Fedora Present and Future: a Fedora.next 2014 Update (Part I, “Why?”)

In February, I gave a talk at DevConf in the Czech Republic about Fedora.next — background on where it came from, what problems it’s trying to solve, what we are actually doing, and why we think those things address the problems. You can watch the video on YouTube, but there are a few reasons you might want to read this instead. First, videos are hard to skim or search. Second, time moves on and this contains a few updates (which I have marked with Update, so if that’s all you care about they will be easy to find). And finally, I made some embarrassing typos on the slides, which I have fixed. You can see those slides on my web site, and what follows is basically each one with commentary. It ends up rather long, so this is part one, with the second part and third part to follow, and the panel discussion and Q&A after that.

The Video

Fedora is Awesome

It’s important to start with this. I’ve heard some worry recently that Fedora.next is based on the premise that Fedora is currently broken, has no users, or otherwise somehow sucks. Of course, as Fedora users and developers, we know that this is not the case, so this concern has a shadowing worry behind it: that this is an outsider initiative done in a ham-fisted way, planning to change everything without really knowing what we have.

I hope I can put that to rest. This effort comes from within Fedora, and it really does start with a recognition of our strength.

We have very positive brand. When I go to a conference and talk about Fedora, obviously there are some complaints about specific things, but overall, people are happy with us. We have a very strong user and developer community — people are using Fedora in production in the real world, sometimes in amazing and crazy ways (for large-scale web hosting, as a platform for very high-stakes rapid stock trading, as the desktop for a not-small law firm, as the basis for the most popular CS course at Harvard…).

We’ve had ten successful years of this — as you can see in the video, I’ve got the t-shirt, and I expect many of you reading this have it too — and Fedora 20 is our best release yet, with a very positive press response, and great feedback from our uses. It came out very quickly on the heels of F19, but is very solid and basically just better across the board. (If you are on F19, or still on an older release, I encourage you to update!)

So, if we’re so great, why are we doing anything at all? Why can’t we just keep going along in the same way?


Meanwhile, out in the world….


Even if we go with the rule that 90% of everything is crap, 10 million repos is still a large number, and much larger than the 14,000-some packages in Fedora. There’s just no way we could possibly capture all of that, and it is a lot of open source developer energy happening in a space that we’re not playing in.

Also: the base OS has developed to the point where it has become uninteresting. Now, we do a lot of things in Fedora which are really on top of what might be considered a bare base OS, but basically the thing we are doing as our primary activity in Fedora is considered boring. I was at a large cloud conference a while ago, and almost nobody was using Fedora, and so I asked people why they chose the distribution they are building their stuff on, and why they didn’t choose Fedora. Almost universally, the response wasn’t “What I am using is great!” — it was “Oh, I don’t care. I just picked this, and that’s what I’m using and it’s fine.” That layer just isn’t exciting. Even if there really are a lot of interesting things going on, people who are trying to actually do things with the distribution don’t attach much importance to them.

And that’s kind of a change. It used to be that we could easily pack a room at a conference just by mentioning Fedora — now, you have to talk about Docker. The excitement about open source development is still there, but it’s gone somewhere else.

In turn, this leads to a shift in the balance between the effort to get software into a distribution and the reward of doing so. It used to be that if you had open source software, and you could convince the distros to get your get your software into a distro, that’s how you knew that you had arrived. So if you could get into Red Hat Linux or Slackware or whatever, you were really something, not just a little project off to the side. That’s really not the case anymore.

A lot of developers just don’t see that as important. Maybe it does still have value, but it’s not seen that way, so the effort people are willing to put into getting their software into a distro is much lower. (This is all still part of the question, by the way, not an answer — but we have some answers coming up.)

For the last two points, skip forward with me to the next slide….

In which I recommend another talk

Is distribution-level package management obsolete?

At FOSDEM, Donnie Berkholz of Gentoo gave a great talk entitled “Is distribution-level package management obsolete?”

Update At the time I gave the talk, the audio on the file wasn’t right, but that has been (mostly) fixed, so you can watch it now.

I actually do recommend taking an interlude here and watching the whole talk. In summary, it goes into depth on where distros are today and where they need to go, by looking at the question

How are actual software developers in the real world doing things, and how could distros better cater to them? How are users doing things, and how could we cater to them?

Which, obviously, is in line with some of the observations I’m making here, and if I haven’t convinced you, maybe Donnie can. If you value data over handwaving, this may help.

Donnie also talks about the issue of higher-level software moving at a different cadence than the base, which is also a concern I’d like Fedora to address — but which I didn’t really cover in the rest of my talk. Also: continuous integration, continuous delivery, integration with language level package management, and of course Docker gets name-checked. These are all important ideas feeding into Fedora.next as well.

Anyway, jumping back to the point from the former slide. One of the things which we often wring our hands about in Fedora is an apparent decline in our overall popularity. We look at the Google Trends, or the yum updates connection numbers, and the lines are going doowwwwwnnnn… are we doing something wrong? Has Ubuntu stolen all of our users?

Well, actually all of the major distributions that work basically in the way Fedora does are on the decline. Slackware peaked before Fedora; openSUSE and Fedora seem to have peaked in terms of the buzz/popularity measure around 2006 or 2007. But Ubuntu has the same peak, just a bit later in 2009. If we count the years from now… that’s a long trend of decline for all of us. Ubuntu is still very popular, of course, but, they’re not cool. None of us are cool anymore.

We want to be cool. How can we do that?

Update I forgot to mention Gentoo in the talk. Don’t feel left out, Gentoo friends. You are also no longer cool.

And also

Phones! Tablets! Android! ChromeOS! / Cloud! EC2! OpenStack! GCE! / Containers! Docker! CoreOS!

The world has changed, and there are all of these things which are different in the computing landscape from the way they they were 10 years ago. To continue to be relevant, we need to react to that in some way.

What exactly is “Fedora.next”?

A word for a bit of planning and direction-setting — instead of running ahead without looking around.

Basically, it is a big umbrella term that is full of handwaving. But, it means that we are trying to plan our direction — looking at where we are going, rather than just walking ahead and hoping the place we end up is useful to someone.

There is no secret back-room agenda to all of this. We all want Fedora to succeed. I work for Red Hat, and since Red Hat wants Fedora to succeed, I and other Fedora community members employed by Red Hat have been supported in working on this planning process. That’s pretty much all there is to that.

While some of us have been working on Fedora.next for a while now (including more and more people as we go from initial ideas to implementation), the whole process is still very open to more ideas and contributions. We want to hear things that you see out in the world that aren’t reflected what I’ve been talking about, and things that we aren’t doing that could solve some of these problems. I’d love to hear about all of those.

Update Feel free to reply here, or anywhere. I’ll respond directly, and I’ll also gather up any big question into a followup as the final post in this series.

Another thing: we are talking about some big changes, and it can’t all be immediate. This isn’t a situation where if we don’t flip everything all over by Fedora 21, it has failed. It’s going to take a while, and we’re working on planning out a roadmap for this.

Update The Fedora 21 schedule should be approved by the time you read this; that will give some solid ideas about the immediate change we can expect to see, and what parts might happen later.

I’m really big into the idea of incremental improvement. As long as we have a plan and are going forward and making some difference each release, that’s good. I know this sometimes makes people working on new ideas frustrated — for example, removing sendmail from the default install. I’m happy to get sendmail out of there, and I think it doesn’t belong for a lot of cases, but if it takes us two or three releases to remove it, eh, it’s okay. We haven’t failed. It’s a lot better than never starting the process and leaving things as they are when they should change, and it’s also better than dumping changes onto our users before they’re ready. There is a balance, and having a plan helps us find it.

Fedora’s Mission

The Fedora Project's mission is to lead the advancement of free and open source software and content as a collaborative community.

So, this is Fedora’s mission. I asked if anyone knew that it was, and very few hands came up.

It is very broad. The original Fedora Project, after the merge of fedora.us and the Red Hat Linux Project, was tasked with making an open source Linux distribution, and that was basically it.

And so, after a while, there was some soul-searching — Fedora loves soul-searching… it’s part of who we are. Even four or five years ago, people felt that we were doing a pretty good job at that straightforward distro part, and started to ask if that’s all we should be doing, and so this is the mission that was developed out of that.

It’s… kind of broad, and maybe a little too broad, but it is very ambitious. The question is now: if that’s our mission — and there hasn’t been any talk of changing it — are we actually positioned to execute on it? Do the things we do actually move us toward the target we say we are aiming for?

So that’s part of what Fedora.next is: to look at our mission and decide what more we need to do to make it happen.

Additive, not Restrictive

We do a pretty good job of making the base distro. What can we do outside of that? What can we improve?

Most everything we are talking about in Fedora.next is additive. We’re not saying that you can’t do certain things in Fedora anymore, but we are saying that we may need to add some things to make the goals of the mission come true. We do somethings very well already — what else can we do.

Of course, we also need to look at how we can make what we are doing well even better, possibly by changing some of our focus and certainly by improving our processes. Because really, even though many people think the base OS is now boring, it’s far from done, and there is a lot of innovation going on at that level as well. CoreOS is an example, and the rpm-ostree project (Update: now Fedora Atomic Initiative) is an example of something that we might want to look at for future Fedora.

And of course there are a lot of process automation improvements that could happen at our core level as well.

More Questions!

Here I throw out a bunch more questions — there are a lot of them, and they all feed into the “why” of Fedora.next.

First: it happened, as part of that previous round of soul-searching, that we decided that the default Fedora offering would be a desktop OS. That seemed like a good idea, and there’s still nothing inherently wrong with it.

But, Fedora has also traditionally had a large sysadmin audience. A lot of people installing RHEL on their servers, and they have Fedora on their desktop — and people with production Fedora servers. Increasingly, with the default offering being the desktop, those people often increasingly felt that their role was to periodically shout “No, wait! You’re breaking things! Stop it!” So, if you are a sysadmin who is active in Fedora, you might have started to feel that your job is to keep the desktop developers from breaking Fedora yet again. That ends up being a negative cycle with no winners — and an unhappy, fragmented user community.

So, one of the direct things we want to solve in Fedora.next is giving a positive voice for people using Fedora in server roles, or RHEL in server roles and with a concern about Fedora’s direction. We don’t want people to feel like the only job available is to be the stop energy; we want to focus all of that into a positive direction where we’re building something together.

It’s also valuable to think about and talk about our relationships with our downstream distributions.  We’re part of an ecosystem, we have some really big stakeholders, and we benefit a lot from doing things that align with their needs. When we do things that are useful for RHEL and for CentOS, that feeds back, and Red Hat is happy to pay for conferences and development on things, and that’s all pretty cool.

Also, those downstream distributions are seeing the same changes in the world, and if we can change in a way that is helpful to them, we all win. If we don’t include our stakeholders in the conversation, they’ll need to change independently, and we really all lose out. So increasing the transparency of the overall extended family of distributions seems like a good thing to do (but that doesn’t limit Fedora — or Fedora.next — to just the narrower scope that downstream might find important, and in fact we know that success requires diversity and adoption beyond that).

There’s the general trend towards base being considered boring again; I don’t have anything more to add at this point.

Related to that, though, is the difficulty of building things on top of Fedora. Fedora moves so fast and is kind of ill-defined, so basically the only way to participate in Fedora is to make sure your stuff is polished so that it will fit into the Fedora distribution as it stands today. No one has really been able to successfully make software which goes on top of Fedora and keeps up. Can we make that easier in some way? I think that would be nice. Again, Docker fits in nicely here, so there’s another Docker namedrop.

Next, do we have the barriers to entry in the wrong place? For example, our package review process really really makes you go over a very tall wall to get into Fedora, but once you’re over that wall, unless someone happens to notice, you can do any of horrible thing to your package (and even if someone notices, there isn’t a clear process for fixing it). So we have many packages in Fedora where initially, when the packages went through that first polishing phase, they were pretty good, but then the upstream updated or the packager changed something, and now they’re completely out of compliance with our guidelines. We don’t even have a good measure of what is out of compliance — we don’t look at this stuff much, except Fedora QA does a good job of making sure it installs every six months. (And again, we look at new packages when they come in.)

So, maybe we’re putting that in the wrong place. Maybe we could do a better job by letting people put their packages in to some level in an easier way, and then after they’re included in the project look at improving them. (Update This is actually in progress in the Enviroment and Stacks Working Group now, in the “Fedora Playground” repository. Cool!) And maybe also, we could focus more on packages where it really matters that they’re packaged well, and decide that with others, well, eh, that’s probably going to be crap forever and we’ll do what we can to make it as useful as possible to people.

Finally, this question of how we can move fast while still keeping a handle on the direction we’re going — balancing innovation with change management. That’s always a struggle for Linux distributions, but maybe with Fedora.nextwe can make it easier.

Watch for Part II Next Week

So! Those are some of the questions… the background Fedora.next. Next week, some of the proposed answers. I’ll go over some of the work in progress (and other work planned for the future), and connect it back to these questions.

Also, as mentioned above, let’s continue this conversation in comments and replies, and in addition to responding, I’ll distill that into a Q&A post at the end of this series.

Fedora Project community


  1. Hunkah

    I don’t know if you’re going to read this, but I have some input.

    I am in college. I see around me two major things that causes Fedora to suffer. First is mindshare. Somewhere Ubuntu has won a battle that Fedora seems not to have cared about. I see all of my peers that I am in school with using Ubuntu, because it is “the most popular desktop”. So it is being taught in my school, it is being used as a platform for development and it is now what people are used to. If they don’t use Ubuntu, they’re using Mint because of Cinnamon being a better GUI than Unity. …but still a spinoff from Ubuntu.

    Secondly, Gnome 3 has caused so many forks and since Fedora comes across as an G3 ONLY distro (yes I know it isn’t, but it feels that way to most) people are rejecting Fedora because it feels like a tablet interface. I still hate using it because popups that I need to deal with are under the main window and I can’t minimized the stupid main window to get at what I need to. The whole “work smarter” idea does not live here.

    So, in my opinion, you guys really need to focus on a Cinnamon/Desktop distro… so that people who aren’t as geeky can adopt the mindshare and push Fedora to where it needs to go. Debian/Ubuntu/Mint are killing you guys in mindshare, and Fedora is becoming completely useless to them.

    • I am going to read it. Thanks for your input!

      I think you might want to give Gnome 3 another chance, possibly with some extensions.

      On your specific concern about minimization, one thing you might try is using Gnome Tweak Tool under the Windows section to turn the double-click Titlebar Action to “Toggle Shade”. With this on, when you double click, the window will “roll up” into its title bar, which I find to actually be better, because it’s still spacially in essentially the same place, making it feel faster to switch back.

      Or, add the Native Window Placement extension, possibly also with Impatience. The former causes the Overview to put windows in what I find to be a more logical place, and the latter adjusts the animation speed. That makes it pretty quick to hit the windows key, find your desired window, and continue.

      But if that doesn’t work, Cinnamon and MATE are definitely available, as is KDE, and LXDE and XFCE too.

      On mindshare — well, it’s a fickle thing. But we do hope to win some back. I don’t think we’ll be able to do it in the same way Ubuntu did, because the world is different now. We’ll need to find our own way (and hopefully, this is the start of that).

      • Hunkah

        I do use Cinnamon. It feels like home to me (the way Gnome 2 felt). I still hope in Gnome 3, but I can’t get used to it, even with the extensions. I try it again for every new release of Fedora. I think it would be an amazing tablet interface/touch screen UI, for the mouse controlled UI, I prefer Cinnamon and promote Fedora/Cinnamon for everyone I convert to Linux.

        I’m not saying Gnome 3 is completely gross, I just think you would see a better adoption of Fedora with Cinnamon as the main Desktop/Workstation UI. Most people are still using a mouse and a desktop.

      • joe.user

        “I think you might want to give Gnome 3 another chance, possibly with some extensions.”

        this sounds fishy

        – fedora.next as far as i read mailing will set base packages and gnome will be default choice, where you lose “workstation” status if you remove it or not install it.
        – go on mailing lists and check how extensions are treated by shell developers. UNWANTED. they simply say, they provide functional desktop and extensions are actually breaking it. not to mention, most extensions don’t work
        – breaking themes in gnome would be another point, but i’m not versed enough there to form constructive criticism. all i see as user is that after skipping trough all cool themes, i’m forced to go back to default since it is one of few that actually works
        – read gtk mailing list. you find following mantra… gnome developers are majority of developers, so instead of some gtk-gnome extension, whole gnome work goes in mainline gtk which also incudes removing features gnome doesn’t need. which would be cool if gtk.org wouldn’t present complete 180 in what gtk is. that attitude only says one thing to me. i don’t develop for gnome, therefore i’m intruding where no one wants me and i started porting to qt.

        the main thing why i’ll stop using fedora after 20 releases is the fact i have it enough with gnome and its branding nonsense. i don’t say branding is wrong. but, other desktops can do just well without breaking everything else and going into holy war against other solutions. nicest example, run this one qt, one wine, libre office, one gtk2 and one gtk3 application and try to find one common standard of how it works under gnome. try this on any other desktop… hey, it actually makes sense. if you remove gnome 3 from equation, desktop is actually awesome

        next thing would be touch friendly apps. there is simply no way touch friendly app would be pleasant to use on desktop. either provide it with choice like enlightment does or choose one and stop pretending you’re catering other. MS learned this lesson really quick for a change.

      • Cinnamon / MATE / KDE / LXDE / XFCE are “available” but Gnome is the 1st class citizen. Gnome bugs are show stoppers, MATE is a “spin.” I do not understand the thinking behind the direction of Gnome 3; but leaving that discussion aside, Gnome 3 is polarizing and many people will simply choose not to use Fedora where a more liked desktop is an afterthought.

        • Also, some people will choose to use Fedora because it comes with Gnome. The only reason I switched from Ubuntu to Fedora was that Fedora’s version of Gnome is newer and doesn’t diverge from upstream (as much).

          I also like the fact that the developers are working with me to give me what I want, rather than me having to work around old or forked packages. Of course, this is only true because my favourite environment is also Fedora’s favourite environment.

          • For a GNOME user Fedora makes perfect since. But since there no longer a dominant Desktop Environment, just about every distribution becomes a niche distribution. Fedora for GNOME; OpenSuSe for KDE; Mint for Cinnamon and Mate; Ubuntu for Unity; Xubunty for XFCE; Maybe Arch or Debian for Enlightenment. Trying to increase the number of users for Fedora is pretty futile when it is so strongly tied to a niche DE. Perhaps Fedora should just embrace its niche. It isn’t a bad niche or a small niche and that might be all it really has the ability given the number of developers and other finite resources. Does put a bit of a crimp in the RHEL offering though.

      • Hunkah

        Hey, it’s me again…

        I just reread my comments because something was bugging me for the last few days about this…

        You guys are looking for ideas and input as to the future of Fedora. I explained a real life, real world situation. “People are using Mint because of Cinnamon”. So, instead of understanding that people are rejecting Fedora because of Gnome 3, you just blanketed my comments with the “solution” that I should just try G3 again.

        OK so, obviously that isn’t going to draw all those people that are using Cinnamon/Mint. It isn’t going to bring back those cattle that are using Ubuntu because “that’s what everyone is using”.

        I stay with Fedora because of all the stuff that is said on the Fedora home page about community and friendship and freedom, not because of Gnome 3.

        I’m giving you my input because I care about Fedora and the Fedora way of doing things. Gnome 3 is of little importance to me.

        • Thanks — I don’t want to give the impression that I don’t appreciate the input. I do. And I very much do appreciate the stuff about community, friendship, and freedom too.

          I also don’t think we are in competition with Linux Mint. They are one of the distributions that is currently “cool”, and they’re doing that by working further down the innovation curve than we’re aiming at. (That said, if enough people are really interested in building something in that space for Fedora, Fedora.next gives a framework for doing that.)

          • Hunkah

            I agree with you about the focus of Fedora being about innovation and less about the end user… but I disagree with how you’re looking at this.

            You say you want to be more attractive, cooler, have more users. Well that focus needs to be sought after by the end user. It is the end user that says, “Hey, I’m using Linux! It’s awesome!” If that friend says where do I get this Linux from, well that user is going to promote the distro they are using. (Usually).

            If your whole focus is just innovation, your users are going to go with another distro that has taken your cool innovations and made a great UI experience to play with. Red Hat/Fedora has historically been the biggest and best contributor to Open Source year after year. But Ubuntu, which has consistently been one of the lesser contributors has thrived (even bragged from what I understand) about taking all the “free” innovation and making a very popular distro from it.

            It comes down to a few major things. RPM vs. DEB, (or Debian/Ubuntu/Mint vs. Red Hat/Fedora/CentOS/*Suse) for the geeks, and GUI, installing Linux, doing updates and ease of use when it comes to codecs and drivers for the end user. If you look at all these things, Fedora lacks in the GUI, Drivers, Codecs, and a lot of the time the ease-of-use. So either Fedora needs to change to being more than just an innovation distro, or you guys need to just become an innovation distro that is only geared for the few thousand developers, and let Ubuntu keep taking all your innovation for free and relay it to its own users.

            I have heard some professional Linux users talk about the stability of Red Hat and how amazing/solid it is for production, those same people say if you run a server on Ubuntu, you’re just plain stupid… but people are building servers on Ubuntu and I know it is because that’s what they’re used to using. I also believe it is because they weren’t always administrators, they were ordinary end users at one time.

          • How are you not in competition with Mint?

            The question right now is why is Mint “cool” and popular. You think it has to do with where they are playing with their distribution, branding has to be considered, but some of us think it has a lot more to do with the desktops they have made their focus. If it is the desktop, fedora.next doesn’t actually gain you much.

  2. Bas

    I’ll just keep it short as I am a very happy Fedora user. Keep up the good work. My wife’s computer runs Ubuntu but i’ll prefer Fedora with tweaked KDE desktop any time. Fedora 16, 17, 18, 19 and even better again F20.

  3. Michael Catanzaro

    The big problem I see, that I don’t think is being worked on, is update quality. QA does a pretty good job of making sure Fedora installs every 6 months, and picking out the worst blocker bugs… but after Fedora is released, anything can go into the update pipe with virtually no testing.

    I think Fedora needs to find a middle ground between its hyper-permissive update system, and the stricter policies used in other distributions. In particular, I wish someone other than the package maintainer was responsible for approving updates.

    • I wish we had the resources for your suggestion, but that would effectively require doubling the number of contributors.

      I agree that it’s a problem, though, and we actually are working on making it better. The first step is with a new QA automation framework called Taskotron. This idea’s origin is independent of Fedora.next, but I think is essential for Fedora.next success, and we’ve intentionally made extra time for the QA team to work on it this cycle. It’s going to be a while before that sees results (first phase is replacing some of the awkward automation tasks we do already), but the automatic testing should make the updates go more smoothly.

      There are also plans for updates to Bodhi, the interface for pushing updates. That will include more fine-grained feedback options for testers, making it easier for maintainers to know when a update has really been checked out.

      And finally, there has been some discussion of batching non-security updates, so that unless there are real problems, there isn’t such constant churn. (These updates would still be available, just not by default.)

      • someone

        The problem with fedora is that there is simply not enough QA to cover desktop users from having machines cause time to need to be invested. Anecdotally, I get the gnome3 frowny-of-death on too many installs, out of the box.

        Slowing package migration from 2 weeks to 6 weeks, or whatever is not a solution, as no testing is done. The solution is a la google, and (possibly ubuntu), where you randomise update distributions for non-critical updates, so that orders of magnitude less users are affected by showstopper bugs.

        Fedora needs to consider taking some more modern approaches to QA like the above – yes there is a limited testing base, but throwing more people at it is not the only solution

        • The idea would be to a) encourage a significant core group of users to opt in to the steady stream rather than the batch and b) actually do some level of testing on the batch. Additionally, slow release of the batched updates rather than a big patch day isn’t necessarily a bad idea.

          • someone

            I would hazard that (a) is similar to the “how to be cool” question – and is a more people = more stable assumption. It is my opinion that this assumption of more testers == better software is simply flawed, as you hurt the same number of people when things break, leading to a bad reputation. More users is != more devs, as the curves diverge quite quickly – more users means less technical users, all you do is increase the bug:dev ratio – which just means you have more and more open bugs. Being cool is not helpful (imho).

            The goal should be to take whatever technical procedures possible to avoid costing users time (and devs too!) – even if they are “advanced” users. My anecdote was to highlight decisions like near-requiring hardware acceleration (which is often not set up on hardware until appropriate drivers are installed), as very painful. More emphasis needs to be placed on maintenance and maintenance costs – less on being “cool”.

            Simple technical solutions could include many things, like more unit testing (debian is doing this sorta, with ubuntu’s overly-complicated “autopkgtest” image – hopefully to be replaced by easier DEP8 compliant solutions, such as sadt [1] ) and more regression testing, eg how long does it take a VM to auto spin-up from boot?

            A distributed hardware farm to report basic stats and do basic smoke-testing (install times, upgrade not broken, reboot OK, etc) on lots of hardware could also be made without too much difficulty, and could be a release goal. This could be distributed to users as a “set-me-up and keep me running” image which must report back as >95% A-OK, before updates can be released, etc. These sorts of things need to be integrated into auto-QA (which does only highly cursory checks atm). Some testing is really hard (like screenshot->image matching for quality) others are really easy (like *requiring* unit tests, and performance tests for new packages, and filing bugs against test-free RPMs). More use of fedora/redhat tools like Dogtail would also be valuable.

            IMHO, fedora needs to try to not break things, and moreover, not break things in front of users. Once fedora is on top of that, then upsetting the apple cart with “new and shiny” is fine.

            [1] https://bugs.debian.org/cgi-bin/bugreport.cgi?bug=712095

      • Hi Matthew,

        This is my suggestion on how to increase QA effort:
        1. Invite Fedora users to be registered, so that you can contact them if you have new information or news. This will also help to know which user is already a long time user.
        2. From that list, randomly select the user, and invite them through email to become a beta tester. Beta tester just need to download one additional package, lets name “beta-tester-apps”, and the package will handle all the login to bugzilla or other things
        3. That application, will randomly pop up an information about the beta quality software that the user is currently using, for example Firefox or Libreoffice, and ask the user if they would like to install this software and help with the testing
        4. Now come the hard part. User are lazy. They don’t want to setup their application again, or configure the customization that they have done, or install again the plugin. Somehow, the beta software must be able to inherit, or clone the setup of the stable software, and make the beta software as the default version when launched from menu. The menu will still have pointer to the stable version, in case the user really want to use the stable version
        5. The hard part is, how to make the beta software inherit the configuration, while maintaining the stable software. And, when user remove the beta software, how to make sure that the stable software is still working normally?
        6. The beta software should have hook to the “beta-tester-apps” to report crash automatically, or to report the usage metrics (type of icon used, how many time launched in a day, how long used in single session, etc)
        7. Once all this figured out, Fedora with have a high possibility of getting beta tester from the user base, which are happy to help Fedora move forward


    • Somewhat relatedly, we need an upgrade story.

      fedup works. Let’s have a big huge “Upgrade to Fedora 21” button in Gnome Software. Let’s tell our users when their release becomes unmaintained.

      If I were choosing a distro for someone else, I’d probably suggest Ubuntu because it has a clear prompt to upgrade between releases, and a path for suitably infrequent major upgrades (every two years). I can be confident the user will keep their OS on a maintained, secure version.

  4. Peter

    Interesting times! I run Fedora KDE on the desktop and CentOS on some servers. Could you explain a little more about the collaboration between CentOS and Fedora? There were some announcements but it was hard to figure out exactly what would come out of that.

    • I think we’re still figuring out exactly what will come out of it. What would you like to see? CentOS (or RHEL) on servers and Fedora on your desktop is a common pattern — what would make that experience better for you?

      • peter

        One practical problem I had was that some packages are so far ahead on Fedora. I have to be careful not to use the latest C++ features because it will not build on CentOS. I guess that is the price of stability on the RHEL/CentOS side.

  5. D. Charles Pyle

    I have tried various distros of Linux over time and each time I have returned to Fedora. A few times that has involved installing and using rawhide, of all things! I once used Ubuntu LTS and LinuxMint, its derivative, for about a week. I ended up with corrupted NTFS partitions on two hard drives by the end of the week. Luckily I kept backups of everything, including a system image. Never again will I install anything from or derived from Ubuntu on my computers.

    I have no choice but to also use Windows because there just are things that Linux still cannot do that can be done in Windows. But, I spend far more time on the Linux side. So, I am using and staying with Fedora for the foreseeable future on my quadruple-boot system, and am using it with Mate-Desktop.

    As to Gnome 3, while I enjoyed using it for as long as I did I found I finally had to abandon it. It did not any longer play well with dual monitors on my system (the monitors were and are misidentified and numbers switched, and the favorites dash often suddenly enlarged and pushed half of itself below the bottom of the primary screen without warning), and features I needed and used often, such as menu and button icons, and transparent terminal, were stripped away.

    So, I switched to Mate-Desktop to get all that back and also found it worked properly with my dual monitor setup prior to my upgraded setup with two of the same sized 24″ monitors (prior setup was 1600×900 Dell IN2020M with 1280×1024 Viewsonic VX924), as well as with the current setup (twin Dell S2440Ls at 1920×1080 each). I still stick with Fedora at any rate.

  6. Jujens

    Thanks for this article and the information about fedora.next. I am a long time user of Fedora and for me, it is the best Linux distribution.

    I am a new packager and I confirm that getting a package approved is a lot of work, mostly when you start. Moreover, the fact that you need to read and understand so many things about the packaging process may discourage many. I am looking forward to the improvements that you can make on that subject.

    Despite being a fedora enthusiast, there is in my opinion one major drawback: no official support for Raspberry Pi. Furthermore, Pidora seems dead. It is a cheap computer, very interesting and more and more used. I guess that with a good support of this architecture, we may be able to convince some users to switch to Fedora.

    • As I understand it, Pidora has to be a remix rather than an official ARM spin because it requires out-of-tree kernel patches. Maybe that will change with further iterations of the hardware. In the meantime, I think different hardware is your best bet — I’ve heard good things about Beaglebone Black. I haven’t really played much with ARM, though… I’d suggest joining the Fedora ARM SIG if you’re interested.

  7. catonano

    is nixos gonna have any role in fedora.next ?

  8. Gajdos Tamás

    I have used and deployed F13, F14 and F15 as a system administrator in our dormitory. The users loved it, but I could not keep up with the releases. I switched to Ubuntu 10.04 and later to 12.04 and now planning to move to Xubuntu 14.04. My first idea is to slow down fedora releases from 6 months to 12 and extend the support from 13 months to 25.
    I use some very fresh software from ppa repositories (libreoffice, munin, saltrstack), and this is also a good thing. Fedorapeople Repos are nearly the same but not as popular. My second idea is to put more “testing” software into these repositories. If the user want’s to experiment with newer software versions, he or she could try it without building it. If it is not good, then there is the possibility to return to the mainline fedora version.

    • Stefan Huchler

      you use ubuntu that has also releases every 6 months, and that because fedora has to much releases (every 6 months or so) that makes no sense to me?

      • Gajdos Tamás

        I am using only Ubuntu LTS releases because of the extended support, I install no other release, so this means 24 monts between two LTS, and 60 months of support. Companies like Texas Instruments need a stable set of tools to build their Android on.

  9. Cory Hilliard

    I have an idea, I’m not even sure this is the right place for such an idea, but I feel it is an important one when thinking about the future of Fedora.

    *Build up to idea… I am in school learning CS and such. Since we still live in an MS world, my school promotes MS in everything it does. I feel there isn’t a lot of “entry level” places to help build my abilities to contribute to Fedora or open source.

    I’m not a rockstar developer yet, so I can’t do things like hack a kernel or build a new GUI tool… but I’m learning more and more every day.

    Idea: I would love to see in Fedora some walk-throughs and tools built for people that are wanting to learn how to contribute to open source or build an RPM or take some project I’m learning in school (a dice game, a java-based something or other) and run it in a GUI.

    Fedora feels like a playground for people like me. A safe place I can come and kick tires and test things to see how they work. I would love to be able to show my friends/peers “my latest” program being built to encourage and promote the use of Fedora… but it feels so overwhelming. I don’t know where to start, or to find easy to use walk-throughs.

    I know you guys need contributors, but there doesn’t seem to be any programs or testbed situations for newcomers to “play” and learn.

  10. Samuel Orr

    I don’t have much to add to the discussion I guess. Though I have for a while been looking for a distribution to suit me. I have always been interested in communities that work on technology and not (only) shiny new features. Yet also something where the community is friendly and events and such are encouraged. I have been testing Fedora lately and there is a lot to like, especially the package management. Also the related SL/CentOS communities allow a long term release for what I need to just work. This article here convinced me to give it a real go. Thank you. 🙂

  11. Stefan Huchler

    I have no problem that u think of doing a even better job.

    But I disagree to some negative analyse you did in this article. If that analyse would have come 3 years ago, I maybe agreed to that.

    And if distros are sexy or not is also not THAT important, even the user-numbers are not that important. But it is important how developers see your distribution and maybe use the distribution.

    Of course its also nice to have more “casual” users, but here fedora has a better start-point than ever.

    If you hear the term Gnome-Distribution what do you thing Linux interested people think first, right fedora. Some said thats a disadvantage I completly disagree to that.

    Yes maybe Gnome-shell isnt perfect yet ok. If taking user with you a better longer classic gnome 2 support from the start would have been better. BUT Ubuntu did completly fail to give a better alternative. Even in the ubuntu-shop you find more likes to gnome-shell than unity. And Unity is not in any other distribution. With the Mir stuff it did get even worse.

    Its pretty hard to install gnome in ubuntu, yes some incomplete half old half new gnome version you can install from the package manager for a full gnome-desktop you at least need to install one ppa if not more.

    I dont think that a legacy more or less gnome2-ui will win in the long run. I dont think in the long run Linux Mint will ever be so dominant Ubuntu was. Even today Ubuntu is more dominant than Mint. Even distrowatch numbers may hint that Mint is the biggest one.

    There was never a bigger willingness to test out other distries since ubuntu become big.

    And yes a big percentace stick to ubuntu 12.04 as long as possible, but they will have to move on, and the problems with ubuntu will become bigger and bigger, they basicly forked linux. You use Ubuntu or anything else, and the support from developers will go down. Its a bit like russia they will pay the price in the next years for what they have done.
    Not by hard official sanktions but by companies calculating this country less stable higher risky and do less investments there.

    Why is Archlinux so popular today as desktop os? Its basicly THE sexist distro right now. After the unity thing in Ubuntu I slowly startet to search alternatives, compared different distros, and the two winners where archlinux and fedora.

    Both are way way better than ubuntu ever was, but I find fedora better. Several reasons:
    – commitment to free software
    – often earlier binary packages form important stuff like mesa 9.2 (f19) and xbmc 13 (f20).
    – gnome feels faster and more stable
    – I can also install fedora on a pc from my dad and he get his updates installed no problems since 6 months or so. I could not do that with archlinux

    I am ok with that fedora.next thing when its mostly a marketing thing maybe gets some more attention 😉

    To give some critics for the sake to become even better:
    – Your Wikis look to company-orientated, or the doku, and some information is very splitted on to much different plattforms. Look at the great archlinux wiki unmatched 😉
    – focus even more on arm support, but you do a pretty good job there anyway.
    As example I would love to be able to use xbmc on my Cubieboard 3 (Cubietruck) with fedora 😉 you can install fedora on it but without xbmc.

    – Btw XBMC is no unfree software so get it into your main repos. There was a problem with libffmpeg or another lib? But that should be fixed now. So get it into your main repos. Its a very important SEXY ^^ Piece of software.

  12. Moi

    I use Fedora … have since forever …

    But, when I manage to get someone to try Linux, I install Mint, or somethng similar …
    Why ?
    Because it works out of the box, I dont have to jump hoops to get Music and Videoa to work.
    I dont have to instal extra repos to make other things work. (Flash, steam, etc …)

    Now all this and more works on my installs, (5 Laptops and 2 Workstations …)
    But I wouldn’t want to leave a Linux newcomer stuck with a distro that needs this level of commitment …

    • As I said to Hunkah, I don’t think we necessarily can (or should) reach all newcomers in that way.

      And, of course, music and video are difficult simply because of the state of software patents in the US, and other than political involvement there is little we can do about that.

  13. Travis

    No matter how cool you try to be I am still going to install XFCE4 and handpick most of my packages after doing a minimal install. Please, just don’t make this difficult for me while you are trying to be “hip with the kids”. 🙂

    • I hope this is well-covered under the “additive, not subtractive” slide. Worst case, this should stay the same for you, but actually, I hope they’ll get better. Although the Workstation product (more in that in the next parts of this series) will be Gnome-based, the Workstation WG has representatives from the KDE and XFCE SIGs too, so communication and interaction has a place to improve. And I think your approach will also benefit from work on the base design, with an actively-curated minimum install.

      • Todd Lewis

        Although the Workstation product … will be Gnome-based…

        Then your fate is sealed. I run Fedora on all my systems — The MATE-desktop spin — and am forever trying to excise the bits of GNOME that keep getting dragged in. I’d love to stay with Fedora, but I’ve never seen GNOME > 2 run in anything other than fallback mode. It’s disheartening to read an entire article about how you want to fix the “Fedora isn’t cool” issue, but when THE CENTRAL FACTOR is brought up repeatedly in the comments the response is “load some extensions and try again.” Sorry, but you aren’t listening. If you want to do one thing to address the falling popularity of Fedora, switch to any of the other desktops you offer as a default. GNOME 3 is Innovation run amok. You don’t even have to not offer it; just not as a default.

        • It’s not really my decision; it’s the project overall, and it turns out that a lot of people have a different view.

          But, I think it’s also a mistake to focus on just the desktop. More on that in the next installment later this week. 🙂

  14. The KDE experience in Fedora is superb. You people are hurting yourself with that choice of Gnome as default.

  15. Bernard

    Hi there.

    My company uses about 15 servers and developers about 5 linux boxes. Nearly everything is running Fedora. All servers are. Being one of the 5 developers, I can tell that we spend most of our day in emacs or similar editors, we don’t give a damn about the desktop bells and whistles. The shift to Gnome 3 was just a pain: we had to lose time to be able to use the system as before, the shift gave us no gain of any kind. I try to avoid using the mouse and keep my fingers on the keyboard. With gnome 3, this is just more difficult. I don’t want to spend hours playing with different kinds of desktop gadgets simply to use ‘alt-tab’.

    The shift with systemctl was completely different: there is an organisational gain and a quality gain. So we grumbled a bit and now we would not want to return to init scripts. But with Gnome 3, no gain, only pain.

    We keep Fedora because we often want/need to have state-of-the-art packages while trying to avoid to recompile these from source as much as we can. With others distros, theoretically more ‘stable’, the whole set of package is sometimes so old that considering a recent update of some tool is just impossible. That’s the main reason we’ll stick with Fedora.

    Fedora is so cool you don’t need to tell everyone that it’s cool, it is just naturally cool 🙂

    • Glad to hear it. And I think you’ll be happy with what we’re doing to make it… even more cool. I think our plans fit very well with your uses.

  16. Leslie Satenstein

    it is very important that any presentation foils be spelling perfect.

    Recieve is wrnog whoops wrong it should be “Receive” .

    • Yes :). See the note in italics at the top of the article; there’s a few mistakes like that in the video but they’re fixed on the slides now (and in the screenshots in the article). At least I hope. Do feel free to point out any I missed.

  17. Leslie Satenstein

    Here is a rant, and a hope to see an improvement for the Gnome logon screen
    The current Fedora 19, 20 logon screen reminds me of looking down a sewer and seeing two or three bars representing three logon names. a black background with a dull boring logon screen.

    Bring back the colorful image for the logon screen, and please, and I mean please, bring back the logon message box. We can use this to let people know something or another before they logon to the system. Otherwise, we logon, we see the password accepted, and we walk away to get our coffee, while the user interface comes up.
    I have a Fedora 20, a shadow Fedora20 and Fedora19 on my system. Any new software goes to the main Fedora20, and if I need to recover, I use the shadow Fedora 20.
    Both logon screens are identical, which means that is only after I logon to the system that it is that I can tell, via uname -a (and not necessarily that way), which of the two Fedoras I am logged to. To me the message area to remind the user of something important is desired.
    we have /etc/issue and motd as serving for messages (after logon). I have not seen motd functioning in F20 [b]except for the ttyn logon.[/b].

    Please bring back the Message area to the main logon area.

  18. Leslie Satenstein

    A request for Fedora 21 (next).

    The desktops for all users (root included) are defaulted to a common image. (Refer to background images.
    Please consider having the root logon to have a separate default image
    I have done this in my system. It acts as a reminder that I am in the root logon (GUI).
    Within setup, Visit Gnome background

    For users, Fedora defaults to [1;1] (top left), For root I change user to use [3,2] (row 3 column 2)
    Knowing the background is different, I am reminded to only use [b]yum or yumex [/b] and definitely no browser or email.

    (Why do I use GUI logon?) For easier safer file / directory management.

  19. Satheesh P K

    I am a loyal Fedora user since 2011. I don’t want to get into Gnome 3 controversy.
    One area where Fedora needs to improve is the installer. The new installer introduced with Fedora 18 is very complex for partitioning the disk. Please try to improve the installer.

    But I must admit that the Fedora installer is faster than the Ubuntu installer and better than the Debian installer.

    • Try F19 and F20. The installer UI has gone through a lot of improvement based on feedback. It’s not perfect yet, but it’s getting better.

  20. ROMAND

    I’ve been using Fedora since my first CS courses, back then it used to be FC3. As that time the desktop experience used to be quite laggy and quite much happened ever since.
    I must admit Gnome 3 brought some smoothness in the desktop experience.

    -Now talking about the ecosystem, Ubuntu attracted quite many people because they “branded” it, making the distribution like the third player. Yet by using some of the core features of Debian users could benefit from major features such as smooth upgrade (My father is so proud that he can upgrade on his own).

    Having a way to upgrade in one click, would really be soul saving. At the time of writing, upgrading for any red-hat related system still requires heavy process such as reinstalling system (and thus applications, settings …). Again, this would be a must for enterprises, and yet the users would directly benefit from it. This becomes even more obvious while talking about the (somewhat) short release cycle.

    -There was some talking lately regarding Red Hat, Cent OS and Fedora. From my point of view Fedora might be playing a much bigger role regarding the desktop experience, leaving CentOS a bigger role for what comes to server duties. This may also solve fuzzier red-hat ecosystem.
    Want to run a server with no commercial support: go for Cent-OS; want to go commercial: RHEL; but in all cases keep using Fedora as your Desktop with maybe a set of integrated tools to manage boxes/projects..

    Again, if you think about the similarity with Debian environment, Debian servers are quite popular, but are people using it as their default desktop experience ? It would sounds reasonable that Ubuntu would support them on daily basis.

    To me, Ubuntu is an award winning solution for beginners/new comers and Fedora has all the key features to become an award winning solution for professional use.

  21. Hugh Redelmeier

    I cannot watch the video. It says “This video is private”. Can this be fixed?
    This is also true about the video in the second part

  22. Fran W

    Hello there

    Downloaded Fedora 20 on 2nd June ’14, but would like to know if the Favourites could be expanded so that I can fit all my icons on and see them all at the same time. I don’t mind two panels or more for Favourites on the desktop.

    How do you create a new panel in Fedora?

    I was using Ubuntu 14.04 until yesterday. I’ve used Lxle 12.10 alongside Ubuntu, but wiped both to install Fedora.

    For the moment I’ll stay with Fedora as it’s similar to Debian 7 Wheezy which I do like as well.

    If the Favourites issue can be solved, I’d be very pleased indeed.

    Thank you for a very impressive distro.

    F Waldron

    • Hi Fran. I don’t know the answer to this, but let me point you to a more useful forum for getting this kind of help: https://ask.fedoraproject.org/. This blog post is more about the general plan for Fedora going forward, and less about the specific features of the desktop environment. 🙂

  23. Steve Szmidt

    I’ve been a Red Hat user since before version 1.0 back in the mid -90’s, I’ve tried a LOT of distro’s over the years and I since the release of it always come back to Fedora for my desktop computer running KDE.

    To me Gnome has always been a complete and utterly unlikable once I tried KDE. The whole idea of treating users as, well, dumb, unable to configure his/her environment is never going to work for me. Then seeing Fedora switching to default to Gnome was understandable to catch the Windows user. And maybe that was what was needed at the time the decision was made.

    I would suggest offering Gnome under the umbrella of being simple with a minimum of setting to worry about, maybe Cinnamon as being more flexible and then offer KDE for the more adventitious with lots of configuration options.

    Then take a real close review of what other mainstream distro’s offer to play music, video’s and all the things people like using. Survey a ton of people who use different distro’s what they use and why they use it. What they like to see.

    That could say Fedora is flexible and can fit anyone. Right now when one arrives on the home page it simply downloads the Gnome version. Alternate versions, when you see them, are there and if you already know what you are looking for you can certainly get it but the uninitiated would simply go with default and then maybe leave not knowing there are options.

    All three has to have prominence in a way that attracts their natural users. Survey each on what they like about it.

    A lot of people need and want a simple environment. Others dream of what KDE allows, while yet others are in between.

    For corporate IT they “know” how dumb and troublesome users are and love them having a safe O/S that is easy to support. I would suggest a DVD version which has all three and would be used to find each person’s favorite.

    There’s one primary thing I like about MAC, besides excellent service/support, and that is aesthetics! I could ALMOST switch just to have the look and feel of it. But alas, I don’t like their company policies and the way they operate in other areas. And of course it’s not OpenSource.

    I think there’s a wide open hole to have a Linux distro that offers the serious aesthetics MAC does. I kind of doubt Fedora could reinvent itself, find the kind of artists it takes. Today the closest I can see would be under KDE’s new Plasma which is still under serious development, but it is moving forward in great strides. The biggest challenge I found as a KDE user is when new things are implemented that 1) you are forced to use and 2) not verified as stable.

    KMail was my all time favorite. But it’s unlikely I’ll ever use it again after the MS Word 2.? upgrade type fiasco where the new version did not support the previous version of doc files. Here Kmail was not working for days on end after an upgrade in spite of a lot of trouble shooting. In the end I had to resort to finding and using another client. I think it might have been Nepomuk’s database.

    When new technologies are tested there should be an option to choose which one and to back out. Then if if fails too badly one can simply downgrade and it’s not too much of a problem.

    Fedora is being a “bleeding edge” distro and as such I, however unhappily, accept a certain amount of trouble. (I’m not sure that is necessarily such a good idea in today’s environment.) But for the sake of all that’s holy, try to offer ways out that minimizes the damage when it occurs. Allow me to switch to the previous working (fill in the blank) that is not fully out of beta yet.

    I promise more people will be willing to try out new things if they know they can always easily revert to a working tool. As the user you can offer feedback and contribute the the improvement. But when it’s too broken with no recourse, why take the risk? (These last paragraphs are probably best directed to the KDE dev’s, but it applies to all who release beta s/w.)

    If you made it all the way through, thanks for listening to my rant! 🙂 But I feel very strongly about this. My desktop is vital to my professional and private life.

  24. I see just one main complait: applications breaking. The origin of this problems is not “we do not have enough people to work it out” the origin of all (imho) is you need less packages on your base distro. What I mean by that is what Archlinux shines for: restrict base to fully trusted developers that pass through a revision and a lot of screening process and give them a key to sign their packages. Then create a user based repository so everything can fall there and everybody has the reposibility of looking what they are installing on their system. This repo will track the best and more reliable package mantainers to get selected for an upgrade of the package from the user repo to the fedora repos. This gives control to the comunity to beta-test all packages, report errors to the maintainers (not the bug-tracker system) and stop the packages that break the system from beeing installed by users that didn’t even want to install it.

    To achieve this you would need, as mentioned above, one or more tools to document everything like the amazing Archlinux wiki, because there would have to be a place to teach you how to build your own package from source and which guidelines you have to follow in order to be considered for watch list for the next trusted developer/user.

    You don’t need to have more people, you need to purge your packages so there is only stable bleeding edge and give everybody the oportunity to install something else and not drag Fedora into the figth.

    I used to love Fedora, it was my darling for years, but then the breakege began and sadly I had to leave it in favor of Archlinux. These are the reasons I left, the problem of Gnome and such is not a problem, even if you install a Gnome-based Fedora, you can install KDE, lxde or some other DE you like, the problem is not the default DE, the problem is there is no defined line between solid system and complementary packages. I hope to one day I return to Fedora, that is why I keep comming back to search for news about it, not because of Docker, but because of Fedora itself.

    The tl;dr is, you need a user repository (a la Archlinux and AUR) and you need documentation, a lot (a la Archlinux and it’s wiki) nothing more can make you “cool” again if you don’t get those (imho).

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