First, we have SystemTap 1.0 available, which has a variety of cool enhancements, including better C++ support, Eclipse integration, and expanded documentation to help developers put it to work right away making your code better. You can check out this article on Red Hat’s press blog and the in-depth feature profile on the Fedora wiki. The wiki page also features a podcast in which I interviewed Will Cohen, a SystemTap contributor and performance tools engineer at Red Hat. (We’re working on putting these interview podcasts into a feed as part of our upcoming Fedora Insight content system, and helping you find them everywhere you want to listen.)
Second, there’s an interesting article at Phoronix concerning the updated experimental drivers for ATI Radeon cards now in Fedora 12 Beta. I’m running this experimental support on my new workstation, which has a R770-based ATI Radeon HD 4850, and it allows me to use compiz and the gnome-shell preview. The performance is not yet as good in some 3D games as the proprietary drivers, but it’s quite satisfying for general desktop usage. The big benefits are that more work is being done on this free software driver constantly by the maintainers, without the freezes and other negative side effects of a closed driver.
I’m very pleased that Fedora is able to contribute to this effort through our stance on freedom. While we try not to get in the way of users making their own personal choices in software, we are also working hard at making proprietary bits more unnecessary. With every new release of Fedora, you can see the advances that are gained through those efforts.
Of course, we still need help from the community at large. Not every card is fully supported yet, so if you are having a problem please file a bug. (You might also want to consult the common F12 bugs wiki page, on which we’ve been actively listing the issues we know about.) The drivers are constantly being improved, which is one of the things I really appreciate about the open source development process — rapid progress and results, out in the open where they can be seen and experienced. And having a quick Fedora release cycle means twice a year you can see the forward momentum in a distribution anyone can download and use.
With this release, the Nvidia card in my laptop and the brand-new ATI card in my desktop both offer full kernel mode setting. Without any proprietary support I can suspend/resume and hibernate/thaw my laptop. I can experience the full pleasure of compiz and even try the early testing preview of gnome-shell, all on completely free software. I want to thank all the upstream contributors to the free desktop who have made this possible — you guys rule!