Fedora Core 2 Shows 2.6 Kernels Stuff

By Jason Brooks  |  Posted 2004-03-08

Fedora Core 2 Shows 2.6 Kernels Stuff

When Red Hat inc. turned its general-purpose Linux distribution from a retail product to the community-supported Fedora project, the company set out to define the project by the aggressiveness of its development course.....

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When Red Hat inc. turned its general-purpose Linux distribution from a retail product to the community-supported Fedora project, the company set out to define the project by the aggressiveness of its development course.

Its no surprise, then, that Fedora Core 2 will be among the first Linux distributions built around the new 2.6 kernel. (Red Hats more staid Enterprise Linux product isnt set to adopt the new kernel until the distributions Version 4 release this fall.) eWEEK Labs tested Fedora Core 2 Test 1 on a few different systems, and we were generally impressed with the smoothness and stability of the release.

We also found that Fedoras implementation of the KDE Projects KDE 3.2 and the GNOME Projects GNOME 2.5.3 desktop environments were much improved compared with the versions of those interfaces that shipped with Fedora Core 1.

The other major new system slated for inclusion in Fedora Core 2 Test 1, released last month, is SELinux, a security architecture developed by the U.S. National Security Agency that enables administrators to set finer-grained access control policies for users than are otherwise possible in Linux.

Fedora Core 2 includes basic support for SELinux, but only some of the pieces required to set policies are in place. Well be keeping tabs on the way SELinux is implemented in Fedora, which will provide an early view of how Red Hat will handle this feature in its next enterprise release.

Fedora Core 2 is a good general-purpose distribution. Its a particularly good fit for desktop use, in large part because of the wide variety of software that comes precompiled and packaged for Fedora. Whats more, Fedoras fast development clip keeps the distribution outfitted with the latest and greatest software.

However, Fedoras speedy development pace also poses a significant challenge for the distribution, because frequent software changes often introduce application incompatibilities.

The final release of Fedora Core 2 is expected to come out next month. Chances are good that that date could slip, however, considering that the second Fedora test release date has already been pushed back about two weeks to provide more time for SELinux implementation.

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Although eWEEK Labs experience with Fedora Core 2 was generally good, we did run into a couple of problems related to the new subsystems that ship with the 2.6 Linux kernel.

For example, the new ALSA (Advanced Linux Sound Architecture) sound system popped up an error message when we configured our sound card, complaining that the needed driver wouldnt load. This message, however, was in error-the driver had indeed loaded, although by default ALSA zeros out sound card volume after each reboot rather than saving its state.

We also had trouble accessing some Web sites while running Fedora Core 2. The culprit turned out to be a feature enabled by default in the 2.6 kernel called ECN (Explicit Congestion Notification), which allows routers to notify clients about network congestion but can cause older firewalls to refuse connections from machines with ECN enabled. To turn off ECN, we had to add the line "net.ipv4.tcp_ecn = 0" in the file /etc/sysctl.conf.

We were surprised to see that Fedora Core 2 does not include Linux 2.6s pre-emptible kernel feature compiled into its default kernel. We had to recompile our test kernel to try this feature out.

We downloaded the three CD images that constitute Fedora Core 2 using the peer-to-peer application BitTorrent (torrent.dulug.duke.edu), but throughout our test period we were fetching the latest Fedora development packages as they became available using Red Hats up2date tool.

This test release of Fedora shipped initially with Version 2.6.1 of the Linux kernel, but by the time we wrapped up testing, we were running Linux 2.6.3. These minor kernel updates since the 2.6 release have addressed various bugs found by early testers.

Red Hat's default update servers are frequently overloaded with downloading users. Its possible to substitute the default Red Hat repositories with a mirror site instead, but the version of up2date that ships with Fedora Core 2 has improved on this behavior by selecting a mirror from which to download packages on its own.

There doesnt seem to be much intelligence involved in the choice of mirrors: Sometimes our packages would begin downloading, slowly, from the default Red Hat server, in which case wed restart the process to pick up a faster connection.

One change wed like to see in the final version of Fedora Core 2 is a link between up2date and Fedoras package installation tool. The latter tools interface appears outfitted for system update operations, but we werent able to do anything with it other than remove packages.

Among the new applications that ship with Fedora Core 2 is a preview version of GIMP 2.0, which sports a slick-looking new interface that is based on GTK (GIMP Tool Kit) 2.0. Also included is a version of the OpenOffice.org 1.1 productivity suite that features a nice themed appearance that fits in well with the look of the rest of the distribution.

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