Reg comments12

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

Design by committee makes good

More VMs, less RAM

Virtualization in Fedora has also been vastly improved with what's known as kernel shared memory. If you run a number of virtual machines at a time, there's a considerable amount of overlap in the memory pages. Kernel shared memory consolidates common memory pages into a single page, thus cutting down on the amount of RAM each machine needs from the host.

For example, if you're running 10 virtual machines and allocating 1GB RAM to each, you'd need 10GB of RAM. But the kernel shared memory tools in Fedora 12 combine the memory used by each virtual machine, drastically reducing your overall RAM usage. That means more virtual machines can run on your existing hardware without you needing to add more RAM.

Fedora 12's virtualization tools also offer hot swapping for virtual network interfaces and a new network-booting infrastructure.

And keep in mind that Fedora is something of a testing ground for Red Hat Enterprise Linux, so look for at least some of the improved virtualization tools to end up in RHEL 6.

Fedora 12 also includes the new Theora 1.1, a much-improved version of the open video codec that features video quality on par with proprietary solutions such as H.264. Theora 1.1 is a combined effort of the Xiph.Org Foundation and Mozilla and Fedora developers.

With Firefox 3.5 already supporting Theora 1.1, Fedora 12 users now have unified video support both on and off the web.

Thus far, Theora isn't widely used on the web, but with HTML5 gaining support and browsers such as Firefox offering baked-in Theora support, an open video solution is starting to look like a viable possibility.

Fedora 12 includes the latest version of Xorg, which now defaults to spanning the desktop between displays in a dual-monitor setup rather than cloning them. Quite frankly, that's the way it should have been from the beginning, but better late than never.

Another nice under-the-hood change in Fedora 12 is the new LZMA compression format for RPM. 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.

PackageKit, Fedora's 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 that 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.

Also worth noting is the inclusion of some new open Broadcom firmware, which means that users with Broadcom WiFi chips will be able to connect without the hassle of finding and turning on hacked Windows drivers. Not every Broadcom WiFi chip is supported though; see the Fedora wiki for details.

On the desktop, Fedora 12 offers the latest versions of GNOME and KDE, complete with all the usual updates to the standard GNOME and KDE applications. On the GNOME side that means the new Empathy IM client and the slightly revamped, somewhat more polished theme we mentioned in our review of the Fedora 12 beta release.

You can download Fedora 12 here. The installer is available as a complete DVD image or as Live CD images for specific desktop environments. There are also various spins available, including the previously mentioned Moblin spin for netbooks.

Thanks to speed boosts and better power management, Fedora 12 is a welcome upgrade - and the Fedora Moblin Spin is especially recommended if you're looking for a solid netbook system. We're also looking forward to seeing where the Fedora community decides to go with Fedora 13, which will, in all likelihood, form the foundations of RHEL 6. ®

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