Updated: April 30, 2011
Last week, we had a jolly stab at Fusion Linux, a Fedora fork. This week, we will discuss Fuduntu, a self-proclaimed serious distro with a punny name [sic], another Fedora remastering work designed to be simple and usable out of the box. What Fuduntu does is blend the features of Fedora with those of Ubuntu. In other words, you sort of get a RedHat-based distro with the simplicity of the Ubuntu family. An interesting concept, but how simple or difficult is such an integration?
This is also a great opportunity to see how well the two compare. Which one would you choose if you had to limit yourselves to just one? Will it be Fuduntu? Hopefully, my review will provide you with the right answers to make the right choice. Now, let's begin. I tested version 14.9, the latest available release.
Live session - Between Picasso and van Geek
Like Fusion, Fuduntu boot is virtually indistinguishable from Fedora. The live desktop features a very Windows 3.11 wallpaper, a repeat checkerbox pattern - or is this houndtooth plait, perchance - that looks rather glum. It creates a chopped feel that makes you want to scratch the single icon from the desktop and mangle the dock at the bottom.
Looking at the desktop, I could not quite figure what's Ubuntu (adj) about it. The looks are classic Gnome. Even the theme is a regular Gnome one, more Fedora than anything else. Fusion Linux did sport a Mint-like theme and icons, but this is less apparent here. If anything, Fuduntu looks more like PCLinuxOS 2010.12 Gnome than any other distro.
You also get the bottom dock that has never featured in Ubuntu. The theme comes with a bluish gradient that is a little annoying. Windows decorations are decent enough and reminiscent of PCLinuxOS, like I mentioned earlier. Fonts are larger than most competition and fairly good.
You can immediately improve the default looks with as little as changing the wallpaper. At this moment, you would not really know which Linux distribution you're running.
Wireless, Bluetooth & Samba
Worked fine, however Samba did take a moment or two to grease up into speed. No problems overall. In fact, I haven't see any hiccups in this department lately, but it pays off to be prudent.
Another interesting bit is the Jupiter power control applet loaded into the system area. This small yet useful program allows you to change the CPU power scheme, toggle resolutions and enable or disable devices. It's not a bad addition, although somewhat unusual.
Fuduntu suffers from exactly the same problems like Fusion. It's a 50:50 tie. You win with Flash and MP3, which is good, as they are more prevalent and more important to the vast majority of users, and you lose with the less known usage cases of QuickTime and MMS. The loss is just as bad as Fusion Linux. While you don't see a specific crash for QuickTime plugin or the simple refusal to play a radio stream, you get a Firefox warning popup that is just as frustrating and confusing, both for Apple trailers and Microsoft Media Server.
The error message is just as helpful as a cup of snow in a blizzard. You get a cryptic message that complains about Totem, which your average user can only assume is not related to native American tribes.
No worries, we got the Cube! But you don't have the Compiz manager or Emerald like in Fusion and the default set of enabled plugins is slimmer. However, this is a decent work, but you also get the same in Fedora.
Installation - 99% Fedora
However, one thing was odd - and that's the partitioning setup. When I tried formatting the root partition with Ext4, Fuduntu complained and demanded Ext3. This might be related to the fact /boot was located on the same partition, but I don't recall any difficulties with other Fedora spins, forks or knives. The error message is not quite useful either. I'm not sure what it says, but this could be related to a sloppy remastering process.
This is weird, because I was under the impression that a 2.6.37 kernel supported Ext4 in all configurations. I'm leaning toward my initial hunch - this is a bad rework.
The system eventually installed quickly into a dual-boot configuration, with the root formatted as Ext3; there were no issues with the resident Windows 7 installation.
Post-install fun - and lack thereof
There's no desktop customization like in Fusion. You are greeted by another lovely 1990 desktop, which leads me to believe the developers have a fetish for patterns. Moreover, the login screen and the lock screen look so much more inviting - with a gray background and the offset Fuduntu logo to the right. So why not use that as the default, in addition to avoiding the disjointed aesthetic feel?
And a much better transformation:
Applications - A blend of good and weird
Fuduntu comes with a more conservation selection than Fusion Linux, which stands to logic, as it weighs some 400MB less. Even so, there are several programs completely out of place. You really wonder why they were included, as the collection looks random and haphazard and rather unprofessional.
The reasonable two thirds of the arsenal include Dropbox, Ailurus for tweaking, a small subset of OpenOffice programs, VLC, GIMP, Firefox 3.6, and a handful more. The balance is solid and there aren't too many confusing options. In this regard, Fuduntu makes a simpler choice for the average user, even though Fusion is much more wow-effect oriented.
On the downside, some items are just plain wrong. For instance, what does bottom panel preference mean? I don't have a bottom panel. I'm using a dock. Am I supposed to know that the little dock is called Awn? What would a typical user do here?
You also have the ability to create wallpaper slideshows. Again, this reminds me of the older Win95-era days when such things were of use and interest. Besides, some of the available wallpaper schemes in the Appearance menu already do this, so why bother.
I wasn't sure about Network Control Devices, either. What is this thing?
The most unexpected and unnecessary bit is the Active Directory (AD) membership wizard. Why would I want to do this? How come? Where did this bit crop in? Since when is Fedora a distribution used in a corporate environment as a part of normal desktop productivity rather than a fifteen-month lab testbed? Now, if we dabble into Enterprise, why not include Evolution, SIPE plugin, Sun Java, and so much more?
Speaking of Ubuntu, none of the mentioned components, in addition to default look and there, are parts of the default Ubuntu installation, including multimedia codecs, which need be specifically enabled by the user.
These choices make me doubt the distro's nature and intended audience. Feels too random, almost as if one man chose whatever he/she thought was best with little regard to the consensus.
There's one good thing to be said about Fuduntu. In fact, two good things. After about an hour or two of use, I'm yet to experience a crash of any kind. SELinux is nowhere to be seen, so this is a good thing. I'm starting to believe the two actually go hand in hand.
Compared to Fusion Linux, Fuduntu does suffer from its own bugs and inconsistencies, but at least it gains and overtakes in the stability aspect, which is very important for healthy daily use.
Speaking of problems ...
Easy printing made impossible
You would expect the same results like with the rest of Gnome-blessed Fedora family. Unfortunately, despite the friendly firewall notification, it did not quite work. You have to manually disable the firewall before you can print. Even then, it took me some four or five attempts, each accompanied by its own annoying root password prompt, before I managed to connect to my Windows neighborhood printer. A typical user would slit his wrists but not see the test page printed, I'm afraid.
Bad theme integration
The use of the dock poses another problem and that is of redundancy. The standard top Gnome menu lets you place application shortcuts onto your desktop and the top panel, making the dock redundant. Then, if you right-click on an added panel icon and try to change its properties, you get an awful visual effect:
System usage, suspend & resume
Fuduntu is less hungry than Fusion, with about 200 and a bit MB of memory used without any applications running. This is a respectable number, better than most Gnomes, comparable to stock Fedora and even Debian. Don't mind my screenshot that much, with its network and CPU spikes, as they result from the update manager waking up and consuming an extra 10-15MB, which might mislead you about the system usage.
And we're done. Calling it a day.
Fuduntu is an interesting project. It brings the Fedora usability level up by a notch or two. There were none of the crashes you might expect, so that's another notch. But then, you get a theme suffering from scars under a heavy layer of cheap makeup, programs that simply do not belong anywhere, multimedia playback errors, and the installation Ext4 fiasco that's simply baffling.
Compared to Fusion Linux 14, a virtually identical project in spirit if not in execution, Fuduntu is simpler, more spartan, with fewer choices, which is not necessarily a bad thing for less skilled users. It wins in the stability department but loses in beauty. One can always claim that you can easily replenish missing programs in Fuduntu, but you can't easily restore the stability. This is quite true.
So what do you do? Fedora? Ubuntu? Something else? My overall impression is that Fuduntu misses its core goal. It aims to be Ubuntu-like, but has none of Ubuntu features whatsoever. If anything, it's more akin to Scientific Linux. But Scientific is a serious productivity work, while Fuduntu is a home-grown experiment for lazy enthusiasts.
At the end of the day, I'd say Fuduntu is tied with Fusion, even if the two aim at the opposite ends of the spectrum. It's a medium-rare product, with lots of problems that need fixing. It's friendlier than Fedora, it lags behind Scientific and it can't compete with Ubuntu just yet. To sum it up, Fuduntu makes sense for Fedora fans, but it's not ready for the big league. Overall grade, probably 7.5/10.