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The Fedora 12 beta brings with it the latest offering from the GNOME project, which recently released version 2.28 of the popular desktop. Most of the changes in GNOME 2.28 are under the hood, however the one noticible change - icons in menus and buttons have been turned off by default in GNOME 2.28 - isn't part of the Fedora 12 beta release.

To our eye, the desktop looks much cleaner without the icons, and we're hoping Fedora dumps them for the final release, but for now at least, the icons are still there.

The latest release of GNOME also includes the new GNOME Bluetooth module, which makes connecting Bluetooth mice, keyboards, and other devices considerably easier.

GNOME 2.28 also sees Fedora migrating to the new messenger application, Empathy, which replaces the long-standing default, Pidgin. As we noted in our review of the Ubuntu 9.10 beta, Empathy lacks a few of Pidgin's features, but it's still a quite capable messenger app. The latest release adds support for sharing your desktop with Empathy contacts using the GNOME Remote Desktop Viewer, Vino.

For those using the KDE spin of Fedora, KDE 4.3 is now the default and thankfully, sees KDE 4.x finally up to par with both its predecessor, the KDE 3 line and GNOME 2.2x.

The much-loved PackageKit, a software discovery tool that lets you quickly and easily install the application you need to open a file, now includes a browser plugin. That means if you download a PDF file, but don't have a PDF viewer installed, PackageKit will notice the download in your browser and offer to install the software you need.

Another nice under-the-hood change in Fedora 12 is the move to switch RPM package to use the new LZMA compression format. All of the software packages in Fedora have been switched from Gzip to the more efficient XZ (LZMA) compression method. The payoff for users is smaller, faster downloads.

Also new in the Fedora 12 beta is the latest version of Xorg that now defaults to, for those of you with a dual monitor setup, spanning the desktop between monitors, rather than cloning between them. Quite frankly, that's the way it should have been from the beginning, but as they say, better late than never.

While Fedora 12 is still a beta release, we didn't have any real problems getting it up and running in a virtual environment. That said, there are still a few known issues to be ironed out before the release candidate arrives, and, as with any beta software, we don't recommend running Fedora 12 beta in a production environment. ®

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