What's new in Fedora 14
by Thorsten Leemhuis
The latest version of Fedora has cloud aspirations, decodes jpg files faster, includes SPICE – a useful protocol for virtualising desktop PCs, and contains numerous enhancements for developers.
A little less than five months after the release of Fedora 13 (Goddard), the Fedora Project has now released version 14. The new version of the Linux distribution, named after physicist Robert B. Laughlin, exhibits its usual virtues of up-to-the-minute software and a large range of open source applications, but is much lighter on new features than its predecessors.
Version 14 of the largely Red Hat sponsored Fedora sees Libjpeg replaced with Libjpeg-Turbo, a fork which, by making increased use of MMX and SSE commands, is able to more than half the time taken to decode some JPG files. This will benefit many of Fedora's applications that use this library directly or indirectly (via other libraries) to process jpeg's.
Cloud computing, the current hot topic, has not bypassed this community distribution – Fedora 14 is planned to be available directly on Amazon's EC2 cloud service. The Fedora Project also intends to release future versions on EC2 – background information on Fedora's cloud ambitions can be found in an interview with developer Justin Forbes on the Fedora wiki and in an article on Red Hat's press pages.
For virtualisation of desktop PCs, Fedora 14 includes SPICE, originally developed by Qumranet, the company behind KVM. "Simple Protocol for Independent Computing Environments" offers numerous functions for efficient communication between virtualised systems and computers displaying guest system desktops. This should allow thin clients to display GUIs for virtualised RHEL and Windows systems sufficiently quickly to allow HD videos to be replayed fluently and to allow bi-directional audio and video communication. It should also permit the use of multiple screens and of client-side USB devices in the guest system. This is know as Hosted Virtual Desktop (HVD) or Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) and is a component of Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV) for Desktops 2.3.
Fedora includes Ipmiutil for performing maintenance and administrative functions via the Intelligent Platform Management Interface (IPMI). Another new feature is OpenSCAP, an open source implementation of the Security Content Automation Protocol (SCAP), (also supported by Windows 7), which encompasses a number of security standards which can be used to simplify security management. More information on OpenSCAP in Laughlin can be found in a Red Hat article.
Target group: developers
The Fedora Project's own list of major new features in Laughlin includes a whole series of enhancements of primary interest to developers, including Rakudo Star, "the first useful and usable Perl 6 distribution", and a compiler and toolkit for programming in D. Fedora has made the leap from version 4.4.4 to version 4.5.1 of the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC) and there is also a new generation of Eclipse, with version 3.6, aka Helios, making its first appearance. Users who prefer Netbeans will welcome the inclusion of version 6.9.
Boost has been updated to version 1.44.0, Erlang to R14. Improved GNU Debugger (GDB) performance should be delivered by changes to .debug files. New functions in GDB make it easier to trace code which is profligate with memory in programmes or libraries. Background information on these and other enhancements in GDB can be found in an article and a video interview with one of the developers on Red Hat's press pages. Development environment GNUstep has also found its way into the Fedora package repositories. Python 2.7 takes care of software written for the 2nd generation of the programming language, Perl 5.12 deals with Perl 5 and Ruby has been updated to version 1.8.7.