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Fedora 12 - it's a horse, not a camel

Design by committee makes good

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Review The Fedora Project has announced the latest version of its popular open source Linux distribution. Nicknamed Constantine, Fedora 12 has quite a few impressive new features and demonstrates that the project has gained a renewed sense of direction.

In the build-up to the release of Fedora 12, the Fedora community has focused its energies not just on new features, but on where Fedora is headed in the future.

As the saying goes, a camel is a horse designed by committee. The Fedora Project's goal is to ensure that this distro remains a horse. To that end, the Fedora community has spent a fair amount of time defining its target audience. Unlike some distros that focus on trying to please as many users as possible, Fedora wants to make sure it pleases its intended audience.

To find out more about the thought process behind Fedora's new vision and who exactly Fedora's target audience consists of, I spoke with Paul Frields, Fedora Project Leader at Red Hat.

Frields says that Fedora is intended "first and foremost for users interested in and capable of contributing to open source." Fedora would like to attract the sort of users who will help sustain and grow the project through their own contributions, whether that be code, documentation, wiki maintenance, or other involvement.

The target Fedora user also has some degree of computer savvy, but isn't necessarily writing machine code for fun. For example, Frields points out relatively simple basics such as knowing how to install an operating system and how to file and follow up on bug reports.

Which isn't to imply that Fedora isn't for everyone. Frields was careful to point out that defining a "target audience" is merely something Fedora uses to help it decide where the project is headed.

When faced with decisions such as, "Should this code be included?", "Should this package be part of the distro?", and so on, the guiding principle remains "Does it help Fedora's target users?"

If you don't fit the bill of the target Fedora user, fear not. Fedora isn't trying to exclude anyone, it's merely establishing guidelines that will help the project remain true to its core users - and Frields believes that this focus will benefit everyone who uses Fedora since it will, as it were, save the horse from turning into a camel.

So what does the Fedora 12 release have to offer? The answer is quite a bit, particularly with respect to virtualization tools - an area in which Fedora has long been ahead of the crowd - along with speed improvements; better power management; and support for the latest, much higher-quality Ogg Theora video codecs.

The speed and power management tools will be welcome improvements for all users, but particularly for those using the Moblin netbook spin. As of Fedora 12, all 32-bit software packages have been compiled with special optimizations for the Intel Atom processors used in many netbooks, which makes the Fedora Moblin Spin quite a bit faster.

The power management system in Fedora has also been rewritten, borrowing some tools from Red Hat's Enterprise Linux 5 to make Fedora less battery-draining - welcome news for anyone with a laptop, but particularly for those with netbooks.

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