Noob: "Fedora, CentOS, or ..."

I have a bit of a philosophical question. I have used Unix/Linux in the past for numerical scientific computations, but I am nowhere near being a SysAdmin, so my knowledge of Linux fixing and troubleshooting is minimal at best. Also, I am looking to migrate away from Windows as much as I can, and to make Linux my day-to-day OS. I have no clue how upgrading from version to version goes.

So that being said, I may install things in to Fedora that are not currently being supported by Fedora (such as Skype, VMWare, Eclipse [no package exists for F32 in repository], and SGeMs, and others). As well, I may use some applcations that create or store data specific to a user.

So my questions, if I upgrade Fedora to new versions:
– do I have to re-install all custom packages I have installed when I get a new version of Fedora ?
– do I have to make sure I save/backup user data for current Fedora version before upgrading to new one ?
– how do I make apps on new version of Fedora use my data from previous Fedora version ?

…or would I be better of with CentOS’s longer version life ? and if so, do the packagers that Fedora offers, are they also available in CentOS (such as engineering/scientific/development rpm’s) ?

CentOS is touted as a “server” distro, but I assume I can get a good desktop workstation working as well ? or should I bite the bullet and get Red Hat Workstation ?

I realize this may be a dumb question…

Cheers !

If I was to summarize my opinion here, it is that you are thinking upgrades are more complicated than they actually are.

Generally speaking, no, but I suppose it depends how you installed them and how you are keeping them updated. If you installed them in some way that they are still being updated then they will probably just continue to work fine after the update. If not, they will probably still work unless they are linked against specific versions of shared libraries or require certain kernel versions.

If I consider your examples:

  • Skype is available as a flatpak which should “just work”
  • vmware will always be a little risky due to kernel version changes but it will probably be fine
  • I think eclipse is available as a flatpak as well. Alternatively, it is a java application so it should also “just work”

This is a hard question to answer. I would argue you should always have regular backups of your data. :wink:

Technically speaking it isn’t required to do a back up but it is definitely a good idea.

With the caveats above, it should just work.

CentOS has a longer lifecycle but also much older packages over the course of that lifecycle. It is hard to answer which one is better for you.

Yes, you can.

You can if you want to but you certainly don’t need to.

If I were you, I would consider downloading fedora 31 and installing it in a vm. Then install the software you would normally use and try updating it to fedora 32. That should give you an idea of what you would be in for.


MANY Thanks for the informative reply dalto !

I like your last point about using a vm to test an upgrade. I may give that a try.

I do not know anything about flatpaks. I just installed F32 Mate-Compiz workstation, and the dnfdragora app does not include flatpaks… ? I did install Eclipse via “sudo dnf install eclipse” even though there was no package for it on dnfdragora.

Can I get access to flatpacks, or do I need to install a flatpack specific version of F32 ?

Thank you much for your patience to my basic questions…

I think it is installed by default. To check, run flatpak --version in a terminal.

Iif not, you can install it with

sudo dnf install flatpak

Then you can add flathub with:

flatpak remote-add --if-not-exists flathub

After that, you can search and install apps with the flatpak command or through the gnome software or kde discover applications.

More information here:

Thanks (!) again… I’ll give that a try.

…one more. an I promise to stay away for a while… MATE is GNOME 2 based, and I understand the GNOME software center is for GNOME 3… will it still work with my MATE F32 ?

Yes. Almost any Linux application will work in any desktop environment.

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…I owe you a beer, actually more than one… Many Thanks again for all the help !! I did install flatpak, and then gnome-software… all working great… will have to sift through all the goodies now to see what I want/need…

All the Best!

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you could use dnf to get skype.

CentOS:  Dedoimedo had wrote some articles about using CentOS as a “perfect desktop”.

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You certainly could but since the OPs primary concern is ease/safety of upgrading, flatpak seemed like a safer bet.

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I have read Dedoimedo’s write-up, and it did seem like an option. My concern was whether all the scientific/engineering packages currently offered in Fedora would be available in CentOS ? Are the rpm repositories pretty much the same ?

Fedora does change faster, so repos are new. So they are not about the same. Content is different too.

  • Fedora.- (Repositories enabled are: core, extras, updates, livna). The number of packages reported by yum list all command is: 7334.
  • CentOS.- (Repositories enabled are: kbs-CentOS-Extras, update, rpmforge, base, contrib, addons, extras) The number of packages reported by yum list all command is: 5785.
    (from an 2007 site compares some LINUX distros. I only quote to make clear there is a difference))

The standard repositories are different, CentOS/RHEL only have a subset (and typically different versions) of Fedora’s packages. However, most of the packages that are in Fedora but not in CentOS/RHEL are available through the EPEL (Extra Packages for Enterprise Linux) repos, if you enable those you have pretty much the same software available.

If something is in Fedora but not EPEL, you can ask the maintainer of the Fedora package to include it, we’re usually open to that if there is interest.


Thank you both for the comments. If I was to be in CentOS and with packages imported from EPEL repositories, is there a higher possibility that things would break when CentOS updates something ?

Just found Scientific Linux is based on CentOS, but I assume they have a dedicated group to maintain all the sicentific packages so that they work well … ?

Sorry for all the questions, this is something I’ve always wondered about Linux – how dependent is one on a particular distro when using independent packages…


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It’s always possible, of course. However,

  • since RHEL/CentOS are long-term & stable, packagers will be very careful about changes they make to the EPEL packages.
  • For CentOS 8 in particular, there is now also the EPEL-playground repository, which packagers can use to introduce newer software versions to users who want them without jeopardizing the stability of the normal package.
  • From a quick glance at the bugzilla, it seems that most of the EPEL-related bugs are people requesting packages to be added, rather than actual issues.
  • If there ever is a problem with a package, you can usually downgrade it to the previous, working version and wait for the bug to be fixed before updating.

So CentOS+EPEL is (maybe) slightly less stable than CentOS alone, but still waaaaaay more stable than any distribution not designed for long-term support.

Don’t know about Scientific Linux specifically, but yes, that is how it works for any derived distribution. The people who make it take the base distribution’s software, and then make sure that all the things they add/modify for their own work well on that base. If SL suits your needs, that is probably the best choice for you.

Nothing to be sorry about. Generally, the closer you stay to the distro’s own repositories, the fewer potential error sources there are. But add-ons like EPEL or RPMFusion (software that cannot be packaged by Fedora directly, usually for policy reasons) are well tested & perfectly fine to use. If you don’t start installing random RPM packages you downloaded from somewhere, you’ll have a very stable system.

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Let me add my two cents.
Flatpaks are definitelly a good way to go, I use them all the time. However, some apps do not work well as flatpaks, so if you see some strange behavior like a specific function not working, it is good to check whether non-flatpak version also suffer from the same issue.

Regarding updates, I am using Fedora for about 7 years and it is getting better. Still, every year at least once happen an issue which I need to fix via a boot from USB stick and doing things like fixing grubenv. It is not easy. These are mostly known issues, but can drive many non-sysadmin users crazy and turn them away from Linux. Not sure whether Centos is doing better, but it could, given its conservative stable nature.

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My two cents as well

it depends on your definition of ‘custom package’. If it is from the repository, the answer is NO. If you are talking about flatpaks or snaps, the answer is NO. However, if it is something that you compiled yourself or some downloaded rpm from the internet, the answer is MAYBE - depends on the individual package.

Therefore, my advice, use flatpaks as much as possible (you stay independent of the base OS), and try using packages from Fedoras repository instead of compiling or downloading thirdparty stuff (where possible)

You always have to have at least one (better 2+) backups of your home directory or the likelihood that you loose your data is high, no matter if you plan to upgrade or not. In Fedora’s default partitioning scheme /home is on a separate partition, and your home data will survive not only an upgrade but also a fresh reinstall. Make backups!

The distribution takes care of that. Nothing you need to think or worry about. (It’s all saved in ~/.config/ (and maybe other places)).

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Thank you for all the informative replies !!!