November 10, 2003

Red Hat lifts all ships with Fedora

Author: Chris Spencer

Jeremy Hogan of Red Hat has observed that Linux distributions can be looked at as little ships on a vast ocean of open source code. As open source projects grow and mature they raise the level of the ocean. Red Hat raised the level of the ocean with Fedora. Fedora is a step in the right direction, and not a reason to feel abandoned.With Fedora Red Hat has released the latest stable software across the board. It improved anaconda and up2date. The use of yum seems to offer the promise of upgrading across versions without problems. Already we see other open source developers are picking up some features for future consideration in other distributions. For example, Ian Murdock of Debian fame has already completed the Anaconda port to Debian, including modifications to allow it to work with apt and dpkg.

A new Linux distribution benefits everyone

Fedora marks the first Linux stable bleeding-edge distribution release that is truly free and user-friendly. It's a niche we need, and one no other distro fills. Among the major distributions, Debian certainly is a free OS, but the stable release is stale and the unstable version often changes dramatically from day to day. SuSE is not free of cost or free to distribute. Mandrake is technically free, but charges for membership in its MandrakeClub.

All of the stable maturing Linux distributions need someone testing their next versions. Packages need to work together, and dependency problems should be resolved. Fedora will fill this important role for Red Hat.

The open source movement needs Red Hat to prosper. No one wins when Red Hat spends too much time offering legacy support to masses of non-paying users. Red Hat is one of the driving forces behind commercial companies porting their software to Linux, and works with the thousands of open source projects that comprise their distribution. It has shown that open source software can be a profitable business model. Without a leader like Red Hat the growth of Linux on the desktop will slow just enough to let Windows live on.

While it's disappointing to see the free ride with Red Hat Linux end, Linux itself is growing by leaps and bounds and proving itself better than the closed-minded closed source alternatives. I'll miss the free ride, but I'm glad to see Red Hat making moves to show that it really can be profitable and remain committed to the free and open source movement. It's a lesson that more companies need to take take note of.

I have been a Linux user since the early 1990s, and have been using it as my desktop operating system for a few years now. To those in Red Hat who decided to merge Red Hat Linux with Fedora, I say thank you. I appreciate the thousands upon thousands of hours you've donated into the projects that make up the distribution. Keep doing the right thing.

Chris Spencer has a B.S. in Computer Science and works as a network and system manager for a public university.


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