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Fedora Core 3, the latest release of Red Hat Inc.’s free, unsupported, bleeding-edge Linux distribution, is stacked with changes that include the way it partitions disks by default and the appearance of the window managers that ship with it.

Click here to read the full review of Fedora Core 3.

Fedora Core 3, the latest release of Red Hat Inc.’s free, unsupported, bleeding-edge Linux distribution, is stacked with changes that include the way it partitions disks by default and the appearance of the window managers that ship with it.

As with the previous two releases, Fedora Core 3, which became available this month, is a strong general-purpose Linux distribution and ships with a good variety of open-source software. It also benefits from a range of precompiled packages of other software not included by default that’s rivaled only by Debian GNU/Linux.

However, vendors of commercial, enterprise-oriented software for Linux tend to ignore Fedora, instead certifying their wares only for Red Hat’s Enterprise Linux and Novell Inc.’s SuSE Linux Enterprise Server—both of which require per-seat subscription fees.

Another concern for companies considering Fedora as a low-cost Linux option is the rapid rate of new releases. Although the Fedora Project produces security updates for Fedora releases as needed, it has already stopped providing updates for Fedora Core 1, which first shipped just over a year ago. This will continue to be an issue for companies that don’t want to upgrade about once a year.

A separate group, called the Fedora Legacy Project, now provides security updates for discontinued Fedora releases, but it will be some time before we can judge how much faith to place in the Legacy Project—particularly as end-of-life Fedora releases begin to pile up. (At the time this was written, the Legacy Project had released five updates for Fedora Core 1.)

At this point, eWEEK Labs believes it’s safest to plan on updating Fedora every other version; pay for a distribution with a longer support term; or go with Debian GNU/Linux, which offers a fairly long-lived, stable branch.

Fedora Core 3 comes in versions for the Intel Corp. 386 and x86-64 platforms. Fedora comes on four CDs or one DVD, and images for both are available for free FTP download at or via Bittorrent at

Fedora Core 2 was the first Fedora release to ship with SELinux, the National Security Agency-based Mandatory Access Controls subsystem for Linux. However, in that release, SELinux came disabled by default due to the complexity of managing access control policies for all the software that shipped with Fedora.

In Fedora Core 3, SELinux comes enabled by default but with a new “targeted” policy that locks down only a few typically vulnerable system services, such as Bind and Apache. In addition, Fedora’s system security configuration tool now includes a tab for tweaking SELinux policy. The tab made it easy for us to scale back our settings rather than disable SELinux altogether (which we could also do from this interface).

Click here to read about how trusted-operating-system features are making their way into mainstream operating systems.

Fedora Core 3 includes a new subsystem for managing devices called udev, which replaces devfs. Udev makes it easier to manage hot-plug devices such as USB (Universal Serial Bus) peripherals, in part by allowing these devices to have persistent user- or system-definable names. For instance, under devfs, it could be difficult to distinguish connected USB devices, information you had to know to mount them for use.

Users have reported udev-related problems, including an issue with Nvidia Corp.’s graphics card driver, for which a workaround is available at docs/udev.

Previous Fedora releases shipped with support for LVM (Logical Volume Management), but Fedora Core 3 is the first version to install itself onto logical volumes, which are simpler than traditional partitions to resize on existing disks and reallocate onto new disks.

The LVM software that ships with Fedora Core offers only a command-line interface, but Red Hat has included a nice-looking graphical LVM client with the second beta release of its enterprise distribution. We compiled and ran the LVM client on our Fedora Core 3; when this utility is completed, we hope to see it provided for Fedora.

Next page: Exterior beauty.

Fedora Core 3 ships with KDE 3.3 and GNOME 2.8, the latest versions of each desktop environment.

Click here to read Labs’ reviews of KDE 3.3 and GNOME 2.8.

Both the KDE and GNOME projects add noticeable usability features with every release, so this is one area where we’ve particularly appreciated Fedora’s fast release pace.

We were pleased to note that the version of that ships with Fedora Core 3 comes preconfigured to work with Evolution 2.0, which is the distribution’s default mail client. In previous versions, users had to hunt down this setting and configure it themselves for to work as expected.

Fedora Core 3 ships for the first time with the Mozilla project’s Firefox Web browser and Thunderbird mail client, as well as RealNetworks Inc.’s Helix Player media client.

In addition, Fedora Core 3 includes a nice desktop-sharing feature that works with VNC (virtual network computing) to provide the same functionality as the remote desktop feature in Windows. However, we’d like to see encryption support added to this feature.

What changed little in Fedora Core 3—to our disappointment—was the state of the distribution’s software update and installation tools. Fedora ships with Red Hat’s now-long-in-the-tooth up2date update facility, and also with yum, a software client that does more than up2date but that lacks a graphical interface.

At this point, our preferred Fedora software update and installation duo is apt and synaptic, both of which are available separately for Fedora but that hail from the Debian project. Synaptic provides a nice graphical interface that makes it much easier to manage software on Fedora.

We’d like to see Fedora adopt apt and synaptic or develop a functional equivalent to go along with yum.

Senior Analyst Jason Brooks can be reached at

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