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October 12, 2006

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Fedora status report: Announcing Zod

by Max Spevack

October 24th marked the release of Fedora™ Core 6, and it was quite an exciting day.

The day started with the official press release from Red Hat, as well as the posting of the community-written release summary, and the traditional release announcement to fedora-announce-list.

The release announcement is a bit special--it's the closest thing Fedora has to an Easter Egg. Since a launch typically comes with all sort of "official" literature and articles, we like for the release announcement that we send to our list to be something a bit more whimsical.

For Fedora Core 6, the release announcement was written in the persona of a child who was five years old.

This time around, because the release name of Fedora Core 6 is "Zod," the release announcement was written in the persona of General Zod, the infamous villain in the old Superman movies. Thank goodness for parody laws!

We interrupt this article to bring you a brief puzzle:

The setup: Red Hat release names aren't just chosen randomly. Jesse Keating, the Fedora Release Engineer, talked about this recently in Red Hat Magazine.

So here's the question: without using Google, see if you can figure out how Fedora Core 5's name (Bordeaux) is related to Fedora Core 6's name (Zod).

But, meanwhile, back to our story.

The releases were all sent around 10:00 AM, and everything was humming along nicely until... our servers all fell over. The pounding that we took upon release was quite extraordinary, and for a couple of hours, sysadmins inside of Red Hat and also in the Fedora Infrastructure team were working nonstop to get everything back up and running.

The one thing that never went down was our BitTorrent tracker, which has been humming along all day and as I write this, 5 hours after release, has over 10,000 complete or in-progress downloads. That's a number that we're very pleased with.

Let's talk technical for a moment. What's the best part of Fedora Core 6? It's the changes that have been made to the installer, which allows the user to go across the network to any RPM repositories that have a reachable URL, and pull in packages from those repositories at install time.

So picture the use case -- you've got your Fedora Core 6 DVD, which has a couple of thousand RPMs on it. The machine onto which you are installing has a network connection, so during your install you select the Fedora Extras repository, and add bittorrent to your package set. And you notice a program called liferea and decide to give that a try and see if it improves your RSS experience.

Maybe you work at an ISP, and you are using Fedora on a bunch of your servers. You've got a custom RPM repository of software that you maintain, which you know needs to be placed on every box that you bring up. So you add your repo to the kickstart file, and when the installer processes it, all of a sudden your packages are already in place when the box comes up.

Flexibility and choice--that's the bottom line of what this new feature is about. Allowing users to actually use the software in the way that makes the best sense for them.