Fedora 19 review

In a nod to fans of classic desktop interfaces, the new Fedora includes a MATE variant and classic mode for GNOME. Systemd now takes care of containers and assigning network names. New drivers support 3D acceleration in newer Radeon graphics cards.

Just one week later than originally planned, the Fedora Project has released the 19th version of its Linux distribution. This is the first version of Fedora to include the MATE Desktop, which is derived from GNOME 2 and is currently up to version 1.6. Fedora does not yet come standard with Cinnamon, but version 1.9.1 of the desktop can be installed from the package depot and then selected in the login manager for all variants of the distribution.

As usual, the installation DVD automatically sets up GNOME – now version 3.8 – which is also the interface used by the Desktop Edition, the distribution’s primary variant. Just like the MATE variants, this is a Live Linux that can be used to both try out and install Fedora, as are the three Fedora variants that use the KDE 4.10, LXDE and Xfce 4.10 desktops.

Fedora 19
Standard desktop Classic Mode MATE spin

Fedora installations with KDE 4.10 can already use the monitor configuration program KScreen, recently updated to version 1.0. The classic mode introduced in GNOME 3.8 does not come standard with Fedora and can only be selected in the login manager after the “gnome-classic-session” package has been installed.

Fedora now includes several open source programs for 3D printing, which means it has everything needed to use 3D printers like RepRap. LibreOffice 4.1 is pre-installed as the standard office environment. Version 21 of Firefox and Thunderbird are included, with the current version 22 of both programs already available via Fedora’s update system.
Init

System initialisation and some system management during operation is the responsibility of systemd 204, which now assigns predictable network names, meaning that network interfaces are given designations like “p4p1” (Ethernet) and “wlp0s26u1u1” (WLAN).

The systemd-nspawn tool belonging to systemd can now be used to start and stop containers; with just a few steps, explained on Fedora’s page about the new feature, a container can be set up for running an unmodified Fedora distribution.

Systemd can also configure resource consumption for services at runtime. This feature, which is based on cgroups, could see some slight changes in future, as the systemd developers recently talked to the kernel developer responsible for cgroups and worked on some major modifications, which have already been added to the systemd development branch, but not to Fedora 19.

Fedora’s systemd also includes support for the time and timer units that make cron features work, although software in Fedora that requires those cron features continues to use the cronie implementation out of the box. Saving system events in log files is still done with rsyslog rather than systemd’s journal, and systemd can now link to Message Catalog entries in order to, for example, display more information on messages and error notifications.
Behind the scenes

Version 1.14.1 of X.org’s X server handles the graphic interface; Wayland and Weston are included, but are not installed out of the box. The kernel is Linux 3.9, but the developers are already planning to send out an update to Linux 3.10, which was released one day before the new Fedora.

When it comes to Mesa 3D, Fedora is giving users a glimpse of the development branch. Anticipation of the next version of Mesa 3D means that Fedora includes hot-off-the-presses versions of open source 3D drivers, including the OpenGL driver radeonsi, which most distributions do not yet have. Fedora, however, can use that driver to take advantage of 3D support in Radeon’s Southern Islands graphics cores, which are used in Radeon HD graphics cards 7750 to 7950 and others. Fedora also includes the userland driver for using Radeon’s video accelerator UVD (Unified Video Decoder); although it does not yet work with the kernel that comes with Fedora 19, there should be no conflicts with version 3.10 of the Linux kernel.

As usual, proprietary graphics drivers are missing from the distribution. NVIDIA’s can be installed from the RPM Fusion add-on repository, where packages designed for Fedora with AMD’s – beta – drivers can also be found.

In a nod to fans of classic desktop interfaces, the new Fedora includes a MATE variant and classic mode for GNOME. Systemd now takes care of containers and assigning network names. New drivers support 3D acceleration in newer Radeon graphics cards.

Just one week later than originally planned, the Fedora Project has released the 19th version of its Linux distribution. This is the first version of Fedora to include the MATE Desktop, which is derived from GNOME 2 and is currently up to version 1.6. Fedora does not yet come standard with Cinnamon, but version 1.9.1 of the desktop can be installed from the package depot and then selected in the login manager for all variants of the distribution.

As usual, the installation DVD automatically sets up GNOME – now version 3.8 – which is also the interface used by the Desktop Edition, the distribution’s primary variant. Just like the MATE variants, this is a Live Linux that can be used to both try out and install Fedora, as are the three Fedora variants that use the KDE 4.10, LXDE and Xfce 4.10 desktops.

Fedora 19
Standard desktop Classic Mode MATE spin

Slideshow, 14 images

Fedora installations with KDE 4.10 can already use the monitor configuration program KScreen, recently updated to version 1.0. The classic mode introduced in GNOME 3.8 does not come standard with Fedora and can only be selected in the login manager after the “gnome-classic-session” package has been installed.

Fedora now includes several open source programs for 3D printing, which means it has everything needed to use 3D printers like RepRap. LibreOffice 4.1 is pre-installed as the standard office environment. Version 21 of Firefox and Thunderbird are included, with the current version 22 of both programs already available via Fedora’s update system.
Init

System initialisation and some system management during operation is the responsibility of systemd 204, which now assigns predictable network names, meaning that network interfaces are given designations like “p4p1” (Ethernet) and “wlp0s26u1u1” (WLAN).

The systemd-nspawn tool belonging to systemd can now be used to start and stop containers; with just a few steps, explained on Fedora’s page about the new feature, a container can be set up for running an unmodified Fedora distribution.

Systemd can also configure resource consumption for services at runtime. This feature, which is based on cgroups, could see some slight changes in future, as the systemd developers recently talked to the kernel developer responsible for cgroups and worked on some major modifications, which have already been added to the systemd development branch, but not to Fedora 19.

Fedora’s systemd also includes support for the time and timer units that make cron features work, although software in Fedora that requires those cron features continues to use the cronie implementation out of the box. Saving system events in log files is still done with rsyslog rather than systemd’s journal, and systemd can now link to Message Catalog entries in order to, for example, display more information on messages and error notifications.
Behind the scenes

Version 1.14.1 of X.org’s X server handles the graphic interface; Wayland and Weston are included, but are not installed out of the box. The kernel is Linux 3.9, but the developers are already planning to send out an update to Linux 3.10, which was released one day before the new Fedora.

When it comes to Mesa 3D, Fedora is giving users a glimpse of the development branch. Anticipation of the next version of Mesa 3D means that Fedora includes hot-off-the-presses versions of open source 3D drivers, including the OpenGL driver radeonsi, which most distributions do not yet have. Fedora, however, can use that driver to take advantage of 3D support in Radeon’s Southern Islands graphics cores, which are used in Radeon HD graphics cards 7750 to 7950 and others. Fedora also includes the userland driver for using Radeon’s video accelerator UVD (Unified Video Decoder); although it does not yet work with the kernel that comes with Fedora 19, there should be no conflicts with version 3.10 of the Linux kernel.

As usual, proprietary graphics drivers are missing from the distribution. NVIDIA’s can be installed from the RPM Fusion add-on repository, where packages designed for Fedora with AMD’s – beta – drivers can also be found.

Outlook

Fedora 19 is available for 32- and 64-bit x86 systems, as well as 32-bit ARM SoCs, which means that Fedora’s ARM port has been released at the same time as the version for x86 CPUs for the first time ever. Fedora 19 variants for 64-bit power processors (PPC) and s390x are being worked on at the moment and should be released soon. Fedora categorises the three variants for non-x86 systems as secondary architectures so that they don’t slow down work on the two x86 versions, but the distribution’s ARM developers are working on achieving the same status for their port as the x86 versions. They are also preparing to bring support to the 64-bit ARM execution state AArch64, for which they hope to publish a specifically designed variant of Fedora 20.

Now that Fedora 19 is complete, work on version 20 has already started, although it does not yet have a name or an expected release date. The initial schedule currently suggests a release in mid-November, which would be roughly in keeping with the Fedora Project’s typical cycle.
Conclusion

The new Fedora does not have any major changes, much less any revolutionary ones, but the small and medium-sized changes certainly add up, including better support for new Radeon graphics cores, a spate of new systemd features and the move to MariaDB. An updated and very comprehensive collection of software makes Fedora one of the most cutting-edge distributions at the moment.

Fedora 19
Standard desktop Classic Mode MATE spin

Slideshow, 14 images

Download

The Fedora Project maintains several download pages for the distribution. The main download page limits itself to the standard edition – the desktop spin for 64-bit x86 systems (x86-64/x64), which comes with the GNOME desktop and can be installed onto a CD or USB drive. The 32-bit x86 (x86/x86-32) system edition is available from a second download page, which also includes links for downloading the most popular spins, including spins with KDE, Xfce or LXDE as the default desktop.

A further download page lists DVD and USB drive images for creating installation media. These do not allow users to try them before installing, but do allow the selection of software users want to install. This installation takes longer to set up the system. Network installation requires the use of these images. The 1MB gXPE image even allows the installation environment itself to be booted from a network. Only these images allow the semi-automated installation of the distribution with Kickstart files.

Images targeted for use in the cloud are listed on the project wiki. Fedora also has further spins, featuring collections of software aimed at specific target groups, available from the spins subdomain. These include the previously standalone Sugar on a Stick (SoaS), the DVD-oriented Games spin, and the Security Lab spin, containing primarily system rescue, forensic system analysis and security auditing software. These spins allow use as a live environment, similar to the GNOME, KDE SC and Xfce variants.

Fedora’s ISO files are hybrid images that can be written to USB memory sticks using the “dd” command-line tool, allowing the user to boot the distribution from the stick. Alternatively, users can transfer the ISO images to USB devices with the liveusb-creator tool, which is available for Linux and Windows. This also allows the use of free space on the device to create an overlay file that the spin mounts for persistent data storage.

The different variants of Fedora are created with packages from the distribution’s repository, which is used as a central pool of installable packages for all of them. The repository for the x86-64 version includes over 35,000 binary packages that have been created from around 13,000 source packages.

By using fedup, which was introduced in Fedora 18, users can upgrade to the latest release ; an update through the installation DVD is not possible any more. Similar to the “apt-get update” command on Debian system, yum can be used to upgrade a Fedora installation on the go. However this is not officially supported and needs advanced knowledge.

Focused on open source software

With the exception of a few firmware files, Fedora only contains software available under open source licences recognised by the Fedora Project. Licences which forbid commercial use of the software or redistribution to others do not make it onto this list. The Fedora project also excludes software which uses technologies known to be patented. This approach is a conscious choice, made with the aim of creating an open source operating system which guarantees that users wanting to use or distribute it will not be subject to copyright or patent claims.

It does mean that Fedora is missing some day-to-day features important to many Linux users. These include Adobe Flash Player and proprietary AMD and NVIDIA graphics drivers. It also lacks software for playing many common audio and video formats, including support for playing MP3s, intellectual property rights relating to which have been have repeatedly asserted by the patent holders.

On a laptop or desktop, therefore, Fedora is only really ready for action once package repositories for installing much of the software excluded by the Fedora Project have been activated. The best-known and most used Fedora repositories are the “free” and “nonfree” repositories from RPM Fusion, which can be activated post-installation in just a few simple steps. If a Gstreamer-based application needs a codec not included with Fedora, PackageKit will ask you to confirm and then, if available, install it automatically from an RPM Fusion repository. A how-to explaining how to install NVIDIA’s proprietary graphics drivers is also available.

RPM Fusion provides access to many popular applications and drivers ignored by Fedora, but by no means all. It does not, for example include Adobe Reader or the Adobe Flash plugin, as this is forbidden under licensing conditions for the two programs. Adobe does, however, maintain its own package repository which can be used from Fedora. Google also maintains Fedora-compatible repositories for its software

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