In 2014, the Fedora.next initiative was started to build a plan for the next decade of Fedora Linux. The plan, in essence, aimed to make Fedora more than an assemblage of disparate open source products in a common repository (think Debian).
Instead, Fedora has separate Workstation, Server, and Cloud distributions that each have a specific, targeted purpose. For the Workstation edition, much of the focus has been on making it more intuitive for end users—both technical and casual users—and sanding down the rough edges of the Linux desktop, such as inconsistencies of Qt programs running under GNOME.
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This is not a process that happens instantaneously, nor is it intended to—the changes are incremental, but are shipped when stable, as opposed to simply being ready. While original plans for Fedora 24 included selecting Wayland as the default display server, as support for Wayland in the GNOME desktop, in drivers, and across apps has made great strides in the last six months, the default remains X.org as Wayland is given more time to incubate.
1. Visual improvements
A major overhaul of the systemwide default font, Cantarell, is the first noticeable change for users of previous Fedora releases. This includes a substantive reworking of font rendering, specifically hinting data which affects how fonts are displayed between different sizes or DPI values. Prior to this update, hinting in Cantarell had inconsistencies between diacritics, and improved support for Cyrillic characters. Users upgrading from previous versions who have edited font rendering settings manually, or by using the GNOME Tweak Tool, will need to reset these settings to their defaults, as these settings are (correctly) retained on upgrade.
New to the Fedora 24 repositories is the QGnomePlatform package, which transfers the GNOME/GTK display settings to Qt 5 applications. For HiDPI displays—particularly those increasingly found on notebook computers—this is a very welcome change that greatly improves the appearance of programs designed for Qt 5, making them much more usable.
Searching in the Nautilus file manager is now much more robust, adding the ability to filter when the file was last used or modified in searches, and limit searches to one or more file type categories, such as "Documents."
2. Support for openh264
Fedora 24 brings official support for openh264, as part of Cisco's patent grant, which makes the proprietary codec available freely. However, this comes with the restriction that the codec must be downloaded directly from Cisco. There is a GUI prompt to download the codec when the user attempts to play a video, though users of desktops other than GNOME must enable this manually.
At present, the plugin only supports the baseline profile, while many videos are encoded for the High profile, though work is ongoing to add support for additional profiles.
3. Graphical upgrades
Previous versions of Fedora required using the command line to upgrade to major versions, such as between 22 and 23. Starting now (and as this feature is backported to Fedora 23), users can perform major version upgrades using the Software app.
The upgrade system has a clearly marked "Install" button, which only installs the upgrade when directed by the user, in contrast to the opaque and frequently changing way in which Windows 10 is installed, often to the surprise of users.
4. Various things under the hood
To use the requisite car analogy, a variety of internal changes occurred which only affect people who would go searching for them (generally, programmers). Among these are an upgrade to glibc 2.23, which brings Unicode 8.0 support in addition to a variety of security fixes. The C compiler has been updated to GCC6. Similarly, Mono has been updated to 4.2 for improved .NET support, with Ruby updated to 2.3, Python updated to 3.5, and Node.js updated to 5.10. Ping now works with IPv6 addresses, eliminating the need for an IPv6-specific tool.
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Should I use it?
If you are already using Linux on the desktop, yes. GNOME 3 has come a very long way since the first release, and can be customized with ease to act more like a "traditional" desktop, though the differences are minimal at this point. Fedora has a variety of preconfigured alternative desktops available, including KDE, MATE, LXDE, Xfce, and Cinnamon, the desktop featured in Linux Mint.
If you are coming from Windows, the adjustment may still be a little bumpy. At present, the Software app does not include proprietary programs, so common apps such as Google Chrome and TeamViewer cannot be installed from the Software app. To ease the transition, Fedy provides one-click installation of common proprietary software packages, and popular configuration changes.
You can download Fedora 24 at getfedora.com.
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James Sanders is a Writer for TechRepublic. Since 2013, he has been a regular contributor to TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research.