Red Hat launches community upgrade of Fedora

Open source system gets makeover

Red Hat has released the latest version of its Fedora Linux distribution. The biggest change is that the new release, which drops the old Fedora Core title, has a more open development chain, allowing open source community members wider involvement in Fedora’s step-by-step development.

Previously, only Red Hat developers could make key changes in the Fedora code to maintain the project, but now community members will be given more latitude to help maintain the code.

“Red Hat still has protocols to follow, but trusted community members can now help to maintain the Fedora packages,” says Greg DeKoenigsberg, community development manager at Red Hat.

By allowing members to be directly involved earlier in the development process, Red Hat is recognising that some of the best quality improvements that make their way into Fedora come from outside the company’s developers.

“It’s a fundamental shift in the way we build Fedora, which will lead to a better Red Hat Enterprise Linux over time,” DeKoenigsberg says.

Highlighting the change is the immediate merger of what formerly had been two distinct development paths for Fedora — the former “core” operating system, which had been maintained by Red Hat developers, and a separate community-supported “extras” path, where community members were free to use their imaginations to invent whatever features and add-ons they wanted to try out with Fedora.

Community members were previously able to make direct changes to source code packages only in the extras environment.

By bringing both paths together, Red Hat is helping to set the course for Fedora’s future, DeKoenigsberg says.

“Fedora 7 is essentially the finish line” in the timeline of the product’s development process, he says.

Also new in Fedora 7 is the inclusion of a wide range of feature-rich tools that previously were available only to Red Hat engineers. These tools allow users to create customised versions of the operating system.

With the tools, a user could make a customised Fedora operating system that could be run off a USB thumb drive, a live CD or DVD that doesn’t require operating system installation on a hard disk drive. The idea, DeKoenigsberg says, is to give users the maximum flexibility to do what they want with Fedora, even to the point of having multiple, customised versions of the operating system that include different features and desktops for different machines.

Among the new command-line tools are Koji, which takes inputted data and produces code ISO images that are Linux distributions; the Fedora Live CD Creator, which allows the creation of a live CD, DVD or other image; and Revisor, a graphical user interface that sits atop Koji or the Fedora Live CD Creator.

Also included in Fedora 7 are new Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) and Qemu virtualisation technologies in addition to Xen virtualisation, which are all manageable using the included Fedora graphical virtualisation manager.

Red Hat hopes the more open Fedora 7 distribution will encourage development of a whole new range of Fedora-based appliances. Using the open source community as a resource, appliance developers could use Fedora 7 to build whatever functions they want into appliances more easily than before, DeKoenigsberg says. “The thinking is, there is an appliance market that is just developing,” he says. “This positions us to pursue that stuff.”

The previous version of the OS, Fedora Core 6, has more than three million installations around the world, according to Red Hat.

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