Way back then
Originally, computers were too big and expensive, so they were used only by universities and institutions. Back then, the business was selling hardware with the software as a means to use it. Over time, computers shrunk in size and price, becoming popular in the ’90s. By then, software and operating systems started to be sold or distributed separately from hardware. It’s in this context where Red Hat and other main Linux distributions appear first.
Almost thirty years ago, Bob Young and Marc Ewing started a small company selling a catalogue of Linux and Unix accessories, with its own distribution named Red Hat Linux (RHL). They grew, went public to Wall Street and eventually became a big company with a solid well-respected name. If you’re interested to know more, there are a few links below that you can check.
Around fifteen years ago, a project named Fedora.us came to life as a community project to find software that wasn’t part of Red Hat Linux and package it. As Red Hat was and still is focused on medium and big companies, and servers, they only packaged and maintained software that is useful from that perspective. However, the distro was still available and it was open source, so other users were interested in, well, other software. Also, they wanted more up to date yet stable software, while companies and servers want stability and hardware support over all.
At some point, Red Hat changes the name of their system to Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and calls in the Fedora.us project renaming it as Fedora Project. Fedora Project would update at a faster pace, including all types of software, and testing a variety of hardware. Red Hat then, would base RHEL on it but keeping only the software it needed for its purposes and updating/upgrading to a much slower pace.
In the beginning, Fedora Project was split in two main “sections”: Core and Extras. Core had direct intervention from Red Hat but Extras was kept by the community. Later on, both were merged in one only Fedora Project, and the development and maintenance work was opened to anybody who wanted to join even if they didn’t work for RH.
This is the way Fedora Project and Red Hat work now, Fedora Project tests, maintain and develop software focusing on keeping up to date and a wide range of options. Red Hat takes the software and updates that useful for big companies and servers, and bases its own distribution, RHEL, on that. In exchange, Red Hat supports Fedora Project in multiple ways (money, infrastructure, developers, etc).
A bit about hats
Why so many hat-related names? Well, there are a few reasons for that. According to David Kašpar, the red hat comes from the times when Marc Ewing, RH co-founder, was in University; he used to wear a red lacrosse hat when he was in the laboratories so other students could easily find him and ask him about their computer issues. “It’s a symbol of our early days, when our founders embraced our outsider, subversive, revolutionary reputation and ran with it…”
David Kašpar is a RH Associate Software Engineer and he wrote a “History of FOSS”.
Now here is where Fedora as a name comes in. Because the hat featured in RH logo looked like a fedora hat, this was the name chosen for the community project that would serve as basis for their OS and software. And because red was the company’s colour, another primary colour was chosen: blue.
Timeline Core & Extras
- The first set of Fedora releases was known as Fedora Core, and went from 1 to 6, with the first release in 2003. The reason for this naming is that originally Fedora had two types of repositories: Core (supported by RH) and Extras (supported by the community).
- In the beginning, Red Hat Software and Community Software were completely separated and distinct. You can read more about this in Matthew Miller’s account below.
- With Fedora 7 the word “Core” was dropped, and from that point on numbers and code names were used to identify versions. This release went out on 2007. The “core” naming was dropped because the system changed, merging core and extra repositories in one.
- Code names were proposed and later voted by the community, with a copyright check from the legal department (RH/Fedora).
- Fedora 20 “Heisenbug” was the last release to have a code name.
- Since Fedora 21, all releases have been identified by their numbers only.
The evolution of Fedora Core
Fedora Core 1 was shipped in 2003 codenamed Yarrow. It had Gnome 2.4 and KDE 3.1. Its system requirements were Pentium II (200MHz for text only, 400MHz for GUI), some 2GBs free in disk (plus some more for user data), and 256MB RAM. However it could work with 64MB if it was in text-only mode.
Fedora Core 2 was shipped in 2004 codenamed Tettnang. It had Gnome 2.6 and KDE 3.2. Its system requirements were the same as for the previous version, with support for 32-bits and 64-bits. As innovation, it replaced the old XFree86 with Xorg as display server.
The same year, 2004, saw another Fedora release: Core 3 Heidelberg. This version brought several changes. For example, Firefox as default browser and GRUB as bootloader instead of LILO. It also had support for Indic/Brahmic scripts. And for the first time, Fedora had by default the Extras repository.
The following year, 2005, saw Fedora Core 4 Stentz. It was shipped with kernel 2.6, KDE 3.2, Gnome 2.10 and OpenOffice 2. It included SELinux enabled by default like in the previous version, and support for PowerPC.
In 2006, Fedora Core 5 Bordeux was released and introduced new artwork (bubbles theme). It also introduced software like Tomboy, F-Spot and Beagle, and new package management tools (Pup & Pirut). Its kernel now supported natively POSIX threads.
Seven months later, Fedora Core 6 Zod saw the light. This version replaced the previous artwork with new, DNA-themed artwork. It also introduced support for Compiz and AIGLX (GL acceleration). The name sourced in Superman’s villain, General Zod.
This was also the last version from the Core cycle.
First hand impressions
Matthew Miller tells about the beginnings in Eduard Lucena’s podcast (transcription here): “Fedora started about 15 years ago, really. It actually started as a thing called Fedora.us.” Back in those days, there was Red Hat Linux.” “Meanwhile, there was this thing called Fedora.us which was basically a project to make additional software available to users of Red Hat Linux. Find things that weren’t part of Red Hat Linux, and package them up, and make them available to everybody. That was started as a community project.”
“Red Hat (then) merged with this Fedora.us project to form Fedora Project that produces an upstream operating system that Red Hat Enterprise Linux is derived from but then moves on a slower pace.”
“We were then two parts, Fedora Core, which was basically inherited from the old Red Hat Linux and only Red Hat employees could do anything with and then Fedora Extras, where community could come together to add things on top of that Fedora Core. It took a little while to get off the ground but it was fairly successful”
“Around the time of Fedora Core 6, those were actually merged together into one big Fedora where all of the packages were all part of the same thing. There was no more distinction of Core and Extras, and everything was all together and, more importantly, all the community was all together.
They invited the community to take ownership of the whole thing and for Red Hat to become part of the community rather than separate. That was a huge success.”