Other features look forward to the upcoming Red Hat Enterprise Linux release, such as improved tools for virtualization, support for larger numbers of virtual machines on a single system, and improved features for creating appliance tools.
Such tools anticipate an increase in Fedora-derived appliances, which in turn raise legal issues about trademarks. Taking a cue from Debian, Fedora is meeting this anticipated demand by announcing a Fedora Remix mark to identify appliances build on Fedora that are not actually part of Fedora.
Explaining his support for the Fedora Remix mark, Frields says, "I wanted to free up our brand -- not to muddy it, but, on the contrary, to allow the community to spread our brand further. We still retain our clear Fedora trademark, but what we've done is come up with one that is usable by the community. People can use it without any dispensation, with or without our knowledge, and they can use it to help drive not only interest in our community, but their product. To expand your brand, sometimes you have to loosen the reins."
At the same time, Fedora 10 includes an array of improvements to basic infrastructure, ranging from a faster boot time to a rewriting of the Pulse audio system for faster response time and lower power usage. One of the most obvious infrastructure improvements is to Fedora's network manager, which can now be configured so that a single machine can become an impromptu network hub for other machines in the room.
However, perhaps the most significant new feature is the first stage of a system for installing software on demand via PackageKit, Fedora's graphical software installer. In Fedora 10, this system begins with the ability to install audio-visual codecs as you need them. Although users will have a choice whether to proceed with the installation, this feature is intended as a way to help users get the software they need without having to search for the correct package -- an often daunting experience for new users.
In Fedora 11 and later releases, Frields suggests, this basic capacity will be expanded in other ways. For instance, users who click on a file format that requires a program that their system lacks might be given a chance to install the program immediately. Similarly, if a document requires an uninstalled font, then users could install the font before opening the file. Users could even be presented with a list of possible options, complete with ratings from other users to help them make an informed choice about the software they install.
With this system, Frields says, "We're going to be in a situation beyond what a proprietary software company can offer, because they're in the business of selling software and we're in the business of giving software away. We're going to take that central tenet of free software life, and we're going to bring that power to every desktop user, even those who don't know anything about package management." If successful, this new feature could be the largest improvement in GNU/Linux software installation since the introduction of automatic resolution of dependencies.
"I really think that Fedora 10 is going to be one of our best releases ever," Frields says. "This is the first Fedora release ever in my experience that we've actually managed to clear all of our list of [release-]blocking bugs. Typically, we look and we have six, and we have to say that we'll fix two of them and the other four will have to be fixed in a point release. We've done really well in this release" -- all the more so because of the behind-the-scene challenges.
"What you see in this release is the setting of stages," Frields says. "In some cases, we've gone 50 or 75 percent of the way into a feature. In other cases, we've tightened up a previously introduced feature or two to a much higher degree of performance. We're also setting the stage for things that are going to define the free software desktop for years to come.
"This is where Fedora has pretty solidly staked its claim: If you want to see a feature first, you're going to look at Fedora."