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Fedora Core 6 Linux Eclipses 2M User Mark

Red Hat's Fedora Core 6 Linux distribution has reached another big milestone, racking up two million installed users barely two months after tallying 1 million installed users.

With the new threshold crossing, it is unclear whether Fedora 6 is the No. 1 Linux distribution in use today, but internetnews.com has learned that preliminary discussions are underway that could see Novell's OpenSUSE Linux distribution partner with Red Hat's Fedora to drive open statistics about Linux use.

Rather than tracking downloads, Fedora tracks the number of unique IP addresses that check in with Fedora's repositories for updates, Fedora Project Leader Max Spevack told internetnews.com.

By measuring unique IP addresses, Fedora is able to determine active installed instances of Fedora Core 6. Fedora then posts the results on its stats wiki.

For the Fedora 7 release, which is currently in development, developers are setting the bar even higher with a new profiling tool called Smolt.

Spevack said Smolt is an anonymous, opt-in profiling tool that lets Fedora know what hardware users have in addition to knowing the installed base number.

Smolt could well be the key to an expanded effort beyond the confines of Fedora for an open mechanism for tracking Linux installations and profiles.

Spevack said that Fedora developers and OpenSUSE developers, including Novell Chief Technology and Strategy Officer for Open Source Nat Friedman, recently discussed using Smolt to measure SUSE installation stats.

"We were talking to them about Smolt and one of the things that came out of that is that let's spend some time and work on it together so what is developed for Fedora will work with SUSE," Spevack said.

Both Fedora and SUSE use the RPM package format for their distribution so the idea would be an RPM build that would work for either OpenSUSE or Fedora. The implications of broader Smolt adoption would be widespread and dramatic.

"If Smolt caught on we could have a neutral Web site to host the back end and then all of a sudden you've got an opt-in and anonymous hardware statistics tool that a bunch of Linux distributions can use," Spevack said. "That has the potential for common good for the open source movement in general."

Which bring us back to what Fedora is doing today by tracking the installed users for its distribution.

"That's really ultimately the point that we're trying to do with our metrics with Fedora," Spevack said. "We want convincing numbers for people that want to talk about the size of the Linux world."