The most recent version of Fedora, Red Hat's cutting-edge Linux distribution, provides users of Red Hat's more staid and stable Red Hat Enterprise Linux an early look at what's to come in their operating system of choice.
In addition to serving as sort of a Linux technology preview, Fedora 11 can itself serve in a full gamut of Linux roles--as long as Fedora-embracing users are prepared for the upgrade and bug mitigation that can accompany the use of such a fast-paced distribution.
Organizations in search of a freely available Linux server for production roles would do best to steer toward CentOS, which tracks RHEL and benefits from the bug-squashing efforts of the Fedora vanguard.
In my tests of Fedora 11, the biggest improvements were in the area of virtualization, with the Red Hat-led toolset around creating, accessing and managing virtual machines across multiple hosts continuing to mature.
As a virtualization server, Fedora still lags behind proprietary options such as those from VMware in functionality and polish. However, the fast clip at which Fedora's tools are progressing bodes well for the next major RHEL version.
Fedora 11 can also serve well in desktop roles, as it includes the latest and greatest of desktop-oriented open-source software, including Version 2.26.1 of the GNOME desktop environment, Version 3.1 of the OpenOffice.org productivity suite and Version 3.5 Beta 4 of the Firefox Web browser.
Again, though, Fedora 11 will fit best on the desktops of users who are prepared to give it a bit more love and attention than might be required with other Linux options. In particular, I found that the catalog of ready-to-install applications available for Fedora 11 doesn't match what's available to Ubuntu or OpenSUSE users.
The distribution is likely best suited for development-savvy desktop users who can take advantage of the various up-to-date integrated development environments and complementary tools that ship with the system. Fedora 11 comes with NetBeans 6.5 and Eclipse 3.4.2 (both of which depend on Sun's open-sourced Java OpenJDK project), as well as Version 2.0 of the MonoDevelop C# IDE and Version 4.3.3 of the Eric Python IDE.
Fedora 11 is available for free download from http://fedoraproject.org/get-fedora, with separate versions that support the x86, x86-64 and PowerPC platforms. I tested the x86 version of Fedora 11 on a Lenovo ThinkPad T60 and on virtual machines running under Fedora 11's implementation of the Linux KVM (Kernel Virtual Machine) facility.
The x86 and x86-64 versions are available as DVD or CD images that comprise the entire distributions, as well as in Live CD images that may be used to try out Fedora without modifying your hard drive.
Fedora's default desktop environment is GNOME, but there are "respin" versions of Fedora based on the KDE desktop, among other custom versions centered on hardware design, scientific computing, games and other software themes.
Fedora 11 also includes a feature called Presto, which enables the system to consume software updates by fetching delta packages containing only changed bits. Novell's SUSE Linux distributions have offered this feature, which can speed update operations significantly, for some time now, and I was pleased to see Fedora adopt it.