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Outlook

Variants of Fedora 18 are currently available for 32-bit and 64-bit x86 systems. An ARM version is in preparation, a beta of which was released on 9 January. The developers are also working on a variant for systems with Power processors (PPC). The Fedora project treats these two ports as secondary architectures to prevent them from delaying the development of the x86 versions. The ARM developers are working towards having their variant upgraded to the same status as the x86 variants.

Work on Fedora 19 started weeks before the completion of Fedora 18. Definite plans for this version include switching to RPM 4.11 and implementing improved 3D printing support. Version jumps to Bind 10 and GCC 4.8 are partly in preparation, but have yet to be approved. The developers are also contemplating the use of MariaDB as the distribution's standard MySQL implementation.

Fedora 19 will include GNOME 3.8 and KDE SC 4.10; however, if the project continues to operate as before, the developers will probably also provide this version of KDE as an update for Fedora 18. A developer is working to integrate the Enlightenment (E17) desktop into the next version of Fedora. Nothing currently indicates that the Fedora developers plan to switch their default filesystem from Ext4 to the experimental Btrfs. In Fedora 18, the switch was at best the subject of vague discussions after being initiated twice but then aborted in both Fedora 16 and 17.

Fedora 19 is called "Schrödinger's Cat" and roughly scheduled for release at the end of May; the developers plan to agree a more definite schedule over the next few days.

Conclusion

Fedora 18 offers a whole range of new technologies, which gives it the usual slight advantage over other distributions; nevertheless, it worked just as well as its predecessors in our tests.

Fedora's Secure Boot support improves system security but also restricts users. The project should have offered an alternative for all those who don't require the extra security; an alternative that restricts users as little as the implementation in Ubuntu 12.10. The installer revisions in Fedora 18 were long overdue and improve the installer's quality in the medium term. However, various details seem still unfinished; the manual partitioning feature is particularly confusing and anything but intuitive. (thl)

Download

The Fedora Project maintains several download pages for the distribution. The main download page limits itself to the standard edition – the desktop spin for 64-bit x86 systems (x86-64/x64), which comes with the GNOME desktop and can be installed onto a CD or USB drive. The 32-bit x86 (x86/x86-32) system edition is available from a second download page, which also includes links for downloading the most popular spins, including spins with KDE, Xfce or LXDE as the default desktop.

A further download page lists DVD and USB drive images for creating installation media. These do not allow users to try them before installing, but do allow the selection of software users want to install. This installation takes longer to set up the system. Network installation requires the use of these images. The 1MB gXPE image even allows the installation environment itself to be booted from a network. Only these images allow the semi-automated installation of the distribution with Kickstart files.

Images targeted for use in the cloud are listed on the project wiki. Fedora also has further spins, featuring collections of software aimed at specific target groups, available from the spins subdomain. These include the previously standalone Sugar on a Stick (SoaS), the DVD-oriented Games spin, and the Security Lab spin, containing primarily system rescue, forensic system analysis and security auditing software. These spins allow use as a live environment, similar to the GNOME, KDE SC and Xfce variants.

Fedora's ISO files are hybrid images that can be written to USB memory sticks using the "dd" command-line tool, allowing the user to boot the distribution from the stick. Alternatively, users can transfer the ISO images to USB devices with the liveusb-creator tool, which is available for Linux and Windows. This also allows the use of free space on the device to create an overlay file that the spin mounts for persistent data storage.

The different variants of Fedora are created with packages from the distribution's repository, which is used as a central pool of installable packages for all of them. The repository for the x86-64 version includes 33,868 binary packages with 12,614 source packages.

Focused on open source software

With the exception of a few firmware files, Fedora only contains software available under open source licences recognised by the Fedora Project. Licences which forbid commercial use of the software or redistribution to others do not make it onto this list. The Fedora project also excludes software which uses technologies known to be patented. This approach is a conscious choice, made with the aim of creating an open source operating system which guarantees that users wanting to use or distribute it will not be subject to copyright or patent claims.

It does mean that Fedora is missing some day-to-day features important to many Linux users. These include Adobe Flash Player and proprietary AMD and NVIDIA graphics drivers. It also lacks software for playing many common audio and video formats, including support for playing MP3s, intellectual property rights relating to which have been have repeatedly asserted by the patent holders.

On a laptop or desktop, therefore, Fedora is only really ready for action once package repositories for installing much of the software excluded by the Fedora Project have been activated. The best-known and most used Fedora repositories are the "free" and "nonfree" repositories from RPM Fusion, which can be activated post-installation in just a few simple steps. If a Gstreamer-based application needs a codec not included with Fedora, PackageKit will ask you to confirm and then, if available, install it automatically from an RPM Fusion repository. A how-to explaining how to install NVIDIA's proprietary graphics drivers is also available.

RPM Fusion provides access to many popular applications and drivers ignored by Fedora, but by no means all. It does not, for example include Adobe Reader or the Adobe Flash plugin, as this is forbidden under licensing conditions for the two programs. Adobe does, however, maintain its own package repository which can be used from Fedora. Google also maintains Fedora-compatible repositories for its software.

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