Fedora 18, aka the oddly named Spherical Cow, should have shipped on November 6th. Seven delays later, it's finally came out on January 15th. So what was the problem? According to Robyn Bergeron, Red Hat's Fedora Project Leader the real time-killer was the major rewrite of Fedora's Anaconda, its software installation and update program. Bergeron said that this "was a one-time aberration." In the future, Fedora should stick closer to its six-month release cycle.
The new Anaconda is designed to make installing Fedora a much smoother and faster experience. It also, Fedora states, "supports installation from local and remote sources such as CDs and DVDs, images stored on a hard drive, NFS, HTTP, and FTP. Installation can be scripted with kickstart to provide a fully unattended installation that can be duplicated on scores of machines. It can also be run over VNC on headless machines. A variety of advanced storage devices including LVM, RAID, iSCSI, and multipath are supported from the partitioning program. anaconda provides advanced debugging features such as remote logging, access to the python interactive debugger, and remote saving of exception dumps."
Once done what will you find? For starters, Fedora gives you far more choices in desktop interfaces. GNOME is still the default desktop. Unfortunately, GNOME 3.6 is now the version being shipped. This edition include the new, and as far as I'm concerned, defective Nautilus file manager. I agree with Clement Lefebvre, founder of Mint Linux that "Nautilus 3.6 is a catastrophe. It removes features we consider requirements."
Fortunately, Fedora doesn't leave us stuck with GNOME 3.6. It also includes Nemo, the fully-featured Nautilus fork, MATE, the GNOME 2.x-style fork; and, my personal favorite desktop, Cinnamon. To install these, though, you first have to install another interface first and then install an alternative desktop. KDE and Xfce are still available as ready to run from installation desktop options.
Most of the important changes in Fedora, however, are for system administrators rather than desktop users. The biggest improvements, from where I sit, are the following.
System Storage Manager (SSM).
This is an easy-to-use command-line interface tool that presents a unified view of storage management tools. Devices, storage pools, volumes, and snapshots can now be managed with one tool, with the same syntax for managing all of your storage. In addition, Fedora now includes StorageManagement, a collection of tools and libraries for managing storage area networks (SAN) and network attached storage (NAS).
Offline system update.
This does exactly what it says. It enables you to update critical system components offline. For now, this functionality is only integrated into GNOME. Fedora's developers expect that, since it's based on non-GNOME specific software such as PackageKit, that others will quickly adopt it.
The new Fedora includes support for both Eucalyptus, the private Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) clouds and the Folsom release of OpenStack.
As always, Fedora supports KVM for virtual machines, but on top of KVM this new Fedora also supports the latest version of oVirt. Ovirt is designed to be a data center ready virtualization management program.
Put it all together and you get, as always with Fedora, a distribution pointing the way to serious Linux server work and the future of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) in particular. I haven't looked at Fedora 18 enough yet to say I'd recommend it as a desktop. I already know enough about it to recommend it to anyone who wants to do serious data-center and server Linux work.