OpenSUSE Tumbleweed vs Fedora 25

I haven’t done a side-by-side review for a while and since others might have similar dilemmas, here it is. OpenSUSE Tumbleweed vs Fedora 25. Developer’s perspective in a moderately fair comparison. As test hardware I used my main S301LA VivoBook from ASUS. It’s light, FOSS-friendly and since I had swapped in an Intel wireless chip, has never let me down. OpenSUSE was installed from the network installer, while for Fedora I used respective desktop spins. Tested desktop environments were XFCE and LXDE. I like old, stable and lightweight. Let’s see what gives!

Getting the installation medium
Fedora 25 wins this one hands down. In fact, any distribution would compared to OpenSUSE. The full OpenSUSE Tumbleweed installation disc is 4.7 GB in size. However you look at it, that’s an absolute joke. Not only does it not fit on a single regular DVD disc, but also takes ages to download. If you need an extra disc for 32-bit hardware, you need to download again! This might have been excusable in the age of disc-only distribution, however nowadays it’s just unreasonable. Fedora offers 3 main GNOME3 discs (Workstation, Server and Cloud) + community spins with KDE, XFCE, LXDE, MATE and Cinnamon. Quite the choice, I must say.

This one goes to OpenSUSE Tumbleweed, easily. OpenSUSE sports perhaps the best installer I’ve seen in a free operating system. It’s so good and reliable, it’s just enterprise grade. My favorite feature is the ability to cherry-pick individual packages or follow metapackage patterns. Fedora’s network installer is customizable as well, though not to such a high degree. OpenSUSE just shines.

Out-of-the-box customization
OpenSUSE wins again, unfortunately. While Fedora is properly customized when you install it from a prepared LiveCD, that’s not the case with the network installer. All of the extras like a graphical front-end to the package manager need to be configured manually. In contrast, OpenSUSE is fully configured even if you select a desktop environment that’s neither KDE nor GNOME3 from the network installer. The polish is there as I mentioned in one of my earlier entries.

System management
OpenSUSE has the great YaST tool for configuring networks, NFS shares, firewall, kernels, etc. Fedora relies on desktop-specific applications and doesn’t have a dedicated tool. However, Yumex is less cumbersome than the GUI in OpenSUSE. I think at this point the general focus of each distribution starts to show as well. OpenSUSE emphasizes system management, while Fedora tries to be a FOSS all-rounder. There is no good or bad here, just differences. I prefer the Fedora-way as it’s a bit more lightweight.

Selection of packages
Both Fedora 25 and OpenSUSE Tumbleweed require some tinkering. Codecs are a no no due to licensing issues. It’s quite a shame, but when we recall the dismal Windows Media Player…Anyhow, licensed programs can be acquired either from RPM Fusion (Fedora) or Packman (OpenSUSE) repositories. OpenSUSE wins in terms of package numbers, though Fedora’s approach makes for a more stable environment. Some of the Packman packages are testing-grade (Factory), thus are prone to breakage.

As a developer platform
Both distributions are geared towards developers and both do it rather well. However, as mentioned earlier, OpenSUSE Tumbleweed favors streamlined system management and focuses more on server-centric features. In theory, it’s a separate product from OpenSUSE Leap, but in practice it shares its goals. Fedora is THE developer platform. The sheer number of programming language libraries and IDE plugins is a win in my book. Even Arch Linux doesn’t come close. Then we have the COPR (Fedora) and OBS (OpenSUSE and others) servers for package building and distribution. Both frameworks are straightforward and reliable. No clear winner here.

Thus, I conclude – a draw. That would explain my dilemma, I guess. OpenSUSE Tumbleweed and Fedora 25 are both great development platforms. However, they clearly focus on different things. OpenSUSE is more server-centric – database management, data storage, safety and recovery, etc. Even though Tumbleweed is the development line, this still shows. The upside is that it’s extremely streamlined and the extra hand-holding might be useful. Fedora is the true FOSS dev platform. No wonder Linus uses it! Great focus on programming tools and libraries. Things are not as streamlined, but less restrictive as a consequence. Server appliances are also available, though it’s rather deployment than management. I chose Fedora, because I don’t mind my system breaking occasionally. OpenSUSE Tumbleweed might be the easier choice, though.


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