The evolution of Fedora Core Linux

The evolution of Fedora Core Linux

By Niall C. Brady, February 18th, 2006.
If you wish to re-publish this article (or parts of), then you are free to do so as long as it links back to here.

Please note:-This article has been updated to include FCR6, F7 and F8, to read the updated version please click here

About Fedora
Fedora Core release 1 - Yarrow
Fedora Core release 2 - Tettnang
Fedora Core release 3 - Heidelberg
Fedora Core release 4 - Stentz
Fedora Core release 5 - 'and beyond'


I have been using linux for quite some time now, and the first linux distro I tried was Red Hat 5 series. I never really got into linux until Red Hat released the 7.x series and it was then that I started to want to learn how to use linux and how to get it working for me.

Times have changed a lot since then and linux has really matured in many ways, particularly desktop managers (gnome/kde) and the kernel itself. I stayed with Red Hat's releases right up until the end, when they released Red Hat 9. It was a superb release but marked the end of such releases from Red Hat and also the beginning of a new, more open, more co-operative (with the community) and more frequently updated operating system called 'Fedora'.

I use Fedora core daily and I've used every final release of Fedora since Yarrow (Fedora Core Release 1). When I get time, I also look at some of the test releases to see how Fedora is changing, and if there's one thing certain about Fedora, it's change. I decided to write this article to hopefully give people a chance to learn a little bit more about Fedora since the first release came to life back in November 2003, how the distro has matured and what to expect for Fedora Core release 5 in mid-March 2006.

Back to top ^^

About Fedora

We all know that Fedora is a well used and eagerly awaited distro (currently ranked number 4 on as of February 2006, but what exactly *is* Fedora ?

Red Hat answers that question with the following statement:-

Fedora is a set of projects, sponsored by Red Hat and guided by the Fedora Foundation. These projects are developed by a large community of people who strive to provide and maintain the very best in free, open source software and standards. Fedora Core, the central Fedora project, is an operating system and platform, based on Linux, that is always free for anyone to use, modify, and distribute, now and forever.

To you and me however, what this means in a nutshell is that Fedora is a linux distro that is partly sponsered by Red Hat and is released every 6-8 months or so. In addition, support for the OS is usually also limited to 6-8 months after the release of the next version. If you insist on using the earlier releases (I used FCR1 for well over a year) then all hope is not lost, there is another project called fedora legacy and they currently support all versions of Fedora from 1-3 (Fedora Core release 4 is still current).

In September, 2003, Red Hat announced the formation of the Fedora Project. Some months earlier however, Fedora Core began life as an operating system in July 2003 when Test 1 (originally called Beta 1) was released. A further two test releases were produced after the first Test release before the first 'final' release of Fedora was made available to the general public on the 5th of November 2003.

That release was code named Yarrow and had the rather exciting title of 'Fedora Core release 1'. I still remember downloading it with enthusiasm, and then installing it on several computers at home. At the time it was released the download mirrors experienced a vast surge of interest as thousands of people wanted to try out the new distro. Many reviews were written, some positive some negative but overall, linux enthusiasts were excited about this new 'Red Hat' distro. Interestingly there was/is an OpenSource 'Fedora' project before RedHat claimed the 'Fedora' name as their own trademark, see here for more info.

Nothing much has changed (public opinion wise) since the first release of Fedora, it is always reported upon, bashed, adored, admired, but most importantly downloaded and used.

The four major releases of Fedora Core are listed below:-

Fedora Core release 1 - Yarrow
Fedora Core release 2 - Tettnang
Fedora Core release 3 - Heidelberg
Fedora Core release 4 - Stentz

There has been much discussion about the code names above, are they types of hat or bird or places in Germany, does it really matter ?
You can see what Fedora's official website says about their naming convention including exciting stuff like 'n and n+1' or check here for a slightly clearer view and date schedule of the releases.

Fedora's subsequent release into the world of linux distros was quickly followed by 'fedora' site's such as the excellent fedora faq, fedora forum and fedora news all aiming their content at the thousands of loyal Fedora users.

Take a look at the selection of screenshots below, you can see the 'look' of each of the Fedora releases so far (including the work-in-progress FCR5). Click on the thumbnails for a full sized high-resolution PNG screenshot.

L to R: Fedora Core 1,2,3,4,5 (Test 2)

Back to top ^^

Fedora Core release 1


Yarrow was the first release of Fedora (release notes here). It was based on the 2.4 kernel (the last Red Hat distro to do so), came on 3 cd's (or 6 if you include the SRPMS), had gnome-desktop-2.4.0-1 (Red Hat likes to stick with Gnome as the default desktop), and had most of the latest and greatest packages strapped on at the time. Even though Fedora clearly stated their 'about' section that Fedora can't play MP3 files it was one of the things that users complained about when it was released. In addition to lack of MP3 support they wanted help with Java, Flash, Mplayer, Xine. Yeah, the usual stuff. In the end though, there were 3rd party patches or rpm's available to do the things that were not included by default in the distro. This has remained the same since FCR1 hit the binary shelves and as Red Hat say

"Still, we'd much rather change the world instead of going along with it."

Fedora Core release 1 introduced a graphical boot, (rhgb or redhat graphical boot) which gives the user a cleaner interface when booting the system (less info, more graphics). This feature also included the ability to 'show details' so you could actually see if eth0 got an ip or not. Fedora Core release 1 also included NPTL (native posix thread library) which was supposed to provide performance improvemants and increased scalability via the 2.4.22-1.2115.nptl kernel.

FCR1 for me was fantastic, I used it right up until FCR2 was released, then switched immediatly to see what the new release was like. However, that said, I kept an old laptop running under my stairs serving this website and others for 497 days or so until the kernel uptime counter reset and that 'inspired' me to move to a newer kernel (and in the process a total update from FCR1 to FCR4).

So in a nutshell, FCR1 was stable for me, did everything I wanted it to do except certain power management features, which were to come later as the linux kernel itself (2.6 series) added more features for modern chipsets in notebooks.

It was a major release and well reported upon (some samples below).
Flexbeta review
OSnews review #1 review #2
LinuxElectrons review

Back to top ^^

Fedora Core release 2


Within 6 months of the first release of Fedora came the second installment called Tettnang (release notes here) and it was available on 4 cd's (up one from the last release). As soon as it hit the mirrors I downloaded and installed it. This was the First release of Fedora with the 2.6 kernel and that in itself justified the download, however it wasn't plain sailing for everyone and some dual-boot users had problems with the installation rendering their Windows installation unbootable or worse. However, this was not specific to Fedora and impacted quite a few distros released at that time that were based on the linux 2.6 kernel (Mandrake 10, Suse 9.1 and Fedora 2).

In addition to these dual-boot woes, were other issues that had people screaming such as

Nvidia drivers failing to load
Nautilus Spatial mode
Selinux causing unusual problems

All of the above were quickly referenced and fixed with new releases and/or workarounds. For example, the reason nVidia drivers wouldn't work with the default kernel on FCR2 was because the developers enabled the 4KSTACK option in the 2.6.x kernel and that was incompatible with the 8KSTACK nVidia drivers. Subsequent drivers from nVidia and/or kernel recompile resolved the issue. Spatial mode in Gnome's nautilus was also very easy to fix but generated a lot of articles none-the-less.

Fedora Core release 2 was noticeable because it replaced XFree86 with Xorg and in addition it introduced an implementation of Selinux to the masses (installed by default but disabled). It's also worth mentioning that this release of Fedora continued in the move away from Red Hat being ever present in the OS by renaming all those 'redhat-config-xxx' commands to 'system-config-xxx'. However, the Red Hat logo was still clearly visible in the Gnome menu.

I still have my Fedora Core release 2 installation, and when needed, I plug the harddisc back into a laptop to demonstrate PXE booting disc-less computers to the FCR2 box which has a PXE server, DHCP server, iptables configured for NAT and Thin Client functionality for the machines connected to it. Very impressive stuff indeed (I demo'd PXE booting a disc-less box to the FCR2 laptop which in turn had a wireless connection to the network, and using iptables to share that internet connection I used tsclient (rdesktop) to connect to a Windows box in a different country. The attendees were very impressed).

Back to top ^^

Fedora Core release 3


Heidelberg (release notes)was released in November 2004 and by now the Fedora 'ship' was well and truly on the move. Interest in Fedora continued to climb as each new release was published and by now, Fedora was a real distro to contend with (10 reviews of FCR3 listed on compared to 5 for FCR1).

Fedora Core release 3 brought Gnome 2.8 to the Fedora masses (and that was an excellent update to the default desktop) and now also came with the improved 2.6.9 kernel. Speaking of the kernel, Heidelberg introduced another change to the old way of doing things, now when you upgraded your kernel, the new kernel would be listed as the default in your boot configuration.

As a side note, Fedora users now had Firefox installed as the default web browser (previously it was Mozilla). While adding Firefox as the default web browser might seem a small thing, it was actions like this that helped to make Fedora such a big hit with it's users. Mozilla was still there, just not the default anymore.

Visually, the Fedora desktop (via Gnome) changed and now there were two panels, one above and one below as you can see here. When I first tried this new Gnome layout I found it a little weird, but soon (very soon) got used to it and now I feel right at home with the menu system being at the top of my desktop.

The third release of Fedora consolidated things learned from the first two releases, applications feel more mature (and they are) the desktop looks sleek and professional, the system is more stable than Fedora Core release 2 was and Selinux now works. Of course there were minor issues like Eggcups has unexpectedly quit and users discovering that Fedora releases do also tend to carry some bugs.

However, these very same bugs in the final releases are usually resolved via a yum update. Case in point when FCR3 was released to mirrors there were already updates available for it on 'up2date'. Some user's just don't understand this and end up criticising this fine distro instead of embracing it's values and realising that each release is still a 'work-in-progress' and as such, never really 'finished'.

Heidelberg for me was a great if understated release, it definitely felt more mature than Tettnang (thanks in large part to Gnome's advances) and my partner found that even she could use linux when I installed FCR3 on her laptop for her (dual boot with XP). She continued with FCR3 until we bought a new digital camera (Canon EOS 350d) which FCR3 didn't recognise, and at that point I installed FCR4 for her (which recognised the camera just fine).

Back to top ^^

Fedora Core release 4


The fourth major release of Fedora (Stentz) was released in June 2005 (release notes) and had now bumped its review status on distrowatch to 13 from the previous 10 for FCR3. Stentz holds the status of being the first linux distro to be compiled using GCC4 which was released in April 2005, GCC 4.0 compiled faster than GCC 3.4.x and not only that, it produced smaller binaries. The end result, faster machine. That's all well and good, but did it make Fedora Core release 4 better ? Yes and no. Yes because there were speed improvements (boot time etc) and no because so many packages now needed to be re-compiled.

If you take a look at this short video of FCR4, you'll get a good idea of the installer in action and the OS itself. Fedora core 4 was my favorite Fedora release (until FCR5t2 came out), but for most Fedora users, it is their current and live distro.

I did have some issues with installing Stentz, and these issues were always related to hard disc partitioning (particularly if you had more than one hdd in the computer) and Fedora's use of LVM. The bug appeared to be related to SATA capable computers and was documented here and here. This bug was very annoying and occurred on at least 3 separate laptops that I attempted to install Stentz on. In the end, the only way I could get FCR4 to install without a kernel panic on first boot was to manually choose the filesystem type during setup. Changing it from the default of LVM to ext3 worked perfectly on all systems I had. Once this bug had been overcome using Stentz was indeed a pleasure, at least until an update killed xorg. That bug too, was quickly resolved and soon I was using Stentz with full MP3, dvd and NTFS capabilities.

Stentz certaintly had some issues but they have since been resolved and are well documented. Is it stable ? definitely. This site ( runs exclusively on Fedora Core release 4 and the current uptime is right here for you to see.

My experiences with Stentz are that it is a very solid and capable OS (both for desktop use and server use) once you have tweaked it to your satisfaction, and got around the annoying bugs (which seemed to mostly be related to newer hardware on Intel chipsets). I will most likely continue to host my websites on Stentz for the forseeable future.

Back to top ^^

The future

Fedora Core release 5 and beyond

When I downloaded Fedora Core release 5 test 2, little did I know that it inspired me to write this article. If like me, you read the linux news sites daily, then you'll see that little fuss is made over test releases of distros. Sure people will comment but that's about it. What most people don't realise is the huge amount of effort going on behind the scenes by Red Hat, its' developers and the entire Fedora commuinity to push that next release (whether it is a test or final) out the door. And remember, this isn't directly about monetary gain (of course Red Hat benefits via new features in their commercial software, there's no gain without pain right ?).

Fedora isn't sold, it's free.

The many users who participate on the fedora-test-list will give you an idea of the real wealth of this distro. Fedora Core release 5 will add features and new experiences that will definitely impress. It has remained as my 'current' linux install since i downloaded and installed it. Initially, I thought i'd have quick look then revert back to my FCR4 installation (on another harddisc), however, I have not gone back because I just love FCR5 so much (and this is a TEST release !). The new login screen in Fedora Core release 5 is really nice, and visably shakes when you enter your password incorrectly. Gnome has yet again been updated and looks more streamlined, more professional and now for the first time, the Red Hat logo in Gnomes' menu is replaced with Fedora's new logo.

The new installation procedures in FCR5 are similar to previous releases but have now moved away from the 'everything, minimal, desktop etc' type of installation choice. This has proved to be a sore point with many test-users and I'm guessing that there will be a trade-off when the final version hit's the mirrors. I believe that Fedora Core release 5 will be a major hit with linux users worldwide. Fedora Core release 5 will be released to mirrors worldwide next month, and when it does you can expect those mirrors to be extremely busy.

After core Fedora Core release 5 get's released, Fedora will continue to evolve. We will eventually see Gnome 3.0 (I can't wait) and KDE 4 late in 2006, and more than likely we will see the rather amazing XGL implemented. There will be countless other improvements to the operating systems installation routines and user experience. There has to be, in order to compete with Windows Vista which is scheduled for release some time at the end of this year.

The future of Fedora Core linux ultimately depends on the users. There are so many competing linux distros available now that new users to linux are almost overwhelmed and sometimes make the wrong choice. Fedora will bring a refreshing experience to these new users and they in turn will shape Fedora's future.

Back to top ^^


The screenshots linked below contain the complete installation sequence from start to finish of each of the Fedora releases. In addition there are screenshots of the OS in action. Most of the post-installation screenshots are in high quality PNG format so may be slow to load.

Fedora Core Release 5 (test 2) Installation screenshots

Fedora Core Release 5 (test 2) screenshots

Fedora Core Release 4 (stentz)

Fedora Core Release 3 (heidelberg)

Fedora Core Release 2 (tettnang)

Fedora Core Release 1 (yarrow)

Back to top ^^


I feel very happy the way Fedora is progressing and I'm sure that Red Hat are also very pleased. For them it's a win-win situation, millions of users using their test-bed software and in turn, finding bugs and in some cases suggesting ways of improving the product and the operating systems experience as well. All these changes, improvements, fixes and modifications to the distro help to create the next blockbuster and of course Red Hat takes the improvements to the code and implements those corrections in its commercial products.

You only have to browse through (or subscribe) to the extremely active fedora-test-list to see the large group of users interacting with developers from the Fedora team. Sometimes the discussions get heated but in the end they are all striving towards the same goal, to make Fedora core the best of the best and to give the end users a quality linux distribution.

I won't hesitate for a moment, to say that Fedora Core release linux is my absolute favorite linux distro, I love the way it is developing with the times, I love the consistency with the releases (lots of new stuff!), and I love the way it has matured from the first release. I aim to be first in line to download the ISO's when FCR5 is released next month and I hope that you will join me. Fedora Core linux is maturing faster than my home brew wine ! make sure you don't miss the boat.

Back to top ^^

(c) 2006.
[please send corrections/suggestions to]
Article written entirely in FCR5t2 using vi, ssh and Gimp.