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Fedora 10 Takes Shape

Red Hat Fedora

What does the future hold for Linux development at Red Hat? A look at some of the new features coming in the Fedora 10 Linux distribution release might yield some clues.

Currently in early development with a feature freeze scheduled for the end of August, Fedora 10 includes a host of improvements that aim to improve audio, packaging, networking and security features.

The development of Fedora 10 comes as Red Hat continues to try and push the envelope for Linux with new and emerging technology targets. Fedora plays an important role for Red Hat since the OS serves as an incubator for technologies that often end up in the company's flagship, Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL).

It's all part of Red Hat's path toward becoming the first Linux vendor to make $1 billion -- a process that ensures new features are added, tested and improved.

"Our interest is always in pushing more eyeballs, keyboards and mice onto those targets, getting them tested, filing bugs, getting the bugs fixed and generally just improving the quality of [free and open source software] overall," Paul Frields, Fedora's project leader, told InternetNews.com.

Among the features currently being tested in Fedora 10 is a new network connection sharing feature. Frields said the feature would enable ad hoc networks, in which one user shares their live connection to the Internet with others.

Frields said he tested the feature in a literal road test -- he was able to maintain a network connection while riding in a car, courtesy of the ad hoc network created by users in a second car, which had a broadband Wi-Fi connection.

Another enhancement in testing is Glitch-Free Audio, a major rewrite of the audio system in Fedora to provide latency-free playback. Prior to Glitch-Free Audio, system loads could contribute to jittery audio, Frields said.

Fedora 10 will also likely mark the debut of RPM 4.6, which will be the first major upgrade of the RPM file format that Red Hat has shipped in several years. RPM, which originally stood for "Red Hat Package Manager," but has since become a recursive acronym for RPM Package Manager, is a key Linux packaging system used by Red Hat, Novell SUSE Linux and Mandriva.

"With RPM 4.6, there will be additional features for auto-discovery of codecs, fonts and applications," Frields said. "So when MIME types are discovered, you'll be able to have them automatically installed."

Though RPM 4.6 will be the newest release of RPM included by Red Hat, there actually is an even more advanced version, RPM 5. However, RPM 5, which is led by a former Red Hat employee, considered by Red Hat to be a fork of the official project. Frields said that while some people might be interested in RPM 5, the goal with RPM 4.6 is to ensure stability while adding new features.

Fedora is also including a new security audit tool, called secTool, to help improve the security posture of Fedora Linux systems.

"It's a system review and auditing tool that allows users to see if a system configuration has any security flaws," Frields explained. "It's also usable as a pretty full-featured [intrusion detection system ] tool, too."

One of the key attributes of secTool is that it is an extensible framework, enabling developers to write their own tests for the security platform. So if there is a specific flaw that a user is looking for, a test can be created for it.

Something that will not be in Fedora 10, however, is a new installer for Windows users like Wubi, which comes with Ubuntu Linux. Wubi enables Windows users to install and uninstall Linux from inside of Windows.

"Although I've talked to people about Wubi, in the long run, because of our community's goal, it's not something we're likely to include," Frields said. "Our people don't want to spend time on a technology that doesn't really give people a reason to want to switch from proprietary software."

Frields added that he believes Red Hat's installer has improved to the point where it's easy for a novice user and as a result, a tool like Wubi is not really necessary.

The Fedora 10 release will be Frields; second release as Fedora's project leader. His first release was Fedora 9, which debuted in May of this year. To date, Fedora 9 has recorded just over 930,000 active installations.

Frields expects that interest in Fedora 10 will also be high, in part due to its proximity to the next major release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux. The last RHEL release, RHEL 5 came out in March of 2008.

"At some point, Red Hat will start talking about Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6," Frields said. "I'm not part of the decision-making process, but as we get toward that goal, we'll expect to see some trending upward in the interest that Fedora holds for a lot of different people."