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Fedora 13 Supports NetBeans IDE

The fate of the open source NetBeans integrated development environment (IDE) has been in doubt since Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems in January. But at least one vendor is continuing to invest in the IDE. Fedora, the free Red Hat-sponsored Linux distribution, this week released Fedora 13, which includes support for NetBeans 6.8, the first IDE to offer complete support for the entire Java EE 6 specification.

Fedora is developed and maintained by the Fedora Project, under the sponsorship of Raleigh, N.C.-based Red Hat, provider of the leading commercial enterprise Linux distro. "The Fedora Project reciprocates by contributing everything built in Fedora back to the open-source community," Paul Frields, Fedora project leader at Red Hat, explained via an e-mail interview with this site.

This release comes roughly six months after the release of Fedora 12, Frields added, incorporating "technologies built by free software developers around the globe."

The NetBeans IDE continues to maintain a loyal fan base. James Gosling, the father of Java, has ranked it among his favorite IDEs. Thomas Kurian, Oracle's senior vice president of product development, has said that Oracle plans to focus NetBeans on dynamic scripting languages, such as PHP and Python, while supporting its own JDeveloper IDE as its strategic development environment.

This strategy caused some industry watchers to speculate that NetBeans might be on its way out. "There really is no need to do scripting in a Java IDE," said Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions. "This might just be a way of sunsetting NetBeans."

And yet NetBeans IDE 6.8 is the first IDE to offer complete support for the entire Java EE 6 spec. It provides improved support for JSF 2.0/Facelets, Java Persistence 2.0, EJB 3.1 including using EJBs in Web apps, RESTful web services, and GlassFish v3. And the community is hard at work on NetBeans 6.9 (the first milestone release is available now for download here).

In addition to the NetBeans support, Fedora 13 comes with several new features focused, Frields explained, on desktops, netbooks, virtualization and system administration. For example, the user interface of Anaconda, the Fedora installer, has been tweaked so that it can now handle storage devices and partitioning in an easier and more streamlined manner, he said, with "helpful hints in the right places." Once installed, Fedora provides automatic driver installation when a user plugs in, say, a printer.

The Fedora community had developers in mind with this release. It includes new features designed to make rapid application development easier by allowing devs working with mixed libraries (Python and C/C++) in Fedora to get more complete information when debugging with gdb. According to the company, the SystemTap utility adds support for static probes, "giving programmers expanded capabilities to improve and optimize their code." And with new support for userspace processes, "developers can instrument code written in high-level languages such as Python, database applications and more."

Previous releases brought free and open source 3D drivers for Intel and ATI video cards to the operating system. Fedora 13 makes it possible for a variety of Nvidia graphics cards to 3D enabled. Also, new DisplayPort connectors are now supported on ATI and Nvidia cards. These free drivers, Frields said, are likely to be enhanced in the future to become part of the platform for the next-generation free desktop including Gnome 3.

This release also comes with some virtualization enhancements. Most notable among these is support for stable PCI addresses, which enables virtual guests to retain PCI addresses' space on a host machine, which, the company said, expands "opportunities for large-scale automation of virtualization." Fedora is a leading contributor to such technologies as Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM), libvirt, and virt- manager.

New shared network interface technology enables virtual machines to use the same physical network interface cards as the host operating system. Fedora 13 also features improvements in performance for KVM networking and large multi-processor systems. These features offer savvy technologists the opportunity to experience virtualization innovations before they are seen in later releases of Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

Finally, the Fedora community's work as a key contributor to the development of Btrfs (the B-tree file system, pronounced "Butter F S" ), the GPL-licensed copy-on-write file system for Linux developed by Oracle, has resulted in new support for filesystem snapshots in Fedora 13. Plugin support for snapshots "allows administrators to experiment with software updates and more easily revert the system as needed," the company said.

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