Fedora is a general purpose distribution on the leading edge of Linux development, second only to Ubuntu in popularity. The distribution is known for its dedication to using free and open source software and being a strong platform for developers. The latest release, version 14, is codenamed “Laughlin” and provides a bevy of changes for desktop users, developers and system administrators alike.
Fedora is known as one of the most polished and usable Linux distributions, and this makes it very attractive for desktop users. However there isn’t much new in this release for Gnome users, as the planned Gnome 3.0 has been delayed. For users of other desktop environments though, there some notable upgrades. One of these is the KDE desktop, which is now on the latest version, 4.5. Netbook users can also try the MeeGo desktop environment on the new netbook “spin”. Overall, you have to know what you want — few programs are installed by default, and restricted software is relegated to an external repository.
Fedora is a very strong distribution for developers, and this update emphasises this. New versions of popular IDEs Eclipse, Netbeans and GNUstep have been included, as well as updates to the gdb debugger. On the programming languages side, there have been updates to Perl, Python and Ruby as well as new support for D. These larger changes are complemented by the numerous package and library updates and replacements, such as the speedier JPEG library libjpeg-turbo.
F14 also ships with some long-awaited features for system administrators. One is SPICE, a remote desktop protocol like Microsoft’s RDP. Another is Fedora’s comprehensive installer, which can operate on NAS and LVM disks and supports full disk encryption. F14 was also concurrently released on Amazon’s EC2 service, the first release to have done so since Fedora 8.
Overall though, is there a reason to upgrade to version 14? For Linux developers and users of Fedora 13 and below, an upgrade to 14 is a no-brainer. While there aren’t any giant changes in the new version for desktop users, a host of application upgrades do provide some incentive. Developers and system administrators have more reasons to upgrade, in the form of updated versions of languages and libraries.
Ubuntu users face a trickier decision in the wake of the recent 10.10 release “Maverick Meerkat”. While Fedora 14 is still is a viable alternative for power users, Ubuntu is still ahead on the desktop and Ubuntu users choosing that distribution for usability reasons should probably stay put. For the same reason, newcomers to Linux are still probably better suited choosing Ubuntu.
All things considered, Fedora 14 is a solid upgrade and a stellar example of what is possible with entirely free and open source software, showing off great features and usability in a wide variety of roles, from desktop users to developers and system administrators. If the idea of open source software at the cutting edge is what drew you to Linux, then Fedora 14 is the logical conclusion.