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Spinning Fedora

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By Rebecca Sobol
September 3, 2008
There was a discussion recently on the fedora-advisory-board list about when a derivative is an official spin vs. one that is Fedora based. It started out innocently enough with a request for trademark approval for an Appliance Operating Spin.

Right away Bill Nottingham noted that SELinux is disabled in this spin and wondered why. The answer was simple enough, there are some current issues with the building tool and SELinux.

A simple enough start to what turned into a somewhat lengthy discussion of what makes Fedora Fedora. This is not the first time that the Fedora Advisory Board has tackled this issue, but it seems that not all board members are in complete agreement of the difference between an official Fedora spin and something which is merely Fedora based.

Jesse Keating recalled a conversation that took place during the merge of core and extras on whether or not there should be a "Fedora Standard Base".

That is, a basic set of things you must have in your "spin" in order to call it Fedora. These include things like rpm, yum, and SELinux (at least in my opinion), but we never really coded this up nor hashed out what should be in the FSB, or if FSB was even a good name for the concept.

A draft version of trademark guidelines is available, and awaiting comments and approval by the Fedora Board. The guidelines in this document do not make any packages mandatory for trademark approval. They do state that official spins will include only those packages that are available in the official Fedora repository. Pretty much all spins, with the notable exception of the Everything Spin, will contain a subset of all the packages in the repository and are left to chose which packages they need or don't need.

Axel Thimm posted that official spins should have high standards and should improve the brand name.

Currently I cannot imagine Fedora w/o rpm or yum, but I can imagine it w/o selinux if I think about very small footprints, nano-Fedoras and all the recent suggestion. I wouldn't mind my phone to advertise that it runs on Fedora, even if selinux was turned off (but the high standard of security is ensured in another way).

Since we can't envision what nice spins/derivatives people will come up with (I first heard of the appliance spin), we should not statically enforce any requirements, but instead have the board be the checking instance like it is now.

Of course, it's not just about the trademarks. The discussion also brought up the kickstart pool and whether unofficial spins should be included in the pool, or even whether all official spins should be included. So there could be trademarked Fedora spins that aren't allowed in the kickstart pool, perhaps because of their choice of packages. Or there could be "Xora", a Fedora based distribution, that would be in the kickstart pool and available in the Fedora Hosted service.

Jeff Spaleta looked at how the kickstart pool might be structured.

Under the current workflow, there are essentially 3 different technical levels.
1) Spin SIG best practices to get into kickstart pool
2) Technical issues which are associated with trademark approval
3) Technical requirements for RelEng for 'release' of a spin.

These can be layered technical hurdles, which the kickstart pool could be structured to mimic.

The bottom line, in this instance, seems to be that AOS (Appliance Operating Spin) will likely get trademark approval, since it only contains official Fedora packages. However, unless they get SELinux running on it, either with permissive mode or with a custom policy, it won't get into the kickstart pool. Or perhaps it will be relegated to a second-class pool.

It may seem odd that an appliance needs SELinux, but as Jeroen van Meeuwen says: "On the other hand, of course we do have an agenda to push and that agenda includes SELinux as being one of the core features of the entire Fedora line of products (including the few enterprise linux spin-offs). It's one of the main features and we would rather see appliances built upon an AOS that has SELinux enforcing by default while it can still be disabled."

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