Red Hat launches Fedora 7 Linux

New open-source OS gives wider reach to developer community

Starting today, Red Hat Inc.'s open-source, community-supported Fedora Linux project is becoming even more open, with the release of its Fedora 7 Linux operating system.

The biggest change is that Fedora 7, which drops the old Fedora Core title, has a more open development chain, providing community members with 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," said Greg DeKoenigsberg, community development manager at Raleigh, N.C.-based Red Hat.

By allowing members to be directly involved earlier in the development process, Red Hat is recognizing that some of the best quality improvements that make their way into Fedora come from the community 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 [the company's key enterprise Linux products] over time," DeKoenigsberg said.

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 said. "Fedora 7 is essentially the finish line" in the timeline of the product's development process.

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 customized versions of the operating system.

With the tools, a user could make a customized 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 said, is to give users the maximum flexibility to do what they want with Fedora, even to the point of having multiple, customized 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.

"There is a new building system for Fedora 7," said Max Spevak, the Fedora project team leader at Red Hat. "Anybody in the world can now take some subset of the code and run it through the same tools and generate their own version of Fedora, as Red Hat does."

"Fedora represents the upstream of Red Hat Enterprise Linux," so it is the platform on which the company will continue to try out new features for possible later inclusion in its enterprise Linux products, Spevak said. "Anytime we can give people in the community more opportunities to directly influence what goes into Fedora is good for Red Hat Enterprise Linux."

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

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

Fedora 7 can be downloaded free from the Fedora Project Web site.

Also downloadable will be the first bootable live CD version of Fedora, which will allow users to try the software without having to install it on their computers. "We've been working on it for a long time," DeKoenigsberg said. "This is the first version we feel is good enough to call Fedora."

The previous version, Fedora Core 6, has more than 3 million installations around the world, according to Red Hat.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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