Hello all. As an avid follower Privacyguides, I switched to Fedora a few months ago and this is the only decision I regret for regarding the changes I made for privacy. Today, I reverted to Ubuntu, but I lost so much time during this period.
I know it was discussed so many times in Reddit and GitHub and other platforms. Still, I would like to suggest adding Ubuntu.
I am not an IT person, but I had used Ubuntu for almost 10 years as a user.
So what did I experience?
For a similar desktop experience to Mac or Ubuntu , I had to install extensions for desktop.
Tbh, I had some familiarity with basic Linux commands, and it took some time to get used differences.
Then, I want to install signal desktop app, but it was only available from a community created package. I cannot remember the source since I uninstalled the system. Even after this installation, some features were not worked as expected.
Afterwards, I had questions about installing software and a problem about grub. The As in the past, I searched on the web for possible solutions, but I saw a significant difference about available resources. Questions and answers mostly exist for Ubuntu.
Despite the current issues with its parent company RedHat, I think Fedora is still a good OS and I know where you are coming from but you have to understand where the issue is.
For your desktop issue needing extensions, this is unfortunately the fault of the GNOME desktop system, as this is one of their actual preferred desktop implementation - GNOME is designed to be used only and only in its default configuration and extensions are disapproved and looked down upon by the devs - even fighting against it oftentimes. There are other Fedora spins that you could try. Fedora KDE spin is also good and is the polar opposite of GNOME, as it has customizations enabled by design.
With regards to Signal. It is available only as a .deb, meaning it is only meant to be used on Debian and its derivatives, including Ubuntu. There have been numerous requests in the Signal forums to enable .rpm support with other distros but I really don know what is going on. As a workaround, I used to compile it myself manually into and AppImage and it still works but there are some hoops to jump to, including editing some files prior to the compile process. You could also install alien to enable using .deb on Fedora but I don"t know if this will create other issues within the OS itself. IIRC, Signal isn’t currently recommended by PrivacyGuides to be installed/synced in a desktop to lessen the attack surface.
With regards to GRUB, I don’t really mess with it too much. I’ve stopped dual booting and am using a Linux machine to do my daily stuff and using Windows strictly for gaming and other Windows exclusive activities.
Now I am aware this seems like me taking Fedora’s blame and spreading it elsewhere but, sadly this is the general Linux experience. Yes it sucks and frankly should be better, but you have to understand why things are that way or this way so as you could understand the pain points and act acccordingly. We truly are the vegan of the computing world and the Linux devs are a very opinionated bunch and insists on doing things a specific way, fork it if you arent happy with it.
For a similar desktop experience to Mac or Ubuntu , I had to install extensions for desktop.
Well, fedora’s not really at fault here, gnome is. Fedora’s about as close as you get to vanilla gnome, other distros just ship with extensions to fix certain issues.
And i say this as an avid gnome user, the gnome team have made some questionable decisions in the past:
removing tray icons - renders a significant number of apps unuseable, and means that you lose the only indicator of apps running in the background and the ability to kill them (in a convenient way).
removing the minimize/maximize buttons from window decorations in order to push their ideal workflow on users.
But this is just how gnome rolls, its an opinionated de, and extensions are a vital part of it to customize it to your liking, and bring back any missing functionality. Without extensions its pretty bland to be honest, but once you start using them, its a very nice de. If you want to make it “user friendly”, get either dash-to-panel or dash-to-dock, “AppIndicator and KStatusNotifierItem Support” (brings back tray), and the gnome-tweaks app.
If this isn’t for you then just install the KDE spin of fedora, you’re not just limited to gnome.
Then, I want to install signal desktop app, but it was only available from a community created package.
Indeed, but you know that user friendliness of the system is important as we saw in the discussions about Etesync. I don’t have excellent it skills but, I shared some of my experiences as an above average user Joe.
I know there are solutions to the problems and I did not even ask any questions to the community. Yet the point is in a few weeks, I faced many problems which is time consuming, and maybe more was on the way.
This is just my experience, you can take it however you want.
If I’m understanding you correctly, it seems the issues you faced were just problems that resulted from you expecting Fedora to work like Ubuntu. This type of issue is common and it also happens when new Linux users expect their OS to work like how Windows or macOS worked for them in the past. While Fedora uses a lot of the same software as Ubuntu, at the end of the day they are different operating systems and they will work in different ways.
The issues with GNOME are just that, issues with GNOME. It’s not really the fault of Fedora beyond them choosing GNOME to be the default DE. It might be worth while to discuss whether PG should be recommending GNOME over alternatives like KDE, but that would be a separate discussion from removing Fedora or adding Ubuntu in their recommendations.
As for your issues with Signal, it seems like it’s at least partially Signal’s fault. As far as I can tell from their website, they only list installation instructions for Debian-based distributions. I’m not currently using Linux but IIRC, Signal was easily installable when I was using Fedora. I believe Flatpaks are enabled by default so it should be as simple as searching for “Signal” in your application manager (such as GNOME Software) and clicking install. You didn’t go into detail as to where you installed Signal from or what functionality was broken, so I can’t really comment further on that.
GNOME is designed to be used only and only in its default configuration and extensions are disapproved and looked down upon by the devs - even fighting against it oftentimes.
Whats the point in spreading missinformation? GNOME devs don’t care what extensions you use. What they “disapprove of” is getting spammed with demands to add every single feature under the sun, or getting bug reports for problems caused by extensions, which they can’t do anything about other than closing the issue (and then get blamed for not fixing it).
They are literally the ones maintaining and actively working on the extensions system, and regularly shout out new or updated extensions in their newsletter “this week in gnome”. So, no they don’t “look down” on extensions, they just don’t want to be forced to be responsible for code they didn’t write and cant do anything about.
And for OP, as other have point out, if you want a more traditional desktop, Fedora has spins with other Desktop Environments like KDE and Cinnamon, and also have an immutable version of the KDE version called Kinoite, all of it officially supported. If you want Ubuntu’s layout, they use GNOME too, same as Fedora. You only need to install the few extensions they use. The only difference is that those extension come preinstalled on Ubuntu.
The source of the Signal Flatpak (or any Flatpak published on Flathub) can be checked GitHub. Funnily, it literally use the Snap that you get from Ubuntu. (See below, it uses the official .deb package)
Can you elaborate on what extensions you needed to install? Knowing what functionality people are missing in Fedora would be helpful in both/either guiding our recommendations in another direction, or writing a more useful guide to using Fedora ourselves.
I’ve deployed Ubuntu on a number of desktops now. The operators/owners have mostly been non-IT folk and it has been a huge success.
If I remember correctly, the main reason why it wasn’t added when we re-vamped the page was because it didn’t support Wayland, by default. That is now no longer true.
As far as privacy goes, I can not think of any reason why it shouldn’t be listed. Canonical is very clear about what data is sent and when, and provides very obvious opt-outs for people who don’t want telemetry.
In terms of privacy, Ubuntu is in deed a big step up from OS’s like Windows.
The biggest issue I have with them is the centralized nature of their preferred app packaging format, Snaps, with Canonical as the Gatekeeper of their Snapstore, not dissimilar to Google and their PlayStore.
That might be a moot point, given that you can still install Flatpaks (albeit with a few extra steps) or the classical .deb packages but the defaults do matter and increasing snaps “market share” (not the best word for it but I can’t think of a better one) gives Canonical more leverage over app distribution on Linux.
The previous discussion on Ubuntu is worth another look:
The privacy concerns with snaps are still valid, and they are still pushy about linking to an Ubuntu One account. I just reinstalled Ubuntu last night to look at it more and nothing has really changed from the statements there.
The snap thing in particular is enough for me to not want to endorse Ubuntu. Not just the privacy concerns brought up there, although those are big, but also just the nature of its proprietary backend. “Open source” is a requirement for our distro recommendations, and I almost find it disingenuous to describe Ubuntu as fully open-source while its primary app distribution system is proprietary. Also, Ubuntu doesn’t seem very end-user focused anymore. I was surprised yesterday at how difficult it is to navigate ubuntu.com and find information about Ubuntu Desktop at all in their navbar at the top. The first words you see on fedoraproject.org on the other hand tell you exactly what Fedora’s all about.
Right now I’m really leaning towards a “Fedora configuration guide” blog post over a recommendation change here.
Heck, I’d even think it’s a good idea to write an “Ubuntu configuration guide” blog post describing how to make privacy-enhancing changes to Ubuntu if we wanted. I don’t think our guides have to be restricted to what we endorse necessarily (obviously, since we have guides on macOS/iOS already).