The latest release of Red Hat’s community Linux distribution, Fedora 9, a.k.a. ‘Sulfur’, is out. The Sulfur release adds a host of new features, including virtualization, authentication, networking, file system and yes, even features that will benefit desktop users.
The new Fedora is the first under the direction of Fedora Project Leader Paul Frields, who took the helm in February of this year. Fedora 9 is an important release for Red Hat, as it serves to underscore Red Hat’s commitment to community Linux development and toward the Linux desktop.
“The Linux desktop is absolutely not dead and if you look at the list of
continued work that Red Hat invests heavily in you’ll see that the desktop
is an important place to be technology wise,” Frields told
Earlier this year, Red Hat revealed that it would not be offering a paid commercial
version of Linux for the consumer desktop. Some media outlets erroneously
reported that Red Hat was abandoning the Linux desktop, which is not the
Frields point out that Fedora 9 includes the new KDE 4 Linux desktop,
improvements to the GNOME Linux desktop and work around policy and packaging
that make the Linux desktop more usable than ever.
“All of those things really put the lie to any claims that Red Hat is
abandoning the desktop,” Frields said.
The PackageKit effort in Fedora 9 is one key improvement that
will benefit Linux desktop and server users. PackageKit is a GUI package
management toolkit that enables Linux users to manage different types of
Linux packaging formats.
“People really like the idea that we can stop talking about package
management back-end and make thing easier for users,” Frields explained.
PackageKit is an open source effort that isn’t limited to just Red Hat’s RPM
package format (that is also used by SUSE and Mandriva), but could also use
the DEB package format that is used by Debian and Ubuntu.
Don’t expect to be able to mix and match different Linux packaging formats
on the same system though. PackageKit has a different idea in mind.
“The idea is not to mix DEB and RPM but to present a unified set of tools
whether you’re on a platform that uses DEB or used RPM,” Frields explained.
“It’s not about rebuilding one package into another format.”
Frields commented that PackageKit is designed so that regardless of what
distribution a user is running an application or user could call a
PackageKit function to do package management.
“So it mean that if developers want to call PackageKit functions in their
applications whichever platform they’re running they’ll be able to do that,”
Though Fedora 9 will integrate PackageKit by default, the overall PackageKit
effort is a community effort that is not driven by any one distribution.
Frields noted that other distributions participate in the development of
PackageKit including Ubuntu.
“I think it’s inevitable that people will move to a cross distribution tool
like PackageKit,” Frields said. “What you’re looking at here is a successful
project that drives interest in Linux overall without being to distribution
Fedora 9 also includes what Frields described as a persistent
non-destructive Live USB for running Fedora. The Live USB enables a full
Fedora 9 distribution to run on any USB memory key provided there is enough
Fedora 9 does not destroy any existing material that may be
on the USB key and will run in a persistent state allowing a user to update
and add applications as well as store data.
FreeIPA, which is a new solution for Identity, Policy and Audit, finally
makes its debut in Fedora 9. FreeIPA had originally been scheduled to debut in
FreeIPA aims to be an easy way for system administrators to
install, setup and administer centralized identity management and
authentication. Red Hat is already working on an enterprise grade version of
the technology to be called Red Hat Enterprise
Overall, Frields is very optimistic about the prospects for Fedora 9, with
his optimism fuelled by a very healthy dose of solid statistics.
“We know that we have a contributor base just about that is just about as
big as Red Hat’s entire employee roster with over 2,000 contributors,” Frields said. “Seventy-five percent of those contributors are not Red Hat employees.
We have over 2.2 million verified installations of Fedora 8 and we expect to
see same thing for Fedora 9. If you look at the statistics alone it’s
showing a good story.”