by Paul Frields
May 13th brings with it a 100% chance of sulphurous rain. But don’t worry, this particular sulphur isn’t a sign of global pollution. Instead, it is Fedora® 9–codenamed “Sulphur”–the latest in a continuing line of innovative releases by the community-powered Fedora Project. Get a copy of your very own right now.
This is my first release as the Fedora Project Leader, and I couldn’t be prouder of everything the community has achieved with this release. Fedora is a collaborative effort that involves a community of over 2,000 contributors–a group that’s about as big as the entire Red Hat staff. And three-quarters of the Fedora Project is made up of dedicated, talented volunteers who believe passionately in our mission of continually pushing free and open source software to new heights of power, flexibility, and usability.
Over the last year, we’ve seen the number of contributors skyrocket along with the popularity of our “upstream” mantra. Our users–over 2.2 million just for Fedora 8–know that we strive to provide the very best in what works today, with every release. Our developer contributors understand that working closely with upstream communities leads to better code, features, maintainability, and adoption throughout the FOSS world. Our many collateral contributors are producing beautiful artwork, documentation, and publicity tying together the fundamentals–features, freedom, friends, and first–that make it so much fun to work on this project. Hundreds of worldwide Ambassadors tie everything together, spreading the love around the globe. And to top it off, we get the added pleasure of seeing our work adopted by many other communities and distributions. That kind of sharing is what free and open source are all about!
There are many ways to get involved in Fedora and contribute back to open source. We have community-powered groups that design artwork, write documentation, code websites , administer systems, provide marketing expertise, triage bugs, help with packaging, and more. We’ve made the joining process simpler, so it’s never been easier to get involved in Fedora. No more pesky GPG signing–just a couple of buttons to click.
During this release cycle, and as we continue working toward the Fedora 10 release–which will happen in about six months–your project membership will give you access to an increasing number of online services, to help you collaborate with other open source enthusiasts and Fedora project members.
Some of the goodies that Fedora 9 brings to the table include:
- Persistent, nondestructive LiveUSB. Your USB key becomes a fully booting and functional Fedora you can carry with you anywhere, to use on any system that can boot on USB. Persistence means you can change the system, update it with new software, and save your own work as well. Nondestructive means you can turn any already-used USB key with 1+ GB free space into a LiveUSB, without any messy backing up, reformatting, repartitioning, or other contortions. Luke Macken’s Windows-based LiveUSB Creator application lets everyone get in on the action. And with our livecd-tools package, you can create your own custom live image for CD or USB quickly and easily.
- KDE 4. The K Desktop Environment (KDE) recently introduced a major revision with many sweeping changes both in the user interface and in its backend subsystems. The Fedora KDE team, a community group, did all the work to integrate KDE 4 into Fedora for this release. The group set up its own roadmap and milestones, tested endlessly, and resolved bugs, pushing that work back upstream to help make KDE 4 better for everyone. As a result, Fedora users everywhere will be able to use the latest technology for their KDE desktop. (And don’t worry, your older KDE 3 applications will still run using the compatibility features the KDE team has provided.) This is a great example of how the Fedora community takes the initiative on bringing compelling new features into the distribution–you can help.
- PackageKit. PackageKit is an extremely flexible yet simple method for managing software in any Linux distribution. It integrates with many existing package management systems, and provides easy-to-use graphical tools for installing and updating software. By providing one package management tool that works across all Linux distributions, PackageKit improves the lives of all Linux users. PackageKit also provides for the on-demand installation of features. If you download a specific type of file, PackageKit asks, “Would you like to install Application-XYZ to open this file?” Thanks to the complete joy of free software, in the blink of an eye you have the application you need.
- More Transifex. The revolutionary yet easy way for translators to connect to upstream and downstream communities is even better than before. Translators can help multiple communities through a single interface, and developers can get translation help for their projects that benefits all distributions. Check out http://translate.fedoraproject.org/ for more information.
- Improved NetworkManager. Fedora contributor Dan Williams has extended NetworkManager to new heights of functionality. It now plays well with static IP addressing, allows multiple connections and connection sharing, features easy connection editing, and supports mobile broadband, among other features. Thanks to diligent upstream work, NetworkManager can now be activated in Fedora 9 by default, as has been planned for some time.
- A surgery-free facelift. Fedora’s artwork project is a shining success of the Fedora philosophy. Every release cycle, a team of talented artists propose theme ideas. They sketch, photograph, and brainstorm how to turn the Fedora themes into elegant design. The digital artists on the team go through an iterative process to turn ideas into reality, creating desktop backgrounds and other thematic elements for the release. For Fedora 9, the theme was Waves, showing the spreading effect that Fedora’s innovative and dedicated community has on all of free and open source software. The superb work of the artwork team even inspired our release slogan, ‘Make waves.’
- Of the people, by the people, for the people. The Fedora community runs the distribution. Community governance, from various project steering communities to the Fedora Project Board, results in a true working meritocracy. The people who devote their time to advancing free and open source software in Fedora have the power to determine what we do next. As of this release, the majority of Board members are elected by the community. Many of our other working groups are also dominated by volunteers, which helps make Fedora a free, open, and transparent place to contribute to the good of all mankind through open source.
- FreeIPA. For the enterprise-y types out there, the IPA in FreeIPA is Identity, Policy, and Auditing. It’s a way for system administrators to easily manage security and resource information, such as authentication for people and computers in a larger, mixed environment (including places where Active Directory has a footprint). This is an example of a technology that has great potential impact for the enterprise. Canny folks might see this in future Red Hat Enterprise Linux offerings. If you’ve got the yen, you can get involved in the development of this project as well.
- Innovation continues. Because we emphasize working cooperatively with the upstream, the code produced in Fedora has a track record of superior developer acceptance, long-term maintainability, and relevance to the entire free and open source ecosystem. The work of Fedora community members is reused in many other Linux distributions, and we’re pleased as punch to see Fedora’s features reproduced elsewhere. Fedora contributors have helped produce innovations for desktop users, server administrators, and developers such as:
- Coming to a region near you: FUDCon. The Fedora Users and Developers Conference goes global this year, FUDCon events bring contributors together regionally in North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, and Latin America. FUDCon events feature everything from hackfests–where contributors get together to brainstorm, design, prototype, and improve free and open source software–to conference sessions where contributors can learn from each other. And our major FUDCon events are free, as in beer and speech, for everyone. These events are truly community events where everyone from new users to Linux luminaries meet, mingle, and work on cool new stuff.
The next FUDCon event is June 19-21, 2008, in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Join Fedora there, as we continue to bring you the future, first!