Fedora Workstation 32 is Exceptionally Good

tldr; Fedora Workstation is really really good, go download it now.

Some History

I've been a Linux (desktop, laptop, and server) user since somewhere in the ballpark of the year 2000. My memory honestly gets a little bit hazy somewhere back in that time frame because life comes at you fast these days and 20-ish year old memories are a bit hazy, but let us say 2000 for sake of argument. My first ever Linux distribution was Red Hat Linux 7 Deluxe Workstation, it came in a boxed set from the retail store Best Buy and it sat on a store shelf right next to Windows 98se (which was for some reason still for sale at the time), Windows Me, Windows 2000, SUSE Linux 7, and probably some other software I don't remember. This was the golden age of "Year of The Linux Desktop" because Linux was on sale in retail stores right next to Windows, we were poised and ready to take over the world. Well, we did take over the world. Linux now powers everything from maker boards like the RaspberryPi, more smartphones than any other operating system in the world, all of the Top 100 Super Computers in the Top500 list, cars, appliances, light bulbs, and everything in between. The Cloud runs on Linux, Apple is showing off it's prowess at running Linux in VMs during their new "Apple Silicon" keynote, Microsoft created Windows Subsystem for Linux, Microsoft launched a "Microsoft Loves Linux" campaign, Google has released a supported means by which to run a tradition Linux system within ChromeOS (which itself is a Linux system), and the list goes on. We won, go team.

Except ...

The mythical "Year of the Linux Desktop" never quite came to fruition the way many of us had hoped. Our market share has risen slightly over the years and the developer community at large focuses on Linux as a development platform for backend services because Linux dominates the Datacenter and The Cloud. However, we still struggle to make a dent in that Desktop and Laptop market share quite to the same scale. The Open Source Community is vast, we have massive communities of users and developers who run Linux on their Desktop, Laptop, and various other niche personal computing hardware devices with great success and they are extremely happy doing so, and I count myself among these people. Unfortunately though, I always felt like we weren't "quite there yet" and I see this opinion a lot with Linux Desktop users and I feel there's validity in it with supporting evidence in the form of Linux Desktop users seeking refuge on a Mac, Chromebook, or Windows machine and running Linux in a VM, Container, or using WSL. The frustrations we all had, I shared in from time to time ... until now.

(Yes, I know someone's going to come at me with anecdotal evidence of how they've been happily using Linux on their Desktop for X years without issues and/or considerably less issues than with Operating System Y. That's great, I'm happy for you but this has not been the global experience. Do a couple internet searches and I think you'll see what I'm getting at. Let's continue ...)

We Have Arrived

Fedora Workstation 32 is Exceptionally Good <https://fedoramagazine.org/announcing-fedora-32/>_. At the time of this writing it is not new, I know, but at this point in it's lifespan I feel it's time to talk about just how exceptional it is, how good it has remained, and how excited I am for the future. First and foremost, GNOME 3.36 is the first time I feel like GNOME 3 provides as responsive of an user experience as GNOME 2 did and it brings a certain fluidity to the desktop as whole that I kind of forgot was missing. It was a long road to get here, many wonderful members of the community poured their hearts and souls into getting us here and for that, I am forever grateful because this is truly fantastic. GNOME Boxes went overnight from something I though was more or less a party trick to my favorite way to manage virtual machines on my laptops and desktops, hands down. Flatpaks are the future of desktop applications for Linux, you may or may not agree but the inherent power for an user to be able to truly customize the applications available to them, lifecycle manage software in a reasonable way without elevated privileges, access various "app stores", get sandboxing mechanisms that require permissions approvals per application, and do all of this within the confines of their home directory without affecting global system state. This is exactly the type of modern user experience the larger audience in the desktop market expect, and it's been realized ... and it is really good. Again, this is not new but it's come a long way and warrants revisiting and appreciation for how good it had become. Beyond all this, the battery life of my laptop is consierably better than it ever has been before which is basically just icing on the cake.

The Fedora Workstation Community has done a superb job of taking a pile of parts comprised of disjoint Open Source projects from far and wide across the glorious Bazaar, and stitching them together into a cohesive unit that genuinely feels as though it was all created by a single team. This is unique in the Linux World, few have pulled it off before and for some reason something about the fit and finish of Fedora Workstation 32 feels as though the Fedora Workstation Community has truly done it in a way it never has been before. This is not something that should be taken lightly and I do not say it lightly. I've have the good fortune to be a Community Contributor to Fedora for over a Decade, I've had the honor of serving as a Community Elected Member of the Fedora Engineering Steering Committee, and I've now been a part of the Linux Desktop User ecosystem for almost long enough that my tenure could buy beer in the United States of America legally; this is the first time I've ever installed Fedora and thought to myself, "this is truly exceptional."

Don't get me wrong, I love Fedora and I think it's always been amazing and it's been my Linux Distribution of choice since not long after the RHL/RHEL/Fedora split occurred and I've poured over a decade of my life into helping develop, produce, and maintain Fedora. Fedora is part of who I am and no matter what the future brings, it will always have a place in my heart. I do not make these claims lightly, nor do I want to take away from the mountains that have been moved to get us here, and continue to be moved in the future. This is exceptional as a "product" fit and finish to a level of uncharted territory and it excites me.

For the first time in the history of Fedora, a major OEM is going to offer Fedora Workstation pre-installed on their Business Class laptops. This is history in the making. There is no other fully Community Powered, Governed, and Developed Linux Distro that has that kind of commitment from a major vendor. Yes, I know that Red Hat Sponsors Fedora but go look at the Governance, Project Structure, and Contributor Statistics; it is Community Powered in earnest (as it should be). I also know about Dell Project Sputnik and the Dell Developer Laptop Program, which I love and I gladly give all the due credit to Dell and Canonical for making that real and pushing the Linux Desktop agenda forward; but these are different because Canonical supports Ubuntu and you can pay for support through Dell or Canonical on that machine. There is no paid support or support call center for Fedora, it is truly Community Driven, Community Powered, and Community Supported. That is, at a minimum, noteworthy and a realization of the maturity of the project and the "product offering" (for lack of a better term) that comes from Fedora.

I think contributing factors that brought the Lenovo announcement to fruition are many. It's a standing ovation to the Fedora Community, the Developers, Maintainers, Release Engineering, Quality Engineering/Assurance, Designers, Documentation Team, Special Interest Groups, Outreach Programs, Infrastructure Admins, and everyone I might have missed. They've made this possible, the power of the Community and the maturity of the Project make it ripe for use by OEMs in this way. Another thing is truly the fit and finish. The installation of the operating system is more simple than it ever has been, the Welcome Screen after a fresh install feels like you've been greeted by a grand new environment that's fully integrated and well defined. Everything about it feels top notch and ready to take over the world. It has the intangible attribute that I can't well define with words but it feels "Premium" in a way that makes me expect that I should be paying something akin to "Apple Tax" for it. I am again excited for the mythical year of The Linux Desktop.

There Is Still Much To Be Done

I am a natural born citizen of the United States of America and while we as a demographic have a reputation of declaring victory prematurely, I believe myself to not be so unrealistically optimistic (time will tell). In that spirit, I will admit we have a long way to go to truly be a mainstream competitor to Windows, MacOS, and even ChromeOS in raw market share but I feel we have a truly competitive offering in ways I had never considered before. I see a possible future that we could very well get there in the next decade.

There's still much to be done, but I absolutely think we're on the right track.

A tip of my hat to the entire Fedora Community for making something extraordinary and I look forward for the continued improvement in Fedora 33 and beyond over time.

That's my $0.02, thank you for your time.