On running developmental versions of Linux

by davidnielsen

As those who know me would testify to, I have a sickening desire to run developmental versions of Linux. For a long time Fedora has been the poison of choice. Now why do I put my only machine through this kind of insanity, afterall I need it for productivity (read: talking to my girlfriend who lives in the US using Skype[1]).

Anyways, why do I do this, first of all why Fedora:

1) Fedora is a GNOME distribution, I love GNOME therefore my choice of distro depends on who supports my desktop of choice best – this seems to leave at present Fedora and Ubuntu.

2) Fedora focuses on security, while I personally don’t have anything on my machine that’s worth peaking into, the number of machines on the net these days that are broken into for this reason is fairly small compared to those infected to be part of spambot nets. I would rather not add to the discomfort of others as I get about 40 spammails currently that escape the Evolution filter. To avoid this we need desperatedly to improve security in Linux overall, being marginally better than the worse vendor out there (Windows) is simply not good enough anymore. I’m very impressed with the things Fedora has deployed so far and I continue to plead other vendors to follow suit but they simply don’t take this seriously.. a pity.

3) Fedora is a well tested product, polished and generally a pleasure to use – it’s easy to install and easy to teach others to use. My only polish regrets would be that the bootsplash doesn’t somehow fade directly from grub into the rhgb thingy, it’s sorta unprofessional to show kernel messages these days.

4) Fedora includes cutting edge technology, it might take a cycle or two to get the kinks out of them or get them fully deployed, but Fedora pushes technologies like Xen and SELinux. I feel it’s good for all of Linux that RedHat is willing to pioneer these efforts.

5) Fedora contributes back, this is important to me – I’ve seen distributions like Ubuntu develop cool technologies like Rosetta, but nowhere do I see the sourcecode for it. Release early, release often – isn’t that the mantra open source lives by?

6) Fedora is supported for a long time by RedHat and Fedora Legacy enables the community to provide enterprise length support for the releases following. They backport important updates like the kernel, X and OpenOffice to older releases to keep them fresh and to remove bugs. While a risky decision, the testing community generally provides enough testing to ensure that the updates are safeish (not counting the X update recently for FC4 I don’t think I’ve heard about a bad update for Fedora to be honest, and that one only affected a few chipsets).

7) Fedora is a technology testbed, for RedHat Enterprise Linux and Linux in general. I see this a good thing, I like RedHat they contribute a lot of time and code, I personally want to see them turn a profit and have a good product for their enterprise customers. RedHat drives development in many areas, glibc, gcc, gnu classpath, the kernel by employing a lot of talented people, repaying them by testing features in Fedora is fine by me. Afterall Fedora is a stable product and if I don’t want to stay on the edge the older releases are still supported and should settle down.

8) Fedora supports open source and has a strong stance on software patents – some people don’t like the fact that they can’t watch DVDs or XViD movies on Fedora out of the box – it’s easy to add, protecting the community and RedHat from lawsuits is important, as well as levelaging open formats by having this stance we point the issue out to new users.

Now back to why I run Development:

1) I like being on the bleeding edge, seeing new programs and new features – I can handle myself with gdb well enough to file bugreports if something breaks, which in Fedora’ honor must be said doesn’t happen that often really.

2) What I break in Development has a chance to be fixed before users get the finished product in their hands – this ensures a better product overall, knowing that I’m playing a little part in this makes me feel good.

3) It’s fun, it’s that simple – I have fun every day following the mailinglists and issuing yum update commands, hoping for the best. I have fun dealing with the developers, fun filing bugs, fun debating changes.

[1] I promise solemnly that I’ll switch to an open source alternative once one arrives that can provide me features similar to SkypeIn and SkypeOut as I need them. I’ll even pay more money for such a service if it goes toward supporting the use of open protocols and standards. I hear GnomeMeeting 2 will feature something like this in collaboration with some company.