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Fedora Core 6 Gets Real

Fedora Core 6 (FC 6) is now available, offering Red Hat users a view of the latest and greatest in open source technologies.

It could also be seen as a preview of what is coming in Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 5, though Fedora is now a well-established Linux distribution in its own right.

The somewhat delayed FC 6 release follows version 5 by seven months, and it comes just days ahead of the next Ubuntu release, an event that the Fedora project leader has called coincidental.

The new release includes support for the AIGLX graphics framework which is Red Hat's competitive project to Novell's XGL.

AIGLX provides enhanced 3-D graphics capabilities by leveraging the power of graphics acceleration hardware.

Performance is also improved in FC 6 by as much as 50 percent, thanks to dynamic linking for application using DT_GNU_HASH.

And security is made a bit easier with a new graphical troubleshooting tool for SELinux. First introduced in Fedora Core 2 in 2004, SELinux implements mandatory access controls on the kernel.

FC 6 will also improve upon its support for Xen Virtualization, which was introduced in the current Fedora Core 5 build.

FC 6 includes a GUI virtualization manager that makes it easier than before to setup and manage virtual machines.

Max Spevack, Red Hat's Fedora project leader, told internetnews.com that the GUI virtualization manger is the missing piece in the virtualization puzzle.

He said there is a huge proportion of users that have heard about virtualization, but have been unable to take advantage of it since it hasn't been very user friendly.

The new GUI virt-manger in FC 6 changes that and makes virtual machine creation user-friendly.

It's likely that the new GUI virtualization manager will also be part of Red Hat's upcoming RHEL 5 release, according to Spevack.

RHEL 5 is expected by the end of this year and will compete with Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10, which was released earlier this year.

"I can only assume that the plan is for it to be in RHEL 5," Spevack said. "I don't think the plan would have been to only build for Fedora and not put it in RHEL."

In an interview with internetnews.com earlier this year, Red Hat CTO Brian Stevens said that Red Hat was using Fedora as an alpha or beta for RHEL.

It's something that Fedora's Spevack said makes him cringe.

"The way I would prefer to say it, and I honestly believe it to be true, is that Fedora is what it is on its own."

Spevack added that Fedora Core 5 has had over half a million downloads and is used to power a number of big-name sites, including Wikipedia.

"To call it a beta is an incomplete description," Spevack said. "It just so happens that when Red Hat is getting ready to do an Enterprise Linux release, they take Fedora and use it as a departure point. But that's a lot different that saying it's a beta."

Fundamentally, the relationship between a Fedora release and a RHEL release has a lot to do with timing.

Spevack said that the Fedora release cycle is typically every six months while the RHEL cycle is 18 to 24 months. This means that there are several Fedora releases for every RHEL release. RHEL 4 was released in February 2005.

Most Fedora releases are not released ahead of RHEL releases but when they are, there is a direct effect.

"We had to be a little more conservative in FC 6 just because a lot of the code is shared between Fedora and RHEL and we wanted to make sure that it's as high quality as possible to make the building of RHEL 5 as easy as possible," Spevack said.

The timing of the FC 6 release also just happens to coincide with the expected release this week of the next Ubuntu Linux, code-named Edgy Eft.

Fedora has faced increasing competition from Ubuntu in recent years, as Ubuntu's community following grows.

Spevack insisted however that the release of FC6 in the same week as Ubuntu Edgy is just a coincidence.

"I didn't even realize that they were doing a release," Spevack said.

Fedora isn't really in competition with Ubuntu in the larger scheme of things, according to Spevack, so the releases shouldn't necessarily be measured against each other on a feature-by-feature basis.

"I don't think of it as some kind of competition, and I don't want to arm wrestle [Ubuntu founder] Mark Shuttleworth or anything like that," Spevack said.

"I'm interested in having people use open source software, and it's important to remember that there is a larger target of proprietary closed software, and that's what we need to be keeping our eye on instead of keeping an eye on each other."