The Fedora Project

fedora logo

This is by no means my project, but I’m a happy contributor and member of the project. I started using Fedora after a few years on Ubuntu because the latter was consistently getting in my way: even to this day I fail to understand DPKG and Apt. But RPM and Yum on the other hand… To its credit though, Ubuntu was the software distribution that changed my mind on my first impression of this Linux thing and to a lesser extent Unix-like systems.

I started with Fedora 15 and it has never failed me to an unrecoverable point. I was the cause of some problems and still am occasionally because I like to tinker with my system, but to this day (Fedora 28 as I’m writing this) all major upgrades succeeded. Not from Fedora 15 to 28 because I switched laptop twice over the years, but still, I never had to nuke and pave an OS upgrade.

Fedora lacks many things: any free software relying on patent-encumbered technologies or simply proprietary software for a given definition of proprietary. There is a philosophical reason behind that, but also a practical one: Red Hat is a successful USA-based company, and a major contributor to the project, so a perfect target for patent trolls. It is also less popular (the evil and faceless Red Hat corporation doesn’t help) and in general has less software even when it comes to acceptable packages. Thanks to the RPM Fusion project I can use programs like VLC (because in theory software patents aren’t a thing in France), for the missing yet acceptable software I decided to stop complaining.

If something is not in Fedora, maybe I can make it available.

So I joined the project and became a package maintainer. It’s not a rewarding job and it’s hard to follow the packaging guidelines changes, but it’s vital. As I’m writing this, according to this very unscientific metric I’m in the top 1% contributors, but I’m a small contributor! In other words only a minority of people is keeping the project afloat and I believe that any package that can be offloaded to someone else (like me) is a win for everyone.

One of the responsibilities of a package maintainer is to act as front-line support and take bug reports downstream and carry them upstream (ideally with the bug fix ready for a review upstream). This is an interesting gateway to contributing to more free software projects and I have contributed bug fixes I wouldn’t have imagined within my reach before trying. And even when you think you are the sole user of that package you added to the distribution for yourself, others prove your wrong and file bug reports!

After leaving Ubuntu and entering my new Fedora comfort zone I joined the Varnish Cache project and got more exposure to other systems like the BSDs and OpenSolaris derivatives. I’m sticking to Fedora nevertheless. I also evaluated other Linux-based systems but nothing comes close to Fedora. I’m not interested in Linux distributions downstream of Fedora, and in theory they should benefit from my contributions too. I really hope Fedora will power my pocket computer one day, not just my laptop computer.

But Fedora is not perfect. I disagree with some of the decisions made by the project (off the top of my head modularity, Flatpak, and DNF being its own thing instead of just Yum 4) and I really don’t like Gnome 3 (more of an Xfce user myself) but for the most parts it’s fine: most things I don’t like are not forced onto me. Not that there is anything wrong with the things I don’t like, they simply don’t work for me, it doesn’t matter much.

So thank you “evil” Red Hat for the Fedora Project. I wish I could be more diligent but the free time I dedicate to Fedora is limited. I still do my best and use it on a daily basis!

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