It looks like Fedora 16 won't be a Beefy Miracle, but at least Fedora 15 is getting close to release. What's new in Fedora 15? New features from top to bottom — a new init replacement, networking changes, and major bump for GNOME.
One of the reasons I watch Fedora closely is that it's a precursor for enterprise Linux. Not just Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), though that's certainly true. But advancements in Fedora usually make their way into other major distributions, and Fedora is often the first distro to ship cutting (sometimes bleeding) edge software. That's not to say that the other community distros never do this, but Fedora makes a habit of pushing the envelope.
Fedora 15 is no exception — it has quite a few major new features, as well as a few enhancements that will likely influence the entire Linux landscape in the near future. Let's get started.
New initd Replacement: systemd
One of the major changes in Fedora 15 will probably be invisible to many users, but it's going to be very important for developers and system administrators — systemd, a drop-in replacement for sysvinit.
Wait, didn't we replace sysvinit just a while ago with Upstart? Yes. Yes we did. But Lennart Poettering got to thinking about it and came up with systemd, which looks to be the up-and-coming init replacement for not only Fedora, but openSUSE (and eventually SUSE Linux Enteprise as well) and probably Debian and Ubuntu.
If you're working with Linux as an admin, developer, or enthusiast, you'll probably want to try Fedora 15 just for systemd.
Another, long-awaited, update for Fedora 15 is GNOME 3 with GNOME Shell. Fedora 15 won't be the only distribution to ship GNOME 3 with GNOME Shell, but it's going to be one of the first out the door with G3 and Shell.
GNOME Shell is a total re-work of the desktop interface, and it looks pretty interesting. It does require 3D acceleration, so it may not work for everybody on all hardware. But if you like to live on the edge, and have supported hardware, GNOME 3.0 should be a lot of fun. If you don't have the right hardware, and don't feel like buying it, then Fedora has other options.
One of the most popular options, of course, is KDE. Fedora 15 will ship with KDE 4.6, which came out in January. I've played around with KDE 4.6 a bit and have to say that it's looking pretty sharp. (This is coming from someone who has been, shall we say, less than thrilled with some of the KDE 4.x series.)
KDE 4.6 brings major improvements in activities, its Plasma Netbook interface for tiny screens, faceted browsing for the Dolphin file manager, and sharing features in Gwenview. There's lots more where that came from — so be sure to try out the KDE spin of F15 if you haven't tested KDE in a while.
It's also worth noting that F15 will have Xfce 4.8, and plenty of other desktop goodness if you prefer lightweight desktops.
BoxGrinder: Easy Virtual Appliances
Ever found creating virtual machines to be a hassle? Well, you'll be pleased to find BoxGrinder in Fedora 15.
BoxGrinder is a tool to create appliances using a text file (called an "appliance definition") that's fairly straightforward and easy to create. Define the appliance, run BoxGrinder, and it spits out the type of virtual machine you need. It supports KVM, Amazon EC2, VMware, and others. You'll find tutorials on the BoxGrinder site, and look for a full feature on BoxGrinder here on Linux.com soon.
When you make changes to your firewall, you probably don't want to restart everything — but that's what the system-config-firewall utility currently requires. With Fedora 15, you'll be able to make changes individually using firewalld.
This allows users to maintain persistent connections even when changing firewall settings. Good stuff for desktop users. Note that this isn't likely to be installed by default, but should be available in Fedora 15. Again, look for a feature on firewalld soon.
SELinux Troubleshooting Redesign
SELinux is fantastic technology, but it suffers from being just a wee bit complex and puzzling to users who are not familiar with the technology. Not only authoring SELinux policies, which is its own hairball of complexity, but also troubleshooting SELinux when things go awry or when users are trying to puzzle out SELinux errors.
Fedora 15 should make life a bit easier by providing a much nicer GUI for SELinux troubleshooting. Fedora users everywhere should appreciate that one if they've ever run into problems with SELinux!
Another upgrade for Fedora 15 that's worth paying attention to is the update to RPM 4.9.
What's new in 4.9? It includes new utilities for managing public keys and verifying package signatures (
rpmkeys), package signing and management (
rpmsign), and managing the RPM database (
rpmdb). It has improvements in the
--info/-i format, improved handling for failures when installing, upgrading, or removing packages, and a ton of other minor updates, improvements, bug fixes, and so on.
Again, for anybody administering RHEL machines especially, well worth checking out Fedora 15 to see what's coming in enterprise Linux in the nearish future.
Support for 4kB Disks on UEFI Machines
And the half point goes to support for 4kB sector disk boot support. Why does this matter, and why does it only get a measly half of a point? This is a feature that's really going to be irrelevant to the vast majority of Fedora users right now, but it likely to be important for Fedora users in the not too far future.
Specifically, this feature will bring support for drives with 4kB sectors, which are possible to use with UEFI machines. There's not a lot of these on the market right now — but when they do hit, Linux will likely be first in line to support them. So the chances you'll need this feature in Fedora 15, or even Fedora 16, aren't too likely — but it's a very good thing to have for the users and developers who do have access to those machines. By the time they become mainstream, Linux should work without a glitch.
Beta Coming Soon
It goes without saying, of course, that Fedora 15 also has tons of updates to other packages. It's also worth noting that these features are planned for Fedora 15 — but it's possible that they may not make it in. They all seem very likely at this point, but things change.
Right now, Fedora 15 is still in alpha. The Fedora Project will hold its go/no-go meeting for the beta tomorrow. The final release is scheduled for May 24 — though that is subject to change if the beta or RC dates slip.
Want to get in on the testing goodness before the final release? The Fedora folks have information on the "Get the next Fedora" page, and links to the install media for the default desktop image (with GNOME 3.0), the Fedora desktop live CD, and live CDs with KDE, LXDE, and Xfce.