Fedora and workstations (on Linux distributions for desktops)

July 8, 2009

Comments on the last entry brought up the question Fedora on desktops (what I call 'workstations' out of tradition), and in general the issue of what distribution to run on them. It's a good question and I can't claim exhaustive experience, but here's my views.

I run Fedora on my own desktop and, despite my gripes, it generally works and works well. I deal with the short support period partly by accepting that I'll lose a few days to upgrades every year (or every six months if I'm ambitious) and partly by running Fedora versions well beyond their end of life date and accepting the potential security risks with my eyes open.

(I only run beyond EOL on my own machines, which are single user and relatively locked down, with very little exposed. As far as bugs in things like Firefox are concerned, I am either very safe or very exposed no matter what, because I am still running a custom compiled Firefox from quite a few years ago.)

For all that I don't particularly like Ubuntu, I think that it's your best choice if once a year upgrades (or reinstalls) are still too much disruption. It has a great package selection, relatively recent software versions, and even the normal version is supported for 18 months. And you can move between regular and LTS versions as your needs for stability versus current software versions change, especially since Ubuntu has good release to release upgrades.

I wouldn't run RHEL/CentOS for desktops unless they were basically a captive environment that was used only or almost entirely to run known applications. As general use machines I'd be concerned about a limited package selection and about having rather old software versions (at least eventually, since RHEL releases seem to be happening at most once every two years).

Comments on this page:

From at 2009-07-08 03:11:43:

I find my self doing similar things.

As I mentioned before, maybe a little too exuberantly, I run CentOS on the servers (lack of funds for RHEL, mostly), and on the single solitary Linux desktop in the company (mine), I've got Ubuntu.

There are several aspects of Ubuntu that I really dig. First and foremost, for a desktop user, something like "synaptic" is just amazing. Especially for someone coming from Slackware, where the name of the game was "find, then compile necessary libraries, then compile the actual program you wanted, then find and compile all the necessary libraries that were undocumented, then make clean and try again". Click and install is a big win for the Linux desktop market.

Their distro upgrade process is pretty neat, too. I'm not sure if YUM supports major distro upgrades the way apt-get does, but I know it does at least minor numbers, as some of my CentOS 5.2 boxes recently became 5.3 when I updated them.

Matt Simmons

From at 2009-07-08 10:02:13:


I've never tried it with CentOS, but yum will do major updates on Fedora. It isn't officially supported, but it generally works with a few small headaches. I would imagine that CentOS would work about the same.

From at 2009-07-08 15:38:37:

synaptics works just fine in F11 and it has integrated configuration in desktop tools. The old standalone utility is long forgotten by everyone except the stalwards of the obsolete.

By cks at 2009-07-13 11:27:36:

It's worth noting that minor version updates on CentOS (and RHEL) aren't really anything more than Red Hat deciding that enough package updates have been made that they ought to increase the minor release number. (I think that they also release updated ISO images with the current updates merged in.)

From at 2009-07-15 05:56:13:


hello. i'm not shure it is true for rhel. base of the system should be abi compatible but some versions increase and features are added. what you say is true for debian's minor versions in the same diistro releaese (lenny for example)


From at 2010-08-08 10:33:02:

Came across this because of a more recent post. You can drastically improve CentOS's (or RHEL's) package breadth vis a vis Fedora with the EPEL repository, but yeah, I run Fedora on workstations, myself. (I still do use EPEL on my servers, though.)


Written on 08 July 2009.
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