Linux, musical road-dogging, and daily life by Paul W. Frields
How about that desktop?

How about that desktop?

I figured while I’m in a super-bloggy mood today I’d add this tidbit. Someone asked me a question about what might be missing from distributions like Fedora that would help it reach more users. This question isn’t new and I’ve given the subject a lot of thought over the last few years (even before being the project leader).

Red Hat and Fedora already invest a huge amount of time in desktop tech. We work upstream to make sure that ALL free software desktops are compelling, not just Fedora. When someone else has a compelling desktop in their free community distro, it means our work has been worthwhile.

Often people bring this point up in response to Fedora’s stance on software freedom. We believe strongly in software freedom, and that including proprietary software actively undermines our goals. We also have a goal of complete global freedom of reuse and redistribution, an objective with which proprietary software also often conflicts. We also believe in choice and that’s why we make it easy for third parties to provide very simple ways for people to get those technologies on their own in places where it’s free and legal.


  1. “Someone asked me a question about what might be missing from distributions like Fedora that would help it reach more users. ”

    So you asked a question and didn’t answer it and was curious as your opinions. If your answer is not the desktop, what do you think is missing?

    (I’m not particularly interested in desktops (read: not at all interested in desktops, they have changed so very little in 10 years), so I don’t think that answer is “the desktop” either — rather, it’s probably about having updates last longer than 18 months and having more tools like preupgrade to make hoping between releases easier)

    Then again, my “more users” quest has largely been to attract more people to things like EPEL and development and running infrastructure on Fedora, not end-users as much, so I’m not the best person to ask.

    I think realistically, my answer a year ago would have been “omnipresense of free DVD’s” though we seem to be doing a lot better there now, especially with the live USB kiosk ideas.

  2. @Michael DeHaan: I couldn’t parse your second paragraph; did you think I didn’t answer the question? If so, I can see how it would have been easy to make that mistake, because I didn’t post the setup for the question, which made me believe it was in fact about the desktop.

    Other things I think might help us reach more users are more mentorship opportunities for new folks, more avenues for users to understand our mission and how contribution works, and more ways for users to effectively help with easy tasks like effective bug filing/triage, testing, and wiki and organizational tasks.

  3. I don’t think the lack of non-free software is Fedora’s main failing as a desktop. And I think this failing is unavoidable, since it conflict with our core philosophies:
    – stay close tot he upstream means not adding additional polishing and integration, look for example at the Applications menu, the application names are a total mess (a few years ago Seth Nickel tried to bring sanity there, but without him we ended with what we have now);
    – being bleeding edge means we have a lot of new software, which is still in development for *features*, not being yet in the polishing stage (see the new GDM in F9 as an example).
    In comparison, a distribution which stay behind a version for some application has the time to add a lot of additional polish and be perceived as more desktop friendly.

    Also, it is not very helpful that we are not very aggressive about Fedora’s desktop use, something other distros are very good at.

  4. @Pete: Are you talking about firmware? We’ve been working actively with other upstream kernel maintainers to get firmware handled across the board by the kernel’s firmware loading mechanism. That allows us to generate a kernel-firmware package which can be stripped out of Fedora as needed. Philosophically speaking, though, we do see a difference between firmware and software so we leave that choice to users. Closed software drivers that taint the kernel because we can’t debug them are exponentially more onerous than firmware that in many cases is just a set of switch settings for a single particular piece of hardware having nothing to do with your CPU.

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