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Fedora makes the grade

The latest release of Fedora Core Linux, Core 3, makes our Linux Advisor one happy user.

The latest release of Fedora Core Linux, Core 3, makes me one happy Linux user. Linux has been gaining ground on the desktop, and the desktop applications have certainly improved. The desktop, though, never really felt right until the recent Core 3 release.

Red Hat, the major Linux distributor, produces Fedora Core Linux to offload a lot of the work that goes into supporting individual Linux users. Red Hat refined their products and services to focus on larger enterprises. Fedora then fills the gap for desktop and individual usage. You can download Fedora Core Linux for free.

Fedora has gone through a number of major releases, starting with Core 1, 2, and now, 3. The third time’s the charm as far as I’m concerned. Fedora Core 3 includes GNOME 2.8, the source of most of the improved goodness. I’ve been a GNOME user for years, and prefer GNOME to KDE, the other major Linux desktop. With the 2.8 release, GNOME finally feels right for day-to-day desktop usage.

For example, USB devices that I formerly had to manually mount now automatically appear on the desktop when I plug them in. This may be a no-brainer in the Windows world, but has always been a problem in Linux, since device vendors rarely support Linux, leaving the work for volunteer Linux developers.

The latest version of GNOME, though, dramatically improves the support for hot-plugged USB devices. I plugged in a BusLink MP3 player, and an iPod-like icon appears on the desktop. My SanDisk Cruzer, supported by Linux but not previously by GNOME, shows a USB drive icon. In previous Fedore Core releases, I needed to mount these devices from a user with root permissions. That is not something a Linux newcomer would be able to do.

Fedora Core 3 presents Mozilla Firefox as the default web browser, upgrading from the Mozilla suite in the Core 2 release. The default mail client remains Evolution, which looks neat but has never worked to my satisfaction, especially when forwarding messages. I prefer Mozilla Thunderbird instead.

The Rhythmbox music player has improved enough to finally convince me to migrate from XMMS. I really like the GNOME panel applet that allows you to control Rythmbox from the panel.

Gaim remains one of the best Linux IM clients. It supported the Microsoft network (MSN) instantly, and has for a number of releases. The OpenOffice.org office suite offers a better Office than Microsoft Office.

After using OpenOffice.org and Microsoft Office side by side on a Windows system, I appreciate OpenOffice.org more and more. And, the OpenOffice suite’s one-button save to PDF feature proves perfect when creating documents for the web.

On the downside, I had a lot more problems adding in support for MP3 music and MPEG videos to Fedora. Due to patents for decoding MP3s and MPEG video, Red Hat choose not to include this support in their Linux distributions. Fedora, essentially a Red Hat project, continues this tradition. While I certainly don’t mind using the Ogg Vorbis encoding format, the rest of the world uses MP3.

With Fedora Core 2, a simple update added support for these multimedia formats. With Core 3, though, I had a lot more trouble adding this support. I had to download the proper GStreamer packages, along with a number of conflicting dependencies. Even so, Fedora Core 3 offers one of the finest Linux desktop platforms to date.

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