I have used every Fedora distribution as a desktop and put them through the paces, Fedora 3 is the first one that I have felt that was stable, full featured and a candidate to keep on my desktop.
For this review I loaded it on a Pentium 750 MHz computer and a Dell Latitude laptop.
Loading Fedora 3:
The process of loading Fedora 3 is easier all of the time. Several noteable changes are that when you choose Automatic Partioning Fedora installed LVM (Logical Volume Management). LVM allows you to change active partition sizes as they grow. This is a great advantage as your server or system expands and needs additional space. LVM allows you to add physical disks to the group that is created. One example might be when you find that you have downloaded so much music that your /home/music directory is full, LVM will allow you to expand that by adding a hard drive. The second new feature that you will observe when installing is the security found in the firewall configuration. The firewall is enabled by default (yes, someone is thinking) and SELinux is active by default. SELinux is a great addition to Fedora 3. SELinux provides security from inside the kernel and is targeted to secure those services most likely to be security issues. When you load the packages available you will see that now XFCE is available as a lightweight desktop. I have used XFCE before and found that it indeed makes a big difference when you are loading onto an older machine. Again, this is a nice option that is convenient...way to go Fedora Team! The install is basic to anyone who has installed Fedora in the past. My install only required the first 3 disks for a desktop configuration.
Great Features of Fedora 3:
I really like the additional feature of SELinux! I also appreciate that the way that SELinux was installed into the system by using targeted security for specific services on a system that are typically vulnerable. This method of using SELinux is both logical and useable in that it really does not interfer with the normal user's experience, contrary to the SELinux application in Fedora 1 that created a disaster.
It's about time that distributions recognize that first impressions are critical and with that in mind I was happy to see that Fedora installed a new default desktop and nicer icons throughout. The menu icons seem to be smoother and a higher quality. Let's face it, a lot of people select a distribution now based on eye candy...so why not give it to them.
Firefox is loaded by default which is nice to see, especially with all of the press it has received lately. It is nice to know that Fedora is on the cutting edge with stuff that works. And Firefox does work well.
Multimedia additions like the Helix Player which supports open source media products like Ogg Vorbis and Theora is important since Fedora will not provide support for non-open source components like Real Player. I can understand keeping things open source, but this fact is a major drawback for many multimedia consumers. Anyway, the Helix Player is easy to use and works well.
Gnome 2.8 is stable and adds new features to removable devices and network servers. One interesting feature is that the File Manager is standardized so that it will allow applications to work easier with KDE and other desktops. This is a positive move in allowing users to choose applications that may only be available in one specific desktop. Network shares are now viewable in the Network View. As computers continually connect to other networks and individual computers, this feature is surely appreciated. When you insert USB devices , CDs or DVDs as well as cameras they are recognized automatically now which is a nice enhancement. Windows users could never figure out why you had to mount drives to get them to work. Weather Alerts have many more locations to make your local weather reports more convenient.
Also the battery monitor will now estimate the remaining time for your laptop battery. Once you plug the power back in it will also tell you how long until it is charged.
Nautilus 2.8.1 seemed stable and has the same basic features as before. I really appreciate the fact that the images within Nautilus can be set up to be thumbnails of the actual image. This really helps when your names are not descriptive of your images. Of course, it takes a lot of system resources to use small images for viewing your folder contents...Oh well...I like it..I do it.
Up2date was fast and worked beyond my expectations. Have you used other distribution updates? Some of them are slow, disconnect you and corrupt your files. The Fedora update worked great! For a free distribution this is high quality stuff.
VNC which provides a remote desktop is easy to use and set up. VNC continues to gain popularity as a training tool or to just share your desktop with another user on the network. There are security issues with VNC on the Internet so beware and use caution.
Network Tools is a wonderful addition to Fedora 3. It brings eight tools together in one interface for easy use for any network administrator. All of the tools that you need to evaluate your network connections are available and easy to use. Devices summary, Ping, Netstat, Traceroute, Port Scan, Lookup, Finger and Whois. The only bad thing about this tool is that I am already seeing additional hits on my websites from users trying these tools out. These tools are great in the hands of someone trying to administer their own network but they are a nuisance in the hands of someone playing with them.
Fedora 3 is optimized for Pentium 4 computers, but will work with Pentium II and III as well as AMD. Fedora suggests that you may be able to run it in text mode witha 200 MHz Pentium but will need a 400 MHz Pentium or better for the graphical interface. Though it may run on 64 MB in text mode , 256 MB RAM is recommended for the graphical interface.
There are several package groups that were removed which you may miss, here are a few; glade, gtkam, licq, quanta and tomcat. See the release notes for a full list.
I have been skeptical about Fedora 1 and 2, there were too many bugs, and the overall experience seemed to me to be experimental. But...Fedora 3 is different, this is actually a solid well thought out desktop operating system with good security, applications and overall feel. If you can deal with the limited multimedia options or if you load your own, this is a great system. I would highly recommend Fedora 3.