PipeWire takes over the job as a sound server, KDE Plasma prefers Wayland and Gnome shines in a new look – these are the highlights of the now available Fedora Linux 34. In addition, the standard file system Btrfs now compresses data transparently in order to save storage space. For the first time there is also a variant of the Linux distribution with the Tiling Window Manager i3.
The Fedora project is the first major distributor to switch to PipeWire as the standard sound server. The software is much more than a background service that centrally controls the input and output of audio, because it can also handle video data streams. This is exactly what PipeWire was written for, after all, it was originally intended to be something like a PulseAudio for video data and webcam access. Because sound is also involved, at some point it also learned to handle audio streams.
Technology exchange with risks
The move to PipeWire comes fourteen years after PulseAudio became standard in Fedora. That was possibly a bit premature back then, because PulseAudio was bitter with many users. Initial user comments indicate that PipeWire causes significantly fewer problems. Occasionally there are problems with Bluetooth audio and audio hardware that does not conform to the specifications. Anyway, Fedora documents how to quickly switch back to PulseAudio in case of trouble.
Unlike PulseAudio, PipeWire promises low latencies and real-time capabilities, so it is also suitable for professional audio processing. At Fedora it therefore also replaces the JACK Audio Connection Kit (JACK), which has so far been the most widely used in this area. Just like with PipeWire, this is done by exchanging some software libraries; Programs and users do not notice anything from the other substructure, as long as everything works.
Wayland for the desktop of the KDE project
You also have to take a closer look for another change in Fedora Linux 34: With the distribution variant called “KDE Plasma Desktop Edition”, the user interface included in version 5.22 now works in Wayland mode by default. However, there are no significant practical advantages if you disregard the more modern, flexible, high-performance and secure desktop foundation.
However, disadvantages cannot be ruled out because the KDE developers are still aware of some shortcomings. There are probably more, so far unnoticed, because Fedora is going through the first major field test for this operating mode. Such a problem brought up many problems years ago when Fedora made the switch to Wayland at Gnome and was also a pioneer there.
Just like back then, the distribution dares to take the next step to find and eliminate as yet undiscovered quirks. The developers want to help remove the last quirks of Wayland support from Plasma, the bei Fedora– and KDE developers are high on the agenda. The test and any complications can be avoided with two mouse clicks by specifying in the login manager at the bottom left of the screen to start plasma as usual with the help of an X server.
New gnome requires relearning
The most famous edition of Fedora is and remains the “Workstation Edition”, in which Gnome jumps from version 3.38 to 40. This introduced some fundamental innovations: The “Dash” for quick program start moved to the lower edge of the screen and work surfaces are no longer on top of each other, but next to each other.
Gnome connoisseurs therefore have to get used to a bit – also because the design brings new touchpad gestures and key combinations with it. A heise online report on Gnome 40 provides details on these and other features of the user interface published in mid-March:
Btrfs packs data
Btrfs, which was made the default file system at Fedora Linux 33 a year ago, keeps this job. In the future, however, it tries to find data with the compression algorithm Zstandard (Zstd) developed by Facebook to save space. This is done transparently with the lowest level of Zstd.
How much space this saves depends on the data stored; Anyway, Btrfs lets the compression stay fast if it doesn’t work for a file. The whole thing also only applies to new installations. However, anyone who updates the system from an older version can use the procedure easily activate afterwards.
Like the previous version, Fedora compresses some memory areas with the help of Zram when there is a memory shortage, but now uses up to 50 percent of the RAM, but a maximum of 8 GB. Should the space still run out, the userspace out-of-memory (OOM) killer will shoot system-oomd forced processes to prevent the system from stalling or getting stuck.
Updates for kernel, LLVM and GCC in preparation
As with Ubuntu 21.04, which was released last Thursday, the Fedora Linux 34 kernel is based on Linux 5.11. While Ubuntu stays with the version, Fedora will submit Linux 5.12 as a regular update around the time it was discontinued.
Otherwise, Fedora has a much more moderate update strategy than Ubuntu, but it is by no means a rolling release distribution. Supplied applications such as Bash 5.1, Ruby 3.0, Golang 1.16 or LibreOffice 7.1 will therefore remain on this version. Preliminary versions of LLVM 12 and the standard compiler GCC 11 are included. Fedora wants to submit the final of the recently published LLVM 12 via update; The same is said to be the case with the new generation of GCC, which was released just a few hours before Fedora Linux 34.
Over 30 versions of Fedora for x86-64 systems
Fedora Linux 34 is also available again in dozens of variants for different processor architectures. The “KDE Plasma Desktop Edition” is now also available for ARM64 systems. As usual, Fedora also offers some variants called “spins” that use other desktop environments – such as those with Cinnamon 4.8, Lxqt 0.16, Mate 1.24 or Xfce 4.16. A new addition to the Fedora distribution family is a spin with the Tiling Window Manager i3, the requires some training.
Ultimately, there are over thirty different distribution variants of Fedora 34 for x86-64 systems:
Further innovations and important aspects of the new Fedora can be found here:
The release of version 34 heralds the end of Fedora Linux 32, the maintenance of which the developers will finish in less than a month. Version 35 should appear at the end of October.