So I am writing this blog entry using the current development snapshot of the Fedora Workstation and using Wayland as my display server. It is an important milestone for the Fedora Workstation, for Wayland and for me personally. There are many things here I am very happy about, first of all this is a major milestone for what in some sense was the first and biggest engineering effort we kicked off under the Fedora Workstation banner, meaning it was an effort we decided to put our weight behind with the vision we have for the Fedora Workstation being the primary motivator for doing it. And it has been a big success in more ways than I expected, I think it is fair to say that the level of engagement and support from the wider community took me by surprise, and I want to state that if it wasn’t for all the incredible effort from the wider community pushing Wayland forward we would not been able to provide something of this quality so soon.
The fact that Wayland now runs and works on non-Intel GPUs for this release, that XWayland is fully functional, that libinput is as far along as it is, are all thanks to the wider community. There are more people who have contributed than I can list, but I want to call out Adel Gadllah and Jonas Ådahl, who have contributed many crucial pieces to GNOME Shell, Wayland or libinput.
I would also like to specially say thank you to Jasper St.Pierre, because we would not be here today without his tireless effort on porting the GNOME Shell to Wayland. I think anyone who knows Jasper appreciates the amount of effort he puts in and the level of enthusiasm he brings to everything he does. So Jasper recently transferred from Red Hat to Endless Mobile and I am very happy that he will continue to contribute to both the GNOME Shell and Wayland as part of his job at Endless too, as he would be sorely missed both as a developer and as an individual otherwise.
Another person I want to call out at this point is of course Kristian Høgsberg, who created Wayland and got it to reach critical mass in terms of mindshare and functionality. Having been around linux for a long time I have seen efforts at replacing the X window system come and go so I know that achieving what Kristian has achieved here is not trivial at all. So a big thank you to Kristian for his incredible work and for his incredible level of persistence allowing Wayland become a reality where so many other projects have failed.
Wayland in Fedora Workstation 21 is also an important milestone as it exemplifies the new development philosophy we are embarking on. Fedora has for a long time been known to be a linux distribution where a lot of new pieces become available first. The problem here is that it has also given Fedora bit of a reputation for being not as dependable as some other distributions or operating systems, which has kept a lot of people away from Fedora that I think would be inclined to use it otherwise.
So we want to keep being a place where you do get access to new and exciting technologies first, but as you see with the Wayland effort we are now going to go the extra mile to make sure we offer this new technologies in a way that allows you to still use Fedora as your day to day working machine without worrying that these new features will hinder your work. So we will keep Wayland available as a separate non-default session until we feel very confident that our users are not going to be negatively impacted by the switch. Which means we want to fix and polish up the last remaining bits and pieces, make sure that performance is top notch, make sure all input hardware works flawlessly, work with NVidia and AMD to help them make their binary drivers available for Wayland before we make this the new default.
An crucial value for us at Red Hat and for the Fedora community is working closely with our upstreams. Which means we always aim at working with our upstream communities to get the features we need or bugfixes we want included in the upstream releases which we then integrate into Fedora (and Red Hat Enterprise Linux). Working closely with the upstream communities enables us to achieve a lot more than we would be able to do on our own. In preparation for Fedora Workstation 21 we have of course done a lot of work on improving the general Fedora desktop experience which has meant a lot of work has gone into GNOME 3.14. And while most of our upstream contributions here has been about code, not all of it is code. A major part of creating a modern and polished desktop experience is making sure that the applications you run conforms to a shared set of interface guidelines, to both bring a unique and polished look to the applications, but also to make using them easier as things like keybindings or work patterns you learn with one application will transfer over to the next. To help accelerate that process for the Fedora Workstation we had Allan Day work with the GNOME community to create am updated set of Human Interface Guidelines for GNOME 3 and thus implicitly for the Fedora Workstation.
Another crucial improvement that you will see in Fedora Workstation 21 is on software installation. There has been a range of things in Fedora in regards to software installation that has been suboptimal. On the command line and library level there has been a piece of Fedora that I know a lot of people have disliked, many to such a strong degree that they have kept away from Fedora, namely Yum. Yum for those who doesn’t know it is the tool you used either directly or indirectly to install new software on a Fedora system. Yum used to be very slow and while it has gotten a lot better over the years it was still considered a bit of an eyesore for many. So Aleš Kozumplík and others have worked writing a new set of tools to do the low level software handling over the last few years and I am happy to say that for Fedora Workstation 21 we will be using those tools to greatly improve the software installation and update experience. There is a new commandline tool called dnf that will work with the same command line parameters you know from yum, but will complete its task much quicker than before.
The desktop Software installer side Richard Hughes has been working on making the installer use the new libraries developed for dnf, called hawkeye and libsolve, to provide you with a much smoother software installation experience in Fedora Workstation 21. So if you tried the preview we offered of the Software tool in Fedora 20, then I think you will find Software to be a lot more responsive in Fedora Workstation 21.
Of course a good software installer is not just about how nice the user interface looks or how quickly it can perform an installation, it is also very much a product of the quality of your installation metadata. Richard Hughes got a blog entry outlining the great progress is being made on providing more and improved metadata, like application descriptions and screenshots, for Fedora Workstation 21. Ryan Lerch has been working with Richard to improve our cover greatly which means the quality of the software listings in Fedora Workstation 21 should be greatly improved over what you saw in Fedora 20. For more details and screenshots Kalev Lember got a great writeup of the state of the Software installer in Fedora Workstation 21.
This also highlights one of the advantages of the new Fedora product model where we have one clear desktop product we are targeting, that we can define operating system standards for things like application metadata and apply them to the system as a whole. So for Fedora 22 we expect to make appdata metadata a mandatory part of the application packaging for Fedora, ensuring that any desktop application packaged for Fedora is easily discover able by our users. In the old ‘bucket of parts’ model these things would in practice not happen as there was no clear target that everyone was expected to aim for.
There has also been a lot of general user interface polish work happening, both on the toolkit level with a lot of work being done by our UI designers to improve the default desktop theme called Adwaita. And since we want people to run all kinds of applications in Fedora Workstation 21 we are not only doing this for GTK+, but we also have Martin Briza working on bringing Adwaita to Qt for Fedora Workstation. We hope to get the Qt theme packaged soon, but for those interested in taking a look the Adwaita Qt code can be found here. In Fedora Workstation 21 we hope to cover Qt4 applications using the standard Adwaita theme, with wider support planed for Fedora Workstation 22, to cover more Qt versions and also make sure we have full coverage for the Adwaita Dark variant and accessibility versions. There is a chance we will miss the Fedora 21 cutoff date with this theme, but hopefully we can then get it included during the Fedora Workstation 21 lifespan.
We also worked on improving the shell animations. Things like animations might seem like their unimportant, but they contribute greatly to the general feeling of polish in the system. The team worked hard on improving these for Fedora Workstation 21, so in GNOME 3.14 you will for instance see that the animations in the shell overview has been greatly improved.
Last but not least I want to say that while I am very excited about what we have put together for Fedora Workstation 21 it is just the beginning. Being the first release under the new 3 product strategy a lot of time and effort has gone into re-jigging the whole Fedora development process to cater for having 3 different products instead of one, changing the way the Fedora community organize itself, get contributors on board and re-aligned with the new products and so on and also refocus our internal development teams at Red Hat to start thinking about their development process and goals with contributing to these 3 new products in mind. So my expectation is that as we go towards Fedora Workstation 22 the pace of innovation and progress will only pick up. So great things are ahead and I hope that once Fedora Workstation 21 is released regardless of if you are a long time Fedora users, a lapsed former Fedora users or someone who has never tried Fedora before you will be willing to give it a try and hopefully become as excited about it as we are.