The most popular Fedora Linux deployment in years
The Red Hat Fedora community Linux distro has always been popular with open source and Linux developers, but this latest release, Fedora 34 seems to be something special. As Matthew Miller, Fedora Project Manager, tweeted, “The beta of F34 was one of the most popular of all time, with twice as many systems showing up in my stats than usual. “
Why? Nick Gerace, a Rancher software engineer, thinks it’s because “I’ve never seen the project in better shape, and I think GNOME 40 is a great motivator as well. Probably a combination of everyone, d ‘after anecdotal evidence. ” He’s on to something.
When Canonical released Ubuntu 21.04 a few days earlier, its developers chose to stick with the proven GNOME 39 desktop. The folks at Fedora have decided to use GNOME 40 for their desktop by default, even though it is a radical update to the GNOME interface.
Besides having a new look, GNOME 40 is based on the new GTK 4.0 graphics toolkit. Underneath the nice new exterior, this update also fixed a lot of issues and smoothed out a lot of tough spots. If you prefer to have another desktop, you can also get Fedora 34 with the latest KDE Plasma Desktop, Xfce 4.16, Cinnamon, etc. You name your favorite Linux desktop interface, Fedora will almost certainly deliver it to you.
Underneath those bright, shiny faces you’ll find the Wayland Display Server. Unfortunately, as is the case with all Linux distributions that use Wayland to replace the good old X.org display server, this does not work and works well with NVIDIA graphics. Fedora developers are working upstream with NVIDIA to support its proprietary driver. I can only wish NVIDIA would get the f-bomb clue that Linus Torvalds gave them nine years ago to open up their drivers so that we can finally have a top notch open-source NVIDIA driver. Until then, if your PC has NVIDIA graphics, you will automatically reset to the slower, but functioning X.org display server.
On the audio side of life, Fedora has moved to Wim Tayman’s PipeWire and audio and video server, for audio. This replaces PulseAudio and Jack. Although new, it has been hailed by many as superior to PulseAudio, which has long been the default Linux audio server. Since its APIs are compatible with PulseAudio, most applications will work with it without any modification. Fedora has also worked upstream with Google and Mozilla to work with the Chromium and Firefox families of web browsers. That said, if you’re doing professional-level audio work, it may not work with your apps. For example, while PipeWire works with Audacity, the popular audio program, you might need to do a little tweaking to make it work properly and it doesn’t work with the popular OBS Studio podcasting program yet. Either way, the developers are busy trying to make them work and play well with each other.
At this point, I must point out that this is part of life with Fedora. Fedora, as I have said several times, is a cutting edge distribution. It explores what is possible with Linux, not what is guaranteed to work. This is a big reason why I recommend other distros, such as Linux Mint, for people who want a daily working Linux desktop. Fedora is for brave and adventurous Linux developers and users. It is also upstream for Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL).
Speaking of programmers, they’ll be happy to use the latest Toolbox update. This allows you to easily create containers that you can then use to host isolated development environments. So, for example, if you want to work on a program on top of RHEL, you just need to run:
toolbox create –distro rhel –release 8.4
… from a shell and, ta-da, an instant RHEL instance ready to rumble.
As always, Fedora comes with the latest versions of languages and libraries. For example, it includes Ruby 3.0 and Golang 1.16. Fedora also runs on Linux kernel 5.11.12, which was released only a few weeks ago.
Another feature I like is that since Fedora 33 the default file system is Btrfs. I find it faster and more responsive than ext4, perhaps the most popular Linux desktop file system. What’s different this time around is that it now defaults to transparent Btrfs compression.
In addition to saving significant storage space – typically 20 to 40 percent – Red Hat also claims that it increases the life of SSDs and other flash media. SSDs and the like have a built-in limited lifespan depending on the number of writes made to a given drive. Most users will never reach this limit, around ten years of normal use. But developers, who could for example compile Linux kernels every day, might reach this point before the usual end of a PC’s useful life. For them, transparent compression can help keep their computer running until they need to replace it with a newer, faster machine.
Of course, as always, there are many other versions of Fedora. There is a Fedora for the servers; Fedora CoreOS, which is for people who want to run containers with the latest operating system enhancements – it has a two week update cycle; and Fedora IoT for Internet of Things (IoT) devices. You name the job, there’s probably a Fedora just for that.
Want to see for yourself? Download Fedora, check out the Fedora 34 release notes and bug list, install it, and you’re good to go. Enjoy!