The Fedora Project [http://fedoraproject.org] on Tuesday released Fedora 12, the latest version of its open source Linux operating system and the last of the “big four” Linux releases for 2009. Over the past month all of the major Linux makers have released new versions of their systems including OpenSuse 11.2, Ubuntu 9.10 and Mandriva 2010.
Although last in this line of releases, Fedora is perhaps the most interesting of the releases. While it is the community version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Fedora is not nearly as conservative and prides itself on its just-out-of-beta features. This time around Fedora introduces features such as Bluetooth audio support, multi-touch input for tablet PCs, better package management and broader network support.
On the desktop Fedora includes Empathy, a new generation of instant messenger that supports chat, video and audio on most popular IM platforms including AIM, Yahoo, Google Talk, Jabber, Live (MSN) and MySpace. Using Empathy users can share their desktop with friends and use a webcam to create audio and video chats.
Also included in Fedora 12 is support for Bluetooth audio devices so users can connect headphones wirelessly to their computer to listen to audio or chat online.
One of the areas of focus for Fedora 12 has been on better device support and with this release most popular peripherals can be connected to a computer with the minimum of fuss. This is an area in which Linux, generally, is starting to show significant improvement. In the past, driver issues put many first-time Linux users off. But now most popular hardware can be used with Linux versions such as Fedora without needing proprietary drivers. This also means users can easily connect their MP3 player, PDA or smartphone to Fedora and share media digitally.
Network management has also been improved in Fedora 12. This includes better support for mobile broadband, Bluetooth tethering, password management, sharing networks and IPv6 support. Bluetooth on-demand is also included in Fedora 12 so that devices are switched on an off when needed.
Installing software is easier on Fedora 12 now with the yum-presto plugin now installed by default. Originally released in Fedora 11 as an optional plugin, yum-presto reduces the size of updates by only transmitting the changes in the files and not the entire file. Also, RPMs now use XZ rather than gzip for compression, providing smaller package sizes without the memory and CPU costs of bzip2.
PackageKit has also undergone a number of changes including getting an interface overhaul, added support for installing packages from a web browser, Gnome and KDE support and a command line plugin that automatically finds software to support commands issued.
With portable devices becoming increasingly popular, Fedora 12 includes a number of features designed for the likes of tablet PCs. This includes handwriting recognition, as well as Xjournal which allows users to jot notes on, highlight or even sign PDF documents without printing them out.
Fedora 12 also includes multi-touch input, a particular benefit for mobile device users. Although multi-touch is still in its early stages it provides an important base for future releases to build wider multi-touch support into applications.