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Fedora Linux tastes great.

The latest Fedora Linux release, Core 5, delivers an improved Linux Desktop. Fedora forms one of the main versions of Linux, especially for home users and small organizations.

To better concentrate on enterprise Linux and customers that can pay enterprise-level subscription fees, Red Hat spun off the Fedora project to produce a version of Linux available to the world for free. Red Hat then uses Fedora as a base to create its Red Hat Enterprise Linux for its paying customers. The rest of us, though, can download Fedora or purchase CDs from a vendor such as CheapBytes.

If you choose to download Fedora, you need to download the CD disk images, called ISO files, for the five Fedora CDs, or a very large ISO file for a single DVD. Once downloaded, you need to burn each ISO file to a separate disc. When complete, you have the necessary installation CDs or DVD.

In general, the installation follows the same set of steps and same type of installation program since Red Hat 7 or so, as well as all previous four Fedora Core releases. With the Core 5 release, installation should be quicker, as the Fedora project streamlined the installation program, and its options.

The Core 5 release includes updated versions of many desktop applications, including the office suite, Firebird Web browser, as well as a plethora of new desktop applications. Many of these applications run on top of the Mono engine, a port of Microsoft’s .NET platform to Linux and other operating systems (including Mac OS X). Highlights among these Mono applications include Beagle for desktop searching and F-Spot for managing digital photographs.

In addition, Core 5 includes the popular Eclipse development platform for Java applications–but without the Java language. Using gcj, a front end to the GNU compiler suite, Fedora includes pre-compiled Java applications, such as Eclipse, that were compiled into native code, instead of the more common Java byte code. This allows Fedora to include these Java applications without having to deal with the licensing terms for Sun’s Java platform.

As always with Red Hat or Fedora releases, multimedia support is spotty at best. Due to the patent and licensing issues, many Linux vendors excise packages using proprietary techniques. For example, Fedora does not include support for playing music in MP3 format, due to the MP3 patents. Instead, you’re limited to playing music in Ogg Vorbis format. Ogg Vorbis is a great format, and its patent free. But, the vast majority of legal music files reside in MP3 format. Fedora similarly limits video playback options.

Thus, adding multimedia support becomes one of the first tasks Fedora users embark on after installing a new release. The page linked above also describes how to install the Macromedia Flash player, a DVD player, as well as support for common video formats. You can also install support for MP3 music from the offical GStreamer.

You can also use a new script called Fedora Frog to add multimedia capabilities to your Core 5 installation. Frog acts similarly to the Automatix script for Ubuntu Linux. Ubuntu is also soon to be updated with an impressive new release.

To help manage software packages and the all-too-frequent updates, Core 5 includes two new applications: Pup and Pirut. Pup acts as a front-end to manage updates to installed packages. Pirut replaces the older software for installing new packages from CDs and other locations. Both programs are handy additions especially for newcomers to Linux. –Eric Foster-Johnson

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