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28 April 2009, 14:50

Preview of the Fedora 11 Linux distribution with new update function

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Default Fedora 11 (Leonidas) design
Zoom Default Fedora 11 (Leonidas) design
Following the one week delay in releasing the one and only beta in late March, today's 'Preview Release' of Fedora 11 sees the Fedora Project back on schedule. The development team plan to produce release candidates in two weeks time, before finally releasing the eleventh version of the Linux distribution on 26th May.

With all new functions reportedly already included in the beta version, no major changes have been introduced over the past four weeks. Fedora will, however, be generating Delta RPMs for the Rawhide development tree, which is updated almost daily and forms the basis for the preview release. Delta RPMs have long been used by SUSE and openSUSE and consist of a binary diff between two RPM packages. The presto plug-in for yum can, if everything goes according to plan, use this Delta RPM and the old RPM files installed on the drive to construct the second, newer RPM. Since the Delta RPM is significantly smaller than the newer RPM, the amount of data which needs to be downloaded is much reduced. This should reduce the size of update downloads by 60 to 80 per cent. For updates of larger packages, such as the package, the saving may be even greater.

The Fedora Project also plans to generate Delta RPMs for the package depots with the updates for Fedora 11. This should tangibly accelerate system updates for Fedora – for which the number of updates is usually very large – even with a halfway decent internet connection speed. Presto will not, however, be installed by default, with the result that Delta RPMs will only be used after installing the yum plug-in using "yum install yum-presto".

The project team have also spruced up the design – rather than a Greek temple in a mountainous, sylvan landscape] the latest distribution, codename Leonidas, uses a rather more restrained design in dark blue. An overview of further features can be found in the heise open articles on the alpha and beta releases and the list of new features in Fedora 11 on the Fedora Project wiki. The Fedora Project is primarily sponsored by Red Hat.

In the meantime, recent weeks have seen the tone on the Fedora mailing list become even more abrasive than usual. First it was the decision by the development team last autumn to no longer terminate X Server on pressing CTRL+ALT+backspace (DontZap) which triggered a lively debate at the Fedora Project. The X development team also soon found itself drawn into the discussion – all of which thought worthy of an article. and Fedora programmer Peter Hutterer has presented a number of changes adopted for Fedora 11 on his blog, which will allow this keyboard short cut to be turned on and off at run time. This has certainly placated many critics.

Abundant criticism (e. g. 1, 2, 3) of Pulseaudio and the new pulseaudio-based mixer program for GNOME, which is included in Fedora for the first time in version 11, has also been heard in recent days. The program aims to impress through its ease-of-use, but some users are anything but impressed, as it does not allow them to adjust all their hardware input and output controls.

The problem, which is at least in part caused by the ALSA API and drivers, is nothing new – if you wanted to turn up major volume controllers for output volume, for example, it was occasionally necessary in Fedora 9 and 10, as well as in other distributions which use Pulseaudio, to use the ALSA command line mixer program to access audio hardware directly. As a compromise solution, in Fedora 11 it has recently been decided to include a second mixer program for GNOME which can be installed separately and offers a wider range of options.

As noted by some participants in the discussion, however, many mixer programs have problems with ALSA. Two screen shots released by the Fedora development team show this in impressive style (1, 2).


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