Fedora Core 5 Review with Screenshots
Several years ago, when I was first looking to switch from Windows to a new operating, I was really interested in switching to Linux or Unix. Unfortunately, in my experience, you had to be a command line hack if you wanted to install, enhance or fix anything. I had no desire to run an operating system that needed hours of work to configure. Not only that, many of the applications that I needed were still in their infancy and didn’t hold up well to existing Windows applications. So Linux and Unix were out of the question.
I ended up switching over to the Apple Mac platform when they came out with Mac OS X 10.1. At the time, I could do 95% of what I did on Windows, and configuring and maintaining it made Windows look like Linux. Today I’m an avid Mac user, but that still hasn’t extinguished my desire to find a capable, free and easy operating system that can run on cheap intel-based equipment. That’s where Fedora Core 5 comes in. I first heard about Fedora Core when it was announced that the new $100 laptop would be running it. I thought to myself, if this computer is intended for everyday common users, it must be easy to use.
My main interest in reviewing Fedora Core was to find out if my mom could use it. Is Fedora really easy to use and does it come with everything a typical computer user would need? Let’s find out…
Although Fedora has an excellent installation procedure for Linux, it’s still not as user-friendly as a Windows or Mac OS X installation. The thing that’s always frustrated me with Linux installations is how it allocates partitions on the hard drive. Something like that is way too complicated for my mom, and she would easily be stuck on that step. The ideal installation for any flavor of Linux would be to resort to not making the user think â€” just tell the user that they’re going to configure their hard drive and keep moving.
Fedora Welcome/Login Screen
I was really pleased with the look and feel of the login screen. It’s obvious that the UI theme designers spent a great deal of time designing it. Of particular interest was how a person logs in. Instead of the customary username and password fields, they only show the username field. After you enter your username and press the Enter key, the password field appears. Although it sounds like it would be a clunky two-step process, it actually works really well.
The Fedora desktop takes a little bit from Windows and a little bit from Mac OS X. The task bar is located at the bottom of the screen and it shows all of the active applications. On top is the menu bar, which gives you access to all of your options â€” applications, settings, etc… The most commonly used applications are identified with one-click icons, while all of the other applications can be accessed using the menus.
The desktop itself is left uncluttered and clean, and sports just a few icons â€” Computer, Home Folder, CD-ROM (if one is inserted) and the Trash folder. The background continues the metallic blue theme that’s used on the login screen.
One of the most important things for an operating system to succeed is to have good applications. Fedora appears to cover the needs of most users by providing full-featured applications for business, entertainment and the Internet. I found most, if not all of the applications, to be as easy to use as any Windows or Mac applications.
Fedora uses Firefox for their default Internet browser. That’s my first choice on any operating system, so it’s nice to see they didn’t use something like Konqueror instead. Not that Konqueror isn’t a good browser, but I’d like to see Firefox become the standard on all platforms for Internet browsing.
The default email client is Evolution and it has a clean Outlook Express look and feel to it. All of your basics are there, including a junk mail filter.
The Word processor is part of OpenOffice 2.0, which is used for most of the business applications.
Calc makes it easy for users to forget Excel.
OpenOffice’s presentation tool is also quite impressive.
Another part of Evolution is their calendar application â€” a no frills open standard calendar application.
I have mixed feelings about the default music player. Although it has a familiar iTunes design, it doesn’t play MP3s (because of issues with licensing). Instead, they recommend and support the OGG format. This of course is an excellent audio format, but isn’t compatible with most of the digital music that’s readily available.
Image Manipulation (aka Photoshop)
Gimp is included as the main application for manipulating images. It’s clunky, but it works.
Managing software packages on Linux hasn’t always been that intuitive or easy for regular users to figure out. I always knew that if my mom was going to ever be able to do software updates on her own, it would have to be crazy simple. Fedora appears to have pulled that off with their Package Updater. Simply open the program and give it a minute to check for updates. The program will notify you if any updates are available and all the user has to do is click on the update button â€” simple as that.
Similar to the software update issue, being able to add and remove software packages needs to be a brainless action. Fedora again accomplishes this with their Package Manager application. Simply check or uncheck an application, click Apply, and you’re done.
There’s nothing new with the navigation of the system, other than an overt attempt to keep it simple. Similar to the latest Windows and Mac OS X strategies, Fedora makes an effort to only show what the typical user needs to see. Although this may be annoying to more advanced users, it’s exactly what a typical user needs.
I found the system shutdown option to be strangely placed. Instead of putting the option on a menu at the end of the bar (similar to Windows and Mac OS X), it was placed a couple menus over. This didn’t seem intuitive to me at all.
Fedora Core 5 is a superb operating system with an excellent base of applications. It’s the operating system that I’ve been waiting for in regards to free and usable. I still don’t think I’d let my mom install it, but I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t have any problems using it on a daily basis as a home or work computer.
If I had a cheap intel-based computer, and if I wanted to outfit my mom with a cheap but powerful operating system, I wouldn’t hesitate to hook her up with Fedora. It does everything she would ever need.