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27 March 2008, 09:55

First Beta of Fedora 9 aims for feature completeness

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The Fedora Project has released the first beta version of Fedora 9 for download. Many new features have been added to the Linux distribution since the Alpha was released at the beginning of February. The developers now want to put major changes on hold so that they can focus on eliminating bugs in the weeks that remain until the release of Fedora 9, scheduled for the end of April.

The project's Wiki offers a list of all the major new features in Fedora 9, together with their development status. These include support for encrypted file systems, faster start-up of the X server, support for the ext4 file system the successor to ext3, improvements to NetworkManager, support for partition resizing in the installation program, Randr support for dynamic screen configuration, the inclusion of PackageKit, and the change to Upstart, the Init replacement. As is usually the case with Fedora, it will incorporate updates of existing software, including KDE4, the recently released Gnome 2.22, Firefox 3 Beta 5, the Linux-Kernel 2.6.25 currently in development, GCC 4.3, the Flash alternative Swfdec, OpenOffice 2.4 and X-Server 1.5, expected at the end of April and part of Xorg 7.4.

The Fedora Project Board recently decided to alter the Codeina application that had shipped with Fedora 8 only a few months previously by removing the pointers to the "non-free" MPEG2, MPEG4 and AC3 codecs from Fluendo, which are no longer available under an open source licence. The links from the preinstalled Codeina to these commercial codecs had led to some criticism of the otherwise strictly open source software distribution. Much of the criticism came from those most closely involved with the project.

In future, Codeina will offer users only the GStreamer MP3 plug-in for post-installation, as this is developed and distributed under an open-source licence. The new distribution will not contain any support for this popular music format because the Fedora project wants to avoid any risk of legal disputes arising from the use of patent-protected technologies. As justification for this stance, the developers cite the long-standing dispute between Alcatel-Lucent and Microsoft and the recent events at this year's CeBIT show.

In order to save users the trouble of downloading and installing at least some of programs and libraries needed to play popular, but protected, video and music formats from European rpm repositories like Atrpms, Freshrpms or Livna, the Fedora project could theoretically integrate the Fluendo MP3 GStreamer plug-in directly into the distribution. However, according to Fluendo, even though their distribution is open source, this would require the Fedora project to acquire a licence, as Fedora and Red Hat are based in the USA where the MP3 patents have validity. Buying such a license would mean the Fedora software was no longer "free". The aim of the Fedora project is to provide a completely "free" distribution which other developers or hardware and software manufacturers can use as the basis for their own distribution or products, without having to worry about issues beyond the open-source licence.


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