To fully understand what Fedora Core is all about you have to know a little about its history, starting with the fact that it was originally called Red Hat Linux. It was re-named when Red Hat opted to concentrate on the corporate market – with Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) – and development devolved to the independent Fedora Project.
It’s still sponsored by Red Hat, and used as a test bed for applications and technologies that, ultimately, make their way into the RHEL product, but is mostly deployed by application developers, enthusiasts and hobbyists.
Widely seen as one of the most cutting-edge Linux distros, the latest release, Fedora Core 5, is based on a 2.6.15 Linux kernel and comes with version 4.1 of the GCC compiler, which is used to compile all of the main Fedora Core code. The X Windows GUI is also enhanced to the latest specification in this release, as too is the SELinux technology, which provides more precise control over security rights than a standard Linux implementation.
Xen virtualisation, introduced in the previous release, also gets updated – to Xen 3.0 – with better integration into the core O/S and simpler management. However, as with a lot of what you get in this distro, it’s not configured automatically and is a far cry from products like VMWare when it comes to both installation and use.
Likewise, although you also get support for the Novell-led Mono project – the open source equivalent of Microsoft’s .Net – the only deliverables are a clutch of fairly basic applications, such as a desktop search tool, most of which aren’t installed by default.
Still that’s to be expected with Fedora Core, which is much more of a development platform than an end-user distro, although some concessions have been made toward the ordinary ‘desktop’ user. These start with cosmetic changes such as the use of the official new Fedora logo and a ‘bubbly’ blue theme, while the desktop itself also comes in for an update, to the latest Gnome 2.14 software.
OpenOffice 2.0 is another standard component along with the Firefox Web browser, albeit without Java or Flash support which, like other browser plug-ins, need to be manually installed. Indeed, if you’re intent on using Fedora as a desktop operating system, be prepared for a lot of post-install work to get it to do what you want.
But as we’ve already said, that’s what Fedora Core is all about and it doesn’t cost much to get started and try it out for yourself. You don’t need a high-spec PC and the software can be downloaded from the Fedora Project site for free. You still have to install it, of course, but that’s no harder than loading up Windows, and we had no problems getting the base operating system loaded or installing and running a variety of applications.
On the downside, the supporting documentation is patchy, which means a lot of digging around to find out how to go about getting a lot of the optional components to work. Apart from the Fedora Project your only real source of help is, typically, an online forum. But there are plenty around and lots of useful help and advice to be had if you’re prepared to go looking for it.
Despite its reputation for being cutting-edge, we found Fedora Core 5 to be a very stable Linux distro and well worth the effort involved in getting it to work. It’s not for the faint-hearted, though, and beginners in particular would be better off with Ubuntu, Puppy or one of the other distros aimed at the newcomer. Neither is it designed to host commercial applications, although that’s not unheard of.
Accept all that and, assuming a modicum of know-how, you’ll find it a rich and rewarding implementation, and well worth a look.
Company: Fedora Project