Tip of the Trade: Fedora Core

by Carla Schroder

Polished bleeding-edge is one way to describe the community-supported offshoot of Red Hat Linux. Ideal testbed is another.

Fedora Linux, the community-supported offshoot of Red Hat Linux is in some ways the ideal testbed for SELinux, Xen, and advanced 3D graphics. Oftentimes, it is the Linux of choice for administrators who want to try out the latest and greatest free and open source software goodies.

Fedora Core 6 (FC6) was released on October 24, and as usual wise admins waited a few days for the usual downloading frenzy to subside, or took the easy way and ordered installation disks. Wise persons also do not immediately deploy new Fedora releases on production servers, but rather install it on test systems to learn about new kernel features and applications. Development of the 2.6 Linux kernel has been very rapid. Since its initial release in December 2003, the /dev subsystem has changed twice (first devfs, then udev), SELinux was introduced, and multiprocessor support, clustering, 64-bit support, and volume management all became part of the mainline kernel. Networking was beefed up with the addition of IPv6, NFS4 and IP telephony-specific features.

FC6 introduces a number of new features of interest to network and system administrators. Two of the hottest features are the Xen hypervisor, for running multiple operating systems in secure virtual environments, and SELinux. Both have suffered from being painful and difficult to administer; this Fedora release includes some administration tools that alleviate a considerable amount of the pain. The Anaconda installer is more robust and flexible, and now you can choose from additional software repositories. The CacheFS filesystem speeds up the performance of networked filesystems like AFS and NFS. Overall performance is supposed to be up to 50 percent faster, thanks to improved dynamic linking.

Smart card support is now included with the inclusion of the CoolKeys module. The idea is that merchants can issue customers a smart card, which is automatically provisioned the first time it is plugged in. This is still experimental, but it obviously has much potential.

Desktop goodies of the eye-candy variety abound with the addition of the Compiz window manager, which enables all sorts of whizbang 3D effects.

As is standard for most Linux distributions these days, FC6 comes on a LiveCD so you can test it without actually installing it.

This article was originally published on Tuesday Nov 7th 2006
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