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Where's the beef? Fedora releases 'Spherical Cow'

Maria Korolov | April 9, 2013
After being delayed seven times due to reported problems with the new installer, Fedora 18 has arrived. On the plus side, Fedora 18 delivers new management functionality for IT administrators and offers improved Active Directory support. However, a complicated installation process and some issues with the user interface make it a less attractive option than desktop competitors like Ubuntu and Mint.

Enterprise-friendly functionality

Since it is sponsored by Red Hat, it's no surprise that Fedora comes with some business-friendly features, including an improved Samba setup, which allows users to connect with Microsoft's Active Directory.

Fedora 18 also comes with SecureContainers, which allows applications or services to run in isolated, self-contained environments. This feature, which was first introduced in Fedora 17, is useful when the operating system is on a machine that say, runs multiple web servers simultaneously. In effect, this provides a form of built-in virtualization.

There is also improved storage management, with a collection of tools and libraries for managing storage area networks and network attached storage.

The new release also expands cloud-related functionality. For example, the Eucalyptus tool allows the creation of private clouds that are compatible with Amazon Web Services. It also includes the latest "Folsom" version of the OpenStack cloud platform.

Missing was ownCloud, an open source solution for sharing and syncing files online and with mobile devices. An open source version of DropBox, ownCloud allows a company to control its document sharing, rather than putting its documents in the hands of a third-party vendor. Originally slated for release with Fedora 18, it now seems to be pushed back to Fedora 19, currently scheduled for release in May.

GUI options

One of the things that makes Linux so appealing to developers, but confusing to end users, is the high level of customization available. The biggest of these is a choice of user interfaces. Aspects of the design that are immutable in the Windows world - such as the position of the Start button and the content of settings and configuration menus - can all be changed by switching to a different desktop environment.

With Fedora 18, users can choose from the popular Gnome desktop environment, which comes by default and is the simplest to use. Then there's the KDE Plasma Desktop environment, which offers not only a different look and feel but also more configuration options. Other options include XFCE, LXDE, Cinnamon, MATE and Enlightenment.

Cinnamon and MATE were made popular after being included as the two main options for Linux Mint. LXDE is a light desktop environment, advertised as the lighter version of XFCE, while Enlightenment is a niche environment designed to make it easy to develop user interfaces without using traditional toolkits.

The default Gnome 3.6 comes with its own set of issues. My personal pet peeve is that Gnome now seems to be working from the same playbook as Windows 8, and adding features designed for touch-based devices. This requires that some icons be large enough to be touched by fingertips, rather than pointed to with a pointer. For desktop users, this results in wasted space and fewer features.

 

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