Fedora 8 RC 3 was released three days ago. This RC shows what users can expect from the upcoming Fedora 8. It comes along with a huge list of new features and bug features. Among them are a KDE 3.5.8, a new NetworkManager core, PolicyKit, PulseAudio and RandR 1.2 support for the open ATI drivers.
The Fedora 8 Feature List was already known for several months, therefore this release does not come along with any surprising additions. Also, many of the feature are more or less designed for GNOME and do not directly apply to KDE users. Well, Fedora is a GNOME distribution through and through.
Nevertheless some of the features are cross-desktop features and are therefore usable for me as well.
First of all Fedora 8 ships with KDE 3.5.8. For me this means that I can again use Konqueror to edit my WordPress posts because a really annoying bug was finally fixed. Btw., it says a lot about Fedora and KDE when a bug report with patch isn’t even answered in 5 months.
And, of course, because this is real life, I cannot really enjoy WordPress at the moment because my personal bug #1 hits me hard right now. I really, really hope that this bug will be fixes with KDE 4. It would also be wiling to offer solid money if that means the bug gets fixed.
Fedora’s KDE version now also ships with the Enterprise branch of the KDE PIM suite which is said to be more stable.
Konqueror now also works again with the newest Flash player. The bug was automatically resolved by the update of the GTK packages since this was a GTK bug.
Fedora 8 ships with a pre-release of NetworkManager 0.7 which introduces a wealth of new features. However, it also introduces new APIs so that client tools have to be rewritten. KNetworkManager isn’t available yet so even the KDE version of Fedora 8 ships with the GNOME applet. As soon as knetworkmanager works with the new NetworkManager again it will be shipped through an update.
But for me the GNOME applet didn’t work either, it is still beta software after all.
PolicyKit is described as “a framework for defining policy for system-wide components and for desktop pieces to configure it. It is used by HAL.”. Fedora’s feature page has a list of use cases for PolicyKit which might give a better impression:
- David wants to format his USB stick. When he activates the corresponding item from the context menu, the system presents a dialog asking him for the root password.
- Matt needs to adjust the clock of his computer. The context menu of the panel clock lets him do this without asking for passwords. (Or, depending on the policy, allows him to authenticate with his own password like sudo or Mac OS X.)
- When Ray shuts down his system, gdm asks him if he really wants to shut down while his girlfriend has a session running on the system. When he is the only user on the system, gdm shuts down without further questions.
- David administrates his familys desktop system. He wants to allow every family member to format removable media without giving them the root password. He achieves this by editing the xml file that defines the policy for PolicyKit.
In short PolicyKit helps to set end establish certain rights in the time of HAL and other, system wide available services and possibilities used on a multi user computer. Currently there is work done to integrate PolicyKit with GNOME. I haven’t heard of any work currently done to integrate PolicyKit with KDE, but this might come in the future. There is also work underway to create a KDE GUI for PolicyKit.
PulseAudio is a sound server which is shipped with Fedora 8 by default and will be shipped with other distributions ins the future. It is supposed to be a drop-in replacement for GNOME’s ESD but is at the moment still desktop neutral (so could be used by KDE as well).
The role PulseAudio plays in comparison for example to GStreamer is best explained with X and GUI toolkits like GTK and Qt: PulseAudio is X, GStreamer or Xine are GTK or Qt. PulseAudio therefore won’t replace current existing solutions like Gstreamer or Xine but will sit between these and ALSA to improve the handling of sound streams at that point.
PulseAudio will pave the way for intelligent audio hotplugging functionality—making it possible for the system to automatically redirect VoIP program audio streams when users plug in or remove USB headsets, for instance. PulseAudio’s support for network transparency will also facilitate some impressive functionality.
PulseAudio would make it possible for a VoIP program to automatically reduce the volume of music programs when a call starts. The software could also be used to automatically reduce the audio volume of all windows that aren’t in the foreground so that if you are playing two movies simultaneously, for instance, the movie in the active window would have higher volume
This however reminds me of some feature KDE’s Phonon is supposed to offer. I wonder how well it will work when two Audio related programs/layers will try to reduce the music audio output because a VoIP call is coming in.
But in case of KDE the discussion isn’t that interesting anyway: Phonon clears the way for every development which might come up. Even if PulseAudio suddenly is extended and tries to replace Gstreamer one day (which is unlikely) KDE 4 could still use it. Thanks, Phonon.
Nevertheless I still have problems with the word “Sound Server”. KDE once had a sound server and while it was a masterpiece at its time it was the source for multiple problems at the end of its lifetime. While there are lengthy mails about all possible problems of PulseAudio I’m still not convinced that the introduced latency will not have any impact on my experience watching Flash movies or talking via Skype. I would like to see some benchmarks or tests or something on standard hardware (!) in that regard.
RandR 1.2 and free ATI drivers
Fedora 8 finally ships with free ATI drives which support RandR 1.2. And it works indeed: the resolution and the ouput of the screens can be altered at the fly. A simple
xrandr --output LVDS --off --output VGA-0 --mode 1680x1050
turns off the Laptop screen and sets the external monitor to 1680×1050. There is no restart or additional
xorg.conf configuration necessary. There is still a GUI missing thought, but I’m pretty sure that one will be shipped with Fedora 9.
So, finally I can use hotplug with my external monitor.
Fedora 8 comes along with various other improvements. There is for example a new firewall configuration application which is simple but covers the important parts. Also, the bootup is notably faster, and there is of course a new Kernel.
For KDE enthusiasts the next version of Fedora might be more interesting though because that one will most likely ship with KDE 4. Currently there are just the development libraries available in Fedora 8.