By Jason Brooks  |  Posted 2004-11-29 Print this article Print

Fedora Core 3, the latest release of Red Hat Inc.s free, unsupported, bleeding-edge Linux distribution, is stacked with changes that include the way it partitions disks by default and the appearance of the window managers that ship with it. As with the previous two releases, Fedora Core 3, which became available this month, is a strong general-purpose Linux distribution and ships with a good variety of open-source software. It also benefits from a range of precompiled packages of other software not included by default thats rivaled only by Debian GNU/Linux.

However, vendors of commercial, enterprise-oriented software for Linux tend to ignore Fedora, instead certifying their wares only for Red Hats Enterprise Linux and Novell Inc.s SuSE Linux Enterprise Server—both of which require per-seat subscription fees.

Another concern for companies considering Fedora as a low-cost Linux option is the rapid rate of new releases. Although the Fedora Project produces security updates for Fedora releases as needed, it has already stopped providing updates for Fedora Core 1, which first shipped just over a year ago. This will continue to be an issue for companies that dont want to upgrade about once a year.

A separate group, called the Fedora Legacy Project, now provides security updates for discontinued Fedora releases, but it will be some time before we can judge how much faith to place in the Legacy Project—particularly as end-of-life Fedora releases begin to pile up. (At the time this was written, the Legacy Project had released five updates for Fedora Core 1.)

At this point, eWEEK Labs believes its safest to plan on updating Fedora every other version; pay for a distribution with a longer support term; or go with Debian GNU/Linux, which offers a fairly long-lived, stable branch.

Fedora Core 3 comes in versions for the Intel Corp. 386 and x86-64 platforms. Fedora comes on four CDs or one DVD, and images for both are available for free FTP download at fedora.redhat.com/download/mirrors.html or via Bittorrent at torrent.dulug.duke.edu.

Fedora Core 2 was the first Fedora release to ship with SELinux, the National Security Agency-based Mandatory Access Controls subsystem for Linux. However, in that release, SELinux came disabled by default due to the complexity of managing access control policies for all the software that shipped with Fedora.

In Fedora Core 3, SELinux comes enabled by default but with a new "targeted" policy that locks down only a few typically vulnerable system services, such as Bind and Apache. In addition, Fedoras system security configuration tool now includes a tab for tweaking SELinux policy. The tab made it easy for us to scale back our settings rather than disable SELinux altogether (which we could also do from this interface).

Click here to read about how trusted-operating-system features are making their way into mainstream operating systems. Fedora Core 3 includes a new subsystem for managing devices called udev, which replaces devfs. Udev makes it easier to manage hot-plug devices such as USB (Universal Serial Bus) peripherals, in part by allowing these devices to have persistent user- or system-definable names. For instance, under devfs, it could be difficult to distinguish connected USB devices, information you had to know to mount them for use.

Users have reported udev-related problems, including an issue with Nvidia Corp.s graphics card driver, for which a workaround is available at fedora.redhat.com/ docs/udev.

Previous Fedora releases shipped with support for LVM (Logical Volume Management), but Fedora Core 3 is the first version to install itself onto logical volumes, which are simpler than traditional partitions to resize on existing disks and reallocate onto new disks.

The LVM software that ships with Fedora Core offers only a command-line interface, but Red Hat has included a nice-looking graphical LVM client with the second beta release of its enterprise distribution. We compiled and ran the LVM client on our Fedora Core 3; when this utility is completed, we hope to see it provided for Fedora.

Next page: Exterior beauty.

As Editor in Chief of eWEEK Labs, Jason Brooks manages the Labs team and is responsible for eWEEK's print edition. Brooks joined eWEEK in 1999, and has covered wireless networking, office productivity suites, mobile devices, Windows, virtualization, and desktops and notebooks. JasonÔÇÖs coverage is currently focused on Linux and Unix operating systems, open-source software and licensing, cloud computing and Software as a Service. Follow Jason on Twitter at jasonbrooks, or reach him by email at jbrooks@eweek.com.

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