October 12, 2006

Red Hat Speaks

Jesse Keating on the naming of Fedora

This month we speak with Jesse Keating, Release engineer for Fedora Core.

Red Hat Magazine: How does the process of naming the release work? About how long does it take, and how many folks are involved?

Jesse Keating: Naming the release used to be a secret act of those left in the building when the final isos were about to be spun. Usually this involved a late night hack session, junkfood, and the usual sleep deprived silliness. Long before I came to Red Hat the names weren't even cleared by legal, but times they have changed. A few releases ago, a set of proposed names were dreamed up within the walls of Red Hat and ran through Legal for acceptance. The names that cleared Legal were basically voted on by a small cabal of Red Hat employees (and maybe a community member or two...). With the last release (Fedora Core 5) we decided to let the community of Fedora contributors both supply a list of possible names and vote on the pre-cleared names to pick the release name. This tradition continued with Fedora Core 6, although the survey link got shared in many more places. With the next release of Fedora, we will be taking advantage of the hard work done on the Fedora Voting System which would restrict votes to those individuals whom have Fedora Accounts and thus are contributors in one way or another.

RHM: Why run them through Legal?

Keating: Naming products is risky business. We need to make sure that the name we give our release isn't trademarked in any competing way. Imagine the trouble if we had named Fedora Core 6 "Vista"...

RHM: What function does the name of the version serve?

Keating: A more "human" way to reference the release, rather than using a dry numbering system. There is deep tradition in giving releases of software a codename.

RHM: Is it referred to by its name as much as by its version? Why do both?

Keating: Because it's fun!

RHM: Are there any cool stories behind the previous version names?

Keating: I'm sure there are. I've heard a few, but I'm not allowed to repeat them. Part of the fun with naming releases is the speculation around the name. All the codenames given to the Red Hat Linux releases and now the Fedora Core releases are connected. Each is connected to the previous name, but not in the same way that the previous name is connected to the name before it. Part of the fun in suggesting names is to create a difficult way out for the next time around. More creative names are chosen this way, rather than your typical Cities or animation characters.

RHM: What are the contending names for this release?

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Keating: The names that pre-cleared legal to be voted on were:

Tuatha de Danaan

RHM: When will we know the name of Fedora Core 6?

Keating: Soon (:

RHM: What is your position at Red Hat, and how are you involved with the release of FC6?

Keating: I am a Software Engineer in the Release Configuration Management Team, but more to the point I'm a Release Engineer. Part of my release engineering duties covers the releases of Fedora Core. I get to babysit the build system, fiddle with the software we use to create releases, manage schedules and expectations for the release, and occasionally rebuild a large chunk of the distribution for one reason or another. This is why my name ends up on a LOT of the package changelogs every release.

RHM: Which do you think would win in a fight, Bordeaux or Heidelberg--and why?

Keating: That's an interestingly vague question. I won't even begin to think about the respective French and German cities waging war on eachother... If we're talking Fedora releases, well newer is always better right? PLUS I was the release engineer for the last bit of Bordeaux, so obviously that would win.

RHM: If you weren't toiling away for Red Hat and Fedora, where would you be right now, and what would you be doing?

Keating: Well if you take away my day job, and my hobby (Fedora / Linux) that led me to my day job, you don't leave me with much. I'd probably be at home playing with my newborn son Eamon, and dreaming up new ways to take over the world.