There are many myths about Fedora floating around. Some of them started out as facts that have changed long ago, others start out as rumors or misunderstandings. Some are just FUD spread by people who don't like Fedora. Here, we attempt to address some of the myths we have heard.
MYTH - Fedora is not suitable for everyday desktop users
FACT - Fedora is packed with features that make computing easy, secure, and enjoyable for everyone.
Fedora contributors such as Red Hat provide a great deal of the functionality found in modern Linux systems, not just Fedora. Fedora integrates these technologies in a way that is cooperative with their developers, so it arguably adheres better to their design and intent.
Features in Fedora such as NetworkManager, PackageKit, and PulseAudio make it easy for anyone to enjoy the next generation of free and open source computing. Our Security team provides rapid response to software issues and ensures that users can be as safe as possible in their use of Fedora software. (Some other "user friendly" distributions lag Fedora by days, weeks, or even months in their response times to these issues.)
Our openly-gathered statistics show that Fedora has a broad range of appeal and a wide user base. And the contributions of well-known, trusted names in free and open source software like Red Hat also ensure that Fedora continues to lead the pack in innovation and usability.
MYTH - Fedora is unstable and unreliable, just a testbed for bleeding-edge software
FACT - This myth comes from misunderstanding two things:
- Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) is derived from Fedora every few years.
- Fedora has rapid releases, a short life-cycle, and a lot of new code.
The first item means that Red Hat uses Fedora as a platform to promote the development of new technology, some of which might end up in Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and be inherited by other derivative distributions. Red Hat contributes to Fedora efforts in the same way as any other contributor can. Fedora provides a platform in which any contributor, large or small, can integrate and offer technologies for a large audience of consumers. This does not mean that Fedora is untested, it simply means that Fedora is a rapidly progressing platform.
For the second item, this does mean that Fedora is often running in uncharted innovative territory, but not that it is using too-new code. The programs in Fedora are generally stable releases or well-tested pre-release versions. There are guidelines behind the inclusion of pre-release software, and thorough testing is always done prior to Fedora releases. Refer to QA for more information about our extensive quality testing practices, which, like all other Fedora teams, are open to community participation.
Each new Fedora release receives updates from the Fedora community for two subsequent releases, plus one month -- on average, about thirteen months. We do everything we can to make sure that the final products released to the general public are stable and reliable. Fedora has proven that it can be a stable, reliable, and secure platform, as shown by its popularity and broad usage. Additionally, our well-managed packaging and review process adds an extra layer of safety not found in some other distributions.
You can count on Fedora.
MYTH - Fedora isn't true to free and open source philosophy, or isn't community-driven
FACT - Red Hat is the primary sponsor of the Fedora Project, and does direct some aspects of the project, but Fedora is driven by its community of contributors.
Red Hat's position with Fedora only aids to provide stronger management and direction than many other open source projects enjoy. Red Hat's interests are the interests of the community, and the community is given a great deal of power over what happens with Fedora. As an example, Fedora has thousands of packages maintained by hundreds of volunteers from the Fedora community.
Red Hat has always contributed a huge amount of development directly back to the community. Much of this work has become part of Fedora, and is evidence of the dedication of all of the contributors to the principles of free and open source software. Refer to Red Hat contributions for more details. Because Fedora is a project that is driven by contribution, those who participate have the most say in its direction, but Red Hat goes to great lengths to encourage and accept community direction.
Fedora itself is a completely free and open source project. Fedora has not only a publicly-available CVS repository for all its software, but also offers source code for every piece of the project, from build systems to web sites to artwork to documentation. All code must be covered by a [Packaging/Guidelines#Legal free and open source license] for inclusion in Fedora, guaranteeing your rights to modify and redistribute the software. The only things that are controlled by Red Hat are the Fedora trademarks. These protections are in place to ensure the integrity and continued value of the Fedora name and brand for use by the Fedora community, nothing more.
MYTH - Fedora doesn't include software that it could
FACT - One of the primary aims of the Fedora Project is to provide an open operating system that can be freely distributed and modified by anyone, wherever they are in the world.
We encourage anyone who wishes to see a free and open source software product included in Fedora to join the package maintainers team, but Fedora cannot accept packages that include features with potential legal liabilities. The Forbidden items page describes some of the legally problematic packages, and lists the open source alternatives that we provide.
For example, Fedora includes several media players which support a wide range of free and open formats, but does not include any proprietary technologies. Supporting these audio and video formats allow us to ship a multimedia-capable desktop that anyone, anywhere, can use and modify. The Fedora Project realizes that some users need to use the proprietary formats that we are not free to ship, and so we provide media players that are extensible via plugins. This allows third parties that legally distribute codecs for these formats to make them available as plugin packages that work with our media players. If users still want to have proprietary plugins like MP3 or MPEG to run on their systems, they can try the Fluendo plugins.
In general, the restrictions described on the Forbidden items page are intended to protect global distribution and use of our software to the greatest possible extent. Laws vary between jurisdictions, and lawyers may have differing interpretations, requiring the Project to adhere to more restrictive rules than others might choose to apply.
MYTH - Installing software is difficult, and RPM is the problem
FACT - Fedora provides the PackageKit and yum utilities for managing software. Like apt, Red Carpet, and other Linux software management systems, yum uses repositories of packages to automatically locate, query, download, and install the latest versions of software. The yum command-line utility is actively developed, and is closely integrated with Fedora. Users that find yum difficult to use are encouraged to use PackageKit instead.
The PackageKit utility provides both a command-line and a fully-featured graphical interface for managing software. PackageKit is also a cross-distribution application, meaning it can be used on many other distributions to manage software as well. It is now included in several other distributions and its use is growing more widespread. PackageKit uses the existing yum as a backend, so all the latest improvements to yum also improve the PackageKit user's experience.
RPM itself is simply a library and a file format for software packages that support specialized features, such as digital signatures for verifying the authenticity of the packages. The supplied rpm utility enables you to perform various tasks relating to RPM packages, including installing individual software packages, but it is not the recommended method for installing software on Fedora systems.
Many users use the obsolete phrase dependency hell in reference to a time, several years ago, when RPM software was more difficult to manage, before yum was available. Free and open source software move quickly, so opinions that software has not advanced during that time are misinformed and even dangerous to the community. This "dependency hell" has not existed for a very long time in Fedora. With advances not only in yum but also in the underlying RPM library and the inclusion in Fedora 11 of DeltaRPM support through the yum-presto plugin, Fedora software management now exceeds the capability of many other systems.
MYTH - Fedora lacks good management tools
FACT - Fedora developers follow a clear set of usability principles:
- The system should not require the user to do anything that the system can automatically do itself
- If a management tool is required, it should perform just one particular task, and do it well
- Management tools should have as many features as are required, but no unnecessary functions
- Management tools should not require exclusive control of configuration files - administrators must be able to safely manually edit configuration files if they wish
Significant effort has been invested in developing automatic hardware detection, and more recently in automatic network configuration with the NetworkManager system. Since Fedora Core 4, many USB devices will work as soon as they are plugged in, requiring no manual configuration at all.
Fedora supports common administrative tasks by providing a set of graphical utilities, collectively known as the system-config tools. These enable administrators to configure key aspects of the system, as well as popular network services. The Sabayon desktop management tool is developed on Fedora by Red Hat engineers, and follows the same design principles as the system-config tools.
Fedora also has arguably the most elegant and sophisticated installation software of any operating system. The Anaconda installer supports a wide range of methods from CD to network boot and installation over the Web. The kickstart facility makes creating and using templates for automating installation a simple task. Engineers constantly work on refining Anaconda, and extensions to this technology like Cobbler provide scalable installation and provisioning for the largest installation bases.
MYTH - You have to disable SELinux to use Fedora
FACT - Fedora's SELinux policy has evolved greatly over time, and many users never even know it exists because it exposes so few problems. SELinux is designed to prevent applications from doing things they shouldn't -- it's like a set of valet keys for your computer. If a flaw is suddenly exposed in software covered by SELinux, SELinux can prevent anyone exploiting the flaw from gaining access to large portions of your system. For example if someone breaks into a Web service running on your computer, they will not be able to access anything the Web server couldn't access, such as your personal email.
However, the SELinux policy also has a number of tunable booleans, which allow you to increase or decrease the amount of coverage for a service or across your whole system. These booleans allow you to deal with problematic applications with a single command, without turning off all the increased security and peace of mind that comes from SELinux.
Also, turning off SELinux using the disabled setting can have severe consequences for system upgrades or other changes in your system configuration later. When SELinux is completely disabled, your system cannot write context information along with newly created files and folders, even if that context information won't be used. If you then attempt to upgrade, recover, or otherwise operate in an SELinux-enabled environment, you may have problems. The permissive setting is more reasonable, because it will bypass SELinux's enhanced security but at least warn you when something unexpected happens. (The alert system can also be turned off either system-wide or per user if you don't want to be warned about potentially hazardous problems.)
MYTH - Fedora should use an alternative default filesystem
FACT - Fedora supports
ext3 and now
ext4 as the default filesystems because they are robust, and provides excellent performance for the normal range of systems and workloads.
Some alternative filesystems are designed to provide specialized management features and optimized performance for large-scale systems, but these do not provide greater performance than
ext3 on standard PC hardware. The
jfs filesystems are available as experimental installation options for those users and developers with advanced requirements. We welcome participation by interested developers to improve support for these filesystems.
The Reiser4 filesystem is still in development by Namesys, and does not currently fully support several key features required by Fedora users, including SELinux, ACLs (Access Control Lists), and NFS (Network File System). Namesys continues to maintain version 3 of the Reiser filesystem, but development is now focused on version 4. Version 3 of the Reiser filesystem also lacks robust support for ACLs and SELinux.
Fedora also includes experimental support for
btrfs and is actively tracking the progress of this interesting file system.