Fedora Linux (as well as Suse and other leading distributions) are getting pretty close to where they need to be for mainstream public acceptance. I think the largest remaining area which needs some significant (but not necessarily difficult) improvement is application and driver installation.
Fedora Linux comes with several gigabytes of applications for free, which are pretty easy to install from the CD during installation. However, if you don’t choose to install it the first time, getting this software can be tricky for beginners and non power users. In addition to the software which comes with Fedora, there are web sites which provide additional packages, including multimedia applications, games, drivers, and many other things. The leading ones are Dag Wieers’s apt/yum repository, Fresh RPMS, and Dreis.
These sources for applications, as well as the regular method of getting Fedora updates are all available through a tool called ‘Yum.’ When you use the ‘up2date’ gui tool in Fedora, it is actually using Yum behind the scenes to check for updates.
Now, Yum can actually do much more than merely updating your system. You can set it up to check against all the software providers just mentioned, plus any others you find. It can check through all of them, and let you install the latest drivers and applications available from any of those places. Basically, if used to its full potential, you can use Yum to pretty much do anything you need to do with software installation on Linux.
Now, for the ‘but.’ But… Yum is only a command line program. While the gui Up2date does use it, the Up2date gui doesn’t let you change the Yum configuration, install new packages, search for applications, add new Yum application sources, or any of the excellent things that Yum can do. These capabilities would make a significant difference for beginner Linux users who have no idea how to navigate the various RPM dependency trees that are on the Internet today.
In fact, if a nice Yum gui were available, I would predict that either application developers would start distributing their Linux apps from their own Yum sources, or they would make sure that their RPM’s are included in one of the common Yum sources listed above.
This would have a major impact on the usability of Linux on the desktop, as well as in complex server environments. Of course, while Fedora is specifically mentioned above, the same applies for Suse and Mandrake Linux, as well as any other RPM-based distribution.