RealTime IT News

Fedora 8 'Werewolf' Shows Its Fangs

Red Hat's Fedora today debuted a major new release that in many ways offers more than any previous version of the community Linux effort.

That's because Fedora 8, codenamed "Werewolf," is actually more than just a single release of a single distribution. In addition to a myriad of new features, the release offers at least four different custom versions, or "spins" as Fedora calls them. The spins included in the Fedora 8 release offer packages targeted to specific users like developers and even game players.

"Fedora 7 was so much about infrastructure and under-the-hood changes, and now Fedora 8 is showing that with our infrastructure in place, custom 'spins' have been thriving and there is a laundry list of new stuff," said Fedora project leader Max Spevack. "There is so much new stuff that it shows that Fedora is good at innovating and putting new technology into the Linux world and into the hands of users which is one of Fedora's core goals."

The ability to generate spins made its first appearance as part of the key infrastructure changes offered by the previous Fedora 7 release was.

Fedora 8 gets at least four listed spins: a KDE version that replaces the GNOME Linux desktop, a developer release that has tools specifically geared for developers, an Electronic Lab release for hardware developers and a gamer-friendly release complete with a Linux version of Quake 3.

"Some of our community was just tired of people saying you couldn't run cool games on Linux," Spevack said.

Fedora 8 isn't all about fun and games, though.

The release also includes new firewall and network management tools. The system-config-firewall tool is a GUI that that helps users better control their firewall security and access settings.

"This new tool makes it simple for anybody to tweak and administer the firewall settings on their system," Spevack said. "Improvements range from a wizard which walks you, step by step, through configuring your firewall, to a simple checkbox interface for opening and closing services to the outside world."

Fedora 8's new network manager 0.7 release adds further network stability and manageability enhancements for both wired and wireless networks.

The bevy of new firewall and network management capabilities potentially could pave the way for a future network router-specific Fedora spin, although Spevack didn't say whether such a plan is in the works.

Virtualization also gets a bump with new secure remote management capabilities for the Xen and KVM hypervisors. Fedora's virt-manager application can now securely manage multiple remote virtual servers. Spevack said the new virtualization security features represent yet another step in Red Hat's continued development of virtualization technology on Linux.

"Each of our last several releases has had something new in virtualization," Spevack said. "Originally, we considered virtualization to be successful if we could get it running. Now we've gotten to the point where more focus is on making sure remote stuff is secure. It shows that the virtualization work we've been doing is useful, and as such, more work is being done on making sure everything is good and secure."

Fedora 8 also takes aim at a long-standing and often frustrating issue for users -- namely the ability to play proprietary media formats, such as MP3s on their desktops. Thanks to an application called "Codec Buddy," Fedora 8 will attempt to deal with the issue, which has prickly legal and philosophical implications.

Red Hat is in the United States, there are certain patent and copyright laws that prohibit Fedora from redistribution of proprietary codecs, Spevack said. Additionally, Fedora has a strong Free Software position and does not include software that requires further proprietary licensing.

The application aims to sidestep these issues by pointing users to a location outside of the U.S., from where they can freely download a legal MP3 decoder at zero cost.

"Codec Buddy is an attempt to help users who want to get at patent-encumbered media files in a legal way," Spevack said.