Fedora Dons the New Gnome
The next version of Fedora will be the first major Linux distribution to use the radically updated GNOME as its default desktop interface.
This OS, whose beta version was released Tuesday, will also feature a reworked boot loading system.
"Fedora 15 has some pretty large feature changes," said Jared Smith, who is the Fedora project leader, noting that, by way of comparison, Fedora 14 had more fine-tuning, under-the-cover changes.
Maintained by volunteers, Fedora is the open source distribution that fields many of the new features that may later end up in Red Hat's flagship Linux-based OS, Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). Typically, new releases of Fedora come out every six months or so.
This new beta release is the first to feature the next generation GNOME shell and desktop interface. "It is significantly different from the GNOME 2 desktop. It has a different way of organizing things, and will require people to get used to some things being different," Smith said, though he added that users will enjoy it more once they learn GNOME's new ways.
The new Fedora also is deploying a new initialization and session manager system, the software that stages the programs and services that get automatically started when the computer is booted up.
Up until now Fedora used SysVinit and Upstart, but the new version uses systemd, which is faster and more sophisticated. It can load programs and services in parallel as the computer boots up, taking advantage of the multiple cores in today's server processors.
Systemd can also stagger the startup of some programs until they are required, which can quicken boot time even further. For instance, "it will not start a Web server until the first request comes along," Smith said.
Also potentially appealing to administrators would be ability to do what Smith called consistent network device naming.
In many cases, servers may have multiple Ethernet connections, and an administrator unfamiliar with that box may have difficultly figuring out which physical port corresponds to the name Linux assigned to that device. So a Dell engineer provided software that generates names for the devices based on their physical location on the PCI bus in the server.
Fedora 15 also features dynamic firewall management, which offers the ability to make changes to the firewall without requiring a restart to the firewall software. It also features a new power management tool called PowerTop.
For the end user, the new software comes with the LibreOffice productivity suite, an offshoot of the open source OpenOffice.
The beta version of Fedora 15, can be downloaded now, and the final version is expected to be released in late May, according to Smith.