Much of the world's attention may currently be focussed on Ubuntu 11.04, which makes its final debut next Thursday, but that doesn't mean the other Linux distributions are suspended in breathless inactivity.
No indeed, both Fedora and Mandriva - two of the leading contenders out there - have released final beta versions this week, with official launch releases of their own just around the corner.
What can we expect to see in the new generations of each of these free and open-source Linux-based operating systems? Here are just a few key features.
Certainly the most notable fact about Fedora 15 is that, rather than going with the Unity desktop interface the way Ubuntu has done, it includes GNOME 3, making it the first major Linux distribution to do so.
Launched a few weeks ago, GNOME 3 has been a controversial release, not least because of its new competition with Unity.
A beta version of Fedora 15 was released on Tuesday. Also notable about the release, which is slated to be the only beta version before a release candidate arrives in May, is that - Oracle's latest move notwithstanding - it includes the LibreOffice productivity suite rather than OpenOffice.org. Systemd, meanwhile, replaces SysVinit and Upstart to serve as a system and session manager. Numerous other features are included as well.
Fedora's Xfce and LXDE spins have also been updated, according to the release announcement, and “the Fedora Spins SIG has other offerings tailored to a wide variety of user needs”.
Though not intended for production environments, the Fedora 15 beta release can be downloaded for free from the Fedora Project's website.
Mandriva Linux 2011
Unveiled on Monday, meanwhile, was Mandriva Linux 2011's second and final beta version. Following this second beta release will be just one release candidate before the final version arrives in June.
Included in Mandriva 2011 beta2 are KDE 4.6.1-8, LibreOffice 3.3.0, Firefox 4 and the Chrome browser as well as kernel version 22.214.171.124 and gcc 4.6.0 under the hood.
"For this release, most of the UI and desktop-related features should be integrated, including new login manager functionality, stack folders integration into the environment, new welcome and launcher application, new panel and overall desktop look-and-feel (some details and screenshots could be found on Eugeni's blog here and here, and also (in russian) here )," wrote the project's Eugeni Dodonov on Monday. "It also features new default theme and artwork."
This latest Mandriva release is available for download from one of the project's mirrors. As always with beta releases, production use is not recommended.
For anyone looking for an alternative to Microsoft Windows, these new releases could be just the ticket. After all, here in the world of Linux, choice is what it's all about.