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Fedora 16 And GNOME Shell: Tested And Reviewed

A First Look At Fedora And GNOME Shell

We've been covering Ubuntu for more than two years, receiving lots of great feedback on our work. Many of you asked us to expand our Linux coverage to include other distributions. Here's the result of those requests: Fedora 16 (code-named Verne) is our first step outside of Ubuntu/Linux.

We chose to cover Fedora because it's the first top-tier Linux distro to adopt GNOME 3 as its default desktop. Far from a mere upgrade to GNOME 2, GNOME 3 introduces the radical new GNOME Shell graphical user interface (GUI). This article is just as much about GNOME 3 and its controversial new GNOME Shell than it is about Fedora. Even more so, actually.

The Fedora 16 GNOME Shell

If you've kept up with our Ubuntu coverage, you know that Canonical (the corporate sponsor of Ubuntu) was originally slated to ship GNOME 3, along with GNOME Shell, last October. Instead, the world's most popular desktop Linux distro developed its own Unity user interface.

The Ubuntu 11.10 Unity Desktop

Like Unity, GNOME Shell is the victim of polarizing extremes. Both new interfaces seem to be met with either adoration or outright hostility. Ubuntu took a pass on GNOME Shell, and so did Linux Mint. Linus Torvalds, the father of Linux, called it an “unholy mess” on Google+. And thus, the aggregate opinion of GNOME 3 seems to be pretty negative so far (even more so than Unity).

Is the harsh criticism justified? If it is, could Red Hat really consider this shell for future versions of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL)? How efficient is the design of the new GNOME 3 desktop? How does it fare against Unity? Is the latest Fedora a leaner, meaner incarnation of Linux than Ubuntu? How does it stack up against Windows 7? Is Fedora 16 even fit for the average end-user desktop scenario?

We're answering all of those questions today. But because this is Tom's Hardware's first in-depth look at Fedora, we first have to cover the basics. Read on for a full primer on using Fedora 16, a complete guide to GNOME 3, and the cross-platform benchmarks.