The five best things coming in Fedora 13 Linux

When Fedora 13, Goddard, is released on May 25, it's not going to be your usual Fedora Linux release. In the past, Fedora has been seen as a great Linux distribution for Linux experts. Paul W. Frields, the Fedora Project leader, told me though that this release is more new-user-friendly and that is no longer just for experienced Linux users. Based on my early look at this Red Hat community Linux distribution, I agree.

You will be able to see it for yourself soon. After several delays, Frields has no doubt that this time, the Fedora final will be available for download soon. Frields explained to me that the delays were because Fedora has adopted much more "detailed and fleshed-out release criteria. In the past, we would release releases when it felt right. Now, we have criteria that make the process both more transparent to the community and provide strong release guidelines."

Fedora was thrown off its most recent release schedule by an issue with an obscure way of installing Fedora. Frields said that that, in the event, the problem didn't turn out to that bad. "So long as they were at it, there was a silver lining: the developers had time to fix more bugs. So, the delay helped us provide as strong a release as possible."

From what I've seen, Fedora does have a very strong release. Here are the five best features I've seen in it.

1. Professional-level color management

One long-time Linux problem has been that, while it has first class graphics programs like GIMP, it hasn't had great color management. Sure, you could get color to look great on your screen, but getting that same color palette to show up on your printer, that was an image of a different color.

Now, thanks to the work of Richard Hughes, Fedora includes the new and outstanding GNOME Color Manager. This allows people to work in ICC (International Color Consortium) colors across devices. Best of all, it's not just for experts. You can easily set up color profiles for your screen and printers to put together a true color workflow. According to Frields, Fedora will be release a design suite spin of Fedora just for graphic designers.

2. Better printer driver support

Linux would always support almost any printer's basic functionality. What it wouldn't do is load the best possible printer driver — until now. In Fedora's Easy Printing, all you have to do is plug in your printer, Fedora will figure out what printer you have, and it will automatically invoke PackageKit to find, download, and install the printer's appropriate driver and, if available, other software. In short, plug-and-play has finally come to Linux. Nice!

3. Improved open-source graphic drivers

You've long been able to use any graphics card with desktop Linux. You could often use these cards and chipsets advanced 3D and graphic acceleration features as well, if you were willing to use proprietary drivers. Now, Fedora's programmers have been working with other open-source developers to create high-quality 3D-capable drivers for NVIDA cards in the Nouveau project.

You may be wondering why this is such a big deal since probably most Linux users can live with using proprietary graphic drivers. According to Frields, "What users don't understand is that we can't help fix a problem with proprietary driver, but we can and do with open drivers ... Proprietary drivers require low-end sub-system changes that can cause more trouble for free software audio systems or media players." Linux simply works better, Frields argued with "Free software in every part of stack."

4. Improved KVM support

Red Hat has decided that KVM is its virtualization path in the future. You can see the first fruits of that decision in this Fedora. For example, in Fedora 13's take on KVM, you can declare and reserve PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect) addresses, the industry-standard bus for attaching peripherals to computers for guest virtual machines. That won't matter to desktop users, but it's a great feature for production servers running multiple machines. If it works out well in Fedora 13, you can expect to see it in RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) 6 or 6.1.

5. Easier to use and more stable to boot

Frields told me, and I believe him that Fedora is both much easier for Linux newbies to use and far, far more stable. Frields claims that even in alpha, Fedora 13 was more stable than some Fedora final releases. All I can say is I've been running the late betas for several weeks now on both virtual machines and on PCs and I've yet to see a stability problem.

It's also quite simple to use. While I wouldn't say it's as easy for a new user to pick up as Ubuntu 10.04, I also can see handing a new user a Fedora 13 USB stick or DVD and not having to worry about them getting good use out of it.

If you've never tried Fedora, or you haven't used it in a while, now is the time to give it a try. I think you'll be impressed.

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