Monday, May 16, 2011

The Red Hat Connection with Fedora

Red Hat Linux is one of the earliest created Linux distributions, having been invented by Marc Ewing in 1994. Ewing actually began working on the distribution, then known as Red Hat Software Linux, in December of 1992, soon after he graduated from Carnegie Mellon University.

According to legend—because you can have legends in under 20 years on the Internet—the name ‘‘Red Hat’’ came from Ewing’s habit of wearing a red hat while at CMU. The name stuck, even after Ewing’s company was purchased by entrepreneur Bob Young in 1995.

Red Hat’s initial popularity is attributed to some key technological advantages it had over other Linux distributions of the time. One such advantage was the addition of a graphical configuration system used when installing Red Hat. Primitive by today’s standards, nonetheless this simple series of installation screens was hugely helpful for those early adopters who wanted to try out Linux.

Another advantage Red Hat had was how software applications were distributed for the Red Hat Linux platform. Recall that while open source and free software is always available in its source code form, such a format is not easy to use. What software developers must do is deliver their application in a form that’s easy to install. On Windows, this is done with a self-executing file that users can double-click and have the new program installed.

On Linux, such an approach is not a good idea. Self-executing installs can bring a host of mistakes and potentially malicious changes to a computer, and at the most fundamental level, all Linux systems resist such packages. Instead, applications are installed using packages. A Linux package can contain many of the same files as a Windows installation routine, but the control of the installation lies with the package manager—not the package itself.

Package managers will not only ensure the package is properly and safely put together, but they will also make sure that any other software the application needs will be installed as well.

Red Hat’s advantage here was the introduction of the RPM package management system. RPM packages are one of two major Linux packaging systems (the other being Debian GNU/Linux’s DEB package system).

Over the next nine years, Red Hat Linux would continue to capitalize on these and other advantages, devoting much of its marketing and sales efforts to getting Linux into the workplace; specifically, the enterprises which are organizations with 500 or more computer users. By targeting this market, Red Hat was essentially aiming for the low-hanging fruit; there aren’t a lot of enterprise-level customers out there, but it only takes a few to really build your revenue stream.

But this approach, while commercially successful, gave Red Hat a problem. While Red Hat Linux was becoming increasingly popular in the corporate world, the community-oriented developer and user bases that had helped to bring Red Hat Linux to where it was technologically were feeling increasingly disenfranchised. What good was it to develop cutting-edge software, the community complained, when Red Hat, fearing any software instability for its well-heeled enterprise customers, would only include it after a laborious quality control process?

This issue was serious enough to prompt Red Hat to launch several community outreach programs—because if the community began to vote with their feet and walk away from Red Hat, highly valuable development resources could be lost, and Red Hat’s community reputation would plummet. Some of this outreach helped, but in the end, it took the birth of a new distribution and the death of Red Hat Linux to help save Red Hat.

Red Hat Linux is one of three major branches of Linux distributions that exist today. Many successful distributions, including Fedora, are based on Red Hat Linux, such as Red Flag, a popular Chinese distribution, and Yellow Dog, a flavor of Linux designed to run on Apple's Mac hardware.

Source of Information : Cengage-Introducing Fedora 2010

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