LWN readers will, by now, be well familiar with the fact that the Fedora
universe is changing. There will be no more Fedora Core releases, and the
repository known as Fedora Extras is going away. In their place will be a
combined distribution known simply as Fedora, with the next release being
called Fedora 7. The Fedora community is busily trying to figure out
just what that release is going to look like.
Bill Nottingham posted a discussion
document on January 4. It keeps the previously-discussed
schedule, with the first test release happening on January 30 and
general availability of Fedora 7 on April 26. There's a long
list of objectives for
this release, some of which are:
- Improving the speed of the boot and shutdown processes. "While
Xerxes appreciates that he can grab a cup of coffee while waiting for
his Fedora system to boot, it becomes annoying when he is not actually
thirsty." There are a number of ideas on how this speedup can
be effected, none of which appear to involve switching to Upstart. There is talk of replacing
init, but nobody appears to own that task currently; it seems
unlikely to happen for Fedora 7.
- a recognition that not all content can currently be found in free
formats. The idea is that the software would detect an attempt to
play a file in an unsupported format and respond with an educational session on
why free formats are better. Should the user not respond by
immediately deleting all MP3 files, CodecBuddy will offer a pointer to
available codecs whenever Red Hat Legal allows.
filesystem support, though which encryption technology will be
used has not been decided yet.
user switching - being able to move between different accounts
while retaining the current desktop status of each. Making this
feature work in a secure and robust way is not trivial.
- The creation of a desktop "spin" of the distribution. That leads to a
few related issues - see below.
support that actually works. "Requires rewriting the kernel
firewire stack. No biggie."
- Support for the KVM virtualization API. KVM appears to be the future
of Linux virtualization, so distributions will need to pick it up.
What will happen to Xen support is unclear; Xen is unpopular with some
of the Fedora folks, but is high on the Red Hat list.
- Support for the new parallel
ATA drivers, moving away from the old IDE subsystem. The PATA
drivers are an improvement, but they will cause drives to be renamed,
leading to potential system chaos. Fedora systems have used the
mount-by-label feature for some time, so most installed systems should
handle the change without trouble.
- The addition
of Nouveau, the reverse-engineered NVidia driver. Whether this
driver will be ready by the time Fedora 7 needs it remains to be
- Speeding up Yum and RPM. That, alone, should justify the cost of an
upgrade to Fedora 7.
There's much more on the list, but the above should be enough to give a
sense for what is going on. The Fedora developers would like to improve
their distribution in a number of significant ways, and in a very short
period of time.
Most of the desired changes are uncontroversial. The creation of a desktop
version of the distribution, however, has been the subject of a fair amount
of discussion. The Fedora distribution has traditionally been fairly
strongly tied to the GNOME desktop. As Fedora tries to expand its
community, though, there is a stronger set of voices calling for support of
a KDE version of Fedora as well. Nobody seems to oppose that idea, but
there is still a shortage of consensus on how it should be done.
As often seems to happen in community discussions, the Fedora developers
have gotten hung up on a relatively unimportant issue: naming. Current
plans call for the GNOME-based version of the distribution to be named
"Fedora Desktop," while the KDE-based version would be "Fedora KDE." The
KDE users, who were under the impression that they had a desktop too, think
that this naming goes against the idea of KDE being an equal citizen.
Others claim that "Fedora Desktop" is meant to be a combination of the
"best of breed" desktop software, most of which just happens to come from
the GNOME project. They hold out the possibility of a separate "Fedora
GNOME" version for GNOME purists; it would feature tools like AbiWord,
Gnumeric, and Epiphany, which currently have failed to qualify for the
"best of breed" designation. This idea doesn't seem to make the KDE
community feel much better.
Jeff Spaleta has posted a call for peace on
this issue, saying:
But more importantly in the near term. the fact that there is going to
be a KDE spin is a fundamentally important step in terms of opening
the process for community involvement. How about we, as engaged and
proactive community members, focus on making the technical side of
that happen. Whether the Desktop spin is called the Desktop spin or
the 'Office Professional Workforce of Doom' spin its trivially
unimportant compared to helping Rex get the KDE spin out the door.
On the technical side, the biggest disagreement would appear to be over
whether Firefox should be included. There has also been some discussion of
OpenOffice.org and Evolution. In each case, there seems to be some
tension between a "pure" KDE system and a desire to include applications
that some users are likely to want. Since the unwanted presence (or
absence) of any of these tools is relatively easy to correct after
installation, one assumes that a solution will be found that everybody is
able to live with.
This kind of discussion is not new in the free software community, but it
is relatively new to Fedora. As this distribution opens up and accepts
more input from outside of Red Hat, there is no doubt that it will get more
opinions as well. How these newcomers are accommodated will have a big
effect on how successful a more community-oriented Fedora will be. We should
see some concrete signs of how well the community is working sometime
around late April.
Comments (22 posted)
There is a wide variety of online role-playing games on the net. Second Life
is unique among them,
however, and not just for the lack of quests to fulfill or monsters to
kill. In the Second Life environment, "residents" can lease "property" and
create interesting artifacts through the use of a built-in scripting
language. The environment has proved free and powerful enough to bring
together hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom have engaged in
large-scale acts of world building. Second Life has shown what can happen
when the tools of creation are available to all, but it remains a
proprietary service running on proprietary software.
As of January 8, however, Second Life has become a little less proprietary.
Linden Lab, the company which owns Second Life, has announced the
release of the Second Life viewer application under version 2 of the
GPL. The viewer is the client which runs on the user's system; it is a
significant chunk of code. Its release should enable interested developers
to enhance the Second Life experience - and, perhaps, stabilize the Linux
The way is not yet clear for an entirely free Second Life client, however,
as the released code depends on a number of libraries shipped in binary
form. Interestingly, many of those libraries (cURL, expat, Mesa,
ogg/vorbis, openssl, zlib, etc.) are free software; it is not clear why
Linden feels the need to ship its own copies of them. There are a couple
of proprietary libraries in there as well, however. Linden hopes to either
relicense or route around those libraries in the near future; a quick
glance by your editor suggests that this objective should not be too hard
to achieve. The Second Life client would appear to be almost free.
Those who would hack on the client code must sign a
contributor agreement [PDF] before contributing any changes back. This
agreement is essentially a copyright transfer; it allows Linden to do
anything it wants with the code. Linden offers
commercial licensing terms, so contributors should be sure that they
have no objections to that use of their code.
The freeing of this code is a good thing; it brings the free software world
that much closer to being a first-participant in the creation of
interesting virtual worlds. It is only a beginning, however. The bulk of
the logic which implements Second Life lives on the server side, and that
code remains proprietary. Imagine if the original WWW browsers had been
released into a world where a single company owned the only web server;
that is, to a first approximation, where we stand with Second Life at this
time. As long as this state of affairs persists, Second Life will remain
just another proprietary service.
Linden has some
grand visions for how Second Life could grow:
A lot of the Second Life development work currently in progress is
focused on building the Second Life Grid - a vision of a globally
interconnected grid with clients and servers published and managed
by different groups. Expect many changes and updates in the coming
months in support of this architecture.
Now that sounds like fun, but it will only reach its potential if
the server code is free. Linden continues to make noises - but no promises
- about freeing this code. The freeing of the client is a good start; it
shows that Linden is serious about involving the community. Releasing the
server code will require a rather larger leap of faith on Linden's part,
however; the server is where the company makes its money. Let's hope that
Linden can find a way to take that leap.
Comments (5 posted)
For whatever reason, there has recently been increase in the number of
corporate LWN subscribers who want to receive information by fax. Your
editor, having long seen facsimile as a sort of quaint technology for
people who don't have email access, has never kept a fax machine around;
there just hasn't been much call for it. Recently, however, wandering over
to the local mailbox outlet to send faxes has become somewhat tiresome -
and time consuming. The printer was showing signs of old age as well, so
it seemed it was time to get a new toy in the form of
one of those all-in-one devices which can print, scan, copy, and, yes, send
A long stint as a system administrator was enough to teach your editor that
the management of printers ranks high on the list of Truly Obnoxious
Tasks. For whatever reason, making printers work properly has always been
painful, whether one is connecting a dot-matrix line printer to a VAX or a
contemporary inkjet to a Linux system. So your editor approached the task
with some trepidation, and with a fair amount of advance research. To this
end, the linuxprinting.org site, which was merged into the Free
Standards Group last year, remains an invaluable resource.
Your editor ended up with an HP OfficeJet device which performs all of the
required functions. It may yet be convinced to wash the dishes as well,
though it seems that feature is not yet well supported under Linux.
Everything else is, however. Printing Just Works. Scanning with xsane
Just Works. Overall, it is a very nice device, and making it work with
Linux was just about painless.
A great deal of credit is due to HP, which has made free drivers available
for its hardware. Thanks to this openness on HP's part, its hardware is
fully supported on Linux systems and can be used to its full potential.
That policy just resulted in another sale for HP, and, probably, many
others. It behooves us to be sure that HP hears that feedback from its
Linux customers. If manufacturers understand that supporting Linux means
more sales, they will support Linux.
Credit is also due to the HPLIP
project, which has packaged HP's drivers with a significant amount of
support code. HPLIP integrates well with CUPS, which has done a great deal to
civilize printing on free systems. Finally, the distributors have done a
lot of work to make the setup of new printers easy. All of this work has
transformed an administrator's job; when your editor thinks back to writing
lpd output filters for a new device, he feels an immediate need for a
strong drink. Now it has become necessary to find a new excuse for
Congratulations to all of those who have managed to bring
about such an improvement over a few short years.
Comments (36 posted)
The seventh edition of linux.conf.au
starts on January 15 in Sydney. Over the years, linux.conf.au has
become one of the most vibrant, interesting, and just plain fun free
software events on the planet. This year's program
likely to continue the trend. LWN editor Jonathan Corbet is lucky enough
to be speaking at
the event; come and say "hi" if you're in the area.
Comments (1 posted)
Page editor: Jonathan Corbet
Inside this week's LWN.net Weekly Edition
- Security: Tracing behind the firewall; New vulnerabilities in drupal, fetchmail, krb5, OpenOffice.org, X.org, ...
- Kernel: Why kernel.org is slow; Some KVM developments; Unionfs.
- Distributions: Gentoo and the Linux Terminal Server Project,
Endian Firewall 2.1, AGNULA changes domain, Debian 3.0 retired, Fedora Extras dumps XaraLX, New Fedora infrastructure leader,
Create A Local Debian/Ubuntu Mirror With apt-mirror.
- Development: LIRC - the Linux Infrared Remote Control project,
New KOffice Technologies, GCC 4.1.2 Status,
new versions of Firebird, MySQL Community Server, PostgreSQL, PyDbLite,
SQLite, Exim, Postfix, Das_watchdog, ewa, jack_mixer, webERP, Kanatest,
Wine, LiVES, od2txt, AsmIDE, Groovy 1.0, SBCL, RFIDIOt, Urwid.
- Press: Sununu comes out against the broadcast flag, Novell says SCO bankruptcy
imminent, MySQL AB delays on GPLv3, Linux deployed in Chennai, India,
Eike Hein interview, Ubuntu blogging with Drivel, UNIX process creation,
Windows tax refund, Exaile Media Player review,
NuFW review, Text email clients reviewed.
- Announcements: ATI and NVIDIA driver campaign, CrossOver 6, OpenMoko update, Second Life
viewer released, Nokia N800 tablet, Stallman on free software,
aKademy CFP, FOSDEM CFP, RAID 2007 CFP, Red Hat Summit CFS,
Cell Hack-a-thon, DebConf7 deadline, ETel speakers announced,
Django at PyCon, Bruce Chizen podcast.