Fedora Core 4 (Stentz) is the latest release, from the project sponsored by Red Hat Inc. Every new version of Fedora Core comes with interesting new features and many bug fixes, but this time another new entity— Fedora Extras—also comes to greet us. “Fedora Core 4 continues our tradition of syncing to the latest and greatest open source releases, including GNOME® 2.10, KDE 3.4.0, Firefox™ 1.0.4, OpenOffice.org 1.9.104, and a 2.6.11-based kernel,” Red Hat desktop team lead Havoc Pennington said.
The GNOME 2.10 desktop has several new productivity boosting tools along with some changes in the behavior of how pop-up windows work. In previous versions of GNOME, when using instant messaging clients like GAIM, the moment a message appears, the window tends to steal focus from what you’re currently typing or doing, showing you your instant message. This behavior is similar to clicking on a link in an e-mail and having Firefox pop-up in front of your e-mail message.
This breaks the train of thought. As a productivity boost, as well as one for the security heads (no more typing passwords into IM chats!), GNOME 2.10 now sports the focus stealing prevention feature. This means that when a new pop-up window appears, it will not steal the focus from what you’re currently doing. However, this means that people won't know if someone responded to them on an IM chat, right? So a patch was added to allow a noticeable glow in the taskbar whenever an item attempts to steal focus, keeping the user notified.
Figure 1. Glowing effect on taskbar
In regards to additional tools, the panel items supported have increased. The first noticeable change from previous versions of GNOME is the Main Menu, as it now contains the options for Applications, Places, and Desktop. Applications, as the name suggests, allows you to browse all installed applications that have menu entries, while Places takes you directly to your Home folder or allows you to search for files or connect to servers supported within Nautilus (like FTP, SAMBA shares, WebDAV, or even SSH). The Desktop menu provides options to tweak user and system preferences as well as lock the screen or log out.
When Bluecurve, the default theme for the streamlined GNOME and KDE desktops, first came out during Red Hat Linux 8.0 days, two camps of people existed. Some embraced it, and the others never did. The default theme in the GNOME Desktop for Fedora Core 4 is now Clearlooks.
PDF readers have been around for a while. New to the latest Fedora Core release is Evince. It currently handles PDF and Postscript documents (with the option of handling more as plugins are written) and has replaced ggv and gpdf in Fedora Core 4. It features page thumbnailing, indexing, and a streamlined search.
Figure 2. Evince displaying thumbnails
Fedora Core 4 effectively became the first Linux distribution to ship the GNU C Compiler (GCC) version 4 as the default compiler. In fact, all packages that are shipped within Core and Extras have been rebuilt with GCC4. It is also safe to say that most of the packages have been compiled with the -D_FORTIFY_SOURCE option, which basically makes applications compiled with it a lot more secure, as there’s compile-time buffer overflow detection, and low overhead runtime overflow protection.
Provided along with the GCC4 stack is the new GCJ (Java compiler) and Java toolchain. Included within Fedora Core 4 is the Java runtime library as well as a slew of other utilities including the popular Tomcat5 server.
Figure 3. Tomcat running a free JVM
Thanks to the GCJ stack, there are a few notable inclusions and utilities that many Fedora Core 4 users will appreciate. These are Eclipse and OpenOffice.org.
Eclipse is a full-featured IDE written in Java and now natively compiled using GCJ. It handles Java, C, and C++ projects and has an array of available plug-ins to extend its language support.