October 24, 2006 7:00 AM PDT
Red Hat releases Fedora Core 6
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Fedora Core is a free and faster-moving alternative to Red Hat Enterprise Linux, which offers long-term support for those who pay annual subscription fees. Fedora Core 6 in effect is a rough draft of RHEL 5, to be released in late 2006 or early 2007.
The biggest change coming with RHEL 5 is Xen, open-source virtualization software that lets multiple operating systems run simultaneously, each in its own separate compartment called a virtual machine. Virtualization, a high-end feature now arriving in x86 servers, lets a single server replace several less efficiently used ones.
Xen appeared in Fedora Core 4 and 5, but the version in Fedora Core 6 should be close to what appears in RHEL 5, said Max Spevack, the Fedora project leader. One major feature is a graphical administration tool to control Xen virtual machines.
"Now you can create and delete and start up your Xen instances without having to do it all on the command line," Spevack said. "If you've got someone savvy enough to be a Linux desktop user, they're probably going to think the idea of virtualization is cool, but it sounds kind of hard. Hopefully a graphical tool like this lowers that barrier to entry."
Xen will be a main option users can select during installation, Spevack said.
The installation software itself has a major difference, he added: It can use the Yum update software to add new software when the computer is being configured.
Spevack said he hopes the Yum feature will let those with Linux specialty projects easily dovetail with Fedora installation without actually becoming part of the Fedora code base. Such a move would easily let a computer be set up for digital music editing or the Linux Terminal Server Project, for example, he said.
"Folks can package up software for Fedora, put it in a Yum repository, and manage it themselves, but it still gets sucked into Fedora universe," Spevack said.
Under a long tradition, Red Hat names each version of its software, and Fedora Core 6 is called Zod, according to a mailing list announcement. Fedora Core 5 is called Bordeaux.
Another change coming in Fedora Core 6 is Linux eye candy, based on the AIGLX project that began at Red Hat but also using the Compiz window manager from Suse. The features require 3D graphics video support, but permit several features. Among them, desktops of the graphical user interface can be mapped to faces of a virtual 3D cube that users can rotate. And windows can become transparent and wobbly like Jell-O when moved.
The Linux version also switches to the DejaVu font, an open-source font project derived from Bitstream's Vera typeface.
With Fedora Core 6 released, developers are now turning attention to version 7. One priority there will be to create a "live CD" version, which can boot the operating system from a compact disc so users can try the software without disturbing their computers' hard drives.
Another goal will be to improve the community of outside developers working on the software--creating patches and getting them reviewed and accepted. "We need to do a better job than we have been in harnessing that," Spevack said.
The Red Hat and Fedora Project Web sites worked intermittently after the launch. "Lots of traffic today," Spevack noted on the Fedora mailing list. He recommended people download the software using the BitTorrent peer-to-peer file-sharing service, which doesn't strain central download sites as much.
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