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Fedora's Legacy Wanes

Running an older version of Red Hat's Fedora Core Linux? Bad news: You're no longer being supported.

The Fedora Legacy Project is in "transition" and is closing its doors. Effective this week the project is no longer supporting Fedora Core 4 and earlier distributions.

"The current model for supporting maintenance distributions is being re-examined," the Fedora Legacy wiki states. "In the meantime, we are unable to extend support to older Fedora Core releases as we had planned."

Fedora Legacy began after Red Hat discontinued its namesake Red Hat Linux distribution, launching the Fedora Core distribution in its stead. Legacy provides support for out-of-cycle Fedora Core releases that Red Hat's main Fedora project no longer support.

In December of this year Fedora Legacy was expected to end its support for Red Hat 7.3, which was released in May 2002, and Fedora Core 3, which was released in November 2004.

Instead Fedora Legacy is now announcing its own end of life.

Across more than several dozen mailing lists and a few blog entries, members of the Fedora Legacy community have been discussing their future (or lack thereof) for several weeks, and it looks like the decision is now final.

Fedora Legacy has essentially been dead for nearly a month already. In response to an inquiry about security updates for Fedora Core 4 not being available via Fedora Legacy, Red Hat developer Florian La Roche wrote on Nov. 17 that interest in Fedora Legacy has slowed down.

Turns out La Roche's comment was a dramatic understatement.

Currently a typical Fedora Core release will receive approximately nine months of support from the main Fedora Project and up to two years (in the case of Fedora Core 3) on Fedora Legacy. Red Hat developers have been discussing extending core support for Fedora releases to 13 months and merging the Legacy efforts into the core project.

In a recent blog posting, Red Hat developer Jesse Keating, who has been the leading voice in the Fedora Legacy project well before he joined Red Hat, explained the challenges that Legacy was facing.

The rise of CentOS, which is a clone of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, is partially to blame, as is the lack of participation in the project.

"Now, I got into the Fedora community mostly by taking the Legacy ball and running with it," Keating wrote. "While it was a lot of fun and I learned a lot, I think nobody will disagree that it was a very difficult task to take on and while we mostly did an admirable job, we ultimately failed to deliver what was promised."

The general consensus according to Keating is that users need to have support for the current version of Fedora plus the version that immediately preceded it. The current Fedora Core release is Fedora Core 6, which was released in October.

Typically a Fedora Core release comes out every six or seven months. Red Hat's flagship offering, Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), by contrast, comes out every 18 to 24 months. Under the new lifecycle plan a Fedora Core release would have 13 months of support.

"Anything beyond this really seems to be corner cases that would really be better served by something like CentOS for free, RHEL for rock solid support, or Oracle for crackmonkies," Keating wrote. "What does this mean for the "Legacy" project? We feel that the resources currently and in the past that have contributed to the Legacy project could be better used within the Fedora project space."

According to at least one contributor to Fedora Legacy, though, the effort is now effectively over. But that's not to say it was a failure.

"First I would like to say to those who say Fedora Legacy has failed, that it did work (i.e. didn't fail) for the most critical time period and the most critical OS version (Red Hat Linux 7-9, Fedora Core 1)," Eric Rostetter wrote in a mailing list posting.

"If it has failed, or is failing, it must not be forgotten that before it failed it worked exceedingly well. I do know that FL saved my life by being there when I needed it, and while I don't really need it any more I'm forever grateful to it for being there when I did need it."