Sunday, December 7, 2008

First Look: Fedora 10 OS

Fedora 10, a Linux-based desktop operating system sponsored by Red Hat, was released late last month by the Fedora Project. This version of the open source OS, code-named "Cambridge," has some new features that I was eager to try. I used the 700-MB live CD for installation and testing.

Fedora 10 is one of the most visually attractive distros that I've used in a while. It features GNOME 2.24 with a new blue and silver "Solar" theme. It offers a wide variety of themes and wallpapers, a nice touch for Linux-based distros. All fonts on the Fedora 10 user interface are readable and properly anti-aliased.

The Fedora 10 live CD includes less supplemental software than an Ubuntu distro, but what's there is sufficient for the average user. It includes Abiword (a lightweight word processor) and GIMP (a photo manipulation program). The Gnumeric spreadsheet would have been a nice addition.

While I was trying things out, I noticed that the webcam on my laptop finally worked properly in Fedora 10, which is nice as it never worked with Ubuntu.

Fedora uses RPM (Red Hat Package Manager), which works through the YUM (Yellowdog Updater Modified) wrapper. The RPM is a command-line utility that fetches and installs software packages from a central repository, similar to Debian/Ubuntu's APT system. Installing software from the command line may be daunting for some users, so there is also a GUI for this purpose.

YUM is a very good package manager, since it automatically resolves dependencies while installing software packages. The missing dependencies problem used to make it hard to install new software, but YUM has largely made that a non-issue.

Fedora 10 is described as having an improved printer detection capability, and I found this to be the case as I tested it. I have a Brother HL-2070 on my LAN, and Fedora was able to identify it and set it up after I provided the printer's network address.

I wanted to test Fedora 10's new wireless-sharing feature using my laptop. Unfortunately, my Broadcom-based device would not work due to a lack of firmware support. It's not just a problem confined to Fedora, since this feature has not worked out of the box with any Linux-based distro I've tried.

Fedora 10 is primarily desktop oriented (for server deployments, I would use CentOS), but it is one of the better Linux distros I've tried in a long time.

A complete list of Fedora 10's new features is described here. The free OS can be downloaded at the Fedora Project page.

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