October 12, 2006

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Introducing Fedora Core 6

by Max Spevack and Rahul Sundaram

Welcome back! We continue our discussion of some of the new features in Fedora Core 6. In case you're joining us late, you can go back and read the first part, which focuses on desktop improvements and performance boosts.

In this article, we'll look at some of the enhancements to system administration, as well as some lower-level improvements in Fedora.

Desktop Update Notifications

Back in March when we released Fedora Core 5, one of the engineering decisions we made was to throw away the up2date and rhn-applet packages, because they weren't seeing much use from the Fedora user base, and as a result they weren't getting the maintenance and attention they deserved.

Now, up2date had long been second-fiddle to yum as the package manager of choice for Fedora users, but the removal of rhn-applet left us without a package that served as a desktop notification tool that would alert users when new packages are available.

Fedora Core 6 has a solution to that problem--a package named yum-updatesd, also known as "Puplet".

Where does the name Puplet come from? Well, the command-line package management tool that we ship is called Yum, which originally stood for "Yellow Dog Updater, Modified". The graphical interface placed on top of Yum was then named "Pup", and so when you combine the functionality of Pup with the applet-style notifications that previously were delivered by rhn-applet, well, you're left with "Puplet" as the name that makes the most sense.

So how does Puplet work? The Fedora Infrastructure team has rolled out a new mirror management system, the goal of which is to ensure that end users are directed to mirrors that are both active and current. Checks are performed hourly against the mirrors to verify that the repository metadata is in sync with the master repository (hosted by the Fedora Project).

What's the end result actually look like? Here's one example, which also shows Puplet's ability to inform the user about errors, like a network connection not being active:


Graphical virtualization manager

Shifting gears for a moment, let's talk about some of the new virtualization functionality in Fedora Core 6. We've seen a lot of work go into Fedora Core 5 and Fedora Core 6 around Xen, but one of the pieces that was always kind of missing was a simple tool that would make it easier for users to play around with the technology--to set up a Xen instance on their box and see how it worked, and whether or not it was a feature that might be useful for them. If it's not as simple as possible to try it, then the barrier to entry is too high.

Enter virt-manager. Starting with the libvirt API, Red Hat's Emerging Technologies group has created a graphical management tool for your Xen instances:


Future plans include additional support for other virtualization platforms like QEMU or VMWare. Additionally, a tool called Cobbler is also in development, which takes the graphical management tool idea to other frequently used sysadmin tools like PXE and kickstart.

SELinux usability

SELinux is not a new technology for Red Hat--it shipped in Fedora Core 3, and also in Red Hat® Enterprise Linux® 4. It's a powerful security technology, but implementation and proper deployment of it does take a reasonable amount of technical knowledge. We strive to lower that bar while not reducing the effectiveness of SELinux.

In Fedora Core 6, we have included setroubleshoot, a tool that helps users understand and respond to security access denials that occur under SELinux.

Notifications are provided in the desktop system tray, and can also be delivered via email. Additionally, setroubleshoot provides a browser, which gives additional details and outlines the steps to take to correct problems. Ultimately, the goal of this tool is to make SELinux technology as accessible as possible. If you haven't enabled SELinux on your machine because you're "not quite sure how it will work, then perhaps these screenshots will give you the confidence to try something new.


We see a recurring theme in some of Fedora Core 6's new features--the graphical virtualization manager, the SELinux usability tools, and even Puplet. Taking some of the newest and most interesting technologies that exist in the open source world and making them easy enough for your average desktop Linux user to consume and be productive with.

If you'd like to be a part of that, we encourage you to visit the Fedora homepage and join our community.

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About the author

Rahul Sundaram is a Fedora Project Board member and contributor to multiple Fedora sub-projects. He is also part of the One Laptop per Child team casually changing the world. Max Spevack is the Fedora Project Leader.