October 12, 2006

Inside Fedora Core 6

by Rahul Sundaram


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Fedora Core 6 is about to be unleashed in a week and I decided to give our precious users an in-depth look and sneak peak at what we've been cooking up for this release. Fedora Core 6 includes installer improvements and catchy desktop effects. Better update notifications and fresh a new look and default font. Better I18N support and dramatic performance boosts throughout the distribution. Better virtualization and SELinux trouble-shooting capabilities. And much, much more.

Installer improvements

Fedora Installer in Fedora Core 5 started using the Yum API, and now in this release we have an easy way to access Fedora Extras and connect to custom repositories--even during installation. This makes it much easier for users to access a larger base of useful software packages. Plus, system administrators can now heavily customize their deployments of Fedora using their own custom yum repository using Anaconda or kickstart. Anaconda now uses the Squashfs filesystem to compress and store more software in the images. It also supports IPV6-based networks better, and you can install from Firewire and USB storages devices. Fedora Core 6 is also the first mainstream distribution to add support for Intel-based Macintoshes.

Custom repository installer screen
Fig 1. Fedora Core 6 Installer custom repository screen.

Desktop effects

Red Hat has been working on AIGLX through the Fedora Rendering Project, and while we did have it as an optional experimental repository for Fedora Core 5, it has now gone through a number of changes to provide easily enabled desktop effects in your Fedora Core 6 desktop. What have Fedora Core 6 development teams been up to? Here's a few of the things they accomplished:

  • Unveiled AIGLX as a community-oriented incremental approach to providing a framework for compositing desktops.
  • Merged AIGLX framework into Xorg. It is now available as part of Xorg 7.1 release and will be included in Fedora Core 6.
  • Xorg has an improved dynamic configuration mechanism and compositing extension is now enabled by default.
  • Changed the OpenGL-based compositing window manager Compiz. It will now work on top of AIGLX and has been tweaked to work better with Fedora.
  • Installation of Compiz by default in Fedora Core 6. You can enable it by clicking on the appropriate checkboxes in System=> Preferences => Desktop Effects. With capable hardware it will just work without having to configure anything or even logout of the system.
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The results are pretty impressive. While some of these effects are pure eye-candy, others have a more practical value--providing a more physical and tangible feel over application windows and virtual desktops. Not to mention the fresh DNA-themed desktop background and the new, more welcoming Firefox browser splash page.

Fedora Core 6 customized GNOME desktop
Fig 1. Fedora Core 6 GNOME desktop showing Compiz in action.

Performance boosts

If there is a single major "feature" in Fedora, it would be the extensive performance improvements that this release carries throughout the distribution. Fedora Core and Fedora Extras have been entirely rebuilt on a new glibc that takes advantage of precomputed hash values to boost the performance of dynamic linking very heavily. GNOME 2.16 has a number of performance improvements, including better login time, bonobo speedups, and faster rendering of non-Latin scripts and Cairo graphics. Plus, Nautilus and file chooser saw some improvements, and Evolution IMAP underwent some backend changes. KDE 3.5.4 has a number of new optimizations, as do system-level libraries such as the CUPS printing service and the fontconfig library.

Yum 3.0 increases the performance of the package manager drastically with a new metadata parser written in C. The codebase has gone through a major revamp with a large number of API changes to make yum a better foundation for building applications. These speed improvements reflect on Pirut and Pup, as well.

In the next part of this series I will talk more about virtualization, which has been a major release driver. I'll also cover the SELinux troubleshooting tool, update notifications, and many other changes in the upcoming Fedora Core 6 release.

About the author

Rahul Sundaram is a Fedora Project Board member and contributor to multiple Fedora sub-projects. He is also part of the One Laptop per Child team casually changing the world.