Today, Fedora 12 was released (November 17, 2009). This is perhaps one of the most significant Fedora releases to date, for a few reasons. A lot of performance enhancements under the hood make this a much more tightly optimized release for x86 (32bit) systems. The 32bit support is now compiled for i686 and enhancements have been made to handle Intel's Atom processor, the same processor that powers the majority of netbooks currently available, which will make Fedora even more attractive on that platform.
One complaint that many have had with Fedora in the past is the sheer volume of updates that are provided during a Fedora lifecycle. Almost every other day there are updates for security, bug fixes, and enhancements. Fedora 12 takes away some of this pain with a few changes:
- RPM packages are using XZ for compression, instead of gzip, which allows for smaller RPM packages. Smaller packages = smaller downloads = faster downloads.
- The presto plugin for yum that was optional in Fedora 11 is now enabled by default in Fedora 12. So when you do download a large number of updates, the amount you're downloading will be considerably smaller because presto uses RPM deltas; the deltas only contain files that have changed, and not the entire archive. Typically this results in about 60-80% bandwidth savings, but with RPM now using XZ, it could result in even more (compared to a non-presto enabled Fedora 11, for example).
KVM has been overhauled quite a bit and boasts a lot of improvements to performance, security, and resource handling. New tools are available to permit accessing guest disk images from the host system directly.
Improvements in this area will be welcome news to laptop users who use Bluetooth occasionally but are conscious of their battery usage as well. Bluetooth services are now run on-demand and 30 seconds after the last device was used, are stopped. This prevents the use of resources and battery power when Bluetooth is not in use, without sacrificing the ability to have it there when you need it.
One of my favourite new features of Fedora 12 is Abrt. Abrt is a tool that helps people report bugs and provide a lot of information that the average person would be hard-pressed to provide on their own. For instance, if Abrt notices an application has crashed, it collects detailed information about the crash (such as a backtrace and other relevant system information), and it will assist the user in reporting it to Bugzilla, without them ever having to go to Bugzilla themselves, or by reporting via email.
This is incredibly useful as it will help developers track down bugs and correct them faster, which benefits the entire open source community. Similarly, the SELinux AVC monitoring tool also has the ability to now report SELinux policy violations to Red Hat's Bugzilla as well, which will help to create more comprehensive SELinux policies to ship with future Fedora releases.
On the graphical side, Fedora 12 sports GNOME Shell as a preview. You need desktop effects enabled (requiring accelerated 3D graphics), but Fedora 12 also has available experimental 3D support for certain graphics cards that you would have had to use proprietary drivers for in the past.
These are, of course, just a sampling of a large set of major new features in Fedora 12. I'm quite excited about this release as I've not been by previous releases, and I think it's due to the extensive reporting tools more than anything else. With the ease of bug reports to be made, and SELinux violations that can result in subsequent policy tweaks, this will lay a firm foundation for even stronger releases in the future. A full list of major new Fedora 12 features can be found on the Fedora wiki, and I think you'll find there is something for everyone there, whether you use Fedora for a home desktop, a workstation, or a server.
Vincent Danen works on the Red Hat Security Response Team and lives in Canada. He has been writing about and developing on Linux for over 10 years and is a veteran Mac user.