The beta for Fedora 37 is available now, and a full release is due on October 18, 2022 (with October 25 as a fallback date in case of late-surfacing bugs). Here’s a preview of what to expect from the latest release of this uber-stable Linux distribution.
If You Want to Get Ahead, Get a Hat
I’ve always been a fan of Red Hat Linux. I remember buying a set of disks for version 5.2 in a branch of a famous British high-street stationers in 1998, because it was easier and faster than trying to download it at the time. Back then, Red Hat was a freely available distribution, and the logo still had someone—known as the shadowman—wearing the eponymous titfer.
Red Hat Linux morphed into Red Hat Enterprise Linux, which was bundled with some proprietary management software and support, as a commercial offering. Of course, the core Linux had to remain freely available. So, CentOS Linux was created as a Linux distribution that was binary-compatible to RHEL minus the proprietary code. CentOS targeted servers. For users more interested in running a Red Hat-derived Linux distribution, the answer was Fedora Linux.
Following the purchase of Red Hat for $34 billion by IBM, CentOS was terminated. Other projects have come into being to fill that void, such as Rocky Linux and AlmaLinux. Meanwhile, Fedora has ploughed its own furrow, and gone from strength to strength. If it’s good enough for Linux Torvalds, it’s got to have something going for it.
At the time of writing, Fedora 37’s full release is still a few weeks away (October 18), with an extra week of contingency if developers discover any late-surfacing bugs. Ahead of the release date, we’re firing up the beta and seeing what’s new in this stalwart of the Linux world.
Fedora 37 Versions
Fedora offers spins featuring KDE Plasma, XFCE, LXQT, Mate, Cinnamon, LXDE, and SOAS graphical desktop environments, as well as the i3 tiling window manager. The default desktop is GNOME.
Fedora 37 adds the RaspberryPi 4 to its list of supported hardware architectures. The Fedora Project have removed the ARMv7 architecture from the supported platforms, meaning there is no longer a Fedora build for the ARM 32-bit architecture. (Everything from ARMv8 forward is 64-bit.)
This time round, the GNOME Fedora spin ships with GNOME 43 and that’s the release we’ll look at.
Upgrades to applications and the GNOME desktop environment are always welcome but, arguably, the most important improvements and fixes any distribution upgrade are those in the Linux kernel. The beta we’re using to research this article uses kernel 5.19.7.
Kernel 5.19 wasn’t a headline-grabbing release in terms of major security fixes, but it still contained a lot of modifications and tweaks. If any of these map onto your use-cases, you’ll benefit from kernel 5.19.
Some accessories and built-in hardware get improved support.
- Lenovo ThinkPad TrackPoint II keyboard users can now map buttons, use the built-in middle * “mouse” button, and use native scrolling.
- The Lenovo ThinkPad X12 TrackPoint—the mouse pointer “joystick” that sits between the “B”, “G”, and the “H” keys—is better supported.
- The function keys on Keychron wireless mechanical keyboards are recognized and supported.
- Three-button Wacom digital pens are now supported, including pen and touch time stamps.
The kernel supports ZStandard compression of firmware files. Firmware files with a ZST extension will be decompressed by the Linux kernel’s firmware loader.
The performance of Linux on ARM devices has always fallen short of its performance on other platforms, such as Intel. Kernel 5.19 further reduces the gap, although a sizeable gap remains for now. It is interesting to note that Linus Torvalds used an ARM-based Apple laptop to test and release kernel 5.19.
Code changes made to the Direct Rendering Manager graphical subsystem yield speed increases for both AMD and Intel GPUs.
Kernel 5.19 supports modern networking technologies and protocols. The inclusion of BIG TCP allows for larger TSO/GRO packet sizes for IPv6 traffic, which mean faster network speeds. These gains will benefit large-scale installations in physical data centers or cloud-based server farms and other infrastructure.
Benefits that will be appreciated by the average domestic user include improved network drivers for Realtek RTW89 5GHz wireless cards, Qualcomm’s ATH11K driver gaining wake-on-LAN capabilities, and support for the MediaTek T700 5G modems for always-connected PCs and laptops.
Kernel 5.19 has fixes that prevent issues with overheating in Intel Skylake CPUs and their newer Comet Lake CPUs. These issues were most apparent when laptops were suspended. Systems running on Intel Raptor Lake and Alder Lake CPUs can access Running Average Power Limiting features that cap the average maximum power the CPU can draw.
There are as many changes in the visuals of the desktop as there are beneath the hood. We’ve covered GNOME 43 in-depth already, but we’ll go through some of the new features here.
The Quick Settings menu lets you access several settings—including Dark Mode—with one or two clicks.
Some of the buttons act as simple toggles, others expose further selections. For example, if you have multiple network cards in your computer you can choose which one to use.
The buttons that appear reflect the hardware of your system. If you don’t have a wireless network card you won’t see the button that let’s you change Wi-Fi network.
You can also access some of the audio settings from the volume slider control, such as setting the output or input source, and hopping straight to the sound settings in the main Settings application.
GNOME 43 sports many subtle cosmetic touches. Applications need to be ported to GTK4 before they can embrace these changes and adopt them. Doing so will allow the applications to integrate with GNOME initiatives such as the
libadwaita theming engine. What it means to be a native GNOME application is changing.
Not surprisingly, the first applications to champion these changes are GNOME applications such as the Files file browser, and Edit, the new text editor.
The Files file browser has rounded corners on some interface elements such as the search bar, and the close button has a more pronounced shaded circle surrounding it. The most noticeable change is the dynamic sidebar.
If you resize the Files window and make it narrow enough, the sidebar will disappear. A new icon allows you to access the sidebar when the window is narrow.
The sidebar reappears when the window width is increased sufficiently. “Floating” emblems are used to provide more information to icons.
Right-clicking in Files opens the context menu.
Documents you have added to your “~/Templates” directory appear as options in the “New Document” submenu.
If you don’t have any documents in your “~/Templates” directory, the “New Document” option doesn’t appear.
You can install the gEdit editor, but it isn’t installed by default. The new default editor is the GNOME Edit application. This isn’t as fully-featured as gEdit yet, but it continues to improve. gEdit is only a simple install away, if you prefer to use it.
Clicking the hamburger icon opens the settings menu. You can select from one of three options at the top of the menu to have Edit follow the system theme, or always be in Light Mode or Dark Mode.
The following software packages were either preinstalled or installed by us as typical applications the average user might choose to use. Of course, these might change by the release date of Fedora 37.
- Kernel: 5.19.7
- Firefox: 104.0
- Thunderbird: 102.3.0
- LibreOffice: 184.108.40.206
- Nautilus (Files): 43.beta.1
- GCC: 12.2.1 20220819
- OpenSSL: 3.0.5
A Tip of the Hat
Fedora continues to impress. You may have noticed a trend amongst internet pundits. Fedora has always been a well-respected distribution. But recently, many Linux advocates are recommending Fedora as the best distribution for Linux first-timers.
If the goal is to give them an it-just-works experience and access to a vast collection software, then Fedora clearly fits the bill.
You can get the prerelease now by downloading the official Fedora 37 image or one of the spins. Then get busy installing.
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