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Fedora 17 beta review – Miraculously beefy

Fedora 17 'Beefy Miracle' hits Beta, showcasing the next version of Fedora, as well as the future of open source software. Rob Zwetsloot takes it for a spin…

The Fedora Project is preparing for the final release of Fedora 17 with the beta version of their cutting edge distribution. Dubbed Beefy Miracle, the release of the beta was delayed for three weeks while further testing and bug fixing was done to meet the stringent requirements set down by the team.

This development version brings with it a number of new features and upgrades, all of them to show off the very latest, and upcoming, open source software. To begin with, the Desktop Environment has been upgraded to GNOME 3.4 by default, bringing enhanced search functions and document management applications that come with it. There’s also an update to the very latest Linux Kernel 3.3, which adds Android kernel elements and better support for btrfs, both being a boon for app and software developers alike.

GNOME 3.4 is in attendance, along with a good amount of software out of the box

There are also a few pre-release packages included with the beta, such as a release candidate for GIMP 2.8, and the Juno version of Eclipse. These have been added in anticipation for the full versions being available when the final stable release is finished.

It’s relatively quick to install and set up, and the great installer wizard is still present to guide you through the process. By default it will set up partitions in LVM – even with the added btrfs support in Linux Kernel 3.3, the switch to make that the default has been delayed until Fedora 18.

Of course, as standard the available repository just has the free and open source software that falls under the Fedora Project criteria. Not much has changed since Fedora 16, there’s still no Chromium or VLC, and it goes without saying that you would have to look elsewhere for an mp3 codec. Usually this means adding the popular RPM Fusion repository, however at the time of writing it refused to work in the beta. It will probably be fixed for the full release, but it’s a drawback if you plan to do anything other than work.

That’s not the only problem we encountered. A bug in SELinux meant that there was a problem mounting some types of external file systems, namely NTFS. Depending on whether you were doing it through the UI or via terminal, this could completely hang the mounting process, requiring a reboot if you needed to mount another partition or storage device. The bug is fixed in later versions of SELinux that will likely make it into the final version, however for the moment at least it means some of what you will be able to do in Fedora will have to be self contained.

For a lot of users that won’t be a problem, but for developers of open source software Fedora 17 is already top of its class. With all the very latest updates to other major programming languages available from the word go, if you plan to use Fedora for coding and browsing, you’re very well catered for.

There’s a few hiccups here and there, but it’s to be expected for a beta, especially one using brand new and perhaps not completely tested software. Overall though, it’s still fairly stable, and very usable. We’d still recommend using 16 for critical work until Beefy Miracle is properly released, but if the beta is anything to go by, it will be well worth the wait.

Verdict: 4/5

As a beta release, it was never meant to be perfect, and it isn’t. You can easily ignore some of the problems though, and in that regard it’s still very functional and does everything you’d expect from a project of Fedora’s calibre. At the very least, it’s a great indication of the quality we can expect from Beefy Miracle’s final release.