It's not every week that sees the launch of a major release from one of the most popular Linux distributions. This week, however, we've had the benefit of not just one but two such landmark debuts.
Fedora 15, or "Lovelock," and Linux Mint 11, or "Katya," both made their grand entrances onto the world stage in the past few days, giving users of the free and open source Linux operating system yet more compelling options to choose from.
Wondering what you'll find in these new releases? Here's a rundown of some of their key new features.
Fedora 15 'Lovelock'
As promised previously, the final release of Fedora 15 launched on Tuesday to a global audience of fans eager to check out its implementation of the GNOME 3 desktop.
Linux desktops are a particularly critical subject, of course, now that the default Unity desktop in Ubuntu 11.04 "Natty Narwhal" has proven so controversial, and the Fedora team announced that it was abandoning its own Unity efforts some time ago. GNOME 3 may be slightly less controversial, but it's still generating a lot of discussion.
Other key new features in this latest release from Fedora -- which is currently the third most popular Linux distribution, according to DistroWatch -- are the availability of the Btrfs filesystem as a menu item in the installer and better crash reporting.
A redesigned SELinux troubleshooter is also a part of the new release, as is higher compression in live images. Lovelock features better power management as well, thanks in part to a daemon that tunes system settings dynamically to balance between power consumption and performance.
LibreOffice and Firefox 4 are now included, while updates for systems administrators include a dynamic firewall, more consistent network device naming and the BoxGrinder appliance creator. A full list of features is available on the Fedora site, where the new release is also available for free download.
Linux Mint 11 'Katya'
Behind only Ubuntu in popularity on DistroWatch's list, Linux Mint is a very user-friendly Ubuntu-based distribution, as I've noted before. This new release, meanwhile, has been widely anticipated as an alternative option for those who aren't enchanted by Ubuntu's Unity.
Released on Thursday, Linux Mint 11 "Katya" uses neither Unity nor GNOME 3; rather, the project developers chose to stick with GNOME 2.32 instead, providing a comfortable and familiar option for fans of that desktop environment.
The software is still based on Ubuntu 11.04, however, and features one-click installation of multimedia codecs and extra applications. The Software Manager has been enhanced with user interface improvements, a new splash screen and better search capabilities, while the Update Manager offers better performance as well as improvements to its user interface.
Improvements to the Desktop Settings tool make it more "desktop-agnostic," the project team says, while system improvements include a new "apt download" command and Adobe Flash plugins.
LibreOffice, gThumb and Banshee are among the default applications in Katya, which is available for free download on the Linux Mint site.
Hear that sound in the distance? It's the ranks of the Linux-using masses growing even bigger. Weekend project: take these two new gems for a commitment-free test drive.