Earlier this year, May marked the release of Fedora 9, just five years since the Fedora Project began. While the release is hardly breaking news in the Linux community, I have to cover Fedora 9 myself–I’m just too impressed.
What is this… hat thing I’m talking about?
Maybe you’re still wondering what Fedora is. Fedora is an operating system based on Linux, and as such it is free and open source software. This means a few things. First, Fedora is “free as in beer” which means you can legally obtain a copy of this software, free of charge. You may also copy and distribute this software so you can help your neighbor, and you could sell it if you’d like. You’re even given access to the source code, so you are able to see how the software works, or adjust this code so the software suits your own needs. You can then distribute the modified software so everyone benefits. These are all great characteristics of free and open source software, and fortunately Fedora is no different.
Yes, and who makes it?
The Fedora operating system itself is developed and supported by volunteers in the Fedora Project community, and is sponsored by Red Hat. Red Hat Enterprise Linux, unlike Fedora, is a for-charge GNU/Linux operating system common in professional/corporate environments, combined with a certain level of subscription to technical support. Fedora functions just like the highly acclaimed Red Hat Enterprise Linux–in fact, Fedora is mainly a freely available version of Red Hat that’s ahead of it’s time, which allows for testing before new features work their way into use on the Red Hat platform.
Who uses Fedora?
Both Fedora and RHEL are highly respected and widely used as great alternatives to the Microsoft Windows OS. Who uses either of them?
- Well, NASA.
- Also the number one supercomputer in the world, Roadrunner.
- So does the automaker Renault.
- Fedora is even the basis for the One Laptop Per Child OS.
- Also Dell, IBM, HP and Oracle Corporation officially support Red Hat.
So for a community-based open source project, you might say that Fedora is standing on the shoulders of giants.
What does it do?
With all of that out of the way, let’s get down to features and what makes Fedora unique among the vast amount of available Linux distributions. Innovation is a key element of Fedora, so you will often see new features and applications not yet provided by other distros. Fedora is capable of meeting your needs on personal computers, workstations, as well as the most critical server implementation. Some of the features of Fedora 9 include:
- GNOME 2.22 Desktop Environment (default)
- KDE 4 (separate KDE spin of Fedora 9)
- OpenOffice.org version 2.4
- Enhanced Bluetooth support
- PackageKit – for software/package management
- Firefox 3.0
- Serious security tools, such as the Security-Enhanced Linux (SELinux) administrator
- Encrypted filesystem support
- A beautiful, unified look and feel provided by the desktop environment and applications
Warning: Editorial Content
It’s easy to see why such late coverage of a release like Fedora 9 is still as exciting as if it were just unleashed yesterday. Fedora 9 is nearly tempting me away from my existing Ubuntu 8.04 install. That being said, I think Fedora 9 is best if used within the GNOME Desktop Environment, and KDE 4.0 should be touched with a 10 foot pole, unless you’re really fanatical about KDE or are itching to try out this radically updated release of the KDE Environment. In all fairness, I believe the quality of the Fedora user experience under KDE 4.x should only improve as KDE 4 matures. It does include a very pleasing selection of default wallpaper, however. The desktop widgets are also amusing.
I highly suggest you check out Fedora, even if you don’t want to make the switch to Linux from Windows or Mac OS. Fedora 9 can be downloaded from the official website at http://fedoraproject.org/get-fedora. Choose the default GNOME or KDE, and then follow the link under Live Media that corresponds to your PC’s processor architecture–i686 if you aren’t sure, and x86_64 for a 64 bit processor. Once you’ve downloaded your .iso, you can burn the disc image to CD. Make sure your computer can boot from a CD before the hard drive. Simply reboot your computer with your new Fedora 9 disc in the CD/DVD drive and you’ll boot into the Fedora LiveCD environment!
A LiveCD allows you to explore what Fedora has to offer without committing it to your hard drive. This instance of Fedora runs entirely in memory, and nothing will change when you shutdown and remove the disc–not to your existing operating system, or the LiveCD itself. However, if you so desire, you can find instructions for easily making a USB drive with Fedora 9 that is persistent, meaning any changes you make will persist and go with you wherever you take your pendrive Fedora. Of course, you may love Fedora, in which case you can click ‘Install to Hard Drive’ right on the desktop.
What you have to look forward to using Fedora 9
- A stable, reliable and secure operating system that provides an enjoyable experience!
- Office productivity with the near drop-in replacement for Microsoft Office–OpenOffice.org
- Fast, secure and customizable web-browsing with Mozilla Firefox 3.0
- Editing photos and creating graphics with GIMP, the free Photoshop alternative
- Keep in touch with friends and coworkers across several IM protocols plus IRC with Pidgin
- Listen to your music collection, podcasts and internet radio with Rhythmbox
- Manage email, scheduling, contacts and tasks with the Evolution PIM
- …And lots more with thousands of software available free in the Fedora software repositories
For more information about getting involved with the Fedora Project, visit http://join.fedoraproject.org/. They need technical writers, graphic designers, OS developers and even translators. Also, look out for the release of Fedora 10 on November 25, 2008. If you have any questions about Fedora or Linux, feel free to leave a comment!