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Warren Togami on the new Fedora Project

By on October 01, 2003 (8:00:00 AM)

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- by Joe Barr -
The recent merger of the Red Hat Linux Project with the Fedora Project is an event rife with opportunities for confusion. Although I wrote an article on the Fedora Project just a few weeks ago, I was confused by what I read following the merger. I decided to give Warren Togami (the founder of the Fedora Project and the source for my original story) a little time for all the furor to die down and then turn to him for clarification. So for the past few days, Warren Togami -- with some assistance from Red Hat Desktop Manager Havoc Pennington -- and NewsForge have engaged in both IRC and email conversations to make it all crystal clear.

Let's start by looking at what each project was doing prior to the merger. Togami's Fedora Project provided a single repository with well-tested packages for Red Hat. Using apt-get or yum, Red Hat users could find and then easily install packages not available directly from Red Hat. Mplayer and Wine were two examples. The project team was very keen on testing and had a hard time keeping up with the QA required for submitted packages. Togami was busy with a part-time job and finishing his senior year studying Computer Science at the University of Hawaii in addition to running the project.

RHLP (the Red Hat Linux Project) was less well defined and understood. According to Warren, it was "a vague concept to move the RHL free consumer distribution to become a more Debian-like distribution." Beyond the announcement of the project in July, followed by a retrenchment which saw the shuttering of the RHLP website, not much ever really happened with the RHLP.

But Warren still saw possibilities for the RHLP. He contacted Michael K. Johnson at Red Hat and suggested a merger. He said, "I made the proposal for Fedora to merge with RHLP, because many of the things that Fedora already did for months was within the general ideas of a community based distribution that RHLP wanted to be." Michael Johnson took the idea back to Red Hat for discussion, and Warren began to discuss the possible merger with the Fedora project team.

The result of the merger is the new Fedora Project. With corporate backing and guidance from Red Hat, and a high level of community involvement, Red Hat intends to have two separate distributions: Red Hat Enterprise Linux and a "Debian-style" community-supported distribution from the Fedora Project.

Warren explained it this way: "Enterprise has to do with RH's business side of things, the service and support of the product that customers buy. Free/consumer/community distribution is the same technology, but with no guarantee of support because it is for hobbyists. Companies may choose to use it in production but it is their responsibility to support it themselves, or hire others to help them. This side of the software is more like Debian."

NewsVac editor David Graham asked Warren if he considered the new Fedora to be "a grass-roots or corporate distribution?" Warren replied:

The old fedora.us has been entirely grass roots, with many volunteer developers from around the world that wanted to work on a common problem: easing 3rd party software installation and distribution by creating a single authoritative body.

The new "Fedora Project" we hope will retain and grow grass-roots support, but it is not entirely clear at this moment. There will be a significant amount of expensive capital infrastructure and corporate engineer hours thrown at the project.

This is not to say that corporate == bad. Corporate support makes the combined entity able to handle tougher fundamental problems like server infrastructure (which grass-roots has a hard time paying for) or uninteresting problems like QA testing or implementation of a complex automatic submission & build system.

It is my hope that the combined entity will be a good balance of both. The Fedora Project should be able to harness the volunteer community in order to accelerate the pace of innovation in the hobbyist Fedora Linux distribution, while the corporate side benefits from the rapid pace of improvement in their own business end."

I asked Warren if he was going to lead the new fedora project. He laughed and said, "I'm overwhelmed trying to graduate college. I wish I had the time." But it appears that Warren and other major players on the old Fedora Project team will continue to contribute to the new project. There is a page on the Fedora Project site with the official word on project leadership: Michael K. Johnson is at the top and there is no mention at all of the original Fedora Project team. But Warren said "Unofficially the most active fedora.us contributors will become part of the advisory committee."

The new project infrastructure is not yet in place and there is much work to be done before it becomes a "going Jessie." In the interim, Warren says that the old Fedora Project will continue to accept packages, put them through their intensive QA, and make them available in the repository.

I asked Warren what the mood was on the old Fedora project team about the merger. He said:

For the most part the old fedora.us team is very excited. The only drawback has been some disappointment from the mostly non-US members about the removal of packages with licensing issues. Otherwise this opens doors of opportunity because a much larger community of packagers will be joining the project during the next few months. The financial resources and engineering experience that RH brings to the to be able to tackle larger necessary problems that volunteers find uninteresting.

Ultimately we will get a lot more done with the newly combined efforts. Community members will have a lot more say in what the software releases contain. This can only be a win for all parties involved.

Asked about his own feelings on the merger, he said, "I personally feel greatly relieved because managing fedora.us, while fun, has been a severe burden on me during these past 10 months. It has been difficult to manage a full course-load at the University of Hawaii, another part-time job, and maintain constant motion in the project. This is a chance for me to release the burden of leadership and devote necessary time to completing my college degree."

As far as turning over the reins of the project he founded, Warren says he has no regrets, adding, "While I will no longer be in charge of the project,I continue to be a contributor in the formation of policies, procedures and standards that will be fundamental to the new project. This greatly reduces my stress because I no longer have to personally initiate many tasks in order to keep the ball rolling. Ultimately I believe the new steering & advisory committee model of leadership will work better in the long run than an over-worked and grumpy dictator."

I wondered if Red Hat had rewarded Warren and the others for their contributions to the project with huge stacks of cash and such. Evidently not, because when I asked if Red Hat had compensated him, Warren said, " Not at all. I am hoping for at least a hat, but more would be nice. =)(Hint: Not the baseball cap.)"

Joe Barr has been writing about personal computing for 10 years, and about Linux for five. His work has appeared in IBM Personal Systems Journal, LinuxGazette, LinuxWorld, Newsforge, phrack, SecurityFocus, LinuxJournal.com, and VARLinux.org. He is the founder of The Dweebspeak Primer, home of the official newsletter of the Linux Liberation Army, an organization in which he holds the honorary rank of Corporal-for-life.

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The improvements are already showing

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 02, 2003 12:03 AM
in the lattest beta. Download and try it before you judge.

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Re:The improvements are already showing

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 03, 2003 06:21 AM
I have downloaded/installed severn 9.0.93 - have had it running for a weeks atleast, it needs some help in little areas, and most of the problems are seemingly lazy or just missed programming errors. it'll be polished..

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Mandrake

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 02, 2003 12:22 AM
why don't they just admit they are copying Mandrake, this is more like Mandrake than it is like Debian.

I hate it when redhat takes this attitude, for years they refused to offer a decent package management solution because others beat them to it
who was the first to make apt4rpm transmeta?? anyway the point is Mandrake and Suse had good solutions and redhat was just binding its time refusing to adopt any of the Free solutions available.

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Re:Mandrake

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 02, 2003 12:26 AM
Yea, except no. Mandrake is pushing their stupid club memberships and putting banner adds into their installer. And another thing Fedora != RedHat && Fedora != Company.

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Mandrake's Mistakes

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 02, 2003 01:26 AM
First of all, doesn't Mandrake use RPM itself. And what about SuSE? RPM, isn't it?

Now, I don't think RPM is that good, but wrapped up by up2date, you barely need to care about resolving those dependencies. The only major worry is mixing RPMs from different sources where the dependencies may not be compatibly defined. As far as I know, this problem lies at the root of just about every package system for Linux, although I'd love to be corrected on that.

As for Mandrake, they don't seem serious enough in fixing longstanding bugs. Instead, it seems that they're always pushing users onto the next release.

Lesson #1, Mandrake: people who actually use their computers for work, as opposed to installing distro-of-the-week and acting "133T", stick with stuff that already works. And that means that you have to keep supporting your stuff for at least a few months before losing interest.

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Re:Mandrake's Mistakes

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 02, 2003 01:31 AM
Gentoo doesn't have package problems. It compiles programs from source on your system. This is a good and bad thing, but I like it.

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Re:Mandrake

Posted by: Void Main on October 02, 2003 02:47 AM
You have got to be kidding. If it weren't for Red Hat, there would be no Mandrake. Mandrake started off as an off the shelf Red Hat distro with a few tweaks/customizations. And since when is apt-get a Mandrake thing? It's a Debian thing. I can't find any possible comparison between the RH merger with Fedora and Mandrake.

RPM stands for (or used to stand for "Red Hat package manager" and it is what is at the base of Red Hat, Mandrake, SuSE and other distros. It's an excellent package manager. There are several dependency resolvers that are used as front-ends to the basic RPM package manager. up2date, apt-get, yum, urpmi, etc that make life easy for people who don't actually understand the package manager (and even for those that do). contrary to popular belief, apt-get, yum, urpmi, etc are not package managers. In Red Hat, Mandrake, and SuSE the package manager is "rpm". In Debian it's "dpkg".

What makes package life easy in either of these is the front-end such as apt-get (the one I prefer). The front-end is useless without a good repository of software with high quality packages and many of them. This is where Fedora comes in, although I prefer <A HREF="http://www.freshrpms.net/" TITLE="freshrpms.net">FreshRPMS</a freshrpms.net>.

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Re:Mandrake

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 02, 2003 08:52 AM
RPM stands for RPM Package Manager. It used to stand for Red Hat Package Manager.

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You're clueless

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 02, 2003 03:11 AM
> why don't they just admit they are copying Mandrake, this is more like Mandrake than it is like Debian.

Actually, it's more like the (former) relationship between AOL/Netscape and Mozilla, which means that Mandrake copied the approach just as much as Red Hat.

Besides, are you saying that if one Open Source project, such as Mozilla, comes up with a good way to balance development and business, then no one else is allowed to use the same approach?

> I hate it when redhat takes this attitude, for years they refused to offer a decent package management solution because others beat them to it

Ahem. This is why I called you clueless. If you learn a little bit about Linux history, then you can avoid making such silly statements.

First, while Mandrake may have a fully independent (and excellent) distribution now, their original distribution was just a modified copy of Red Hat Linux.

Second, Mandrake and SuSE both use RPM package management. RPM stands (stood?) for Red Hat Package Manager, because it was originally developed by Red Hat. Others were able to adopt it, however, because Red Hat, in their usual pro-Open Source tradition, released all the RPM code under the GPL license.

Now Mandrake and SuSE may have improved their package management procedures since the early RPM days, but it's ridiculous for you to accuse Red Hat of just copying others, and failing to contribute.

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Re:You're clueless

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 02, 2003 07:26 AM
urpmi.
learn what it is.

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Re:Mandrake

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 02, 2003 08:49 AM
Since Mandrake is based on Red Hat that's not really the case.

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URPMI is the operative word in the parent thread

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 02, 2003 08:55 PM
All of these folks that replied that Mandrake has the same package manager as Red Hat have never used Mandrake. I have been using Mandrake since 7.1 and its package manager has always been light years ahead of anything that Red Hat has ever offered, including up2date.

Give credit where credit is due. Red Hat should have picked up urpmi and ran with it. Had it done so, we would have one standard way of distributing software in the rpm world, instead of the mess we have now. It's 2003 and only now is Red Hat coming around to seeing that its way of distributing sofware was problematic.

When somebody makes a point about a piece of software, why don't you investigate it first, instead of just jumping the gun?

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Re:URPMI is the operative word in the parent threa

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 04, 2003 08:59 AM
sounds like apt.
dependancy resolver.
don't be an ass

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Re:Mandrake

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 04, 2003 12:03 PM
Mandrake, Suse, Redhat<nobr> <wbr></nobr>...... tried em' all. Debian is the way to go if you want to stay with the "spirit" of free software. For a real package management solution, try Gentoo. They have taken the solid BSD ports implementation and brought it to Linux.

It's too bad that RedHat is getting out of the Linux distro game, and focusing on integrating proprietary extensions and creating even more open/proprietary application servers and services.

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Re:Mandrake

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 19, 2003 04:41 PM
boo hoo. redhat wants to make some money. shame on them. btw, yum is going to render apt and urpmi obsolete.

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Due Diligence

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 02, 2003 03:40 AM
> The only drawback has been some disappointment from the mostly non-US members about the removal of packages with licensing issues.

I'm not disappointed.

I have always considered the care that Red Hat took with regard to licensing to be a plus.

In fact, that's one of the main reasons that I prefer Red Hat over certain other distributions. For example, I choose to avoid SuSE, who currently <A HREF="http://www.suse.com/us/business/products/sld/index.html" TITLE="suse.com">list the ability to run MS Office</a suse.com> as one of their selling points, and whose YaST software is non-GPL'd, and depends on a proprietary Qt license. Other distributions that I avoid for licensing or lock-in reasons include Lindows, and Xandros.

Along with Red Hat, I also consider Debian and Mandrake to be good in terms of safe licensing policies. Of course, there are many more good distributions.

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Re:Due Diligence

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 02, 2003 04:13 AM
>In fact, that's one of the main reasons that I
> prefer Red Hat over certain other
> distributions. For example, I choose to avoid
> SuSE, who currently list the ability to run MS
> Office as one of their selling points, and

How is the ability to run MS Office bad? wine is GPL, wine allows running MS Office, I dont see the reason for it being bad?!? AbiWord, Gnumeric, OpenOffice all support non-GPL MS file formats. So stop using them too?

> whose YaST software is non-GPL'd, and depends
> on a proprietary Qt license. Other
> distributions that I avoid for licensing or
> lock-in reasons include Lindows, and Xandros.

Qt has long been available as GPL,
read: http://kdemyths.urbanlizard.com/viewMyth.php?myth<nobr>I<wbr></nobr> D=10

and

http://kdemyths.urbanlizard.com/viewMyth.php?myth<nobr>I<wbr></nobr> D=13

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Re:Due Diligence

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 02, 2003 05:21 AM
> How is the ability to run MS Office bad?

Are you serious???

MS Office is the primary foundation of Microsoft's lock-in monopoly. It is utterly irresponsible for SuSE to be promoting its use.

Like so many of the companies that help keep Microsoft in business, SuSE is putting greed ahead of principle.

> AbiWord, Gnumeric, OpenOffice all support non-GPL MS file formats. So stop using them too?

You sound just like the Microsoft astroturfers, who used to tell us that we should forget our lock-in concerns, and "just use what works."

As was the case then, I have trouble believing that you are really blind to the difference.

It's true that we have managed to figure out Microsoft's current set of secret protocols, but so what?

The difference between using OpenOffice and MS Office is this...

OpenOffice will remain open, will continue to support existing MS Office formats, and will continue to promote its own Open Standard formats.

Upcoming versions of MS Office, on the other hand, will depend on new secret protocols, as well as<nobr> <wbr></nobr>.Net, Palladium, and DRM controls. Any customers that are still addicted to MS Office at that time will become more locked-in than ever before. Plus, they will become unwitting pawns in Microsoft's decommoditization of the Internet.

> Qt has long been available as GPL

So what?

That has nothing to do with YaST, because YaST is not under the GPL license. YaST is forced to use the proprietary-licensed version of Qt.

Trolltech astroturfers love SuSE because YaST locks SuSE users into the _proprietary_ license for Qt.

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Re:Due Diligence

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 03, 2003 02:24 PM
its a transitional tool. that has the side effect of making one platform look more flexible than the other one. (all those neat things linux can do that windows cant, even if alot of that i really just X11)

its difficult for non technical users to change everything at once. suses way allows for a safer (read: less scary) transition because the old software is still there just in case. even if its never used. it makes a great transitioning tool. (that document that doesnt open right in OO can open in MS Office and then be translated to the new program that the tech said doesnt have viruses) people are scared of change.

its this kind of transitioning that allowed the german cities to migrate (i think they used vmware not in the mood to look it up), and the city large (they were using citrix for excel, this was long ago, i dont know if theyre still doing that)

MS knows this too, thats why they made Services For Unix. when the user moves to the new platform and brings the old tools, they (hopefully) adapt to the native ones. otherwise they may not have been able to.

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Re:Due Diligence

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 02, 2003 05:40 AM
> How is the ability to run MS Office bad?

I agree with you; I don't think it is bad. I'm guessing that the original poster is simply against proprietary software in all shapes and forms--thus making advertising of the ability to run such software even be seen as detrimental. While I understand and respect that position, I personally have to disagree with it. I do try to avoid using proprietary apps (and am mostly successful, though I occasionally use Matlab and Maple), but I think it's perfectly fine (and in some cases even beneficial) to enable such apps to run on the free/open source desktop.

> AbiWord, Gnumeric, OpenOffice all support non-GPL MS file formats. So stop using them too?

You seem to be going a little off topic here. He was talking about applications, not file formats. The apps you listed are FLOSS (Free/Libre/Open Source Software) and also have open file formats in addition to supporting those locked into Microsoft's proprietary file formats.

> Qt has long been available as GPL,
Here you are either completely off-topic or you didn't understand the original poster. Yes, Qt is available under the GPL--and it is also available under a proprietary license. SUSE decided to make YaST proprietary, necessitating the purchase of the proprietary Qt license. SUSE doesn't seem to mind including and even making proprietary software. Some people don't mind this, and among those you'll find some devout SUSE users. However, many people do mind and thus avoid SUSE. Personally, I find myself agreeing with the latter group.

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Re:Due Diligence

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 02, 2003 03:35 PM
> I do try to avoid using proprietary apps (and am
> mostly successful, though I occasionally use
> Matlab and Maple)

Octave is a free replacement to Matlab
http://www.octave.org

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A non-US-centric version would be welcome

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 02, 2003 05:49 AM
Redhat was the only mainstream distro with solid Gnome support and now fedora.US is inheriting their subservience to the protectionist commercial policies of the United States of America.

More power to anyone who likes KDE but it just doesn't suit my tastes (this is no flame but just stating my personal opinion). I can handle Gnome under other distros with some extra effort but why isn't there a Gnome-based distro for us 6 billion non-USians? Someone (with some resources) should do a "mandrake", but using Gnome this time...

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Re:A non-US-centric version would be welcome

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 02, 2003 03:53 PM
Can you please explain how Red Hat is "US-centric", and how Mandrake/other distros are not (other than Mandrake is _made_ outside the US)? How does it affect you?
I'm not flaming, just want to know. I'm also outside the US (I'm Italian) and haven't run into any particular problems with that.
(I must admit I haven't tried any versions of Red Hat after the 7.x series. At home I still have the 7.2 release, while at work I've switched to Debian.)

By the way, I'm using Gnome on Debian (the unofficial Gnome 2 backport to Woody, very stable despite the "unofficial" label) and I'm very happy with it. You may give it a try.

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Re:A non-US-centric version would be welcome

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 02, 2003 07:27 PM
Red Hat comes in for so much criticism from KDE fanatics because it has never accepted that KDE is THE ONE TRUE DESKTOP DESIGNATED BY GOD.

It's really quite irritating to see zealots slagging them off for not having "pure" KDE packages and claiming this reduces choice -- when SUSE's GNOME packages were/are/will continue to be, a disgrace.

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Re:A non-US-centric version would be welcome

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 21, 2003 06:40 AM
Who cares about few packages missing because of stupid US licensing? You can get them within days of release from freshrpms, or some other high quality 3rd party repository.

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Hardware support

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 02, 2003 06:13 AM
I am worried that I am going to lose good non-gpl'd hardware support. I still want to play my games, but I just don't like suse.

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Re:Hardware support

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 02, 2003 04:04 PM
Just don't do a fresh reinstall. If you upgrade your Red Hat/Fedora version without wiping the hard disk, software that you have already installed isn't going to be removed.

And nothing prevents you from installing/reinstalling software that isn't part of the official release, in any case.

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Packages with licensing issues

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 12, 2003 01:49 PM
There seems to be a lot of dicsussion about these packages. Can anyone point to an actual list of the packages in question? TIA

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Re:Packages with licensing issues

Posted by: quickening on November 04, 2003 04:51 AM
Take a look at freshrpms.net, gurulabs, or atrpms.physik.fu-berlin.de for Redhat, or the Penguin Liberation Front at plf.zarb.org for Mandrake.

On rpmfind.net, look at the "contrib" directories.

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RH8 and 9 servers?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 04, 2003 06:03 AM
For people used to RH8 and 9 and using it on servers, two options: Enterprise Linux or Fedora.
But for people living and working on the 3rd world, without much resources, with businesses that are not profitable at this time (mine is an example, we need to sell more or will be broke!), there is only one option: Fedora.
Ok, this people could migrate to other distributions, for example Debian or Mandrake, but what if they are very used to Red Hat?
Will Fedora be very similar to RH8 or 9 and will it have timely updates in an easy to install way?
That's what scares me a bit... aside from the fact that we have to migrate all the servers real soon (end of december) which is something not that easy.

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Re:RH8 and 9 servers?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 12, 2003 12:00 AM
I am checking things out because I am in the same position as you.

Fedora = RHL 9+

The updates are there (ethereal patch just appeared in my update list). Learn how to use yum. You can run yum from a cron job daily to keep your servers up to date.

Don't worry, everything looks very good for the moment.

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