Red Hat Inc.s Fedora Core 2 is a good general-purpose Linux distribution that ships with a broad selection of open-source software that can capably serve in roles ranging from desktop to server. However, Fedoras status as a free, community-supported project means that Fedora users cant expect the sort of service for which Red Hat Enterprise Linux customers pay a hefty subscription fee each year.Red Hat warrants that a Red Hat Enterprise Linux version purchased today will receive support and security updates for five years, but Fedora users will likely have to upgrade every year to prevent being left behind by the project.Further complicating the Fedora upgrade story is the distributions bleeding-edge nature: Fedoras all about shipping the latest and greatest, which can mean compatibility issues when moving from version to version. The biggest change in Core 2 is the move to the 2.6 Linux kernelVersion 2.6.5which brings with it application and driver compatibility issues. The Cisco Systems Inc. client for our VPN, for instance, will not yet compile under 2.6, and Fedora Core 2 users cant yet use Nvidia Corp.s official Nvidia video driver without tweaking and recompiling their kernels (although the Nvidia driver that ships with Fedora does work). Click here to read eWEEK Labs analysis of the 2.6 Linux kernel. That said, Fedoras active mailing lists are good sources of support. Also, there are numerous volunteer projects that provide software packages for Fedora. One such project, called The Fedora Legacy Project, prepares security updates for releases of Red Hat Linux and Fedora that Red Hat no longer supportsright now, the project covers Red Hat Linux 7.2 through 9. The Fedora Legacy Project is young, and it remains to be seen whether it will succeed well enough to keep the same distribution running securely over several years. Fedora Core 2, which became available late last month, runs on 32-bit and 64-bit x86 processors. Fedora comes on four CDs or one DVD, and images for both are available for free download at www.fedora.redhat.com. Fedora Core 2 ships with the latest versions of the KDE and GNOME desktop environments, both of which include usability improvements, such as handy facilities for managing passwords for network shares and, in KDE, Web passwords. Fedora Core 2 also ships with the desktop environment Xfce-4, which is based on the same GTK2 tool kit as GNOME but is lighter-weight and makes a good fit for older hardware. A major new component thats included in Fedora Core 2 is support for fine-grained access control policies through SELinux. Fedora comes with the tools required to run an SELinux system, but it comes disabled by default. Check out eWEEK Labs analysis of SELinux here. Also, Red Hat has removed the on/off controls for toggling SELinux, which were added to Fedoras security level tool in the last test release. When we evaluated Fedoras first test release in March, we were annoyed to find that the distributions new ALSA (Advanced Linux Sound Architecture) sound system zeroed out our sound card volume after each reboot rather than saving its state, but that issue has been resolved. One area in which Fedora continues to lag behind competing Linux distributions, such as MandrakeSoft S.A.s Mandrake, Novell Inc.s SuSE and Software in the Public Interest Inc.s Debian, is its software installation and management tools. Red Hats Up2date is fine for fetching updates, but Fedora needs a graphical tool for managing software packages. Synaptic fits the bill well, and wed like to see this tool ship with the next version of Fedora. Senior Analyst Jason Brooks can be reached at email@example.com.