Fedora 12 made its official debut today, after a two-week slippage in its release schedule.
Codenamed "Constantine," the new RedHat community Linux distro includes power management features pulled from RHEL 5, improved support for netbooks, and a much-improved NetworkManager. The latter provides a graphical display of the WiFi networks in range and a browser plug-in for the PackageKit application installation program that allows for the installation of applications onto Fedora through HTML tags.
But Paul Frields - leader of the Fedora Project - sees to reason to compare the distro with others OSes. Comparisons are odious, he says. There will be no talk trash about Windows 7 and Ubuntu 9.10. At least not yet.
The Fedora Linux distribution, says Frields, is designed like a cruise ship, to have "a little something for everybody" while at the same time encouraging end users to participate in the Fedora community and thereby help move the code base that will eventually become Red Hat Enterprise Linux along.
When pressed to make comparisons between Windows 7, Ubuntu 9.10, and Fedora 12, Frields did a little dancing at first. "We all have slightly different targets," Frields explains. "Fedora is interested in getting the latest features out there in viable form, so this is not necessarily your grandmother's Linux. That said, with Fedora 13, we will be looking at the fit and finish issues. We have tended to build a really tight ship with Fedora, but now we want to make the décor in the cabins a little more sumptuous and to polish the deck chairs and railings."
That's all well and good, but how does Fedora 12 - the current release of the developmental Linux from Red Hat - stand up to the Windows 7 release from Microsoft? "I think we stack up pretty well," Frields finally boasted. "Fedora 12 has one of the largest feature lists we have ever had."
Then Frields got into a groove, explaining that as far as he was concerned, Windows 7 was not so much an operating system as a platform pointing users to Microsoft services. "To a great extent, Windows 7 is a driver for online services that Microsoft wants to provide. I think a lot of the services that Microsoft is providing have been available for some time now, so requiring users to go through a specific gatekeeper to get to services seems like a poor strategy. These days, people's work is centered on a Web browser, and as long as you make a good Web browsing experience, that's all you need to do."
Frields said that Fedora 12 will boot faster than Windows 7 on any particular machine, and he reminded El Reg that Fedora 12 has a wider range of PC hardware support than Windows 7. He has plunked Fedora 12 on the eight-year-old Athlon PC at home that the Frields family uses, and it works just fine. Windows 7 would never load on this box. Conversely, the relatively new Dell XPS workstation that Frields uses for work and which he got a few months ago, just loaded Fedora 12 and "everything just worked, there was no dickering around."
The Fedora project doesn't track downloads because requiring any kind of registration or putting in any kind of tracking is anathema to the open source community. But Frields says that since Fedora 7 was launched in May 2007, the project has tracked over 17.7 million unique IP addresses that have come to the site and checked for updates for various Fedora releases.
While there are some companies that deploy Fedora on desktops - particularly the IT departments of various companies and military contractors and other technical experts who are not afraid of doing an OS upgrade once a year and supporting themselves - Fedora is not trying to be Windows. "Fedora is about being on the cutting edge without all the blood," he says.
The work on Fedora 13 begins today, and it starts with a lot of conversations in the community and then more detailed work at the Fedora User Developer Conference in Toronto on December 5. Frields says that Fedora 12 slipped by two weeks - which is no big deal in the history of the development of desktop operating systems, to be sure - and that the project wants to get back to having launches on May Day and Halloween.
Fedora 13 will probably not have as many new features as the 11 and 12 releases had, mainly because Red Hat wanted to get lots of features in so it can take a snapshot and start hardening it to become Enterprise Linux 6. ®