I’ve tested multiple distros since I discovered the beauty of Linux almost twenty years ago. My first distro was Ubuntu, which is probably no surprise since that’s the gateway drug for many Linux users. The next one I tried was Mint. It was mostly out of necessity because I was reviving a 2007-era MacBook Pro and Mint was the only distro I could find at the time that was easy to set up and worked with the older hardware. Now I know that I could install Xubuntu, Debian, or FreeBSD with equally great results — and a much smaller footprint.
In the years since, I’ve messed with just about every Linux distro out there, using virtual machines or testing them on old laptops in my home lab. I’ve found them all interesting and some I’ve used for months or years. Then I discovered Fedora. But I’m getting ahead of myself, so here’s my story.
How I Landed on Fedora
Last year I bought myself my first dedicated Linux machine, a Darter Pro from System76. I may do a full review on it one day, but for now I’ll stick to the OS. System76 computers come packaged with either Ubuntu or Pop! OS, their own fork of Ubuntu. I went with Pop! OS because I had already tested and liked it — plus, it was designed to work well with the System76 hardware. It was the perfect daily driver.
Until it wasn’t.
Earlier this year, I suddenly started experiencing desktop freezes. It seemed that I couldn’t work for more than 20 minutes without a freeze. I checked my logs to see what had changed, and discovered there had a been a firmware update the day before the freezing issue started. After a lot of searching, trying various workarounds, and talking with System76, they came up with the explanation that it was an Intel issue and I would have to wait for them to resolve it. It sounded slightly dubious to me, but I’m not a systems dev by any stretch of the imagination. I do know that System76 isn’t directing much attention to Pop! since they started focusing on their new Rust-based OS, Cosmic. So after waiting a month for things to resolve while continuing to deal with the freezing issue, I decided I had had enough of Pop! OS.
That’s when I moved to Debian 12.
I really wanted to love Debian. It had all the markings of a distro I could use forever. Community-driven, no proprietary software on install, stable over the latest, no privacy issues (looking at you, Canonical). And I don’t know, maybe on a different machine like a Lenovo or a ThinkPad it might be awesome. But ultimately I spent too much time tweaking things that I needed to function to get on with my day.
I’ll likely give Debian another try on a different machine someday, particularly one of my older ones. It’s definitely a solid second choice.
After striking out with Debian 12, I had to find an OS I could depend on for daily use. That’s when I decided to look into Fedora. I admit I had been giving Fedora some side eye due to all the Red Hat drama this year. It did give me pause. But the more I read about it and heard from other users who love it, I had to at least give it a shot.
And here I am. Fedora user.
Why I Love Fedora
So that’s my Fedora origin story. Through tragedy and heartache, I like to think that I emerged a hero and not a villian. But why do I love Fedora and not Arch or SUSE? Let me count the ways.
It’s Open Source
Well, duh. Kind of. I mean, there’s a lot of drama happening in the Linux community lately over Red Hat closing things off and firing a lot of good people. So it’s natural to wonder about Fedora, which is sponsored by Red Hat. Like I said, I worried about that, too. However, since Fedora is upstream of Red Hat and Fedora is community-driven, I feel fine about it.
Fedora also goes out of its way to not automatically install proprietary software as part of the OS, unlike Ubuntu and other Ubuntu-based distros. In fact, I had to seek out drivers to make my wifi work. As much as that was a pain, I kind of dig it. Because hey, that’s Linux.
It Just Works
Aside from the aforementioned wifi drivers (and some media codecs), Fedora mostly took to my laptop like it was born there. The issues I had with Debian 12 interacting with my other hardware disappeared. Installation was about as easy as it gets. There are a few niggles, like:
- Activating my keyboard backlight makes things go wonky. If I turn on my keyboard backlight and put my laptop to sleep (close the lid), the display doesn’t come back up when I open it. I haven’t found the cause yet, but I’m looking.
- I’ve had to try multiple versions of some applications. Sometimes the native Fedora version installs fine from the command line, and sometimes I have to download an .rpm. Other times Flathub does the trick.
- I can’t configure my battery thresholds as easily, or at all. I’m still figuring this one out, but TLP is a no-go.
Those are some pretty minor issues that I can deal with for the overall stability Fedora is giving me.
Finally! I’m using the latest Gnome desktop. Okay, so I like Gnome. I’ve tried XFCE, and I just can’t get away from the feeling that I’ve time traveled to 1999. I do use XFCE on a very old HP laptop because it’s very light on resources. But as a daily desktop, I want to use something that looks beautiful and has all the functionality I like. Sue me, I like a pretty DE. Maybe I’ll try KDE Plasma one day for kicks but for now I’m happy.
Speed and Efficiency
The Darter Pro is a pretty good laptop. Again, a post for another day. I noticed that when running Pop! OS the fan would often start spinning loudly out of nowhere, even when I wasn’t multi-tasking. With Fedora, I rarely hear the fan. The CPU load is generally lower on all processes, and the system boots up much faster now. Which is interesting, considering that Pop! OS was designed for this laptop.
That’s about it. I’ve been running on Fedora for about a month now and so far it’s my favorite distro. I don’t know why I hadn’t seriously tried it before. But now it’s going to be my go-to for any new system I use.
Sigh. Alas, I did not pay attention to the warnings about Fedora’s frequent updates. One day it just works, the next day after an update my windowing is screwed up. I may go back to Debian for the stability. Stay tuned.