Oh My Goddard! An Early Look at Fedora 13

Fedora 13 is on the way and while it innovates in its own right, it also borrows some major features from other distros such as Ubuntu and Mandriva. This is looking to be yet another great release from the Fedora community!

A free “Skype replacement” is on the way, thanks to GNU Telephony. The first step for Fedora is to include the GNU Sip Witch, a daemon which:

“Enables an entirely free software alternative to Skype using standard IETF protocols along with support for direct peer-to-peer secure communications such as possible with ZRTP capable softphones and without need for a mitigating “service provider”. Instead, DNS will be used for directly resolving SIP uri’s and each user or organization will construct the network directly from the bottom-up running a sipwitch service daemon to answer and route calls for their users or on individual workstations, and do so while using existing standard compliant VoIP clients such as Empathy, Twinkle, SIP Communicator, local SIP devices, etc, as they prefer.”

Support for 3D will be enabled by default for all NVIDIA based cards, using the free Nouveau driver. It will also support the Display Port connection interface, along with Intel (from Fedora 12) and Radeon based cards. KDE will have native Qt authentication via Package Kit One. This will provide a more seamless KDE desktop experience when requiring authentication dialogs, such as modifying modules in System Settings. This release will also see a much improved storage management component for the installer, as well as the option to install a minimal system! (Previously this was achieved by deselecting all packages to be installed.)

Fedora has been slowly removing applications written in Microsoft’s .NET which run on Novell’s Mono stack, due to concerns over freedom. In Fedora 12, the note taking program Tomboy was replaced with Gnote but photo manager F-Spot was still included by default. In this new release, it has been replaced by Shotwell, a GNOME application written in Vala. While Mono and various .NET applications are still available in the repositories, this means that Fedora is finally free of Mono for default installs.

Pulling Features

It’s not just Red Hat employees and Fedora community members contributing to this release. In the true spirit of open source, Fedora has adopted several key projects from other distributions such as Ubuntu and Mandriva.

It looks like Pulseaudio is here to stay and Fedora 13 will support for it in KDE with Phonon, thanks to work done by Mandriva. Upstart is one of the major system-level applications which Fedora has adopted from Ubuntu. In this new release, they will upgrade to version 0.6. When Fedora will completely switch to an event driven init system is not known. Fedora has also snatched up two other programs, the first of which is Simple Scan. Also making its début in Ubuntu Lucid 10.04, Simple Scan is exactly what it sounds like, a simple scanning program. For too long, scanning tools under Linux have been somewhat complicated (although the SANE back-end has been brilliant). Now, with Simple Scan, users can have a simple, convenient and attractive tool to accomplish this task!

Simple Scan, the new simple scanning tool
Simple Scan, the new simple scanning tool

The other is a backup tool called Déjà Dup. It’s another simplistic program which can schedule incremental, encrypted backups to a number of locations, such as a local drive, network share or even Amazon’s S3 cloud service. This is a great addition to the Linux desktop, something which is log overdue and should improve quickly with time.

Déjà Dup incremental backup tool
Déjà Dup incremental backup tool

Back up in progress..
Back up in progress..

Fedora does tend to focus on improving the back end, rather than user space. No doubt there are other components of Fedora which have their genesis in other distros and it’s great to see great features been shared and adopted all around. Keep it up!

The Road Ahead

Fedora has very different goals to many other distros when it comes to creating a Linux based operating system. They stick to the principles of software freedom, creating the best possible operating system without resorting to proprietary software. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you can’t install such packages. On the contrary, the RPM Fusion repository can provide just about any non-Free (or patent encumbered) program you might require. There are also Spins available, such as Omega, which configure all this out of the box!

It’s great to see Fedora improving situations such as as those we find with NVIDIA, by creating a free 3D driver rather than resorting to the support of closed source binaries. Thank goodness we have Fedora there, protecting our freedoms and creating a phenomenal operating system every 6 months from which we all benefit (just think where we would be without their contributions like NetworkManager and other core components).

The effort that the community continues to put into each and every day truly makes for great, feature-full releases. To you we must say thank you – we appreciate all of your hard work! If you’re a user who’s never tried Fedora, why not give this exciting new release a try? It might not have as much bling as Ubuntu, but it’s a rock solid release based on the best free software has to offer.

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