With the recent split between community (Fedora) and commercial (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) versions of Red Hat Linux, Red Hat has created a model that can suit the fast-paced changes in the open source world, while still meeting the demands for a well-supported commercial Linux distribution. (Later in this chapter I discuss differences between the Fedora and Enterprise versions of Red Hat Linux.)
Technical people have chosen Red Hat Linux because of its reputation for solid performance. With the new Fedora Project, Red Hat hopes to create an environment where open source developers can bring high-quality software packages to Red Hat Linux that would be beyond the resources of Red Hat, Inc. to test and maintain on its own.
Over 1,400 individual software packages (compared to just over 600 in Red Hat Linux 6.2) are included in the latest release of Red Hat Linux, referred to as Fedora Core. These packages contain features that would cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars to duplicate if you bought them as separate commercial products. These features let you:
Connect your computers to a LAN or the Internet.
Create documents and publish your work on paper or on the Web.
Work with multimedia content to manipulate images, play music files, view video, and even burn your own CDs.
Play games individually or over a network.
Communicate over the Internet using a variety of Web tools for browsing, chatting, transferring files, participating in newsgroups, and sending and receiving e-mail.
Protect your computing resources by having Red Hat Linux act as a firewall and/or a router to protect against intruders coming in through public networks.
Configure a computer to act as a network server, such as a print server, Web server, file server, mail server, news server, and a database server.
This is just a partial list of what you can do with Red Hat Linux. Using this book as your guide, you will find that there are many more features built into Red Hat Linux as well.
Support for new video cards, printers, storage devices, and applications are being added every day. Linux programmers around the world are no longer the only ones creating hardware drivers. Every day more hardware vendors are creating their own drivers, so they can sell products to the growing Linux market. New applications are being created to cover everything from personal productivity tools to programs that access massive corporate databases.
Remember that old Pentium computer in your closet? Don't throw it away! Just because a new release of Red Hat Linux is out doesn't mean that you need all new hardware for it to run. Support for many old computer components get carried from one release to the next. There are old PCs running Red Hat Linux today as routers (to route data between your LAN and the Internet), firewalls (to protect your network from outside intrusion), and file servers (to store shared files on your LAN) — with maybe an Ethernet card or an extra hard disk added.
At this point, you may feel that Linux is something you want to try out. This brings us to the basic question: What is Linux?