Fedora 14 is on track for a final release date of November 02, 2010. If all 14 does is improve upon 13, Fedora will have another winner on its hands. Why? Fedora 13 was one of the strongest releases the Red Hat sandbox has had in a while. And with what Fedora 14 has under and above its hood, the next release should up the ante yet again for the Fedora distribution.
But what exactly is in store for Fedora 14? And who is this release really targeting? Historically, Fedora was a distribution that attracted only those that wanted "bleeding edge" software and a distribution they could (and almost needed to) tinker with. With the release of Fedora 13 things started to change a bit. The end user could happily use Fedora out of the box. It was stable and it had plenty to offer users of all levels.
But when you first read the list of features highlighted for Fedora 14, you might think the release is targeting developers. What with new and updated programming languages, simpler and faster debugging, and better developer tools the feature list looks like the only users would be those that actually develop the distribution or applications for the distribution.
Not so. Fedora 14 offers a well-rounded list of new features that should make this release appeal to a wide range. And since it's now in Alpha, we can all take a close look at what's coming. I did just that...and I was very impressed. Below are my thoughts on the upcoming release.
As many of you know, I have been more than impressed with the 4.5 release of KDE. And Fedora 14 including the SC release of KDE brings to Fedora the first release of the KDE 4.x branch that is actually on par with that of GNOME. To those who have not used KDE in a while, the version you will see shipped in KDE-based Fedora spins will be quite stunning. It is, in my opinion, one of the most polished desktops you will see.
Faster JPEG compression/decompression
If you are used to higher-quality image formats, this does not apply to you. I prefer PNG formats in my image work. But for those that rely on JPEG formats you will be happy to know that the replacement of libjpeg with libjpeg-turbo will bring about approximately 25% increased performance when dealing with images in the JPEG format. And since many applications rely upon libjpeg, this should be a global improvement.
Linux Kernel 2.6.35
Sometimes it's a challenge to discuss kernel improvements when readers only really want to see what will be "tangible" improvements. But the 2.6.35 kernel will bring about numerous improvements to the overall system. New features to this kernel include:
Direct I/O support for btrfs.
Support for spreading incoming network load across CPUs.
Support for CAIF protocol used in ST-Ericsson products.
Many improvements to the graphics stack.
Better laptop-mode support.
Of course that is only a tiny slice of the improvements to the kernel. There are also deprecated features in the CPU scheduler that are being removed.
A new tool that should make interacting with virtual desktops much easier is being included in Fedora 14. This tool is called Spice (Simple Protocol for Independent Computing Environments). The goal of Spice is to provide high-quality remote access to QEMU virtual machines. Spice will feature:
Accelerated 2D graphics.
Hardware cursor support.
Audio support (playback and recording).
Video detection with Mjpeg streaming.
Client-side mouse pointer support.
X Windows and Windows XP/Vista/7 drivers.
Although Spice will not directly benefit the average desktop user, it could make serious in-roads to business and enterprise usage.
And of course there will be serious improvements for those who fancy themselves developers. In fact, this release of Fedora might be one of the more developer-centric releases I have seen in a while. How will this benefit the average desktop user? More developers with better development tools/environments directly equates to a better end product. And better tools/environments abound in Fedora 14.
Fedora also features a brand new language. The D language combines the power and performance of C and C++ with the productivity-centric nature of Ruby and Python. D is a multi-paradigm language that will support many programming styles.
Fedora 14 will also include several new development tools:
The inclusion of NetBeans 6.9 in Fedora 14 will introduce OSGi interoperability for NetBeans Platform applications.
JavaFX SDK 1.3 and a new JavaFX Composer (a GUI tool for building JavaFX GUI applications).
Support for the PHP Zend framework
Support for Ruby on Rails 3.0.
What this all means
As an end user you might not notice much difference between Fedora 13 and Fedora 14. You should notice an increase in speed overall, but from the perspective of the desktop — nothing much has changed. That doesn't mean users of Fedora should not be excited. Fedora 14 promises to bring a much improved over all experience for the Linux user. And improving on Fedora 13 only means that Fedora is once again a serious contender for that much beloved best Linux distribution title.
Although it seems 14 is targeted primary toward developers, it will prove to be a distribution that anyone can happily use. As of this writing, September 25, 2010, Fedora 14 is still in Alpha. The first beta is scheduled to hit the pipes September 28th, 2010. Fedora pre-release images can always be found on the pre-release page.