Fedora 13 Beta: The Seen and (Troubling) Unseen: Page 2

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A new application called Déjà Dup brings cloud storage to Fedora for backup services. Déjà sports an outstanding interface that should be navigable by anyone who has used a desktop computer, but Fedora is doing users a disservice by not specifying immediately that the app is backing up files to Amazon S3. After all, for some users (including me) cloud services are as much something to avoid as Mono-based programs.

Users can also download and install Zarafa, a server-side email client whose structure should also be made clearer. However, in Zarafa's case, any qualms about cloud storage may be eased by the fact that it is supposed to integrate with Microsoft Outlook and provide a replacement for Microsoft Exchange Service, two pieces of functionality that are lacking in KMail and could stand some improvement in Evolution. Moreover, Zarafa is licensed under the Affero GNU General Public License, which means that you can at least peer into the cloud and see the code to which you are entrusting your data.

All the same, potential users should be aware that, if they want to use Zarafa, they will have to download the documentation from the company of the same name. The instructions are not difficult, but will take some time to wade through.

Less controversially, administration receives some boosts with the availability of the Dogtag Certificate System -- although it, like Zarafa requires some reading to fully understand or appreciate.

The Fedora 13 beta also includes the GNOME Color Manager, which is intended to help designers and other users who want what they see on screen to match more closely what they print. Able to use color profiles issued by hardware manufacturers, the Color Manager should in theory make the free desktop an easier choice for graphic designers. However, in practice, since such software cannot control the consistency of the ink used by printers, designers will still have to print samples before final copies, which may lead some to wonder if the Color Manager is worth setting up in the first place.

Yet another tool that can be over-looked is the command line version of Fedora's Net Manager, one of the distribution's standout applications on the desktop. With half a dozen easily-learned options, the new command nmcli is far easier to use than the standard shell tools ifup and ifdown, and long overdue. After all, if you are administering at the command line, the chances are strong that what you need is a connection to install a few packages that will add the functionality that you need to solve your problem.

2010: The Year of the Commercial Desktop?

The Fedora 13 beta contains more enhancements that many users will ever know. That is not necessarily undesirable, because users will still benefit and many do not care to know.

However, if Fedora 13 is remembered for anything, it may be for the same reason that its rival, Ubuntu's Lucid Lynx is remembered -- as the release in which commercialization became embedded in the free desktop.

For many users, including me, one of the features of the free desktop is its absence of commercialization. You may see an Oracle logo when booting OpenOffice.org, but you do not see heavily branded applications or wizards. Or, if you do, the brands are for free software projects.

Now, with Fedora adding links to Amazon S3 and Zarafa (and Ubuntu to UbuntuOne and its new music store), the two most popular Linux distributions are changing. Instead of being a refuge from commercialization, they are becoming new venues for it.

You can argue that this commercialization makes sense, that the makers of distributions deserve a chance to recoup the money they spend on development. From this perspective, commercialization is simply the price that community-based distributions like Fedora and Ubuntu must endure for the benefits of being connected to for-profit companies.

Perhaps you might want to argue that the companies that back these distributions do not ask for much, and that the trend has (so far) not gone very far.

Yet the fact remains that these links are a jarring intrusion into a world that we have come to take for granted. For some of us, Fedora and Ubuntu may remain centers of innovation, but, for others, completely community-based distros like CentOS and Debian may suddenly become far more attractive.

ALSO SEE: 75 Open Source Tools to Replace Apps You Use Every Day

AND: Bruce Perens: Inside Open Source's Historic Victory


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Tags: Linux, Ubuntu, Linux desktop, open source tools, Fedora


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