Here is a short review of Fedora 16 and how it compares to Ubuntu 11.10 (Oneiric Ocelot). I am an avid Linux user for more than a decade now and have used Ubuntu as my desktop OS in the last six years. But I wanted to try a real Gnome 3 distribution and therefore decided to try Fedora 16 and boy does it look great.
Fedora takes the philosophy of free and open source software very serious and has very strong requirements for software packages to be included in the distribution. Everything that is proprietary (e.g. NVIDIA/AMD graphics drivers), legally encumbered or might violate United States laws is not shipped. This is actually a good thing, but makes installation of some applications, e.g. the Adobe Flash plugin, more difficult than on Ubuntu. So instead of installing Adobe Flash I found myself using the Gnash flash player for a while. And for watching Youtube videos it worked well, other websites had problems with it though. The easiest way here was to use Google Chrome which has a built in flash plugin (in the meanwhile there is also an official Flash player available from Adobe). Due to this software policy there is also no support for MP3 and DVD playback by default.
Ubuntu is less restrictive and therefore offers more software packages and has better multimedia support. It includes proprietary graphics drivers and more audio and video codecs. For Fedora it is a must to first install the RPM Fusion software packages from rpmfusion.org to achieve something similar. Surprisingly also commercial vendors start more and more offering Debian/Ubuntu packages instead of Fedora packages as I found out when trying to download Spotify. This used to be very different only a few years ago, but in the meanwhile Ubuntu seems to be the most used distribution worldwide.
If you use the graphical user interface you do not notice much difference between Fedora and Ubuntu. Just type in a search term or select an application from the categories and it will be installed automatically.
On the command line Fedora uses yum instead of apt that Debian / Ubuntu use. Both package managers work well, yum feels slower then apt to me, mainly because I often search packages using apt-cache and yum just happens to download first a list of new packages whenever I just quickly want to look something up. But compared to apt, yum has a powerful plugin system and features like delta RPM that will only download files that have changed compared to the previous installed version.
Thanks to Google you can find help to any questions or problems easily. I found the Fedora forums easier to browse and read but probably just because there are less people active. Fedora also seems to attract fewer Linux beginners.
I love Fedora, how it looks, and that it emphasizes the Free Software ideology and will continue using it. I think that Ubuntu offers a better out of the box experience than Fedora; more things ‘just work’ and there are more software packages available for Ubuntu/Debian than for Fedora. Therefore I will continue to recommend Ubuntu to friends and new Linux users.