The Fedora Project, after more than one year, has not become a "community"
project by any means. It is centrally controlled, and many crucial
decisions seem to come from some sort of smoke-filled room in Raleigh. The
long-promised publicly-available source code repository ("intended to be available by
the release of Fedora Core 2
") is nowhere to be seen, the governing
councils have not been created, and the project's technical leader is
rarely seen on the mailing lists. In many ways, Fedora looks more like an
open beta testing program run by Red Hat than a true community project.
That said, a couple of things are worth pointing out. One is that the
Fedora Project has clearly succeeded in creating, evolving, and
supporting a top-quality
distribution with bleeding-edge software and predictable release cycles.
The other is that, in some ways
at least, Fedora's interaction with its user community is yielding clear
benefits. Simple testing and filing of bugs is probably the biggest part
of it. Beyond that, however, the project does seem to listen to its users and be influenced by
what they say, even if Red Hat does have the final word on important
decisions. And, at times, members of the community can truly help to make
the distribution better.
As an example, consider this challenge
recently posted by Owen Taylor. He noted that a Linux system still takes a
couple of minutes to boot, which is too much:
Ideally, system boot would involve a 3-4 second sequential read of
around 100 megabytes of data from the hard disk, CPU utilization
would be parallelized with that, and all queries on external
systems would be asynchronous ... startup continues and once the
external system responds, the system state is updated. Plausibly
the user could start work under 10 seconds on this ideal system.
Owen asked for help from the community in figuring out what was slowing
down the boot process. That help was all of two days in coming, when Ziga
Mahkovec posted some results. He had
modified the kernel boot process to instrument what was going on, and
pretty chart showing where the time was being spent. One immediate
culprit stands out from the chart: the rhgb process. That is the
"Red Hat Graphical Boot" utility, which does no actual work; it simply
watches over the initialization process and shows its progress on the
console. It's not something which should be occupying a large part of the
time required to boot. But it was responsible for over 1/3 of the time
required to boot a Fedora system.
As it turns out, rhgb gets into a loop where it simply spins in
the CPU, slowing down everything else. A bugzilla
entry was created, the bug was fixed, and life improved. Ziga made a new
chart showing an improved situation - and a boot time of 46 seconds.
Fedora users may have even more to cheer soon. Ziga made yet another
chart which follows the process through a GNOME graphical login. One
of the big culprits there is the obnoxious, throbbing Red Hat Network
update applet. It turns out that Red Hat
developers detest that applet too and tend to kill it on their systems.
Now that it has
been shown to be a major factor in making users wait to be able to do
anything with their systems, it may just get some needed attention.
Meanwhile, the bottom line is this: Fedora may not be a community project like, for example,
Debian. But neither is it a sealed product from a corporate cathedral.
Fedora is clearly a better distribution as a result of its interactions
with its users. Hopefully, someday, Red Hat will follow through on its
promises (source code management server, community governing council) and
bring the community further into the process. Fedora is blessed with a
community of users who want to help; it shouldn't let the desire for
corporate control keep them from being part of the project.
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