Thursday, August 7, 2008

Fedora 9

Are you sick of the sluggish performance of Windows or its ability to throw a blue screen at you in a moments notice? What about the software for Windows; it will almost always cost you a good deal to install software that not only does what you want it to but does it well? You use a Mac you say? Again, expensive software... but even before you spend all your disposable cash on Mac apps. you have to actually purchase the computer. Macs are about twice as expensive as PCs on the average and the computing power you receive is often inferior to that of a run of the mill PC. Yeah, I know, Macs are pretty and have fun graphical effects that make the computing experience all the better, but you still have to pay an arm and a leg for it.

Now, I used to be your basic computer lay person, only checking email and surfing the web with a game of solitare mixed in for good measure. About two years ago, though, while doing summer research at Oswego State, I decided to take my computing experience to the next level, ditching Windows in favor of a superior OS in the minds of all my scientific colleagues. Mac, right!? No, I'm a poor college student and have no way of affording a machine like that. Instead, I made the switch to Linux, a Unix based OS. Why in the world did I switch? The OS was more stable, more efficient with resources (thus much faster) and best of all, it's FREE! I needed an OS that was ideal for scientific research (which means lots and lots of programming and data analysis) and Linux provides the correct environment for science.

Two years later, I'm still using Linux and love it more than ever. While I have had my fair share of problems arising from hardware incompatabilities and missing drivers, the experience of troubleshooting all of the errors I have encountered has been a wonderful learning experience. Choosing my flavor of Linux was difficult, but I eventually settled on what was then Fedora Core 6. Now, I still use Fedora, but have upgraded to release 9 of Fedora (which is no longer Fedora Core).

Fedora 9 (codename Sulphur) is a wonerful OS which I feel has made huge leaps since the days of Fedora 6. I have used every release of Fedora since release 6 and have noted the changes in each new release, but I feel that release 9 has the most notable changes and the greatest improvement of all the releases. With Gnome 2.22.3 and KDE4 as the GUIs Fedora supports wonderful features and a brilliant GUI experience. Graphical effects, similar to those of Mac have been available for a while with Linux, but have never been brilliant and use a lot of graphics power causing the computer to work sluggishly. But with the introduction of Compiz Fusion in Fedora 9 the graphics are smooth and have no effect on the computer's speed. Granted I'm running a better graphics card on my new-ish notebook, even in release 8 of Fedora on my notebook the graphics processing wasn't as smooth as it is in 9. I truely feel that the grahpics enabled by Compiz Fusion rival those of Mac, but for thousands of dollars less.

Hardware compatability has always been an issue for me with Fedora, as I have had to endlessly search for the correct drivers for both my graphics card (nVidia GeForce) and my wireless card (Intel). With release 9, though, these issues have been resolved and the hardware drivers were installed right during the OS installation. In conjunction with the wireless drivers, the new Network Manager for 9 is wonderfully easy to grasp. Just plug in the ethernet cord and the Manager finds it instantly and enables the LAN connection. Wireless as well, it automatically lists all of the available wireless connections and connects to the strongest signal, a far cry from Fedora 8 where if it could not locate an appropriate wireless signal during boot up you had to manually enable the device without knowing what signals were available unless you knew the iwlist command. Fedora 9 also found my webcam, built-in to my notebook's screen, Fedora has never recognized it and rendered it useless, but 9 takes care of those issues and I have now been able to take advantage of the webcam I received with my computer.

Boot up and shutdown have also been greatly improved, both occur with great speed, much faster than previous releases, mostly because the OS does not worry about enabling the wireless device and ethernet card until the user logs into the system. This was always a stall point on boot ups in the past, especially if the wireless signal could not be located.

Fedora also resolved a long standing issue with Java. You used to have to install it manually and then configure it to work properly, at least for web applets. The inclusion of IcedTea in Fedora 8 I found to be a miserable failure; it actually caused my computer to freeze when a web applet was accessed. With 9, they included a JRE package and it works flawlessly for both Desktop apps and web apps.

With other notable changes, including a change to the Yum repository manager (which I'm not the biggest fan of), and the inclusion of Firefox 3, I find that Fedora 9 is a far superior OS to that of Windows (especially Vista). I have access to all of my music and with the appropriate downloads one can play mp3s with no problem.

I highly reccommend Fedora 9 to anyone thinking about switching from Windows or Mac to Linux. It's very "newbie friendly", partitioning is easy as pie and is quite easy to install. Yes, I leave Vista on my computer just in case, but use it as little as possible. With a 2GHz Core 2 Duo processor, 2GB of RAM, and a 160GB hard disk I have plenty of resources to run off of and is in most cases overkill when running Linux. I used to run it on my 512MB RAM, Pentium 4 desktop with no issue aside from an inferior graphics card. Great for lightweight machines, I encourage people to switch to Linux, though people should make an informed decision before they switch, but when they do, they'll find that Fedora 9 is extremely user friendly and far superior to Windows or Mac. I could go on forever about Fedora 9 and my reccommendation for people to switch, but I am not an expert and want to warn everyone that I am not an authority on Linux (though I do know more than the average user, I believe).

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