Cloud and virtualisation features set Fedora 14 apart

Users, developers & systems admins all win new capabilities in the latest release of the Red Hat-sponsored Linux distribution

Fedora 14, or "Laughlin," made its official debut on Tuesday, and it's packed with a raft of new features designed to enhance the experience for users of the open source desktop operating system.

Usability has been a key focus in the past few releases of Red Hat-sponsored Fedora, which is the second most popular Linux distribution, behind only Ubuntu, according to DistroWatch. Significant improvements in networking, software management, hardware support, and other functionality have resulted, so much of the work on this latest release has concentrated instead on providing bug fixes and increased stability.

In addition to an improved desktop environment, however, Fedora 14 also features enhancements including "libjpegturbo," a library that brings noticeable performance improvements to users who load and save images in the popular JPEG format. The library "practically halves processing time on most systems," the software's makers say--even users on older hardware, in fact, will see a speed improvement.

Also included in Laughlin is SPICE (Simple Protocol for Independent Computing Environment), a framework for desktop virtualisation designed to provide an enhanced remote desktop experience. Users of desktop virtualisation can now enjoy sound, display and device support as well as rudimentary support for accelerated 2D graphics and encryption.

Fedora users on netbooks and other small devices, meanwhile, gain a better experience with Laughlin thanks to its inclusion of a subset of MeeGo.

Available on EC2

Fedora 14 is also the first of many successive releases of the distribution to be available on Amazon's EC2 cloud computing environment. As a result, systems administrators can now try out the leading-edge features of Fedora 14 in the cloud, providing a sneak preview at what may come to downstream distributions such as Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) in the future.

Support for Intel's IPMI (Intelligent Platform Management Interface) remote server management software, on the other hand, makes it easier for systems admins to support, manage and administer hardware from afar, with additional capabilities like Serial-over-LAN and identity LED manipulation.

Then there's Fedora 14's use of the new systemd, a next-generation system initialisation and session management daemon that will ultimately replace Upstart and System V init. Users of this feature can experience improvements such as parallel and on-demand starting of services, faster boot times and the ability to track processes, daemons and sockets, or even take snapshots of a system state, according to the Fedora team.

Another feature assists in the easy migration of Xen virtual machines to KVM virtual machines, while Apache has been updated with a number of module and security fixes.

New Debugging Tools

For developers, Fedora 14 offers a bevy of improved debugging tools in GDB, its GNU debugger, which comes complete with a new Python scripting feature. Python 2.7 is included, as is Rakudo Star, an implementation of Perl 6. Fedora 14 also offers support for the D programming language, which combines the power of languages such as C and C++ with the programmer productivity of modern languages like Ruby and Python.

Named after Nobel Laureate and physicist Robert Laughlin, Fedora 14 runs version 2.6.35 of the Linux kernel. GNOME 2.32 is its default desktop environment, but KDE 4.5 is available as well. The distribution can be downloaded for 32- and 64-bit systems from the project's site. The next release, Fedora 15, is scheduled for release in April 2011.

All in all, Fedora 14 looks to be a solid new release with numerous compelling features that make it well worth a closer look.

Follow Katherine Noyes on Twitter: @Noyesk.

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Tags unixLinuxsoftwareinternetcloud computingoperating systemsRed Hatnon-Windows

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Katherine Noyes

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