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The kernel

The Fedora 17 kernel is based on Linux 3.3.4; Fedora has already updated versions 15 and 16 to almost identical kernels as part of the regular update cycle. But the kernel in Fedora 17 contains the changes merged into Linux 3.4 which cause Intel’s RC6 power-saving feature for graphics cores to be used by default on Sandy Bridge processors. This should noticeably extend battery life on many Sandy Bridge laptops. The Fedora 17 kernel also includes the gma500_gfx DRM/KMS driver for US15W (Poulsbo) graphics cores and virtio-scsi, a driver merged into Linux 3.4. In conjunction with support in qemu (included with Fedora), they are able to provide disk emulation which allows data to be exchanged between the host and guest systems without too much overhead.

The developers have deactivated some kernel functions supported in earlier versions of Fedora which they believe are no longer used. They have also moved some kernel modules dealing with rarely used functions into a separate RPM package. For the standard kernel this goes by the name "kernel-modules-extra". As in Fedora 15 and 16, in version 17, Fedora's kernel developers will continue to provide users with new major Linux kernel versions developed within the framework through the regular update system. In mid May, developers were already mulling over updating to Linux 3.4, released early last week.


The systemd Linux init system, which has been in use in Fedora since version 15, now includes the systemd-logind login manager, which takes care of various user management tasks. It replaces ConsoleKit and will be able to launch services for users, such as a Rygel server for each user.

As a side effect of this restructuring, Fedora 17 offers automatic multi-seat support in conjunction with Plugable's UD-160-A USB 2.0 Universal Docking Station. If a user connects this docking station, systemd will launch a login screen on the monitor connected to the docking station, which the user will be able to control using the input device connected to the docking station. The main user on the system will be able to continue working without interruption. Automatic multi-seat support only works with GDM/GNOME. Systemd developer Lennart Poettering fills in some of the details of how it works on his blog.

Graphics stack

Responsibility for the graphical user interface lies with X.Org's X Server 1.12, which now supports smooth scrolling. Together with other Fedora components, it offers multitouch support, allowing software which supports the technology to detect and respond to multiple fingers on touchscreens and touchpads. The version of GTK+ included with Fedora offers a basic level of multitouch support.

The current version, 12.4, of the proprietary AMD graphics driver does not work with this version of X Server. Version 12.5, due for release any day now, should rectify this incompatibility, but it will also drop support for Radeon 2000, 3000 and 4000 series graphics cards. In Fedora 17, these cards will therefore only work with the open source driver.

Security features

A range of services now use private temp directories to make life harder for attackers. SELinux is now able to stop processes from using ptrace (process trace) to inspect memory being used by other processes. This functionality has to be explicitly activated using setsebool -P deny_ptrace 1, as it also thwarts attempts at debugging using strace or gdb, both of which rely on ptrace. Since version 3.4, the Yama security module has provided the Linux kernel with similar functionality.

Further information

In many places, the neighbouring text links to web sites with further information on the changes in Fedora 17. More information can be found on the Fedora Project web site, the wiki and the documentation subdomain. The latter includes detailed release notes, an installation guide, etc.

The Fedora wiki includes a list of common bugs, which is likely to be expanded over the next few days.

In a series of blog posts, developer Dan Walsh, known for his work on SELinux, describes some of the new security features in Fedora 17:

And there's more

The development team has implemented many further changes in Fedora 17:

  • The default behaviour of the Fedora 17 installer can create an MBR when partitioning blank disks with capacities of less than 2 TB. Fedora 16 created a GPT even on smaller disks, which resulted in problems on some systems.
  • The Eclipse stack in Fedora 17 consists largely of pre-release versions of Juno, the Eclipse edition due for release in late June. Final versions of these components will be distributed via the update system.
  • As well as booting via BIOS and UEFI, Fedora ISO images should now boot directly on Macs when burnt onto a CD or written to a USB drive using dd. As Matthew Garrett explains in a blog post describing the structure of the hybrid image, this has been achieved by giving the images three partition tables and three different boot images.
  • NetworkManager, which is largely the brainchild of a single Red Hat/Fedora developer, has been upgraded to version, released in late March. It includes functions such as bonding, VLAN, InfiniBand support, and EAP-FAST, mainly of interest to enterprise users.

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