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Fedora 12: More Innovations

Even more

In keeping with Fedora traditions Constantine has been given a new look, although the images used for the desktop background, the boot manager and in other places, are kept in the familiar shade of blue. Among the distribution's new tools is the ABRT Automated Bug-Reporting Tool, developed mainly by Red Hat employees, that allows problems with the SELinux policies as well as information about program and kernel crashes to be reported back to the developers.

Onwards and upwards

The development of Fedora 13, which is roughly scheduled for release in April 2010, is already in full swing. The relevant wiki already lists a number of planned improvements such as the switch to NFS 4.1 or further improvements to the DisplayPort support for AMD and NVIDIA graphics hardware. While the potential integration of Python 3.x and Grub2 is still being evaluated. As usual, the next version of Fedora is being prepared in the Rawhide developer branch, which is updated on an almost daily basis. However, the project plans to make some structural changes in the near future to avoid having to freeze the development of Rawhide while a new release candidate or final release is being prepared.

The support for establishing internet connections via mobile devices should be considerably improved by the changes the developers have made to the NetworkManager. Some of these changes were already introduced in an update for Fedora 11. The software is now IPv6 compatible and capable of handling system-wide network connections if required.

Numerous improvements in various parts of the distribution are to enable Constantine to make more efficient use of the power saving mechanisms offered by modern systems to prolong the battery life of netbooks and notebooks. The Bluetooth services now start and stop automatically when a Bluetooth device is plugged in or removed, avoiding the wasting of resources when there is no Bluetooth hardware. Several of Broadcom's Wi-Fi chips which previously required some firmware to be cut from the Windows drivers with the b43-fwcutter program now operate without such efforts because Constantine comes with the openfwwf open source firmware, which can act as a substitute. Only introduced in Fedora 11, the DeviceKit replacement for HAL has been removed again, as its functionality is now provided by udev (1, 2) – the originally DeviceKit-based programs DeviceKit-power and DeviceKit-disks remain available, however.

Furthermore, the access rights of some services that previously ran as root have been restricted; this measure is designed to prevent attackers from further compromising a system after successfully exploiting a security hole in one of the services ("Lower Process Capabilities"). Constantine also comes with the sandbox for desktop applications that was created with the help of SELinux and was already introduced in September.

Yum now offers some new functions and can display who installed or updated which packages when, via "Yum history". Systemtap was given a substantial makeover and now offers improved documentation as well as more examples and tools – more background about the advancements can be found in an interview with one of the SystemTap developers. The interview is also available as a podcast.

Some further new features of Fedora 12:

Further information and resources

The Fedora homepage and a subdomain with Fedora documentation provide further information about Constantine. For instance, the release notes available on the documentation web page provide an overview of the most important new features and some related details.

The project maintains a list of known Fedora 12 bugs in the project wiki's English-language section. The main download page offers the various Fedora spins with GNOME, LXDE, KDE or Xfce as well as ISO images that contain the traditional installer and are suitable for updating old Fedora installations.


As usual, Fedora 12 comes with a host of new features, which clearly makes it the first choice for users who install from scratch. Several changes – for example the extended KMS support and the virtualisation improvements – demonstrate that the new version of Fedora is just a little more modern and courageous in various places than other mainstream distributions. Still, a number of tests showed that Constantine is just as robust and stable as its predecessor – the coming days and months will show whether this is also true for everyday operation on Joe Blog's PC. (thl)

Largely unavoidable extensions

Apart from a few firmware files, Fedora 12, like its predecessors, consists exclusively of open source software released under the Fedora project's approved open source licenses; software licenses that exclude commercial use or third party sublicensing, for instance, don't make it onto the project's list. Furthermore, the Fedora project avoids software that is known to use patent-protected technologies.

All of this is designed to protect corporate Fedora users and third parties who want to distribute Fedora separately, or bundled with hardware components, from royalty claims by copyright and patent owners. Consequently, Fedora 12 is missing many popular, but proprietary, Linux applications and drivers. Fedora's operating principles also prevent the playback of many popular audio and video formats – this even includes MP3 playback, as patent troll Sisvel has been known to enforce the IP rights to MP3.

A Fedora 11 installation therefore only becomes truly operational after software from the package repositories that solve the audio and video playback support problems has been activated manually. The probably most well-known and popular Fedora repository is RPM Fusion, which was created by merging Dribble, Freshrpms and Livna last year. This repository can be activated either directly after installing Fedora or during installation from the full installation medium. After the configuration of RPM Fusion, PackageKit will offer to install any plug-ins required for Gstreamer-based applications like Totem that are missing in Fedora but included in RPM Fusion.

While RPM Fusion contains many of the popular applications and drivers that are missing in Fedora, it by no means includes all of them. For instance, the project is not allowed to offer Adobe Reader and the Adobe Flash plug-in, as this is prohibited by the respective program licenses; these programs are best obtained from the repository maintained directly by Adobe. Google also maintains its own repository, which offers applications such as Picasa and Google Earth. Further software not contained in Fedora or RPM Fusion can be found in other third party repositories for Fedora.

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