Where’s Red Hat? Peek Under Fedora

SAN FRANCISCO — Red Hat  may be the world’s leading enterprise Linux distribution vendor, but the company is a no-show as an exhibitor at the LinuxWorld conference here.

But Fedora, Red Hat’s community-based distribution, is front and center at the .org pavilion and enjoying the extra room in the spotlight among the open source attendees.

This is giving members of the Fedora community some room to talk about what is likely to end up in Red Hat’s next Enterprise versions of Linux.

“Things are looking up for Fedora,” said an energetic Jack Aboutboul, Fedora ambassador and contributor, during the conference. In his view, the community effort has gone through its rebellious phase and is now settling in and making significant progress. They’ll get a chance to deliver on those words in the next month or so.

Fedora Core 6 is slated for release on October 9th, and is expected to include a laundry list of visible and under the hood improvements to Red Hat’s community distro.

While Linux rival Novell  has certainly been generating a lot of buzz with its XGL 3D Linux desktop, Fedora has a plan for graphics too, by taking advantage of the compiz technology pioneered by Novell.

FC 6 is also expected to take advantage of the AIGLX framework for improved 3D graphics.Compiz will complement the existing Metacity window manager.

“You can choose between Metacity or compiz,” Aboutboul said. “And you too can have exploding terminal windows in no time.”

Testing the Linux desktop is also expected to get a boost in FC6 with the Dogtail application, which is a graphical test and automation framework.

Java integration improvements are also on deck in FC 6 by way of the GCJ Web plugin, which is designed to enable Java applets to run by default in Mozilla Firefox.

FC 6 also takes a stab at internationalization support.

“Basically, it’s something that needs to get done as a large portion of our user base is not in the US — go figure,” Aboutboul quipped.

Fedora community member Karsten Wade said currently there are over 3,000 contributors on the translation project now. The Fedora Core 6 Test 2 has release notes that have been localized for a number of languages.

“Eventually all the documentation will be tied into the same system so we’ll be able to release in multi-language at the same time,” Wade said.

A key part of Fedora’s internationalization effort revolves around Unicode 5.0  support, which will also enable internationalization. Aboutboul claimed that Fedora Core 6 wil be the first OS with Unicode 5.0 support.

Under the hood FC 6 promises to be the fastest Fedora release yet, with claims of up to 50 percent performance boost for applications with dynamic linking for apps using DT_GNU_HASH.

FC 6 will also sport a management tool for Xen Virtualization, which was introduced in the current Fedora Core 5 build.

SELinux is also expected to get a bit easier to use in FC 6 thanks to a new graphical troubleshooting tool. SELinux was first introduced in Fedora Core 2 in 2004. SELinux implements mandatory access controls on the kernel, allowing users the level of access required and not more.

“I love the damn thing but I just can’t figure out what the problem is when things go wrong,” Aboutboul exclaimed. “It’s not going to solve your SElinux problems but it will make it easier to figure stuff out.”

Some, but not all of the FC 6 improvements are likely to end up in the upcoming Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 (RHEL 5) release slated for later this year.

FC 6 features that don’t make it into RHEL 5 could well end up in RHEL 6. Fundamentally, Fedora is the place where Red Hat tests features.

“We have always wanted to be on the cutting edge, which is where we’ve been thus far and we have no plans to be anywhere else,” Aboutboul said.

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