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One of the most popular free-as-in-freedom Linux distribution, Fedora Linux, released its latest version, Fedora 8, earlier in November. In addition to being a fantastic release, Fedora's user and development community and a clear headed approach makes Fedora 8 much more than a Linux distribution.
Like most major Linux distros Fedora too has development goals for releases. Since many top Fedora leaders are employed by RedHat, the development priorities tend to intertwine with the company's RedHat Enterprise Linux.
Fedora project leader, Max Spevack, has himself acknowledged this fact in his Fedora 8 pre-release announcement. "If you think back to the Fedora Core 6 release cycle, you will remember that a significant portion of the engineering goals for that release were driven by the knowledge that Fedora Core 6 would be the upstream for RedHat Enterprise Linux 5. Everyone knew going in that Fedora Core 6 would be more "corporate" than "community"," writes Spevack.
Of course in a larger context this has worked for Fedora. The distro has gained much from its "closeness" to RHEL including its impressive security arsenal. As Spevack notes the community was "ok" with these diversions since "we also knew that once Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 was released, the Fedora Project would be able to spend its next several releases focused on its community-related priorities."
And what releases they have been! Fedora 7 marked a new direction for the distro. It merged both its in-house "core" and community "extra" repositories. This gave Fedora's community developers commit access to all Fedora packages, and along with a new build system, called Koji, completed Fedora's leap towards being a true community distro.
Furthermore that release also introduced a new composing tool Pungi that produced installable distributions of Fedora once fed with a list of packages. Similarly the LiveCD Creator tool created Live CD and USB releases. Up to this point Fedora had been one of the few distros that didn't have a Live CD to show off itself. The graphical Revisor tool that lets users create installable and Live Fedora "spins" from a multitude of repositories is the cherry on the cake.
Creating custom Fedora "spins" started with Fedora 7 and is also what Fedora 8 is all about. Well almost. In addition to an installable DVD, Fedora 8 has several installable Live spins including one each for GNOME and KDE desktops, a developer spin, a games spin, and an electronic lab spin.
Since all the tools, from Pungi to Revisor, are free software and available in Fedora repositories, Fedora 8 is a perfect platform for creating your own installable Live CD. Creative Commons uses it for its Live CD to show off some of the quality content released under its license.
What I haven't mentioned till now is that Fedora 8 itself is a fantastic release. Desktop users will enjoy its desktop wallpaper that changes color depending on the time of the day, the easy to use Firewall configuration tool and enhanced printer and network management in addition to the Compiz 3D desktop. I love the improved package management which makes adding software from the DVD and other online repositories, not only possible but a walk in the park. Fedora 8 also finds a solution for its inability to support patented media formats in the form of CodecBuddy.
But like any other Linux distro Fedora 8 has its comfort zone, where everything works as it should. KDE under Fedora 8 doesn't fall in this category. I think openSUSE 10.3 sets the benchmark for maintaining consistency between GNOME and KDE desktop environments. In fact a few days before its release, Fedora's KDE Special Interest Group sent out a call for help, requesting participation citing a lack of active contributors. I am sure the community will respond and KDE's upcoming release, KDE 4 will be much stable under Fedora 9.
Talking of Fedora 9, Spevack hints in Fedora 8's pre-release announcement that "Fedora 9 will probably start to see the pendulum swing back in the other direction [as opposed to Fedora 7 and 8's focus on the community], as Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 starts to materialize on the horizon."
I am not yet sure whether or not this is how things will turn out. But honestly though I think its time we stopped looking at Fedora as a distribution. While it's still early days, one look at Fedora 9's proposed feature list and you know what I'm talking about. Not only will the next release come out with more spins but if everything goes as planned it will expand the ability to create spins from other operating systems and even the web! For sure, Fedora has transitioned from just being a Linux distro to a platform for launching your own, and it's got the perfect recipe of tools to do so.
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About the Author :
Mayank Sharma is a contributing editor at SourceForge, Inc's Linux.com. He also writes a monthly column for Packt Publishing. Mayank has contributed several technical articles to IBM developerWorks where he hosts a Linux Security blog. When not writing, he occasionally teaches courses on Open Source topics at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, as an Industry Expert.
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