School of Computer Science THE UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM Frames-free web site tuxmobil

Fedora vs Ubuntu: A partial Answer

Aaron Sloman

This is a Supplement to my web site on using Linux on Dell d600/d610 laptop


I was recently asked about differences between Ubuntu and Fedora.

A quick look on the internet revealed a number of more or less shallow and inaccurate comparisons, but I felt there were some missing items.

This file was the result.

I may try to improve formatting (and content) later.

Feel free to submit corrections or additions.

Update: 20 Sep 2008

One of the differences in recent years has been that getting hold of
things like mplayer, which include some non-open source code, was
more hassle on Fedora than Ubuntu. That became easier as new
repositories were added for Fedora.

I recently discovered vlc, and so far my impression is that it is
excellent and may make xine and mplayer redundant for someone with
my limited needs for playing video and audio files.

There are pre-built systems for various linux distributions

Answers to some questions about the differences

> Also, I have a question that you may be able to help me with (and
> I'm asking out of ignorance). What IS the difference between Fedora
> and Ubuntu?

There are many small differences and some big differences. The three
biggest differences I encountered are more differences between
Fedora and Debian (on which Ubuntu is based).

(a) The installation package for Ubuntu is quite small, and you need
a network connection immediately to download lots of extra stuff
(this uses apt-get and synaptic, an excellent tool).

The installation package for Fedora is much larger with far more
options to choose from on the DVD (or collection of CDs). You can
usually build a complete system without a network connection, and
then have the option to use a network connection to update things
that have recently changed -- using 'yum' and 'up2date'.
You can use apt-get on Fedora but mixing it with 'yum' is not

There is now a version of synaptic for Fedora, integrated with 'yum'
(i.e. they use the same records) and that removed what for me was
the strongest advantage of Ubuntu.

    Update 22 Feb 2009:Since writing the above I have found that
    'yumex' on Fedora provides similar functionality to 'synaptic' on
    Debian/Ubuntu. There is no 'man' file unfortunately, but it is
    mostly intuitive.

Oh, fedora uses rpm packages for distributing self-installing
software and Ubuntu uses deb packages. I have no idea how they
compare, since I've not used Ubuntu enough.

(b) Ubuntu (and Debian) provide better support for users who want a
mixture of proprietary and non-proprietary stuff: the majority of
users don't care anyway -- they just want things that provide the
required functionality.

Fedora cannot include proprietary stuff that Redhat cannot
distribute freely. However, they have started providing repositories
from which it is easy to get the non-proprietary stuff, and made it
easy to add the repositories to the local files used by 'yum' and
related packages. I don't know how the repositories compare.

One site that for me is very important supports only fedora:

It provides pre-built kernels in which the swsusp2 package (now
called TuxOnIce) is installed (and also, I think, some useful stuff
for throttling cpu on a laptop with battery).

The TuxOnIce/SWSUSP2 tools make software suspend/resume using a swap
area much faster than the standard 'hibernate' that comes with
linux. (There has been a long battle over this. I have no idea why
the better faster system is not the default.)

I hardly ever reboot either my laptop (F8) or my desktop (F9). I
just hibernate, saving to swap partition, and resume. It keeps all
my windows, firefox tabs, etc. and other things as they were. Last
week one of our collaborators from who uses ubuntu saw me do that,
and because it was so fast decided to investigate getting TuxOnIce
for Ubuntu (which should be possible, though I don't know how).

I don't know if he will consider switching to Fedora.

Incidentally TuxOnIce seems to have got significantly faster with
the latest version I installed (using 'yum update') from the Hensler
site. Maybe they have changed the compression algorithm.

(c) A big difference is the way networking is set up. I can't
remember all the details, but as I recall, Ubuntu, like Debian, puts
everything specifying all the interfaces in one file, something like
/etc/networks (I forget its actual name), whereas Fedora, like
RedHat has a collection of interface specifications, e.g.

        sets some global stuff

    Plus a file with keys for WEP.

I have been using that for ages and have a lot of scripts for
changing contexts as I move my laptop around -- as described in

E.g. in various directories I have sub-directories called
        for my home wireless setup
        for the campus wifi
        for eduroam connections
        default for hotels airports, etc.

in which I have definitions of various files, e.g. /etc/hosts
/etc/resolv.conf and the ifcfg-eth1 wireless interface.

I used to have one for the school network, before that was replaced
by uobwlan.

Then, depending where I am, as root I can run a script that copies
the appropriate files into the standard location and restarts the
network. For me that works very well.

If I were using ubuntu/debian I would have to rewrite the scripts to
edit files, I think. There may be alternatives.

Both Ubuntu and Fedora have gui tools for managing networking
profiles. I prefer just giving a command to run a script. Also that
way I can mix different things in a profile, e.g. different firewall
specifications can also be included, altering things like:



whereas the standard profile-managing tools just alter interface
settings, not the firewalls, etc.

I don't know anyone in the world who does things my way, though a
few people have told me they copied my scripts in order to get their
laptops to work with uobwlan.

I think there may be small differences in the way Fedora and Ubuntu
(RedHat and Debian) manage services including con, and the start and
stop scripts in

Again, I don't use gui tools: I just move the scripts in and out of
those directories (to backup directories) to enable or disable
services. That way I can quickly check which services I have
disabled, for example: their startup scripts are in the backup

> Fedora seems to look better (its font rendering is MUCH better than
> Ubuntu's in my opinion),

I did play with Ubuntu for a while, but I don't recall noticing
that. You may simply have installed different fonts somehow. I think
they both use stuff.

Fedora recently stopped including 75dpi fonts needed for tgif (my
favourite for simple 2-D graphics) and xpdf. But once I found out
the cause of the problems I was able to get rpms to install them.

> fedora.... uses yum
> instead of apt. Is there anything that can be done in one and not the
> other?

I doubt it.

> Does Ubuntu, being more common, have better hardware support for
> example?

It varies. E.g. at one point when I was testing Ubuntu I found that
wireless was dreadful because they were halfway between two ways of
supporting wireless and my netgear card was not properly supported
by the then current version of Ubuntu (gutsy, I think). At that time
it worked better with Fedora, which had a more consistent set of

There used to be a difference in that Ubuntu included firmware
for intel wireless cards and fedora users had to fetch the firmware,
but that's no longer the case, even though the intel drivers are not
open source. (Intel is very keen to support linux).

As regards graphic cards: with Fedora I have been able to download
and install the 'native' drivers for both Nvidia (on my PC) and
Radeon/ATI (on my laptop) cards instead of using the default
linux drivers for those cards (which don't support the glxgears demo
for example).

I just fetch the files and run them and they install drivers. I
assume that would work on Ubuntu, but I don't know. In any case the
default drivers that come with should be the same on both.

There may also be a difference in support for 64 bit linux. I see
lots of fedora packages offered in 32-bit and 64-bit versions, but
don't know if the same is true for Ubuntu.

Since I don't need 64-bit linux (except for testing 64 bit poplog) I
don't bother.

> Or is Fedora faster because it's not as bloated as Ubuntu?

Both by default provide kernels with lots of stuff that you may not
need (some of it as modules that are only loaded if needed).

Whether one is more bloated than the other I don't know. My current
(recently installed) kernel+boot files in /boot are:

-rw-r--r-- 1 root root   89628 Sep 12 15:33 config-
-rw------- 1 root root 2981328 Sep 14 11:22 initrd-
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root  937458 Sep 12 15:33
-rwxr-xr-x 1 root root 2175328 Sep 12 15:33 vmlinuz-

(That includes SWSUSP2.)

There's a rather shallow and partly out of date comparison web site

Another one, a year old is

There may be others that are better and more up to date.

The single main difference is probably that Ubuntu aims to be easy
for beginners and non-experts, whereas Fedora aims to support
experts and developers while trying to be nice to beginners.

That may lead to various subtle differences which matter more to
some people than others.

Maintained by Aaron Sloman
This web site was first created on 17 Sep 2008
Last updated: 22 Feb 2009