Fedora 31 release brings massive improvements to update install speed

Fedora 31 brings the usual mix of performance improvements and new packages, with changes to the build process bringing smaller RPMs and faster decompression.

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Fedora 31, the newest version of the Red Hat-backed Linux distribution, was released Tuesday, bringing with it a variety of improvements for server and desktop use, as well as future-focused modernizations, including removal of Python 2 packages as upstream support for the language is ending at the end of the year.

This is the first release of Fedora to drop 32-bit kernels, though it retains support for programs with 32-bit dependencies, and legacy hardware with 32-bit drivers. Some 32-bit libraries are required for compatibility with WINE, as well as some closed-source software, including games delivered through the Steam platform.

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This release comes just days before the fifteenth anniversary of the release of Fedora Core 1, the first release of Fedora following the discontinuation of Red Hat Linux 9 in favor of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). "Core" was dropped from the name in 2007, with the release of Fedora 7. Fedora project leader Matthew Miller discussed the history and future of the Linux distribution in an interview with TechRepublic earlier this month.

For desktop users, the marquee changes are performance improvements to Wayland and GNOME, as well as better Qt application integration for GNOME via QtGNOME, and improvements to the GNOME Classic mode. Fixes to Pipewire, the next-generation audio/video handler, were also added, though this is still only a tech preview—current plans are to include Pipewire as the default handler in Fedora 33. Fedora 31 also includes Xfce 4.14, representing a near-complete migration to GTK3.

Fedora 31 significantly improves the speed of update installation, as packages are now compressed with zstd instead of xz—in tests compressing a 4.7 GB file, decompression required 96 seconds with xz, though decompression took only 7.7 seconds with the ztsd compression strategy used in Fedora. The test file was also modestly smaller following the change. This update is transparent to users, as it is handled on the build server. Additionally, rpm was updated to 4.15, and Fedora 31 removes the long-depreciated yum 3 package manager. 

Support for AAC and main/high H.264 profiles is now included out-of-the-box, eliminating the need for third-party packages from RPMfusion for media playback. T

Other updates to Fedora 31 include typically standard library bumps—Mono 5.20, IBus 1.5.21, Erlang 22, Perl 5.30, Golang 1.13, Node.js 12.x, Gawk 5.0.1, and glibc 2.30, among others. Users of Docker should migrate to podman, as Fedora 31 switches to cgroups2.

Fedora 30 can be downloaded freely here, in Workstation, and Server variants. Additional packages are available via RPMFusion. Fedora is compatible with most modern Intel or AMD 64-bit systems, though third-party packages are needed for full support of NVIDIA GPUs. Of note, Panasonic's recently-released Toughbook 55 runs Fedora quite well with no post-install configuration needed. 

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