Ubuntu. It makes Linux easy... for those who are new to the world of Linux. To other, more seasoned users it is a curse and I am going to explain to you why.
The impressions and thoughts I am about to give are relating to my experience today running Ubuntu 11.04 and Fedora 15 on the same hardware. Both were clean installs with the same partition layout and both were the only operating system on the laptop.
Also note I will keep this as non-technical as possible as I want this to be something that anyone interested in Linux can read.
Now, understand this is not my first encounter with Ubuntu. I played around with it a few years ago and with how much things have changed I won't get into my thoughts back then.
I'm not going to go through the installation process as this is purely from a usability standpoint. Ubuntu booted in about the same time that Windows 7 had before it was wiped from the machine. Nothing spectacular in my book but also this wasn't a bad thing since normally I grab a cup of coffee while waiting for my system to boot. Now, this laptop was actually configured for a new employee that I spent the day training (or at least, would have been... read on). Since I was not the one who installed the operating system I did a quick check over the system to make sure everything was done to a decent standard. Once verified I allowed the "new guy" to do some tasks such as setting up a virtual machine player and installing development tools. After about an hour I looked to my left to see a full screen console duplicated on both monitors. I asked what happened and he explained that his name was spelled wrong his user account so he used the built in tools to change his name. Long story short, the system deleted his home directory and wouldn't boot to the Desktop Environment. A little annoyed (more so at front end for making its actions not so straightforward to the user) I logged in as root and created a new user. That is after I let him try to solve it himself and after seeing one to many "sudo's" I took over. I removed the additional account he created and made a new account. "Ok" I thought, all should be good. I rebooted after explaining what "init" was and had him log into the new account. After a good 60 seconds I was greeted with all sorts of errors. Great. I grabbed the guy in charge and explained to him what happened and to let me set him up with another distro. After some conversation he obliged to allowing me to install Fedora 15. Let's go to that...
Again, no talk about installations here.
On first boot I grabbed my mug and was about to walk out of the room to grab a cup of coffee. Suddenly I was stricken with overwhelming feelings of excitement. As I looked up, Fedora was sitting there waiting for the user to go through first time setup. Awesome! I walked him through setup and had him do all the same things as before. I made a few manual configuration changes and walked him through the yum package manager. Within a half hour he had the entire system up to date, VMWare Player and all dependencies installed and even 64-bit flash for Firefox. The system literally flew at blazing speeds. Not much more needs to be said at this point.
I know I said I wouldn't bring it up but in all fairness when I used Ubuntu briefly a few years ago it was a much better distribution. I had no problems with it, I just didn't enjoy the lack of control it promised. Now on to the rest of it..
To put it simply, the current generation of Ubuntu is bloated, slow, and makes some administrative tasks not so straightforward even to a competent user. What does that mean for grandma who just got a new netbook? If you didn't guess, it means grandson is getting a call every week with questions like "Why is the screen black with a blinking thingy that says login? All I wanted to do was change my name!". There were numerous graphical glitches also but I won't get into that.
Fedora shined. It was surprisingly fast, responsive, and overall retained the amount of control you expect when using Linux. Yes, it would be correct to also call it bloated but if you put it next to Ubuntu it would be like putting a body builder next to a family of sumo wrestlers.
My thoughts are if you are new to Linux or you are a power user, if you want a Linux environment for every day use, choose Fedora. At least for right now, things are always changing for the better and sometimes in Ubuntu's case, for the worse. That's the great thing about community supported software. I guess Fedora does have the RHEL(Red Hat Enterprise Linux, do a search if you're curious) advantage though...
These are my opinions but after having tried countless distributions I still come back to Fedora every time (I do love Slackware but that's out of the scope of this document!).
Now to sum this up, Ubuntu has been marketed as the point of entrance into the Linux world. If others new to Linux run into these similar issues, they will most likely be swiftly turned away. Ubuntu can both draw and push away new Linux users.