Fedora and Ubuntu are both outstanding Linux distributions, each of which takes a different path to the same goal. But what are their differences and similarities, and which is right for you?
Some years ago, had you asked me if Fedora Linux was a good option for new users, I would have answered with a resounding, “No way!”
That was then; this is now. Over the past couple of releases, Fedora has made great strides toward becoming an operating system fit for those with little experience. But has it caught up with Ubuntu? And what about advanced users?
Let’s take a look into the similarities and differences between Fedora and Ubuntu Linux and see if we can determine which might be the best fit for your needs.
SEE: Linux turns 30: Celebrating the open source operating system (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
What is Fedora?
Fedora is an open source operating system sponsored by Red Hat that contains software distributed under a variety of licenses. Fedora is the upstream source for Red Hat Enterprise Linux, which means it’s considered a sort of testing ground for Red Hat’s flagship product.
Fedora was first released on November 6, 2003, and tends to focus on innovation, integrating new technologies, and working in conjunction with the upstream Linux community so the work is available for all Linux distributions.
What is Ubuntu?
Ubuntu is an open source operating system sponsored by Canonical and based on Debian. Ubuntu’s initial release was 4.10 (Warty Warthog) in October 2004. There are three different versions of Ubuntu:
Fedora vs. Ubuntu: Feature comparison
|Default desktop||Vanilla GNOME||Customized GNOME|
|Desktop and server releases||Yes||Yes|
Head-to-head comparison: Fedora vs. Ubuntu
Fedora and Ubuntu use very different package managers for the installation of software. Where Fedora opts for dnf, rpm and Flatpak, Ubuntu goes with apt, dpkg and Snap. Unlike Ubuntu’s Snap universal package system, which is maintained by Canonical, Flatpak is distribution agnostic.
Both desktop distributions benefit from GNOME’s GUI Software app store to help users easily install software.
Both Fedora and Ubuntu use sudo and even add the default user – whom you create during installation – to the admin group. The difference between the two is that Fedora’s admin group is “wheel,” whereas Ubuntu’s is “sudo.”
One similarity is that neither distribution allows the root user to log in. However, with Fedora, you can change to the root user with the command sudo su and on Ubuntu, you can use sudo -s, which doesn’t actually change to the root user but changes your user to a shell with admin privileges.
A new Fedora version is made available every six months, each of which is supported for 13 months only. Ubuntu, on the other hand, offers two different release cycles: LTS and regular. LTS (Long Term Support) is released every two years and receives five years of support. The regular version is released every six months and is supported for nine months.
Software availability and updates
Once upon a time, Fedora was considered to be more of a bleeding-edge distribution, but that has changed over the years. For example, both the latest releases of each ship with the same LibreOffice versions (126.96.36.199). On the other hand, Ubuntu ships with a new version of Firefox (v 101.0, vs. Fedora’s 99.0.1).
One other difference between the two is that Fedora can sometimes take a Windows approach to upgrades, in that the update happens during a reboot. Ubuntu does all updates with the user logged in and only requires a reboot if the kernel is upgraded.
Most Linux admins know about Ubuntu Server, as it’s one of the most widely deployed server environments on the market, especially for cloud-native use cases. Fedora also offers a server release that is a solid option for those looking for an environment similar to that of RHEL. The one caveat to Fedora server is that it must be upgraded – which requires a reboot – every nine months, which can be a turn-off for most admins.
Both Fedora and Ubuntu default to the GNOME desktop. The difference is that Fedora goes with a traditional take on GNOME, whereas Ubuntu uses a customized take on the desktop.
If GNOME isn’t your cup of tea, you can find other “spins” that offer several choices, from KDE, Xfce, Lxqt, Mate, Cinnamon, Pantheon, Lxde, SOAS, Budgie and more.
Choosing between Fedora and Ubuntu
This is where things get a bit tricky. As I mentioned earlier, I would now be comfortable suggesting Fedora to new users… but I do that with a caveat. The idea that new users might have to run a major upgrade yearly might wind up a turn-off for some. That’s where Ubuntu shines, as it can install an LTS release and leave it for five years – just remember to run all software updates as they are made available.
For that reason only, I would recommend Ubuntu over Fedora.
Another thing to consider is that although both distributions enjoy a considerable user community for support, such as Ask Fedora and Ask Ubuntu, with Ubuntu you can purchase Ubuntu Advantage. For personal use, Ubuntu Advantage is free for up to three machines for both physical servers, virtual servers and desktops.
In the end, both Fedora and Ubuntu are rock solid, easy-to-use operating systems and would work well as your next desktop or server operating system.
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