strongly encourage you to use Linux. If you are worried about privacy and security, you will use Linux. Sure, it cannot run all of your favorite apps, but I have found you don’t really need most of them and there are good free software alternatives.

Sidenote: “free software” refers to free as in freedom. See here. Note that you may have to pay for free software, but you are guaranteed software freedoms that will make us free.

There are a variety of linux distributions out there, each with their set of fancy promises. Let me list some of the more popular ones, and why you shouldn’t use them.

  • Linux Mint, which touts itself as really easy. The problem is it ships with non-free software and is insecure and buggy.
  • Ubuntu, which touts itself as really easy. The problem is it ships with non-free software and is insecure and buggy.
  • Debian, which touts itself as free. Yes, it is, but it is also difficult to work with. If you can make Debian work, more power to you. You are a better Linux user than me.
  • Gentoo, which touts itself as free and allows you to build all the software on your computer. This takes a long time, and there are some problems with the concept.

What is Fedora? Fedora is free as in free beer and free as in freedom. It is managed by the Red Hat company, which sells RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux). Red Hat makes its money by selling subscriptions to RHEL and by supporting the companies who use it. If you have lots of money to throw around, and you want to make sure your Linux just works, use RHEL. It is, by far, the best Linux distro out there that money can buy. If you are tech-savvy, you can use CentOS, which is RHEL but for free and without the tech support. It is not supported by Red Hat but it maintains a very close relationship with the software in RHEL, so if you’re thinking of going RHEL, you might want to experiment with CentOS at first. Or if all you know is RHEL, then CentOS is good for home use.

Fedora is the free as in beer version of Linux that Red Hat sponsors. All the software that goes into RHEL first goes into Fedora, where it is “baked”, meaning used by thousands and thousands of people. As they use it, they find bugs, and they report those bugs, and the bugs get fixed. Basically, Red Hat sees Fedora as its developmental version of RHEL.

Now, to get to my point on why you should use Fedora:

  • It’s free as in free beer
  • It’s free as in freedom
  • It has great support
  • It is probably the most secure Linux distro out there, besides Debian.
  • You want privacy? You can have it on Fedora.
  • It is very similar to RHEL, should you decide you need that
  • It has all the latest and greatest software
  • It is really easy to work with

Some people complain because of Fedora’s flaws. Let me list them and how you can overcome them.

  • There are a lot of “flavors” of Fedora. My recommendation: Run with KDE, and be done with it. Later on, you can experiment with others. If you decide to do Gnome, that’s fine too.
  • Fedora doesn’t include non-free software like Adobe Flash. You can still install this but you have to use a separate repository which is trivial to setup. I recommend not using Flash. It needs to die quickly. (I turn off flash on my windows and Mac laptops.)
  • Fedora is hard because it is so complicated. Yes, it is complicated because it doesn’t try to hide things from you. Learn your new Linux system bit-by-bit as you run into problems. Fedora and the Fedora help forums will teach you what is really going on rather than give you some magic commands that seem to make the issue go away. The Fedora community will treat you like a responsible adult.

And finally: Don’t install Linux on your computer directly. Get a program called VirtualBox, and create a virtual Linux instance and use that instead. As you spend more and more time in your Linux instance, you will maybe one day decide that you’d like it as your host software. As for me, I just run it in the VirtualBox and all is well.

If you have questions, ask me.

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