Saturday, January 06, 2007

Red Hat, Fedora, and Ubuntu Linux

Yes, this is a tech post. But, even if you're not interested, read anyway. Because I said so, that's why!

Recently, Microsoft and Novell entered into a deal where Novell's SuSE Linux Enterprise Desktop (SLED) customers would be indemnified from legal action. People in the Linux community cried FOUL, with a rebel yell. Why Novell did this, I can't imagine. It probably has more to do with the fact that Microsoft has far more lawyers, and far more money to keep any legal action going, legit or not. A few months ago, I predicted Microsoft would eventually give out their own version of Linux, buy one, or partner with one. It might be SuSE. It's probably not. There is a free version of SuSE Linux; OpenSuSE. I'm not sure if Novell's Microsoft deal extends to that.

Shortly after the Novell/Microsoft deal, people watched to see if Red Hat would enter into a deal with Microsoft. Red Hat responded to these questions with an, "" I imagine the Red Hat folks know what they're doing.

A few months ago, Oracle began their own Linux distribution; Unbreakable Linux. Unbreakable Linux is simply a copy of Red Hat, with the Red Hat logos and such removed. They may have added a few of their own products to the commercial distribution, but it's not much different than other Gnome based GNU/Linux desktops. SuSE, Red Hat, and Unbreakable Linux are commercial distributions that use an .rpm system. RPM used to stand for Red Hat Package Management. RPM is similar to what Windows users know as a .exe (executable) file.

My point of this post is where Red Hat is going. Fedora Core is Red Hat's free, cutting edge distribution. Fedora Core 4 was my first. Everyone remembers their first. I started with Fedora Core 4 when I took an Operating Systems class, and needed it for the class work. As it turned out, we never really bothered with it in class. Mac OS X for that matter either. But, I'd loaded it, used it, and was pulled in. Here was software that controlled the computer, came with an Office Suite, photo editing software, Internet browsers, and pretty much everything I needed. FOR FREE! No licenses. No EULA's. I was in toyland.

Fedora Core wasn't easy though. At first, I thought I had to search the Internet, and compile binaries to install programs. I actually got pretty good at this method, but only because I didn't know there was an installer program. Once I found the forums, I learned better. Fedore Core worked, but I always had some problems; no wireless worked, my web cam didn't work, and I couldn't read from my NTFS formatted hard drive. There were more problems, but they were minor. I recently read an article about a CIO of CareGroup -a medical company- that tried Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux for a few weeks. His preference seems to be for Mac, but it didn't run everything he needed. He used both Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and Fedora Core. His experience with Fedora Core wasn't very good. He spent more time trying to get it to work than actually working with it. I can sympathize.

Then, I tried Ubuntu Linux. On a slower computer. Not only did Ubuntu run faster even on a slower computer, I had very few problems. Web cam worked. Wireless worked. I could read my external NTFS hard drive. Things on Ubuntu just plain worked. After a few weeks, I switched to Ubuntu exclusively. Had the CIO of CareGroup used Ubuntu instead of Fedora Core, he might of had a different conclusion.

The main reason I switched was not just because everything worked, but it was the direction Ubuntu was headed. It quickly became the sweetheart of the Linux community (according to, greatly outdoing even the second place distro. A big part of the reason Ubuntu is doing so well is because of the work Mark Shuttleworth has put into it, the work Canonical has put into it, and the philosophy of business Shuttleworth is using. His leadership is a big part of the success it's having.

A big part of the reason I use Ubuntu is not just because it works so well, or because it's completely free (and always will be), or because of the leadership. It's because I predict Ubuntu will become the predominate Linux distribution. It will eventually be on more servers than Red Hat or SuSE Linux. By the end of 2008, I predict it will overtake Mac OS X in numbers. If I'm right, having spent so much time learning Ubuntu will help me in the job market. I'm not a fanboy. I'm a forward thinker.

Red Hat has recently influenced some changes to the Fedore Core distribution. Primarily, there will be no more Core, or extra packages (programs, for the Windows folks). It will all be Fedora. They are producing a LiveCD version. Currently you'd need the Fedora Core 6 DVD or 6 CD's to install it.

I think the changes going on at Red Hat and Fedora are from the squeeze Ubuntu is giving them, not Microsoft. Ubuntu is being installed on many servers, and thousands of desktops a day. There are claims that as many as 8 million computers are now running Ubuntu Linux. I'm not convinced of that number, but more than likely it's true. Ubuntu is growing extremely fast in other countries, especially the developing countries.

Windows will still dominate the computer world for years to come, especially in business. But Linux -especially Ubuntu- is growing quicker than Windows. In about 4-5 years, Linux will be just as easy as Windows to use. But by then, computers will be very different from what you're using to read this.

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