Fedora 7 Test 4 was launched last week and I’m excited! Right now I’m downloading the ISO to try it out and, although I’m aware that there are plenty of new features for me to explore in the distribution itself, many of the elements that have me most excited are changes relating to their infrastructure: they are setting out to empower the community more than any other distribution has.
Chief among the changes to Fedora for the project’s seventh release is the merger of Core and Extras. The reason for this is that they intend to make all of the tools used to build the releases available to the wider community, with some functionality even being let loose from Red Hat’s internals. This, they hope, will help to encourage greater community involvement and also make it easier for individuals and organizations to spin their own versions and releases. The other benefit of this merger is that it will remove any perceived distinction between the quality of packages in the old repositories, which has long since disappeared.
Another related feature of Fedora 7 is the introduction of an official Live CD spin, featuring versions specific for GNOME and KDE. This, like the rolling out of the build system, has been done with the idea of enabling the community at its center. There is a new package being created called livecd-tools which, when pointed at a kickstart file and a repository URI (be it a remote location or a local disk), will generate a live CD. The best part about this is the use of the kickstart file: it contains all the information about what configuration and which packages should be included on the live CD in an incredibly user friendly manner. This allows community members to pick their own package manifests, default locales along with all the settings such as keyboard layout, and custom wallpapers (and presumably artwork in a more general sense).
The other feature that will be immediately obvious to end-users is the planned redesign of the project’s homepage, which is listed as a “must have” for the release. The introduction of a simple, clean front page to the massive (and inevitably intimidating) resource which is the Fedora wiki can only be a good thing: whether it’s making it easier for people to find out exactly what Fedora is, or if it’s making it easier for people find documentation, or if it’s making it easier for people to get involved with the project, can only be a good thing!
Infrastructure changes aside, there’s a lot to look forward to in Fedora 7: the default inclusion of Network Manager and better wifi chipset support is a massive plus point for any laptop user; integration of KVM with Fedora’s graphical virt-manager for a superb visualization experience; a beautiful default theme, which in my opinion includes an amazing looking login screen; fast-user switching; yum speedups; the latest Gnome and KDE releases along with all the other software updates.
OK, that was possibly the longest sentence ever but the message is clear: Fedora 7 is going to be a fantastic release! Let’s not forget, either, Fedora sticks to a fairly rigid policy regarding licenses: if it doesn’t qualify as Free or Open Source then it doesn’t get included in the distribution. I intend on experimenting with some of these new features over the next week, especially the livecd-tools and I’m will be writing a guide in my next post for anyone who wants to follow in my steps.