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Re: [fab] slashdot rough draft



Max Spevack wrote:
Hi guys,

Here's a rough draft of a big chunk of the slashdot stuff. For any of you to read, mainly from a content perspective and BS-detector perspective, as well as anything that I'm just completely off in left field on.

There's almost certainly typos, so please excuse them -- this is not a final draft, but I want to get some eyeballs on what I have so far, since /. is eager to get the answers.

Thanks,
Max


------------------------------------------------------------------------

Hi everyone. I'm looking forward to answering all of the questions, but before I start diving into that, I guess it would be useful to give a little bit of perspective about me and my role within Fedora and Red Hat, because it will offer some context around the things I have to say.

The Fedora Project, as many of you know, is a partnership between Red Hat and the OSS community. The highest level of decision-making within Fedora is the Fedora Project Board, a group that is empowered to make the decisions about Fedora policy, to set priorities, and to hold the rest of the Fedora sub-projects accountable for what they are doing. The Fedora Board has nine members, five of whom are Red Hat employees, and four of whom are community members. In addition, the Board has a Chairman, and that person is whoever happens to hold the position of "Fedora Project Leader" within Red Hat -- since February of this past year, that's been me.


Would be good to point out that the current board is transitioning. We are also moving towards having all the board members being elected members with the exception of the the lead. Also the number of Red Hat vs community members are not set in stone.



As much as possible, we try to conduct our business within the confines of the Fedora Advisory Board, which is a larger group (about 50) of the most prominent contributors to Fedora. This is an open mailing list with public archives and open-posting, and its participation is strong both from @redhat.com and community contributors.

For more information about the Fedora Project Board, please <a href="http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Board";>see our website</a>.

In the spirit of complete transparency, a word about the answers:

All of them were composed directly by me -- it's my voice and writing style that you're reading. But, I didn't answer them all by myself without speaking to anyone else. I discussed some of them with folks on the Fedora Advisory Board mailing list, with various colleagues at Red Hat, and a draft of the responses was shown to Red Hat's corporate communications team (not because they have any editorial control over what I say, but as a sign of respect) and a draft was also shown to Fedora Advisory Board.

=========================

Why such a divide?
(Score:5, Insightful)
by dsginter It seems to me that 'Linux should be Linux'. Rather, we're seeing articles about one linux distro killing another. We never see "Windows Professional is killing Windows Home". IMHO, Ubuntu's success should be a boon for all Linux distros.

Unfortunately, package management seems to be the great divide. What are you doing to bring One Package Manager to all Linux?

A)

I agree with your initial comment -- one of the great powers of OSS is that when you have a strong upstream in place that is always having changes fed back to it, success for one distribution translates to success for all distributions.

When you look at the landscape of all the many Linux distros out there, it isn't surprising that there's some level of competition among them. Most people want to feel like they are the best at what they do, and a certain amount of competition among distros is healthy. It keeps people innovating, it keeps them working hard, etc. Personally, I think it's important not to lose the perspective that in the end, everyone who works on OSS -- regardless of whether they run Fedora, Ubuntu, Slackware, or any other distro -- is ultimately working to promote the same core set of principles.

To speak directly about Fedora:

First, we believe very strongly in working with various upstreams. In my opinion, the diff between any package that we ship in Fedora and the upstream version should be as small as possible at any given time, and we should be constantly submitting our patches and changes upstream for consideration. To your point about "one package manager to rule them all" -- well, I think it's an admirable goal. Do I think it would be a good thing for Linux to begin to standardize on a single package manager? Yes, I do. Does Red Hat have strong ties to RPM? Of course -- that goes without saying. But what does that mean for Fedora? Well, Fedora is also tied to RPM -- but that doesn't mean that the Board is unopen to considering the idea of change. RPM is the reality of the moment. If there's a better solution that gains a critical mass of Fedora engineers who are interested in experimenting with it, then we will try it out.

You ask specifically what Fedora is doing to bring about a "one package manager to all Linux" -- well, I guess there's a couple of directions that Fedora could go:

1) Try to convince anyone not using RPM to do so. I don't like that idea very much -- if RPM is the tool you want to use, feel free. If you've got something that works better for you, that's fine too.

Might consider pointing out the RPM is a lower level layer and that we are using Yum and graphical interfaces on top for the end user. We are likely to get silly RPM vs Apt-get comparisons otherwise.



2) Fedora could abandon RPM in favor of another package manager. Like I said -- if Fedora engineers want to start the "Fedora $OTHER_PACKAGE_MANAGER Project" and see how far they can get and how the technology works, that would be a great learning experience. We're set up in a way that a project like that could be possible, without getting in the way of the mainline Fedora releases.

3) Try to create something entirely new, that everyone will love. Call me cynical, but trying to build a consensus before you actually have any code just seems like a waste of time.

I guess the "problem" with package managers is that they are so integral to the rest of a distro that it's a major endeavor to switch them. This leads to a high level of inertia, and therefore requires a tremendous added benefit that is gained by making a switch.

=========================

Vista a Problem?
(Score:5, Interesting)
by eldavojohn Do you view Vista as a threat to your user base? Do you or people on your team ever change your mind about things or let looming Vista influence your decisions?

I'm hoping that Linux distros are not pressured into adding unneeded bells and whistles in a desperate attempt to compete with Vista. Are you invulnerable from this mentality?

A)

Truthfully, everything I know about Vista I learned in two places -- right here on /. and on the mini-MSFT blog. I don't particularly pay any attention to it, and I can't really tell you what is or is not supposed to be in it at this point in time, or when it's going to ship (insert your jokes here). I used to have a XP partition that I'd boot to for gaming -- probably not unlike a good number of /. folks -- but it's been over a year since I blew that away and I haven't looked back.

Worth pointing that Fedora doesnt have any pressure to compete as a commercial product with Vista directly.


In terms of getting people to use Linux instead of proprietary operating systems -- I think that battle is best fought in the world of people who are new to computers. People will tend to be loyal to the first thing that *just works* and doesn't cause them pain. Making that first experience for people a Linux one as opposed to a proprietary one -- that's the challenge.

By the way, I'm not suggesting that you can't show long-time proprietary software users the light of open source, but it's a much more gradual process: "Another virus, huh? Hey, have you heard of Firefox and Thunderbird? Let me help you set them up, you might like it."

Web exploits in IE might more relevant to Firefox compared to viruses.



=========================

Goals
(Score:5, Insightful)
by redkazuo

While Ubuntu has a clear, selfless mission, it seems to me the Fedora project misses this. I'm sure while Fedora was still within Red Hat, its mission was simply commercial. "It must be good so we can make money." That mission no longer applies, and http://fedora.redhat.com/About/ [redhat.com] almost sounds like Fedora is just a rejected part of Red Hat, left Free so that they could attempt to profit from community contributions.

Is there an objective in the Fedora Project? One that is clear and may motivate developers to join? Or is it here really just to reduce costs for the Red Hat team?

A)


We do have a objectives page now at http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Objectives linked from the wiki overview and FAQ.


I'm really glad this question was asked, because it gives me a chance to try to bust the NUMBER ONE MYTH about Fedora -- that Fedora is "just a beta for RHEL" or that "Fedora only exists to make Red Hat money" or "Red Hat doesn't care about Fedora, it's just a dumping ground for half-tested code". I hear all of those things from time to time, and *none* of them are true.

Let's back up for a moment -- the Red Hat Linux/Fedora Core split took place in 2003, I believe. And while I wasn't at Red Hat during that time, I think it's fair to state that there were some unfortunate choices made internally about how Fedora was positioned, and because those statements were made with a Red Hat voice, it helped to create a very strong perception that Red Hat abandoned the community, and that Fedora wasn't "good" for anything. I think there were some people within Red Hat who were afraid that the "admission" that Fedora was production-quality, or that Fedora was anything more than beta-quality, would cause difficulty for the people trying to sell RHEL. Three years later, and that perception is still very strong in certain places -- without fail there are a few comments about that in every Slashdot story that mentions Fedora.

And that's fine. Red Hat had a part in creating that perception, and so Red Hat will have to work particularly hard to undo it.

The real story of Fedora, of course, is entirely opposite from the "beta code only, not production worthy" stance.

Our mission statement is clear, and is one that I think any open-source developer would appreciate.

Fedora is about the rapid progress of free and open source software.

That's it. We strive to produce a quality distribution of free software that is cutting-edge, pushes the envelope of new open source technology, and is also robust enough that it can be relied on for server or desktop use. One of the terms that I really like, and that I think we're doing better and better of making a reality is that of Fedora as an "open development lab".

The second half of the story, as it relates to Red Hat's desire to make a profit, is equally simple in my mind. Fedora is upstream of RHEL. Fedora is also upstream of various other derivative distributions -- CentOS, for example.

Link to http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/DerivedDistributions. Also mentioning derivatives like say Planet CCRMA and K12LTSP and that we are working on integrating and coordinating with them, open to others is probably more relevant than CentOS


So when someone says "Fedora is beta for RHEL" they are stating only a very small part of what Fedora is. It's true that what begins to show up in Fedora today will possibly make its way into RHEL down the road, but it is *also true* that Fedora stands on its own as a distribution.

RHEL is a subset of Fedora which has packages that Red Hat integrates into a commercial product while the Fedora universe is and can be more much larger.




=========================

Directory Server
(Score:5, Interesting)
by IMightB Hi, I've been using Fedora Directory Server for quite a while, and it is a fantastic product. I read some rumours that it would be Integrated with FC5, but sadly it was not. When can we expect this to be a standard feature/integrated with authentication and other areas in Fedora?

A)

Regrettably, answering this question honestly also requires admission that the integration of Fedora Directory Server and the rest of the Fedora Project (particularly Fedora Core/Extras) hasn't happened as quickly as many would have liked. Directory Server is a great piece of software, but the true merging of that into Fedora Core is something that doesn't have a lot of traction at the moment. The Directory Server community isn't necessarily very well integrated with the rest of the Fedora community, and therefore the two communities are in a similar state to that of the two projects -- in theory capable of being very good together, but in practice sort of just existing side by side, but not as closely knit as they could be.

Partially the reason is that Fedora directory server was a proprietary product and needs to be complete Free software and work on Free stack such as GCJ with full functionality before being integrated into Fedora Project.



When will that change? As soon as we can get enough people on both sides of that fence able to spend the cycles necessary. I can't give an exact date, because one doesn't exist right now, so I'd rather not just make something up.

=========================

Have you tried Ubuntu?
(Score:5, Interesting)
by Anonymous Coward

Have you tried Ubuntu yourself? Is there, in your opinion, something Ubuntu does better than Fedora?

A)

Those of you hoping for some flamebait, I'm sorry to disappoint.

Yes, I have tried Ubuntu. I have played around with SuSE, though not in any significant way for a year or so. Prior to coming to Red Hat in August of 2004, I had always been a Slackware devotee, and my subscription with them is still active.

So what does Ubuntu do better than Fedora?

Let me start without even mentioning the actual distributions. I think it is clear to anyone who is looking that Ubuntu's website is in much better shape than Fedora's. Ubuntu.com is clean, clear, and easy to navigate for people who are browsing it, and if you dig down a little bit, you can also get to the Ubuntu wiki, which from what I can tell, serves a similar purpose to the fedoraproject.org wiki.

Here's the difference -- fedoraproject.org is *just* a wiki. It's got a tremendous amount of information, and as someone who uses the site frequently, I know how to find what I'm looking for. But it has a bit of a learning curve before it becomes useful.

Fedora's websites are in a state of flux -- fedora.redhat.com is deprecated, but the killing off of that site is taking longer than I would have hoped. Our wiki gets the job done, but I'd like to see a more professional looking front-end put on it, with the wiki continuing to function as it does, but just ever-so-slightly in the background. The biggest hurdle to making that happen -- just having enough cycles and enough people to do the job properly.

Its not just the website but the infrastructure such as the I18N one which is taking its time.



That aside, I am impressed by Ubuntu's LiveCD, directly installable feature. We have similar work going on within Fedora, but so far it hasn't achieved the same level of "officialness" as the Ubuntu code. So that's an area in which Ubuntu is ahead of Fedora.

I played around recently with Dapper Drake. Like I said, the LiveCD was cool. The desktop -- Gnome is pretty much Gnome, Firefox is Firefox, etc. Personally I'm a huge fan of NetworkManager, which didn't appear to be the default in Dapper, but something like that is just a detail. I'm sure if I were to use Dapper full time and I wanted it, I could probably get it.

This goes back to what I wrote near the beginning about the importance of upstream. If everyone is pushing their latest work back upstream, and the maintainers at the top level have the time and resources that they need to keep everything in order, then most GNU/Linux distros are going to feel pretty similar once they are installed. Which is why I think a lot of the OSS "religious wars" don't make a lot of sense.


Rahul


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