Tech Industry

Outsiders help Red Hat with Opteron

Independent programmers release a test version of the company's Fedora version of Linux for Opteron, a modest success in Red Hat's effort to engage outside developers.

Independent programmers have released a test version of Red Hat's Fedora version of Linux for Advanced Micro Devices' Opteron processor, a modest success in the company's effort to engage outside developers.

Programmer Justin M. Forbes on Saturday released the preview version that runs on AMD's 64-bit Opteron and Athlon 64 processors. Red Hat's version of Fedora, by contrast, works on 32-bit processors such as Intel's Pentium and AMD's Athlon, but it can't take advantage of Opteron features such as the ability to use more memory.


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Fedora is Red Hat's free version of Linux, but unlike its predecessors, it's intended chiefly for experimental use. For customers that need long-term support and assurances that Linux will work with specific hardware and software, Red Hat sells its Enterprise Linux product.

The Fedora project is a formalization of some of the workings of the open-source community, in which anyone can see, change and redistribute software. Red Hat loosened controls over Fedora in an attempt to enlist the aid of Linux programming enthusiasts in developing as well as just testing the software.

The Fedora project helped persuade Forbes, 27, who's from the Dallas area, to get involved.

"The Fedora policies have really made this possible," Forbes said in an interview. "I won't say that it couldn't have been done before; it would have been much more difficult."

Forbes was attracted because Fedora offers outsiders easier access to Red Hat programmers and eventually the power to authorize what software is used in the software, he said.

Fedora hasn't gone over well with some, however. Before the introduction of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux plan in 2002, the corporate version of its software could be obtained for free.

The move to Red Hat Enterprise Linux has helped the company achieve better profits. But withdrawing the free corporate version could hurt the company by curtailing trial use of its software, said Stephen O'Grady of analyst firm RedMonk. "Red Hat in many cases is going to miss out on that opportunity," O'Grady said.

One group irked by the Fedora change was educational customers, who rarely have plump computing technology budgets. Red Hat hopes to keep those customers happy with low-cost education market products expected to emerge as soon as this week.