The Fedora Project, a Red Hat sponsored and community-supported open source collaboration project, announced the availability of Fedora 11, the latest version of its free open source operating system.
The community’s eleventh release includes the broadest feature set to date, spotlights developments in software management and sound, improves key virtualization components and introduces Fedora Community, a portal project beta.
The Fedora Project aims to release a new complete, general-purpose, no-cost operating system approximately every six months. The development cycle is purposely restricted to six months to encourage rapid innovation and collaboration between thousands of Fedora project contributors worldwide. Fedora now has almost 29,000 project members.
Fedora 11 ‘s feature set includes substantial improvements in virtualization, including an upgraded interactive console, a redesigned virtual machine guest creation wizard and better security with SELinux support for guests. There are also numerous desktop improvements such as automatic font and content handler installation using PackageKit, better fingerprint reader support, and an updated input method system for supporting international language users.
The foundational work for Fedora 11’s kernel mode setting feature was completed as part of Fedora 10, which supported a small subset of ATI Radeon-based video cards. The feature is designed to shorten boot times and present a cleaner interface to users by letting the kernel do the work of initially displaying a graphical screen during the startup process. Additionally, the release supports a much broader selection of ATI cards, as well as many Intel and Nvidia cards. Similarly, the PackageKit feature for font installation builds directly on a design that premiered in Fedora 9 and was refined further in Fedora 10. Fedora 11 also includes many brand-new features, such as the ext4 file system and the MinGW cross compilation system.
Premiering alongside this release is the beta test of Fedora Community, a portal-style project that aims to streamline the interface that Fedora community members use to contribute code and interact with the community. The portal features a user-friendly, customizable dashboard that tracks contributions, conversations and updates in a simple graphical interface. The beta test of the portal focuses on software package maintainers; community members will have an opportunity to comment and improve Fedora Community as it develops throughout this year.
The following are major features for Fedora 11:
Automatic font and mime-type installation – PackageKit was introduced in Fedora 9 as a cross-distro software management application for users. The capabilities it offers thanks to integration with the desktop became more visible in Fedora 10, where it provided automatic codec installation. In Fedora 11, PackageKit extends this functionality with the ability to automatically install fonts where needed for viewing and editing documents. It also includes the capability to install handlers for specific content types as needed. Some work is still being completed to provide automatic installation of applications.
Intel, ATI and Nvidia kernel modsetting – Fedora 10 provided the first steps by a major distribution into using the kernel modesetting (KMS) feature to speed up graphical boot. KMS originally was featured only on some ATI cards. In Fedora 11, this work is extended to include many more video cards, including Intel and Nvidia, and additional ATI as well.
Fingerprint – Extensive work has been done to make fingerprint readers easy to use as an authentication mechanism. The goal of this feature is to make it painless by providing all the required pieces in Fedora, together with nicely integrated configuration. To enable this functionality the user will register their fingerprints on the system as part of user account creation. After doing so, they will easily be able to log in and authenticate seamlessly using a simple finger swipe. This simplifies one element of identity management and is a great step in the evolution of the linux desktop.
IBus input method system – ibus has been rewritten in C and is the new default input method for Asian languages. It allows input methods to be added and removed dynamically during a desktop session. It supports Chinese (pinyin, libchewing, tables), Indic (m17n), Japanese (anthy), Korean (libhangul), and more.
Presto – when the user updates a package in Fedora, he or she downloads an entire replacement package. Most of the time (especially for the larger packages), most of the actual data in the updated package is the same as the original package, but the user still ends up downloading the full package. Presto allows to download the difference (called the delta) between the installed package and the one wanted to update to. This can reduce the download size of updates by 60% – 80%. To make use of this feature you must install the yum-presto plugin with yum install yum-presto.
Ext4 filesystem – The ext3 file system has remained the mature standard in Linux for a long time. The ext4 file system is a major update that has an improved design, even better performance and reliability, support for much larger storage, and very fast file system checks and file deletions. It is now the default filesystem for new installations.
Virt Improved Console – In Fedora 10 and earlier the virtual guest console is limited to a screen resolution of 800×600. In Fedora 11 the goal is to have the screen default to at least 1024×768 resolution out of the box. New installations of F11 provide the ability to use other interface devices in the virtual guest, such as a USB tablet, which the guest will automatically detect and configure. Among the results is a mouse pointer that tracks the local client pointer one-for-one, and providing expanded capabilities.
MinGW (Windows cross compiler) – Fedora 11 provides MinGW, a development environment for Fedora users who wish to cross-compile their programs to run on Windows without having to use Windows. In the past developers have had to port and compile all of the libraries and tools they have needed, and this huge effort has happened independently many times over. MinGW eliminates duplication of work for application developers by providing a range of libraries and development tools already ported to the cross-compiler environment. Developers don’t have to recompile the application stack themselves, but can concentrate just on the changes needed to their own application.