Purpose-built Fedora distributions, called "spins", are a recent
addition to that community in an attempt to reach additional users. The
idea is to use tools like Revisor to create a custom
collection of software that work well together for a particular set of
tasks. This collection can then be installed or run from a live CD,
providing an easy means to have the right collection of tools immediately,
rather than after a lengthy yum install pass.
The concept itself is not new, there are many distributions targeted at a
particular subset of users. Typically, other popular distributions (Debian
and Ubuntu in particular) have been used as the basis for them. The Fedora
project is embracing the idea, pulling together a list of the spins and
elevating at least two to the status of "official spins". The idea is to
appeal to those who don't want to be bothered with tracking down,
installing, and configuring the tools needed for their task; instead it is
all packaged for them.
Starting with Fedora 7, two official releases of the distribution are
available, one for each of the dominant desktops. For Fedora 8, there will
also be a developer
spin, which has the explicit goal of attracting more Fedora
developers. It will include Eclipse, perhaps other integrated development
environments (IDEs), gcc and friends, emacs, SystemTap,
and other developer tools. Other ideas, such as a working Xen virtual
machine and targeting web developers, have been discussed as well.
The other official spin for Fedora 8 is the Fedora
Electronic Lab (FEL). This project pulls together the tools for
electronic design and configures them to work well together. A wide variety
of software for circuit simulation, hardware development in VHDL and
Verilog, Very Large Scale Integration (VLSI) design, and embedded systems
development are included. Universities are high on the list of target
audiences, with the FEL website claiming 250 universities already using
Fedora; attracting more is one of the goals.
Several other spins are being worked on as well, not "officially", but
there does seem to be some serious work going into them. The Security
LiveCD is a Fedora 7 based spin for security auditing and testing. It
contains all of the tools that an administrator or security researcher
might need to do forensic analysis of a rooted machine, check a network for
vulnerable hosts, or do penetration testing. Since it can be booted
directly from a read-only device, risks of infection from any malware are
eliminated. Any machine can be quickly turned into a security workstation
by using a distribution like this.
Another ambitious project is the Fedora
Art Studio. This spin not only collects the tools into one package, it
also pulls in content likely to be useful to artists, desktop publishers,
animators, and other creative folks. There are collections of clip art,
fonts, textures, brushes, and so on, all with free licenses. There are
also tutorials included to get people up to speed on the various packages.
Plans are to include default Firefox bookmarks for useful sites as well.
Other spins are listed on the site, ranging from the Creative
Commons LiveContent spin (covered by LWN here) to a SystemTap live CD.
The Fedora wiki has various Howtos on remixing
Fedora, as well as using the Live CD
tools. Most people who want to build a custom spin will start by using
the Revisor GUI
tool, which provides options for installation, live or virtualization
(for Xen or KVM virtual machines) media for CDs, DVDs, USB thumb drives and
more. The project has clearly put a lot of time and effort into making it
as easy as possible to create new spins from the large repository of Fedora
It remains to be seen if any of these spins become popular, but it may be a
good way to introduce new users to Fedora. It is unlikely that power users
will find a spin that covers all of what they use, but they just might find
one that serves as a good starting point. They can either customize their
own spin from there or use the usual repository tools to grab whatever
extras they need. For a distribution that, until recently, had a
reputation for not working with the community, this effort may go a long
way towards erasing that history.
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