First Look: Fedora 21 has something for everyone

Fedora 21 is a must-try distro for not only Gnome fans but also for anyone interested in a serious Linux distribution.

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I started my Linux journey with Fedora back in 2005 when I joined the EFY Magazine Group and Fedora Core 4 ran on their LTSP thin clients. Those good old memories came back when I booted Fedora 21 on my system.

I have been using Fedora 21 RC on a test machine for over a week and I am quite impressed with it.

So what’s new and exciting in this release?

With 21, the Fedora Project has started implementing the Fedora Next initiative, which will essentially make Fedora modular and flexible. That’s why we see three editions of Fedora 21 -- Workstation, Server and Cloud.

This modular approach allows developers to keep each version slim and optimized for the platform -- there won’t be unnecessary server tools on your Workstation or media players and browsers on Cloud.

Since developers are the primary target of Fedora, the Workstation edition comes with a tool called DevAssistant that automates the setup process for a large number of language runtimes and integrated development environments (IDEs).

DevAssistant also integrates with Fedora Software Collections, offering access to multiple versions of different languages without worrying about system software conflicts.

An ordinary desktop user like me will find quite a lot of exciting stuff in Fedora 21, as well.

Online Accounts is one of the features of Gnome that I have started to love (I wish other desktop environments, like Plasma, adopted a similar approach.) Using Online Accounts I can easily integrate online services such as Gmail, Facebook, Google Calender, Flickr, and ownCloud with the OS. Once you configure an account, for example Gmail, it automatically configures the default email client, calendar app, contact book and document reader to access that account.

Another notable thing a new Fedora user will see is Gnome Software, a front end for the package management system -- similar to Ubuntu Software Center or Mac App Store. 

Gnome Software is tightly integrated with Gnome. If you search for an application in Dash and it’s not installed, Dash will open the app in Software (if it’s available in the official repositories) and you can install it with one click.

Users will also be able to test Wayland, the successor of X.Org Server, in Fedora. You can easily choose it from the login screen. I tried it and everything worked just fine. You should certainly give it a try.

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You can select Wayland from the login screen.

One more interesting tool to check out in Fedora is Boxes, Gnome’s own virtualization alternative to VirtualBox and VMWare.

Boxes is a basic tool if you just want to try out an OS without having to install the full fledged, resource hungry virtualization applications. But if you are looking for serious virtualization I would suggest VirtualBox.

Fedora comes with a whole lot of applications pre-installed, so you can start your work as soon as you boot into the system. It comes with LibreOffice for productivity, Firefox as the web browser, Evolution as the default email client and calendar, Empathy as the instant messenger, Totem aka Videos for video playback, and Rhythmbox for music.

If you want more applications you can install them from ‘Software’, though you won’t find many popular applications there. Due to patent and licence issues Fedora can’t host many such applications on their server. In order make available such applications to users there is a third party repository RPMFusion. It’s Linux; there has to be a way!

There is something for everyone

Even though Gnome is the default DE of Fedora there are many official spins of Fedora including KDE, Xfce, LXDE, MATE, etc.

The only difference, that I noticed, is that Gnome seems to get more love. Fedora picked popular, and more feature-rich applications over the default Gnome apps for the Workstation. For example, instead of shipping Epiphany it pre-installed Firefox.

Other spins offer a more vanilla experience of that desktop. In the case of KDE Spin you will get the entire stack of KDE software, such as Kmail, Konqueror web browser and Calligra Office instead of widely used apps like LibreOffice, Thunderbird or Firefox.

I have been using Fedora 21 RC on a test machine for over a week and I am quite impressed with it. If you are aspiring to become a software developer, Fedora would be a great distro to start with.

Need more motivation? Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux, runs Fedora on all of his machines.

Now go ahead and download Fedora from the official page.

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