What's new in Fedora 19
by Thorsten Leemhuis
In a nod to fans of classic desktop interfaces, the new Fedora includes a MATE variant and classic mode for GNOME. Systemd now takes care of containers and assigning network names. New drivers support 3D acceleration in newer Radeon graphics cards.
Just one week later than originally planned, the Fedora Project has released the 19th version of its Linux distribution. This is the first version of Fedora to include the MATE Desktop, which is derived from GNOME 2 and is currently up to version 1.6. Fedora does not yet come standard with Cinnamon, but version 1.9.1 of the desktop can be installed from the package depot and then selected in the login manager for all variants of the distribution.
As usual, the installation DVD automatically sets up GNOME – now version 3.8 – which is also the interface used by the Desktop Edition, the distribution's primary variant. Just like the MATE variants, this is a Live Linux that can be used to both try out and install Fedora, as are the three Fedora variants that use the KDE 4.10, LXDE and Xfce 4.10 desktops.
Fedora installations with KDE 4.10 can already use the monitor configuration program KScreen, recently updated to version 1.0. The classic mode introduced in GNOME 3.8 does not come standard with Fedora and can only be selected in the login manager after the "gnome-classic-session" package has been installed.
Fedora now includes several open source programs for 3D printing, which means it has everything needed to use 3D printers like RepRap. LibreOffice 4.1 is pre-installed as the standard office environment. Version 21 of Firefox and Thunderbird are included, with the current version 22 of both programs already available via Fedora's update system.
System initialisation and some system management during operation is the responsibility of systemd 204, which now assigns predictable network names, meaning that network interfaces are given designations like "p4p1" (Ethernet) and "wlp0s26u1u1" (WLAN).
The systemd-nspawn tool belonging to systemd can now be used to start and stop containers; with just a few steps, explained on Fedora's page about the new feature, a container can be set up for running an unmodified Fedora distribution.
Systemd can also configure resource consumption for services at runtime. This feature, which is based on cgroups, could see some slight changes in future, as the systemd developers recently talked to the kernel developer responsible for cgroups and worked on some major modifications, which have already been added to the systemd development branch, but not to Fedora 19.
Fedora's systemd also includes support for the time and timer units that make cron features work, although software in Fedora that requires those cron features continues to use the cronie implementation out of the box. Saving system events in log files is still done with rsyslog rather than systemd's journal, and systemd can now link to Message Catalog entries in order to, for example, display more information on messages and error notifications.
Behind the scenes
Version 1.14.1 of X.org's X server handles the graphic interface; Wayland and Weston are included, but are not installed out of the box. The kernel is Linux 3.9, but the developers are already planning to send out an update to Linux 3.10, which was released one day before the new Fedora.
When it comes to Mesa 3D, Fedora is giving users a glimpse of the development branch. Anticipation of the next version of Mesa 3D means that Fedora includes hot-off-the-presses versions of open source 3D drivers, including the OpenGL driver radeonsi, which most distributions do not yet have. Fedora, however, can use that driver to take advantage of 3D support in Radeon's Southern Islands graphics cores, which are used in Radeon HD graphics cards 7750 to 7950 and others. Fedora also includes the userland driver for using Radeon's video accelerator UVD (Unified Video Decoder); although it does not yet work with the kernel that comes with Fedora 19, there should be no conflicts with version 3.10 of the Linux kernel.
As usual, proprietary graphics drivers are missing from the distribution. NVIDIA's can be installed from the RPM Fusion add-on repository, where packages designed for Fedora with AMD's – beta – drivers can also be found.