Fedora used to be the leading, bleeding edge Linux distribution. Then its release cadence slowed down. Today, with its second release of 2016, Fedora 25, Fedora is back to exploring the newest Linux releases and programs.
The Fedora Project is sponsored by Red Hat. While it's a community Linux distribution, it's also meant to be Red Hat Enterprise Linux's (RHEL) proving grounds. So, as it has for the last several releases, Fedora 25 starts with a set of base packages. These, in turn, form the foundation of Fedora's three distinct editions: Fedora 25 Workstation, Fedora 25 Server, and, replacing Fedora Cloud, Fedora 25 Atomic Host.
The base Fedora 25 packages feature many minor bug fixes and performance tweaks, as well as new and enhanced components, including:
- Docker 1.12 for building and running containerized applications.
- Multiple Python versions (2.6, 2.7, 3.3, 3.4 and 3.5) to help test across multiple Python configurations.
- Support for Rust, a programming language that aims to make development faster and more stable.
The big news for desktop users in Workstation is the Wayland display server has finally replaced the legacy X11 Window server. Wayland has been in the works since 2008. The point of Wayland is to provide a smoother, richer experience for graphical environments. X also had a huge amount of functionality that was no longer being used.
On top of Wayland, Fedora 25 Workstation runs GNOME 3.22. This latest desktop claims to offer multiple file renaming, a redesigned keyboard settings tool, and additional user interface improvements. If, like me, you're not a GNOME fan, Fedora 25 also supports spins with other default desktops. These include KDE, XFCE, LXDE, MATE, and Cinnamon.
Now that the MP3 decoding patent has finally expired, Fedora Workstation supports MP3 audio playback. This has long been a thorn in the foot of Linux desktop distributions.
For current Fedora users, Fedora's developers have smoothed the upgrade path from Fedora 24 to Fedora 25. Fedora claims typical upgrades will now take less than 30 minutes, depending on system configuration and network speed.
If you're a Mac or Windows user, Fedora now includes Fedora Media Writer. This tool helps users find and download the current Fedora release and write it to removable media, like a USB stick. With this you can easily test drive Fedora from your current system. If you like what you see, you can easily install it.
For developers, Fedora 25 Workstation introduces improved Flatpak support. Flatpack, like Ubuntu Snap, bundles bundle libraries directly within sandboxed applications. This makes it easier to both install, update, and secure Linux programs.
The new features in Fedora 25 Server aren't as exciting, but they're more important for business users. It now includes a new SELinux troubleshooter module for Red Hat's Cockpit server management program. This makes it easier to troubleshoot SELinux denial problems.
In another security improvement, Fedora will now display SSH keys in the system dashboard. This makes it easier for administrators to see what keys are connecting to a given machine. Additionally, support is now included for multi-step (including two-factor) authentication services.
In a related development, the FreeIPA identity management system is now using the latest 4.4 release. This includes a host of new identity management enhancements, including:
- Topology management: FreeIPA web UI can now be used to visually manage topology graph for large deployments.
- DNS sites: DNS management in FreeIPA now supports location-specific placement of services.
- Subordinate Certificate Authorities: FreeIPA Certificate Authority (CA) now is able to create subordinate CAs to issue certificates with a specific scope.
- Kerberos Authentication Indicators: Kerberos KDC now takes Authentication Indicators into account when issuing service tickets. For example, two-factor authenticated Kerberos credentials can now be required prior to obtaining tickets to a VPN service (supported by OpenConnect Server).
And, as Red Hat puts ever more emphasis on the cloud and containers, Fedora has replaced Fedora Cloud with Fedora 25 Atomic Host. There will still be a Fedora Cloud Base image for users wanting to run workloads on a general purpose host. Fedora Atomic Host is optimized to create and deploy container-based workloads.
You can run Atomic Host in several different ways. You can use it to spin up virtual machines or install Atomic Host on bare metal. To keep pace with innovations in the world of Linux containers, Fedora Atomic Host is expected to be refreshed on a lightning fast two-week release cycle. There will also be a monthly updated Docker-formatted base image. This can be used for building Linux containers.
So when Matthew Miller, the Fedora Project Leader, says "the Fedora operating system seeks to deliver the latest innovations in the world of free and open-source software to our users", he's not making an idle promise. Today, Fedora is once more the leading edge Linux distribution.