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Fedora Linux 15 is now available, providing users on the desktop with a full GNOME 3 experience including the GNOME Shell user interface.
Fedora 15, codenamed 'Lovelock' also introduces new security, spin, networking and virtualization features to the community Linux project, sponsored by Red Hat.
"GNOME Shell is a big change and I'd be doing people a disservice if I didn't say that GNOME 3 and GNOME Shell is a fairly radical departure from the GNOME 2 experience," Jared Smith, Fedora Project Leader told InternetNews.com. "That being said, a lot of people find the change refreshing."
GNOME 3 as an upstream project was officially releasedin April and Fedora 15 is the first major Linux distro to include it as part of the core release. Smith noted that GNOME Shell was designed to have fewer interruptions for users and enable users to more easily access their data and applications.
The GNOME Shell is not something that everyone in the Linux community likes. Rival Linux distribution Ubuntu split with GNOME for their 11.04 release and released their own Unity user interface as a competitive alternative to GNOME 3. Smith noted that for Fedora users that don't have the graphics hardware to run the GNOME Shell, there is a fallback mode that includes the gnome-panel, metacity and a notification-daemon.
In addition to GNOME fallback mode, Fedora as a distribution also includes the KDE, LXDE and Xfce Linux desktops as options in their repositories. There are also custom spins or distrubition versions of Fedora 15 for the various desktop options.
"Personally, I have found GNOME 3 to be quite usable," Smith said. "There are some nitpicky things that I'm not happy with, but they are things the GNOME community is aware off."
Smith added that he suspects that when GNOME 3.2 comes out in the fall there will be more polish on various pieces. He added that GNOME 3.2 will also benefit from the feedback of Fedora 15 and other GNOME 3 users to further improve the desktop experience.
"If you look back, when we went from GNOME 1 to GNOME 2 – that was nine years ago, so we've had a lot of time to put polish on GNOME 2," Smith said. "We'll probably go through the same sort of thing with GNOME 3 over the next couple of years and it will get some additional attention in some areas, but I think as it stands, it is a very good foundation for a desktop environment in Linux."
Fedora 15 also introduces a new consistent network device naming feature that should make it easier for desktop and server admins to manage devices. Smith noted that previously, network interfaces inside of Linux would get names like eth1 or eth2 that didn't always match up with the names that are found on the back of a server. That can lead to some confusion as to which port is connected to a given server.
"So some folks from Dell and others vendors came up with consistent network device naming feature," Smith said. "The idea is that Linux will go out and check the server BIOS and find out if the motherboard provides information about which physical port on a machine is tied to a particular Ethernet chip and then it gets named accordingly."
Fedora 15 also includes a new dynamic firewall featurethat can open and close ports on the fly in response to application requests.
For application developers, Fedora 15 marks the debut of the BoxGrinder appliance project for building virtual application images. BoxGrinder is an open source effort that has come from the Red Hat JBoss.org community, though Smith noted that BoxGrinder usage in Fedora is not directly tied any specific JBoss middleware technologies.
"From a governance perspective it's very nice to see the interaction between the JBoss open source community and the Fedora community," Smith said. "This is the first major project to come out of the JBoss community to be integrated with Fedora and I think this is the beginning of a better relationship and interaction between the two communities."