Why Would Fedora be Free ? Can it be Trusted?

Tom 'Needs A Hat' Mitchell mitch48 at sbcglobal.net
Wed May 12 19:22:42 UTC 2004

On Wed, May 12, 2004 at 06:43:30AM -0400, Chalonec Roger wrote:
> I am looking at using Fedora at my work and some people are asking the
> following questions or have the following concerns that I did not know
> how to answer:
> 1.  Why is fedora free and why would people work on it for free?

Fame, glory, personal satisfaction, because I can.

> 2.  Some people are concerned that since Fedora is open source that they
> don't know where the software comes from so they can't trust it.  How
> can they trust it?

Trust is an overloaded word.  You can trust it because the source is
open and can be inspected.  If you do not trust others to do this
inspection for you, you can do it yourself.  Many companies and
governments have in the past purchased the source to the OS they run
so they can inspect how it works and perhaps protect themselves should
the vendor have troubles.  Some will only install patches that they
have inspected.  Others hardly look at all but place the bits in a
vault so they could.

> 3.  How are updates to Fedora vetted and accepted?

One key component is that there is a source rpm available.  ANY user
can inspect the source and compare to a previous version.  After
inspection the source can be used to rebuild the package or the binary
package installed if the user trusts the packager.  Digital signatures
give some fair link of accountability back to the packager.

> 4.  Does Redhat have any involvement with Fedora?

> 5.  Does Redhat use the same processes in "controlling" fedora quality
> and releases as it did the free versions of Redhat?

It is hard to maintain two different controlling processes.  The
'equality' of process control that I see, is seen by some as "redhat
has too much control".  I like the current level of involvement.

> 6. Ostensibly Redhat offered free versions of Redhat Linux because they
> could make a profit on support.  Now Redhat has built a market and
> Redhat is no longer free.  What is the profit motivation of the Fedora
> group and persons/orgs who make software contributions to it?  (By the
> way, there is nothing wrong with profit.)

It is brutal and expensive to support folks that tinker.  Folks that
like to tinker also tend to rebel against the normal service and support
process.  They also want the latest and greatest.  So let them play
and support themselves.

Folks that like stuff to just work tend to want stuff to move slow and
steady (no surprises).  They also want someone at the end of the line
to fix things.  IT departments that manage by issue not by technical
skill like supported products.  

Do not ignore the part where Fedora is the designated place where new
stuff is deployed first.  Should there be honest feedback that the
older was better or something needs fixing then the supported main
line would not see it until the issue was resolved.  Vendors of add on
packages, hardware and software (like Oracle, IBM, nVidia) have a
better place to jump aboard new development paths.

	T o m  M i t c h e l l 
	/dev/null the ultimate in secure storage.

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