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Fedora 13 - Ubuntu's smart but less attractive cousin

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Review Number 13 is indeed an unlucky number for the next release of Fedora. Unfortunately for this popular distro, its beta arrives at almost the same time as the next release of Ubuntu, Lucid Lynx.

The Fedora 13 beta could get eclipsed by Ubuntu 10.04, later this month, because it lacks some of the flashy new features found in Canonical's distro that target the Linux novice and crosses into the world of mainstream consumers more than ever.

When Fedora 12 was released, project leader Paul Frields told The Reg that Fedora is intended "first and foremost for users interested in and capable of contributing to open source."

That focus on tech savvy users is reflected in the Fedora 13 beta, which offers a number of new features that are mostly under-the-hood. This stands in stark contrast to the recently released Ubuntu beta.

Where Ubuntu was full of new features designed to entice the everyday user - social networking applications installed by default, the Ubuntu One music store - Fedora 13 is a more stoic, though still very welcome, update.

Among the impressive features is the new, experimental open source 3D acceleration support for Nvidia graphics cards.

Fedora 12, the current stable release of the Fedora line, started the 3D support with some open source drivers for newer ATI graphics cards, and Fedora 13 will see that support extended to cover NVidia video cards thanks to the Nouveau drivers.

Of course, Fedora has never stopped you from using closed, proprietary drivers, but this is the first time that an open-source solution has been available on the platform.

Self driven

Unfortunately, at least for the time being, you'll need to install the drivers yourself. The package in question is mesa-dri-drivers-experimental. If you're testing the beta and you have an NVidia card in your PC, be sure to give Fedora your feedback and file any bugs you encounter.

Other features in Fedora 13 include automatic printer driver installation - which means if you plug-in a supported printer the driver is downloaded and installed automatically. It's not the most exciting feature we've seen, but it does add another, "it-just-works" element to the already very user-friendly distro.

Among the other upgrade components are some NetworkManager improvements, including a new command line interface and a fairly major redesign of the user management interface.

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