Exploring what's new in Fedora 16
by Thorsten Leemhuis
The new Fedora has an updated set of components as well as improvements in the areas of virtualisation and cloud computing. Fedora now uses different technologies to partition hard disks and when booting.
After two one-week delays just before the alpha and beta releases, the Fedora project has managed to keep to its modified schedule for the final release and has issued the sixteenth version of its Linux distribution today. With this version, the project has switched to the GRUB 2 bootloader and put more emphasis on the GPT (GUID Partition Table) for partitioning disks. With GNOME 3.2, KDE 4.7, LibreOffice 3.4 and kernel version 3.1, Fedora 16 also offers an up-to-date set of components; it also contains a whole range of improvements in the areas of virtualisation and cloud computing.
Fedora 16, code-named "Verne", was named after author Jules Verne, but it has been dedicated to Dennis Ritchie, who recently passed away. Ritchie was considered one of the driving forces behind the success of Unix, and conceived the C programming language together with Ken Thompson and Brian Kernighan.
With Verne, the Fedora project has made the switch to GRUB 2 – Ubuntu has used GRUB 2 as its default boot manager since Karmic Koala (9.10), although officially, the new GRUB continues to be in development. When updating to Fedora 16, the package with the new bootloader will be installed, but it won't replace the old bootloader installation in the MBR or boot sector.
Even on x86-32/x86-64 systems without UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface), the installer will, by default, use a GPT (GUID Partition Table) to partition the available space if the disk is empty. When automatically creating partitions, the installer will set up a 1 MB "BIOS Boot Partition" (not to be confused with a partition mounted on /boot/) and install the bootloader there, which allows systems without UEFI to boot from GPT partitioned disks; users who partition manually must create such a partition themselves.
Because of the GPT, Fedora can now partition storage devices with more than 2 tebibytes (241 byte / 232 × 512 byte sectors / 2.2 terabytes). However, Windows requires UEFI to boot from storage media that was partitioned using a GPT. Up to now the MBR (Master Boot Record), or rather its partition table, has been used to partition disks. It comes from the DOS era and is not built to address larger capacity drives; only a somewhat risky trick allows users to partition almost 4 tebibytes via the MBR as long as the space beyond the 2 tebibyte mark is only used by Linux and assigned to one partition starting just below it.
Fedora's default desktop is GNOME 3.2.1 – an update that offers several bug fixes and translation updates over version 3.2, which was released in late September. Version 3.2 corrected several aspects of 3.0 that had been criticised by many users. It also introduced a number of new features that were mainly programmed by Red Hat/Fedora developers, for example a revised log-in manager and GNOME Online Accounts. The GNOME Online Accounts framework allows users to store their Google access credentials; GNOME programs such as Empathy or Evolution can then use these credentials to access Google services, simplifying the initial configuration of these programs and allowing data to be exchanged.
Along with KDE Plasma Workspaces 4.7.2, the new Fedora also includes the second service update of KDE 4.7, which was introduced at the end of July. Among the highlights of the latter are various improvements for mobile devices and a major DigiKam update: Verne includes DigiKam version 2.2. Fedora will probably provide the recently released KDE 4.7.3 as an update in the near future. The KDE desktop can be selected when installing using the traditional installer; with the KDE spin, it is installed by default.
Other spins – live Linux that can be booted or installed from CD or USB storage media – have LXDE or Xfce as their standard desktop. All desktops can also be found in the package repositories, so that, for example, users who have installed a desktop spin which uses GNOME can easily install KDE.