Linux distributions have been improving by leaps and bounds, and those improvements are becoming visible in the latest beta releases. Fedora, one of the flagship distributions carrying GNOME 3, is no different and should have plenty of new features to make your mouth water.
As Fedora 16 is currently in beta, it still has plenty of bugs. However, the feature freeze date occurred before the beta release, so in terms of features you shouldn’t see much if anything changes anymore.
If you want to test out Fedora 16 Beta while reading this article, you can download the default and any other available spins from here.
The first new feature you may (or may not) notice is that Fedora finally uses GRUB 2 as the bootloader. While one might think that GRUB 2 was already in widespread use before this change, you perhaps don’t realize that GRUB 2, for the most part, was only implemented in any Debian-based distributions. Go outside of the Debian world and it’s a whole different story.
However, considering that GRUB 2 is actually close to a stable release, the people over at Fedora decided it was time to get back to the upstream standard. GRUB 2 brings with it loads of improvements, more options, and overall better booting.
A Newer Kernel
The Linux kernel included in Fedora 16 is also updated. In case you don’t know, the kernel is the very core of the system. Without the kernel, Linux wouldn’t be Linux. Not only are the basic workings located here but also all of the drivers. Even though Fedora 15 made the jump from the 2.6.38 series to 3.0/”2.6.40″, Fedora 16 uses the absolute latest kernel from the 3.1 series. This means that even more bug fixes and hardware support is included, resulting in a better experience.
The Gnome Desktop
Once you finally get logged in, you’ll start to see some more visible changes. Not only is the wallpaper new, but the entire GNOME desktop is being bumped up to version 3.2. After GNOME 3’s debut with Fedora 15, it’s nice to see these updates come out to start smoothing out the rough edges and add features that users felt were missing.
The major change to the desktop itself in this iteration is the inclusion of an updated menu when you click on your name in the top right corner, as well as “Online Accounts“, which basically adds better intergration to things like Empathy, the instant messenger program. Currently you’re only allowed to add Google accounts, and it fails at doing so, but this should be fixed when the final version comes out.
The default “Awaita” theme has also received some updates to include slightly different shades of blue and other minute adjustments.
Fedora has also included a new virtual keyboard known as Eekboard. This keyboard is very easy to use and requires no changes in the settings or installation. This is the first time I’ve seen a working virtual keyboard readily available to use.
Additionally, AMD graphics card users will be happy to know that with the open source Radeon drivers, I do not have any problems with GNOME 3 whatsoever. There are no graphical glitches to be seen, and the speed is actually very impressive (I’m using a Radeon HD 6950, but still). I have not yet tried to use the proprietary Catalyst drivers to see if they behave together.
There are also many changes present in the other supported desktop environments, KDE, XFCE, and LXDE. However, GNOME 3 is the default and will be all that I will cover. If you would like to see KDE, XFCE, or LXDE in action in this Fedora 16 Beta, you can also download those spins by going to the download page.
Even More Changes!
As always, there are plenty of other behind-the-scenes changes that you will more than likely not notice, except for a slight performance increase. At the end of the day it shouldn’t be very interesting to a lot of people, but if you do want to check it out, you can click here.
So far, I’d definitely recommend that you try out Fedora 16 when it is released as stable on November 8th. This latest version builds on all the changes made in Fedora 15, and I’m happy with the results. From here on out, the beta will be worked on to fix all bugs until it is eventually ready to be released. Once that happens, everyone can enjoy the bug-free goodness that comes in this release.
What is your favorite feature in Fedora 16? What would you like to see in future releases? Let us know in the comments!