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With its modern open source drivers often developed mainly by Red Hat/Fedora developers, a quite recent kernel and a generally very current and in many places sophisticated set of components, Fedora 13 once again lives up to its reputation of being a cutting-edge distribution which field tests new technologies and programs before other distributions follow suit. Nevertheless, even the pre-release version of Fedora 13 has worked without major problems on several test systems in the past few weeks.

However, the tests also demonstrated Fedora's peculiarities which are already familiar from previous versions and caused by the distribution's modern software range as well as its exclusive focus on open source software. These include a rather tiresome installation of the NVIDIA drivers and the incompatibility with AMD's proprietary drivers – neither of which is Fedora's responsibility, but many a user might not see it this way. Despite such inconveniences and probably especially because of its comprehensive and current software range, Fedora has attracted a stable and apparently growing fan base and user community.

Suppliers and further information

The main download page and an overview of the most important downloads offer links to ISOs containing the traditional installer as well as the desktop and KDE spins. When selected via this page, the chosen version is usually downloaded from a mirror server in the vicinity of the user, if there is one. The Fedora spins with LXDE, KDE, Xfce and games are available via bit torrent – more information about the respective contents and the torrent files can be found on a different web page.

The Fedora homepage and a subdomain containing Fedora documentation offer a large range of further information and tutorials for Fedora 13. The release notes on the documentation web page, for instance, offer an overview of the most important new features and some of the related details. In the project wiki, the Fedora developers maintain a list of common bugs in Fedora 13.

Our main article contains links to many web pages with further information about the advancements discussed. There is more information in the "Fedora 13 one page release notes", for instance, the project provides a neatly presented short overview of the most important new features, while Fedora 13 Talking Points and the release announcement provide a more text-oriented overview.

The Fedora wiki also contains developer interviews offering background information about some of the new functions. The three interviews with Nouveau developer Ben Skeggs, System-Config-Printer maintainer Tim Waugh and GNOME-Color-Manager developer Richard Hughes, for instance, offer diverse background information about the changes the three developers have made in Fedora 13 to improve the distribution's hardware support. The interview with Dan Williams provides a good overview of the changes to the NetworkManager maintained by this developer. Further interviews about and the advancements in the Python 3, SSSD and Btrfs area are also available.

Often unavoidable extensions

Like its predecessors, Fedora 13 – apart from a few firmware files – only contains software released under one of the open source licences approved by the Fedora project; Licences which, for instance, don't permit the commercial use or the sharing of software are not included on Fedora's list. The Fedora project also disregards software which is known to use patented technologies.

All of this is designed to protect Fedora users and third parties, who want to distribute a modified or unmodified version of the Linux distribution together with their hardware, from potential claims by copyright and patent holders. However, it also means that Fedora 13 lacks various features many users require in everyday use. This includes Adobe's Flash player and the proprietary graphics driver for NVIDIA graphics chips as well as the software for rendering many popular audio and video formats – the latter includes MP3 playback, because patent troll Sisvel has been known to assert ownership rights to MP3.

On notebooks and desktops, a Fedora 13 installation therefore only becomes truly operational once package repositories have been activated which allow various programs excluded by the Fedora project to be added to the installation. The most well-known and popular repositories for Fedora are probably the free and non-free RPM Fusion repositories. They can be enabled during the installation of the distribution or activated once Fedora has been installed. Configuring RPM Fusion allows PackageKit to install plug-ins that are not included in Fedora but available on RPM Fusion when they are requested by GStreamer-based applications such as Totem. The project explains how to install NVIDIA's proprietary graphics driver in a howto.

RPM Fusion contains many, but by no means all, popular applications and drivers ignored by Fedora. Adobe Reader and the Adobe Flash plug-in, for instance, can't be included because the respective program licences prohibit it; these components are best obtained directly from the package repository maintained by Adobe. Google also maintain their own package repository offering Picasa (x86-32 only), Chrome and the Google desktop. Various other programs not included in Fedora or RPM Fusion can be found in other third party repositories for Fedora.

Spins, remixes, etc.

The package repositories of Fedora 13 contain more than ten thousand packages which the Fedora project combines to create different variants of the distribution.

The largest variety of software and the greatest number of installation options can be found on the "traditional" installation media the project offers to download as CD or DVD ISOs for x86-32 and x86-64 systems. There is also a lean variant which, similar to the boot images at, enables users to install via the network. In all these variants users have control over the selection of packages to be installed and can, for instance, choose between GNOME and KDE. While less mainstream applications and desktop environments such as LXDE or Xfce are not included on the CDs and DVDs, they can be selected directly during installation if the online repositories are enabled as an installation source.

In addition, the project offers "Spins" – various live media that contain software collections customised for different groups of users. Like the main installation CD of Ubuntu, the spins are not only suitable for testing Fedora without risk, but also for installing the distribution on a hard disk. However, unlike the traditional installer or the Ubuntu installation CD, this option doesn't allow users to select a file system for the root partition and installs Ext4 by default – on the other hand, this installation method is really fast.

The Spin regarded as most important by the project is the desktop Spin, which includes GNOME and has been given a prominent place on Fedora's main download page; the KDE Spin can also be found there. Like the package repositories and the ISO images of the traditional installation media, both Spins are available on hundreds of mirror servers located all over the world. A dedicated web page offers further Spins – including several with desktop environments such as LXDE or Xfce, one which offers the Moblin interface, a security Spin, a Sugar on a Stick Spin, and a gaming-oriented games Spin. The latter fills up a DVD, but most of the other Spins fit on a CD.

Since Fedora 12, users have been able to transfer the ISO files of Spins and the netbook image to a USB flash drive via such programs as "dd". Those who intend to permanently run a Fedora Spin from a USB flash drive should transfer the files to USB using liveusb-creator, which is available for Linux and Windows and was already used for previous versions of Fedora. When starting the Spin, this program can automatically create a memory area for storing the data written during operation – such as documents or manually installed or updated software.

The programs on the livecd-tools combined with the appropriate Kickstart files provide users with a relatively easy way to create a custom distribution from the packages in the Fedora repositories. If you want to share your remix you're not allowed to use the Fedora trademark; this can easily be achieved by replacing three packages. The project's naming regulations also prohibit that such custom distributions be called Spins when they are shared. Instead, the project recommends the term "Fedora remix" to denominate the distribution's origin, but avoid any confusion between custom installations and Fedora's own distribution variants.

Only the traditional installation media allow fully or partially automated installations via kickstart, network installations and the updating of previous Fedora installations. Updating via PreUpgrade is probably the best solution for most users, because this is more convenient and faster, and it also updates packages that are not included on the media.

All variants of Fedora 13, and generally also the remixes, use the same package repositories for manual software installation. It is, therefore, possible to install the packages of the KDE Spin in the GNOME Spin and vice versa. These repositories also allow users to manually install software such as OpenOffice, which is excluded from many Spins due to space limitations – for example by executing the following command line instruction as root:

yum install \{calc,draw,graphicfilter,impress,writer,xsltfilter}


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