Red Hat releases newest Fedora

Among other features, the free Linux package comes with the Xen virtualization software and version 4 of GCC.

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Stephen Shankland
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Red Hat has released Fedora Core 4, a free version of Linux the company is using to advance virtualization, programming tools and other software at the frontier of open-source development.

Among other features, Fedora Core 4--released Monday--comes with the Xen virtualization software, which lets multiple operating systems run on the same computer. Xen competes with software from EMC's VMware and with Microsoft virtual machine products.

Additionally, the new Fedora was built using the new version 4 of GCC, the GNU Compiler Collection--tools that translate human-written source code into computer-readable binary instructions. GCC 4 brings a new framework that its advocates hope will lead to better performance.

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As previously reported, the new Fedora works on machines with Power processors, such as the PowerPC G4 in Apple Computer's Mac Mini. In years ahead, those systems could become harder to find as Apple moves to Intel processors, though many IBM servers use chips in the Power family. Fedora Core 4 also runs on 32-bit and 64-bit chips, such as Intel's Xeon and Advanced Micro Devices' Athlon 64.

Red Hat launched the Fedora project in 2003 to help mature Linux and higher-level software more quickly and to feed enthusiasts' appetite for the latest features. However, for long-term support from the company, customers must purchase Red Hat Enterprise Linux, which involves an annual subscription fee.

More recently, Red Hat has been trying to become a more neutral participant in the project, so more outside developers will be drawn to the effort. The Raleigh, N.C.-based company established the Fedora Foundation earlier this month to give outsiders greater say in running the project and developing the software.

Fedora competes with enthusiast projects such as Ubuntu and commercial products such as Novell's Suse Linux Professional. As of later this week, Fedora will also be up against Sun Microsystems' OpenSolaris.

Fedora Core 4 was initially expected to be released May 16 but was delayed. Though the software became available for download through Red Hat's Web site Monday, enthusiasts found they could download it from mirror sites and through the BitTorrent file-sharing service on Saturday.

The operating system, based on version 2.6.11 of the Linux kernel, is optimized for Pentium 4 processors, Red Hat said in the software's release notes. However, the OS can work on a machine as slow as a 400MHz Pentium II or, if a user is happy with a text-only interface, a Pentium. A minimum of 256MB of memory is recommended for the 32-bit x86 version and 512MB for the 64-bit x86 version.

Fedora for PowerPC systems works on Macintoshes from about 1999 or later that use G3 or succeeding chips, according to the release notes. It also works on IBM's pSeries servers using Power4 and Power5 processors.

Fedora Core 4 uses version 2.10 of Gnome or version 3.4 of the KDE graphical desktop software. It includes the Evince software for reading Portable Document Format (PDF) documents, and OpenOffice.org 2.0. It also includes the Global File System (GFS) software for distributing files across a group of computers.

Fedora is getting more streamlined as programmers move several software packages from the "core" software list to the accompanying "extras." Software that has been moved to extras includes the Abiword word processor, the XMMS media player, the Gnumeric spreadsheet and the Freeciv game.