Fedora 18 finally arrives

It took its own sweet time, but the latest version of Red Hat's community Linux distribution, Fedora 18, is finally here and ready for you to use.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor
After months of delay, Fedora 18 is out and ready for you.

Well, that took long enough! Still, after months of delays, Red Hat's community Linux distribution, Fedora 18 is finally available to download.

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.

Hands on with Fedora 18 (Gallery)

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."

All that done, Fedora still has bugs if you try to install it on PCs locked down with Windows 8's UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) Secure Boot. In particular, UEFI boot won't work with USB sticks made with the liveusb-creator. You may, however, be successful with install Fedora in native UEFI mode from a USB media by using either dd or livecd-iso-to-disk to create it. As always, the easiest way to install Linux on a Secure Boot system is to deactivate Secure Boot.

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.

Samba 4.

Samba has long been Linux's ace in the hole for providing file- and print-sharing services to Windows and other operating systems. Now, with Samba 4, this open-source server program now supports Active Directory (AD).

Cloud support.

The new Fedora includes support for both Eucalyptus, the private Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) clouds and the Folsom release of OpenStack.

Virtualization management.

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.

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