It was fairly recently, when I installed OCaml on my Fedora 8 system with a quick yum install that it really struck me just how far the Fedora project has come in the last few years. Long ago when I was active in Debian, one of the things I really loved about Debian was how comprehensive the package set was – if you were a fan of semi-obscure languages like OCaml, Debian was the place to be. I even gave a talk about that in 2002.
Back then in Fedora (maybe it was even RHL timeframe), the default OS was very well put together, but if you wanted to stray a bit outside of what was shipped on the single CD – you had to do stuff like manually download the RPMs from the OCaml website. No provision for automatic updates, etc. It kinda sucked.
Fast forward to today – Fedora is not just a well put together default desktop, but also a pretty growing comprehensive set of over 8000 binary packages, active subteams concentrating on areas like awesome Java support, virtualization, and plenty more.
It really does kick ass. For sure there’s a few things we need to do still like sudo by default, but the balance of things has certainly shifted.
It’s hard to describe how much better the Firefox 3 CVS is compared to Firefox 2. The beta 1 release notes just don’t do it justice, you have to check out reviews from Ars Technica or elsewhere. The awesomebar is something that really is hard to live without after you’ve tried it.
But what I wanted to talk about in particular in this blog entry is some of the really nice Linux-specific integration work that’s landed recently. A screenshot gives you an idea:
Firefox 3 CVS as of 2007-11-30
Note in particular the native tab look and use of GTK+ stock icons; this is part of the gnomestripe theme. Not pictured is the native look for form field widgets, along with a lot of other under-the-hood work like Cairo.
The increased focus on good platform integration is driven by talented people like Alex Faaborg and others who realize that being a crossplatform application doesn’t mean you have to look and feel exactly the same everywhere – what you have to do is be a blend of the good parts of your application and the platform. So Firefox 3 on Linux has the same kickass addons and other aspects that make it Firefox, while at the same time feeling much more like a part of your desktop.