Yesterday we told you about some of the changes in appearance you’ll see in Fedora 10. Today we continue our blog series with a discussion on how Fedora contributors are making significant advances in printing and better webcam support. You may not see these features, but they’ll make a big difference when you fire up your Fedora 10 system.

#3. Making Printing Snappy – and Attractive
Tim Waugh is an engineer at Red Hat who’s been looking around at the state of Linux printing and realized he wanted users to have a seamless experience dealing with adding and managing printers. "Changing the main window of the print queue configuration program to a box with icons in it had been suggested a couple of times by other people," said Tim. "When I looked at making that change it turned out to be easier than I’d expected."

In fact, Tim added several enhancements to the print system which include better feedback for users including, informational print dialogs and easy print queue management. These interfaces also update dynamically as printers change status or jobs, so you never have to worry about where your job went or if it’s really running. There’s also a handy troubleshooter that generates important error output and helps determine the cause of any lingering problems. Plus, configuration is now more of a snap with an easier to execute process for adding new printers locally or on the network.

Tim also notes that managing the changes to the print system as an upstream initiative, as opposed to doing it only in Fedora, takes full advantage of the open source development model. This is a policy the Fedora Project has long espoused. When other distributions use features developed in Fedora, everyone benefits. According to Tim, upstream development of this feature "has led to more bug reports, and so more bug fixes, and some really great feature suggestions." Now you can try out the fruits of this work in Fedora 10 for all your printing needs!

#4. Better Webcam Support
Most laptops nowadays come with Internet-ready video cameras, or "webcams," built right in. With Fedora 10′s new kernel and support subsystems, an enormous number of these webcams are supported right out of the box, with no need for driver downloads or tinkering. That means you can get right to work or play with a minimum of fuss.

But how does this support get there? Not by magic, but through the hard work of people like Hans de Goede, who was a Fedora community volunteer when he started working on better webcam support. "I’ve always had a large interest in hardware support and a strong belief that good hardware compatibility is important for a good end user experience," says Hans, when asked why he chose this project for his spare time. "I didn’t really focus on a specific model. I wanted to solve the general problem of webcam support, so my plan was to clean up out of tree drivers (one at a time) and get them integrated into the mainline kernel."

First, Hans looked at the existing gspca driver for webcams, which was not part of the mainline Linux kernel. That driver was performing tasks like decoding and decompression to deal with proprietary camera formats, and just that fact alone would likely keep it from ever being accepted into the kernel tree. So Hans wrote a user library, libv4l, that would perform these functions, and upgraded the software applications in Fedora to use this new library. He also worked with a kernel developer who was cleaning up the existing driver into something more acceptable for the mainline kernel, and the results will benefit all users of Linux everywhere.

Recently, Hans became an employee of Red Hat. It’s a move which was no doubt influenced in part by his long history of contribution in the Fedora Project, where he’s been a constant presence on developer mailing lists for years. Contributing to free and open source software is a way for technologists to establish a solid reputation of skill, teamwork, and effectiveness. All of those traits are beneficial when job-hunting, and can make a difference in these competitive times. Thanks to people like Hans de Goede using their skills in the Fedora community, videoconferencing and entertainment are easier than ever in Linux – which you’ll see when you fire up Fedora 10 later this month.

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