Red Hat has released a new version of its Fedora operating system that gives the open source community tools to build customised Linux distributions.
Along with the release of the new version, Fedora 7, Red Hat also has opened all the Fedora operating system packages to the community. Previous Fedora Core packages were maintained only by Red Hat employees. The company says removing these barriers gives the Fedora community more influence over the development of the operating system.
Fedora 7 opens up the system for building distributions and makes it freely available.
The company believes custom programs built by users will be popular for devices that do not need a full-blown operating system, and in the appliance market, where vendors create custom operating systems for their hardware. Corporate users will be able to build distributions that meet their needs.
"If you want an OS that is nothing but a database and the things required to support that database, then you don't have to add support for Firefox or for games," said Greg Dekoenigsberg, community development manager at Red Hat.
The DIY feature goes hand in hand with Revisor, - a wizard with a graphical user interface that walks users through the creation of a Linux build. Revisor is one of the community projects available as part of Fedora 7.
"The goal of Fedora 7 was to build a single repository of Fedora packages that are not separated by 'Red Hat maintained' and 'community maintained','" Dekoenigsberg said. "The thing that made that possible is that we now have a set of completely open-source build tools to build Fedora or any derivative of Fedora."
Fedora came about in 2003 when Red Hat spun its Linux product into a community-developed project. It is still linked closely to the company's commercial versions, serving as a testing ground for technologies that eventually will go into Red Hat Enterprise Linux.
The new version of Fedora comes at a time when the operating system is weathering criticism and as Ubuntu Linux is gaining favour. In terms of competition with Ubuntu, Dekoenigsberg said Fedora has a different focus.
"Our goals are to some degree different. The aim of the Ubuntu Project seems to be to provide a high-degree of polish to the typical Windows, non-savvy end user. They do a good job of that but they are willing to make sacrifices to that end that we are not willing to make." Dekoenigsberg said that includes Ubuntu's adding drivers that are not open source. "It is hard to support non-free drivers and non-free code."
The Fedora Project is hoping version 7 will foster many Linux derivatives built on the Fedora code, much as Ubuntu is a derivative of the Debian distribution.