Tuesday, 7 October 2008

A Quick Glance at Fedora 10 beta

Note: This article is not a comprehensive review of all the features in Fedora 10 beta.

The Fedora 10 beta or more precisely Fedora 9.92 was released on 30th September 2008. I decided to give it a try using Xen virtualization in Fedora 9, as I don't want to install a "bleeding edge" distro in my desktop. But unfortunately, Fedora 9 has an issue with Xen Virtualization and the only work around was to get it installed through qemu. The documentation at the Fedora wiki is enough to get it started.

However, I had a bad luck with with CD-ROM image, except that I was able to run anaconda. The first thing I noticed is the Malayalam strings in anaconda interface was not properly displayed. I discussed this matter in the IRC channel of SMC, and filed a bug in Redhat Bugzilla. I was also struck with another bug when I tried to disable the installation media and use only the Rawhide repository. The good news is that Fedora developers responded quickly to the two bug reports. Since I didn't bothered to download minimal set of the CD-ROM images, I decided to proceed with netinstall image available at Fedora download server.

A fresh installation attempt using the netinstall image was problematic. But after several failed attempts I could connect to the fedora mirrors and start the installation. The installation took more than 4 hours. All the packages where downloaded from Internet and qemu environment was also slow. At the end anaconda hanged with the message "installing kernel-2.6.xx... ". I just closed the qemu window and boot the newly installed system using the following command:

# qemu fedora.qcow -boot c -net nic -net user -m 512 -localtime -no-kqemu

The graphical boot loader, rhgb has been replaced by Plymouth and if you press ESC key, then you can view the entire boot messages. After several minutes of wait, I was able to login to the new Fedora 10 desktop. may be the virtualized environment degraded the performance of the desktop.

As soon as I logged in, the first major change I noticed is the new Echo-Icon theme. The icon set is great and gave the desktop an elegant look and feel.

Malayalam Support

I was curious about the Malayalam rendering and language support. Fortunately, Malayalam rendering was perfect with the patches from SMC and the new Malayalam font, Meera developed by SMC itself. Mozilla Firefox 3 and OpenOffice.org 3.0 rendered Malayalam perfectly. However, in OpenOffice there were some issues with some complex conjucts. But I won't think that these are used frequently in Malayalam content.

The font size problem which was a major issue in the prior release was resolved and it's really cool to see Malayalam on the desktop without any rendering errors.

Fedora also has 7 other unicode Malayalam fonts - smc-anjalioldlipi, smc-kalyani(previously MalOtf), smc-rachana, smc-raghumalayalam, smc-dhyuthi, samyak-malayalam and lohit-malayalam. However, I'm not sure whether the issues with lohit-malayalam is resolved.

The input method configuration is also very easy. The im-chooser application guided me to configure all the required input methods in different languages. There are 4 Input schemes for Malayalam - inscript, itrans, mozhi and swanalekha.

I think Fedora 10 may be the first GNU/Linux distribution with complete Malayalam rendering and input methods.

Other Applications

Fedora 10 comes loaded with GNOME-2.24 which provides many robust desktop applications. The prominent change is the inclusion of Empathy instant messenger which supports gtalk(voice and video), yahoo and several other IM protocols.

I was also curious about the webkit powered Epiphany. But the webkit switch was not complete and the version 2.24 still uses the Gecko engine. Visit here for more details.

This release also has better webcam support through the GNOME application called Cheese.

There is also some menu re-arrangements in the new desktop. The Dictionary application have been moved to the Office section, earlier it was included in the Accessories section.

To summarize, I believe that Fedora 10 is a distribution which is worth waiting for. Here is the schedule. The stable release is planned for November 2008.
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