Fedora is a distribution of Linux designed to provide access to the latest open source and free software in a form that's stable, easy to manage, and secure. The biggest of the Fedora Project's offerings, Fedora's mission is to lead the advancement of free and open source content. Fedora tries to lead, rather than following, and is seeking to improve and spread free code and content. On June 9, only six months after the release of Fedora 10, Fedora 11 has come onto the scene. Here's a look at some of the major features of this version of the distribution.
If you're installing Fedora on your computer, or just trying it out, you'll probably be working from a LiveCD - now the standard method of distributing Linux based operating systems. Fedora 10 was notorious for its long boot times, and 11 attempts to solve this problem. One listed feature for this distribution is a startup (to the login screen) in twenty seconds or less, with as little time used as possible after login, too. This does mean that the menus and graphics aren't as pretty as previous versions, but the short boot time makes up for this.
Standard applications come pre-installed, and the process of actually installing Fedora 11 is streamlined and straight forward. It takes around three to five minutes to install Fedora 11 on most computers, and reboot speed is so quick that you might think something has gone wrong. You'll be prompted for new user information and go from starting the install to having access to your desktop in a little less than ten minutes all told.
You'll get a number of installation options when putting Fedora on your machine, including use of existing partitions, the ability to format all data and use the whole disk, or to install the system alongside one already on your hard disk. EXT4 formatting is the default, and the process, even when formatting the whole disk, is extremely quick. This is one of the speediest, most responsive operating systems available.
You can choose from one of two major desktop environments as a default: KDE and GNOME, both of which have their followings. Both installs are contained in the same disk image, making it extremely simple to use the one you prefer.
GNOME is known for its focus on simplicity, user friendliness and usability, and is usually the preferred desktop environment for people who are just switching from Windows machines.
KDE is the more popular environment, and is used by about 65% of Linux users. It is preferred by those users for its more complete help files and greater level of customizability. Easier alteration of the splash screen and a desktop wide spellcheck function are also considered desirable features in KDE.
For something a lot more lightweight, you can also choose to download a custom spin featuring a well integrated, complete version of the Xfce desktop instead. This is a very stable, non resource intensive environment that requires a little more expertise to use then either KDE or GNOME, but works better on older hardware and provides a faster experience.
Other custom spins available for Fedora 11 include a Games spin (for both 32 bit and 64 bit architectures), the AOS spin - a scaled down version of Fedora that can be run on an appliance, Fedora Electronic Lab (for high end hardware design and simulation), a spin localized for Brazilian Portuguese and a spin meant mostly for educational and scientific use which include special applications for these particular topics.
Security is another important concern for Fedora, so a number of features focus on it. From optional fingerprint authentication on boot to mandatory access control, this distribution is much more secure than many others, and has debuted many security features that have become standard on other Linux flavors.
To reach your desktop after install, you'll need to log in. You'll also be asked to submit hardware profile information to the development team to help with bug fixing and later development. Once that's done, you'll notice that Fedora 11 has new wallpaper, but the same theme as the previous version. Some will approve of this, while others will wish there's been more visible change. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of visual modifications accessible right out of the box, as Fedora 11 doesn't come with the Compiz Settings Manager pre-installed. Enabling proprietary video drivers is also a little more difficult than with some other distributions, but it's not extremely troublesome.
The most popular applications are included by default in some of their most up to date forms, includeing Firefox 3.5 Beta and Thunderbird 3 Beta. OpenOffice.org is not present, as the default in Fedora is still Abiword, which works for most basic work processing tasks and is currently compatible with the newest Microsoft formats. For other software, it's relatively simple to use the package manager to install without a hitch.
While the changes made in this release have been relatively limited, it's still a significant improvement over Fedora 10, particularly with the speed increases. Fedora has included support for new drivers and a very up to date set of software, allowing version 11 to live up to Fedora's reputation as a Linux pioneer that tests new technologies and software. While a few small speedbumps may occur because of this, most people interested in using the newest and latest innovations are more than happy to put up with them for the flexibility, control, and cutting edge technology Fedora offers.
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*Images courtesy of fedora wiki.