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Desktop

In the main variant of Fedora 18, the desktop interface is provided by GNOME 3.6, whose numerous new features include a new Nautilus version that has stripped the file manager of some of its features. These features still exist in Nemo, a Nautilus fork that can easily be installed manually via Fedora's package repositories. The same is true for the MATE fork of GNOME 2 and for a current version of the Cinnamon desktop. MATE and Cinnamon were not included in Fedora 17 but have been available for manual installation via the standard package repositories for several months.

Among the distribution variants offered by the Fedora project are some that use KDE Software Compilation (SC) 4.9 or Xfce 4.10 by default. The spin with Xfce still fits on a blank 700 MB CD. This is no longer true for the Fedora variants with GNOME and KDE SC, which now require a DVD blank or USB flash drive with a capacity of 1GB or more. As a consequence, the GNOME spin now offers version 3.6.3 of LibreOffice; however, LibreOffice is no longer included when installing from a DVD.

The Network Manager now offers improvements that allow Wi-Fi hotspots to be configured more easily. All variants of Fedora that implement GNOME as their default desktop now also activate the Avahi zeroconf implementation; the MDNS (Multicast DNS) client software is designed to allow devices to be detected on a network but doesn't disclose any system information by default.

Updates

The update program that is used under GNOME is part of PackageKit and no longer installs all updates directly; instead, it deposits some updates for system components at a location where systemd will detect and install them during the next reboot. This approach is designed to prevent problems with software that can't be updated in a trouble-free way during operation. However, all updates can directly be installed as usual via the Yum command-line program.

Fedora 18 includes the DNF package management tool, which is based on the code of Yum 3.4 and destined to replace Yum in the medium term. DNF resolves dependencies via the libsolv library, which is said to produce better results and has been used in OpenSUSE for quite some time. The new Fedora version's package management programs interact with RPM 4.10, which is said to be faster and more robust than the versions in the previous series.

Upgrading from an older version of Fedora to the new one no longer requires PreUpgrade or the installer on DVD; instead, the new FedUp "Fedora Upgrader" is used. Like PreUpgrade before it, the program downloads the new version's installation packages and creates a boot entry. When selected, the boot entry causes Fedora to directly install the updates using Dracut and systemd before the system actually boots; the Fedora installer that is used by PreUpgrade is no longer involved. However, FedUp currently only allows users to upgrade from Fedora 17.

Other new features

  • Fedora 18 includes Samba 4 and can, therefore, act as a domain controller for an Active Directory (AD); Samba 4 was introduced in December. The FreeIPA "Identity, Policy and Audit" infrastructure can now create a trusted relationship with an AD, allowing the users of one domain to access the resources of another. Further improvements for GNOME and other distribution components make it easier to join an AD.
  • The distribution uses version 195 of systemd, which introduces new system configuration programs to Fedora. For example, the timedatectl command line program allows users to configure a system time and time zone; localectl determines the system language and keyboard layout; hostnamectl configures the system's name. Some of these settings were previously made via files that were located in /etc/sysconfig/ and will no longer be used or will now only be consulted for other purposes; among them are the files for clock, i18n, keyboard and network. The systemctl program, which is part of systemd, can now be used to determine which display manager will display the graphical login screen.
  • The firewalld firewall daemon, which is controllable via D-Bus, now takes care of the firewall rules. It supports various security zones that, for example, allow users to automatically implement different rules on a public Wi-Fi network than within a home or company network; the service is configured via the graphical firewall-config program and the firewall-cmd command-line tool.
  • When writing to the /tmp/ directory, Fedora will no longer deposit data on root partitions; instead, it uses a tmpfs that keeps the data in RAM. This approach has already been adopted by various other distributions; applications that need to put large amounts of data into temporary storage can use /var/tmp/ as before. This modification was extensively discussed during the development of Fedora; however, proposals to revert it didn't prevail.
  • Fedora now includes the System Storage Manager (ssm) command line tool. This tool allows administrators to handle a range of device configuration tasks that previously required a combination of individual tools such as btrfs, cryptsetup, fdisk, lvm2, mdadm, and resize2fs.
  • As usual, the Fedora developers have also updated numerous distribution components and, for example, included Perl 5.16, Python 3.3 and Rails 3.2.
  • Many RPM packages now contain information that makes it easier for developers and debugging tools to identify problematic code segments when an error is encountered. The full debugging information can be found in Debuginfo packages as before – but the packages are now said to be smaller due to improved compression.
  • When running as a guest, Fedora now supports suspend to RAM and suspend to disk under KVM even if Virtio drivers are enabled. In the new version, Fedora hosts can create snapshots of entire guest systems while these are running.
  • The new "virt-sandbox-server" tool is designed to simplify the setting up of containers that allow a service daemon to be isolated to run outside of the rest of the system. Some background details are available in part seven of the eight-part "New Security Feature in Fedora 18" series of articles that Fedora developer and SELinux specialist Dan Walsh has published on his blog.

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