Autumn means different things to different people. For some, it is time for hot chocolate and long walks in the park, for others, it’s the season for new Linux distro releases. In October, Canonical unveils the 10.10 Maverick Meerkat release of the popular Ubuntu Linux distribution. Not to be outdone, the Fedora community announced the availability of a beta version of Fedora 14 Laughlin, with the final release scheduled for early November.
So what does the latest version of this distro have to offer to its users? Let’s start with the bundled software. Surprisingly, the Live version of Fedora 14 ships with Mozilla Firefox 3.6.7 instead of the latest beta release of Firefox 4. So users who want to test the latest and greatest version of the Web browser must install it manually. This is not a big deal, but for a distro that has always shipped with the very latest version of the browser, this is an unusual step. There are other odd choices, too. Fedora 14 comes with the Pino microblogging client which supports popular services like Twitter and Identi.ca and can handle multiple accounts.
However, it is the older 0.2.11 version, which doesn’t support OAuth, which makes the client unusable for Twitter. While Fedora 14 comes with the Planner project management application, there isn’t any word processor bundled by default — not even AbiWord. Of course, you can opt for an installable version of Fedora (or install the Live version), and get all the software you want, but it would have been nice if the Live version included more mainstream applications for those who want to give Fedora a try without committing to a full-blown installation. Speaking of different versions, the Live edition of Fedora 14 is also available in the KDE flavour, featuring the latest KDE 4.5 graphical environment.
While the default software in the Live edition is nothing to write home about, Fedora 14 does sport a slew of improvements under the hood. The latest version of the distro ships with the Linux kernel 2.6.35 which provides support for spreading the incoming network load across CPUs, features numerous improvements to the graphics stack, and offers better laptop-mode support.
On the virtualization front, Fedora 14 sports a new framework called Spice (Simple Protocol for Independent Computing Environments) which offers a solution for interaction with virtualized desktops. The framework is still under development and the main focus of the project is to provide high-quality remote access to QEMU virtual machines. The list of features supported by Spice includes accelerated 2D graphics, audio playback and recording, video detection and streaming, and encryption.
If you are dealing with JPEG graphics, you’ll be pleased to learn that Fedora 14 does away with the libjpeg library in favour of libjpeg-turbo which offers better performance when dealing with images in the JPEG format. This means that any application that relies on libjpeg should benefit from the new library.
Developers won’t be disappointed with Fedora 14 either. For starters, the distro features the new D language which offers a combination of the power and performance of C and C++ and the productivity of Ruby and Python. Fedora 14 also sports an early implementation of the Perl 6 specification based on the Parrot virtual machine. In addition to that, Fedora 14 ships with several new development tools, including Eclipse Helios (multi-language software development tool), NetBeans 6.9, JavaFX SDK 1.3, and JavaFX Composer (a tool for building JavaFX graphical applications). Moreover, the new distro release provides support for the PHP Zend framework and Ruby on Rails 3.0.
All in all, Fedora 14 is shaping up quite nicely. Although it’s unlikely that Fedora 14 will sway existing Ubuntu or openSUSE users, the new release offers enough to keep developers and power users alike happy.