I’ve used Fedora off and on ever since the first release.  As a fan of Redhat 9 at the time, I was interested to see where this new project would go.  Fedora’s stated goal was to offer a desktop environment but also provide the latest technologies (even if they hadn’t been well-tested yet).  For the first few releases I stuck with Fedora, but with increasing instability, bleeding-edge features and the rising popularity of Ubuntu I decided to move on.
Since then I’ve tested the occasional release, but even when I could get it to install it was still just too unstable for day to day use.  However, with the release of Fedora 12 I think they’ve struck a fine balance.  Whether that will continue with future releases or a one-time thing I don’t know.

Instead of using a live CD like usual, I decided to utilize BitTorrent to download the full install DVD for Fedora 12.  Luckily there were thousands of seeders, and in just a few hours I had the ISO burned to a DVD and ready to boot.  After booting up the DVD, the graphical menu lets you select whether to install, boot from the hard drive, etc.  Some of the letters had graphical errors, but at least it worked.  Like Mandriva and other rpm-based distros, I had to add the “edd=off” kernel option, otherwise it would stay on the “Probing for edd” part.  Once I disabled edd the installer immediately came up, and it did so at my monitor’s native resolution, something which never happened before at install-time.  The graphical installer for Fedora, Anaconda, looked even better at the native resolution.  Redhat/Fedora has always had a very good installer, even though with some of the Fedora releases I’ve had it crash.  For this release it worked great, and within a few screens the packages were installing to my drive.
By default Fedora 12 uses the ext4 filesystem like most other current distros, but Fedora also defaults to using LVM for the partitioning scheme.  Once the packages are installed, the computer re-boots, I entered some more info and after a very nice start-up graphics sequence I was at the log-in screen.
Initial boot-up and login
Like other GNOME-based distros, the default desktop layout is very clean.  There are the top and bottom panels, which I always immediately consolidate into one bottom panel ala Windows.  Fedora’s default icons haven’t changed much since the early releases, but they still look pretty good.  The new default wallpaper is very gorgeous, and it’s the only time I’ve ever decided to keep it.  The only negative here is that for some reason Network Manager will not automatically connect, so I have to manually select my ethernet interface each time, as well as adjusting the time.

Default set-up and packages

By using the install DVD instead of the live CD, OpenOffice is installed instead of AbiWord.  Although I also installed AbiWord, I find that OpenOffice seems to work better, and AbiWord had alot of grapic problems while typing and scrolling.
Rhythmbox, like in other distros, works pretty well.  I did have to add repositories from RPM Fusion in order to play MP3s and iTunes AAC files, but it wasn’t any more work that in other distros.
Gnote has replaced TomBoy for note-taking in order to remove the dependency on Mono.  Fedora has also decided to use Empathy for instant messaging instead of Pidgin, but I haven’t tested yet to see if it had similar connectivity problems like in other distros.

Package Management and Updating
Like openSUSE, Fedora has been constantly working to make their package manager and updater apps faster and more efficient.  Compared to Mandriva 2010, the package manager in Fedora 12 is fairly quick when browsing and searching.  It’s still slow compared to Debian and Ubuntu’s Synaptic, but it’s still miles ahead of any other rpm-based distro.  The updater app is also much improved.

3D graphics Driver
As the installer immediately recognized my monitor’s native resolution, as well as not having any desire to play games on a computer anymore, I decided not to try to install and test a 3D graphics driver.  While RPM Fusion offers an up-to-date Nvidia driver, I was already happy with the included driver.  It has the correct resolution and refresh rate, and there’s no apparent slowdown when scrolling or moving windows, so I decided not to fix what wasn’t broken.

Community and Support
While Red Hat uses Bugzilla for their bug-tracking and it isn’t as easy to navigate as Ubuntu’s Launchpad, I will defintely say that the Red Hat developers are much more pro-active addressing bugs and releasing updates, even when rapdily working on the next release.  There is a website with a forum similar to Ubuntu’s, and just like that one there are many helpful people.

Despite having a negative outlook when first booting up the DVD, I was quickly proven wrong with all of the improvements and refinements that have gone into this release.  While being in the fore-front of new technologies had always hurt Fedora’s image in my mind, for this release it has actually put it into the fore-front, primarily with using an open-source driver for Nvidia cards with 2D acceleration.  With having everything else up to date and already releasing a round of updates, I am very impressed with this release and I really hope that this trend continues with future releases from Fedora.

Final Thoughts and Rating
Without any major problems and only a few minor things I was able to fix or circumvent, this is without doubt the best release of Fedora that I’ve ever used, and is easily up to par with any release from Mandriva or Ubuntu.

Fedora 12: ****