Red Hats Fedora Core 5, which hit the Internet late last month, shines in the server and developer roles with which Linux has come to be identified. In addition, for many scenarios, Fedora has matured enough to perform well as a mainstream corporate desktop.
During tests, eWEEK Labs was impressed with the fast-moving distributions updated SELinux (Security-Enhanced Linux) and Xen virtualization components, broadened programming language and tool support, and hot-off-the-compiler GNOME 2.14 desktop environment.
Fedora Core 5 is freely available and may be downloaded from an FTP mirror or through the bittorrent peer-to-peer network. (Instructions for both methods are available at http://fedora.redhat.com/Download/.)
Security and bug-fix updates for Fedora are also freely available and easy to fetch using Fedoras yum package manager. Whats more, since Fedora is so closely related to the widely used Red Hat Enterprise Linux (and is rather popular in its own right), companies that deploy Fedora Core 5 shouldnt have trouble finding administrators with experience using the distribution—another potential cost savings, compared with more esoteric Linux distributions.
Fedoras prime rivals in the popular free-of-charge, general-purpose Linux distribution category are Debian 3.1 and CentOS 4.2. Debian boasts excellent software packaging tools and broad availability of ready-to-install applications, and CentOS is a free clone of Red Hats enterprise Linux distribution.
Fedora Core 5 ships in three separate versions: for the x86, x86-64 and Power PC processor architectures. We tested the x86 edition of Fedora on an Intel Centrino-based notebook, an Intel Pentium 4-based desktop and a handful of VMware virtual machines.
Using a Fedora Core 4 machine serving a Mediawiki site, we set about to upgrade to Fedora 5. For some past Fedora upgrades, weve been able to install the "fedora-version" package and then run "yum upgrade" to bring all of our packages in line with the new release. This time, however, our efforts at conducting this sort of in-place upgrade were frustrated by various unmet dependencies.
We therefore turned to the tried-and-true (and Red Hat-recommended) upgrade route of booting from the Fedora 5 media. Fedoras installation and upgrade application, Anaconda, carried out our upgrade smoothly, and, once our machine rebooted, it was again serving our test Mediawiki site without a hitch.
New in Version 5 of Fedora Core are a couple of graphical software installation tools, Pup and Pirut. Both offer passable, if somewhat crude, front ends for Fedoras yum updating software. (In Version 4 there had been none at all, however.)
Its good to see improvement in Fedoras built-in package management tools, but, for ease of use, the software installation tools that have us most rapt are those set to ship with Ubuntus forthcoming Dapper Drake release. On Fedora, we preferred to use Yumex or KYum, both of which live in the Fedora Extras software repository.
As the close cousin of RHEL, Fedora enjoys very good support from software makers, both open source and proprietary. If your vendor explicitly supports only one non-commercial Linux distribution, Fedora Core is likely to be it—a significant competitive advantage for Fedora.
Fedora also enjoys good support from a handful of community-supported software repositories, which push Fedoras available, prepackaged software close to the amount available for Debian.
Were somewhat disappointed, however, that these repository projects havent managed to cooperate better during the past couple years. Where most Debian packages coexist peacefully in one large repository structure, the Fedora-targeted packages that community projects produce sometimes conflict or overlap with each other, which can be confusing to manage.