Fedora and the Fedora-Fr Community – G. Kulakowski C.A. Couret

Fedora and the Fedora-Fr Community

Walid : welcome to this new episode of Projet Libre!. Today we’re going to do another episode that’s a little different. This is the first time we’re going to talk about communities around a Linux distribution and I’m delighted. I have to thank a former colleague, Emmanuel Seyman, who offered me today’s episode.

He told me that it would be nice to do an episode on the Fedora-Fr association. It’s been 20 years this year, it was a great opportunity. And with me today to talk about Fedora and the French-speaking French community of Fedora, I have with me two members, Guillaume Kulakowski and Charles-Antoine Couret.

Listen gentlemen, thank you for accepting the invitation, welcome to the Projet Libre podcast.

Guillaume : thank you for welcoming us and for offering this showcase to our distribution.

Charles-Antoine : Thank you, it’s a pleasure to be able to communicate differently about distribution, it’s a great initiative.

Presentation of Guillaume (Lliaumgui) and Charles-Antoine (Renault)

Walid : Great, to start with I’m going to ask you to introduce a little bit and tell us a little bit about where you’re from and then how did you first discover free software? Guillaume, do you want to start?

Guillaume : yes I want to, yes, so I’m Guillaume Kulakowski but I’m maybe better known on IRC or Matrix now because it’s true that we stopped IRC, on the username and on the forum also on the username of LLaumgui. I’ve been working on Fedora and Fedora-Fr since almost the beginning, so it’s been 20 years.

So I’m like, basically, I even made it my profession, because I became a computer scientist, now I’m an architect and everything. And I started Fedora and free software because we were in a period where I had bought my first PCs at the time it was Windows ME and I was super unhappy with the stability and all that. So the alternative was Windows 98… but hey, it’s as if I’m told that the alternative to novelty is to go back five years… so I thought maybe the alternative is to stop using Windows so I started to look into it and at the time there was a distro that weighed quite a bit it was Fedora Core – at the time we still had the Core – which had a little bit of the reputation of the Red Hat Free Open Source from the People.

So I tested it and I quickly adopted. Oh yes no, it was horrible.

Walid : Oh yes, but that was perfect. To abandon Windows was perfect.

Guillaume : Oh yes it was…

Walid : great. Charles-Antoine and you on your side?

Charles-Antoine : So I’m Charles-Antoine Couret, I’m also known under the pseudonym Renault, I’m currently the president of the Borsalinux-fr association which promotes Fedora in the French-speaking world.

I’m also a computer engineer but I do embedded system development, not system or web development.

Free software I started in 2004. In fact, on the family computer, we had a browser called Mozilla and at the time Firefox had just been released. It’s true that I was hanging out a lot on the web at that time and there were ads everywhere on Firefox and since there was the proximity with the Mozilla name it interested me. And my father is also a fan of computers as a hobby. And there was a Linux Practical magazine on Firefox lying around at home, I read it.

And it allowed me to discover other free software like that, Linux, etc. And so I asked questions and he was using Fedora Core on his personal machine. So when I got my personal machine in 2005, I asked it to install Fedora Core 3 for me and that’s how it started.

The History of Fedora

Walid : classy. Now what I want to ask you is to tell us a little bit about Fedora. I would like to know a little bit about how it started Fedora?

Charles-Antoine : Fedora was basically a repository for Red Hat Linux , which was Red Hat’s consumer distribution at the time. There was Red Hat Enterprise Linux as well for the companies that continue to this day. But at the time Red Hat Linux was really controlled only by Red Hat, so there were very few packages provided, because only employees could offer packages in the repositories.

And in fact the idea of Fedora was to be an external repository, but of quality, that could assemble programs from the community and therefore not by Red Hat.

So there’s a developer, Warren Togami, who created the Fedora.us repository and who proposed the first package and the governance mode and it grew a little bit very quickly during that year. And in 2003, Red Hat decided to merge Red Hat Linux with this Fedora.us repository to form the Fedora Project, which would become Fedora Core 3 by the end of 2003.

Probably also for financial reasons because Red Hat Linux did not have extraordinary sales either and were quite expensive to maintain. This allowed Red Hat to have a form of openness, to have external contributions easily and also an open development platform for its enterprise version behind it.

Guillaume: What you need to know is that Fedora, the Fedora project, makes packages that will then be retrieved from the Enterprise distribution. So, they’re going to repackage, they’re going to add insurance to it, they’re still going to base themselves on packages. So, we’re a little bit ahead technologically, but then it’s still going to be picked up by Red Hat, so it’s pretty good, it’s a sign of trust, indeed.

Walid : From the beginning, Fedora has been a bit of an incubator for future Red Hat Enterprise distributions?

Guillaume : from the beginning, maybe then version 3, 2, 3, from version 2, 3, but yes very quickly, indeed, they got back, I mean Fedora N prefigures what Red Hat will be in a few months, slash (/) years. yes, more years than months, yes. Because, yes, indeed Red Hat, I don’t know what it was at the time, but basically Red Hat, they support their distribution for 10 years, roughly. We are 13, but months…

So, there is still a big gap, which means that we, when Red Hat N plus 2 is released, a month later we stop supporting Red Hat N. So it’s still quite fast, but because we’re community and we can’t stand ten thousand versions at the rate where we go from two per year.

The name Fedora

Walid : Why the name Fedora? Do you know a little bit about it? Do you have an idea?

Charles-Antoine : Actually, the Red Hat logo is a hat and the hat is actually a Fedora, quite simply. When Warren Togami named it, it’s just a reference to that name as a nod. Simply. I don’t think there are any other reasons behind it.

Guillaume : And we continue the tradition and our association is called Borsalinux because we couldn’t call it Fedora because Fedora is a registered name. So Borsalino, hats off again, Borsalinux. Our waiters have been called Stetson, Trilby, each time we stay in the hat business.

Red Hat’s place in community management

Walid : yes it was one of my questions afterwards, it was why the association is called Borsalinux and why the association is not called Fedora-Fr. So from the start, Red Hat’s place is still quite preponderant. Is this always the case in community management?

Charles-Antoine : So there are several aspects. In itself, yes, Red Hat is of course very present in Fedora, that’s obvious. You have to think of Red Hat as a very big sponsor and even let’s say Fedora development partner, so they provide the infrastructure, with the servers, the hardware, the bandwidth.

There are employees who are dedicated to it, even if there aren’t that many who are really dedicated to Fedora, there are still some who are. Of course, all the marketing aspect, etc., which they also manage behind it. But Red Hat doesn’t have full control of Fedora either, the governance mode is made to be shared. Red Hat of course has employees who are in certain positions to ensure the quality of the distribution, especially on the board. The Fedora Project Leader , for example, is necessarily a Red Hat employee, but there is still a mechanism in place for the various decision-making councils to share power with the community so that the community has its say, and moreover there are sometimes decisions that do not go in the direction of Red Hat because it is the community that has decided and it is not a problem No problem.

Walid : Is the community more about individuals or is it also about companies?

Guillaume : Both indeed, there are individuals who participate, there are individuals who are paid by their company to participate. After all, the Fedora project is a rather innovative project, that is to say that we will try instead, there are some distributions, rather than contributing to a window management system for example they will create their own. We made the choice a long time ago, so we offer all the window systems but still Gnome has its part in our heart and there are exchanges that are made with the Gnome teams etc. We are often one of the first distributions to offer the new version of Gnome. We even proposed it before it was officially released, that is to say that we were going for an RC1, RC2, that’s because we didn’t want to be 6 months late.

So yes, there are individuals, but there are also companies. And there are companies that delegate work time to people and those people can do whatever they want, including contributing to Fedora.

Charles-Antoine : By the way, there is an example, it was a few years ago, Fedora made the decision to use the Btrfs file system by default, which Red Hat does not support in its official versions because they do not have the skills to allow long support on this file system, they have theirs next to it. So it was, for example, a decision that was not in line with what Red Hat wanted. This change was partly driven by Facebook employees, for example, because they use it in their infrastructure with CentOS Stream as well, and they use it more intensively and they made the proposal and it passed.

The beginning of Fedora-Fr

Walid : We’ll come back to the cast and its story later, but if we go back to the start, I’d like to understand when you decide… well, who and how do you create a French-speaking community around Fedora? How does it work at the beginning?

Guillaume : So I’m the oldest, I’m almost the last of the Mohicans.

You should know that 20 years ago, there was a Fedora France site that was born by the initiative of 3-4 people. So it’s sorry, I don’t have their names anymore. Some have left their community, they asked to delete their account, all that, so I don’t really have their names anymore, I’m sorry. But very quickly I joined them and I offered to help them with the maintenance of the site, the improvement of the site, because there was a Fedora community worldwide that was starting to grow in importance, but, at the time, I wasn’t as English speaking as that. And as a result, offering support on Fedora was important, especially since 20 years ago Fedora wasn’t as user-friendly as it is now. I remember at the very beginning we still had the Red Hat Manager to manage packages which didn’t work under Fedora so the basic package manager didn’t work we had to get it out to install Yum… It was just… not Yum, yes no, the first one was Yum. It was just… There you go. And so it was corrected with Fedora 2 or 3 now, I don’t know anymore.

But suddenly it was much more difficult to access, it was still a bit elitist. So offering support in the French language was still interesting enough to help the community grow. We quickly became one of the largest non-English speaking communities with the Polish community at the time, it was also Spanish because there is Spain, there are also all the countries of South America, but there you go. So there was this desire to create a Fedora France site and then the domain name belonged to someone we lost sight of a little bit so very quickly we said to ourselves anyway France is not our identity, because we had Belgians with us, we had Swiss, our identity, it is French-speaking, and even African. Our identity was French-speaking, so we took advantage of it, it also shortened the URL, and we went from Fedora France to Fedora Fr very quickly. That was 20 years ago.

Walid : yes, and what is it at the beginning, it’s a website, it’s a forum, what is it? What did we do?

Guillaume : At the beginning it was a website with a built-in forum that was based on Xoops for those who know, it was an old Chinese CMS I think. yes, yes, Xoops 1. Do you remember?

Walid : The name a long time ago, I never used it, but the name a long time ago.

Guillaume : Oh yes, that’s it. And so I also helped them migrate to Xoops 2, but very quickly we thought that Xoops was a little limiting because we started to have more and more people and especially more and more people who wanted to contribute so we said to ourselves “ok the forum is good but we will also have to offer documentation, wikis etc”. and so there we added bricks around MediaWiki, we cleared the forum from Xoops to put a real forum based on FluxBB at the time. The idea was really to offer bricks so that people could contribute.

The Borsalinux association

Walid : And from the beginning you create an association or does the association come later?

Guillaume : So the association came a little later for the first techniques, i.e. the domain name to which it belongs. We have a bit of the trauma of the person who owned the domain name. So, we gave it back to the association. And by the way, the deal with Red Hat is that we have the domain name that bears the identity of Marc Fedora, they don’t bother us with that, because we’re an association. On the other hand, the day the association is dissolved, we will have to return the domain name to them. I couldn’t keep it myself, for example. And then also for the fairs it was easier.

Then the 1901 law I think allows us to recover subscriptions, which can pay us for equipment when we did trade shows, installation parties.

Walid : And so the association has its own equipment in fact?

Guillaume : So, the association owns the domain name, after the idea is also to have partners, there currently our partner is Scaleway, which hosts us free of charge. At the very beginning it was Ikoula, then recently we switched to Scaleway, for 2-3 years, and they are the ones who make the servers available to us for free.

After all, the association mainly has goodies, we have kakemonos, we have a page that we need to find.

Walid : And so the goal of the association, its goal is to promote the Fedora distribution, right?

Charles-Antoine : Overall, that’s his goal, to maintain the website and also to coordinate the various activities related to French-speaking contributors such as translation, French-language documentation and also, if there are people who want to start contributing to the project, we have a perfect gateway to take the first steps.

Walid : And is she also in charge of I don’t know, organizing events?

Guillaume : So that’s a bit down I think unfortunately and it’s also coming, it’s a change of mindset, we also see it on the forums, on the wiki.

That is to say that before, installing Linux and Fedora description, you still had to hang on a little bit, that’s why the association also had in its promotional role, I think it was once a month, we went to… what’s the name of the thing there, Paris? La Villette.

Charles-Antoine : the Saturday of the Libre.

Guillaume : yes, the Saturday of the Libre at La Villette, where we did install parties, we helped people, etc. Now, installing Fedora is super easy, now there’s YouTube, so you don’t need someone to tell you how to do it, it’s much easier. So we organize fewer events, but we try to participate. On the other hand, there are big events, trade fairs or other, there we will go there as Borsalinux, but here we are organizing fewer events because there are fewer needs.

Charles-Antoine : The last major event that the association managed, even if it was not dedicated to French-speakers. it was FUDCON, so it was an international meeting of Fedora users, the annual event, if I may say so, which was held in Paris in 2012, and the association partly made it possible to organize that weekend of remembrance. This is the last major event that the association managed. And for the 20-year-olds, we would like to do a physical activity. Maybe in the case of the next General Assembly, maybe outside of it, we still have to define the modality, but precisely to try to bring people together and do some activities together.

Guillaume : Covid didn’t help either.

The Fedora-Fr Community

Walid : The question I was asking myself before going back to the beginning, is how many active people are there now in the Fedora-Fr community? Chunky knit

Guillaume : It depends on what we say active, because we’ve already opened up some things, that is to say that at one time, at the very beginning when we started the wiki, you should know that the Fedora site, well the Fedora project, didn’t have a wiki as rich as ours. We had, you were talking about it earlier, Trashy, Johan who was our editor-in-chief and all the articles were validated, there was really a workflow and the wiki was not in free writing.

Now, we are trying to open up a little, to facilitate the contribution. So anyone who has, I think it’s about fifty posts on the forum, has the right to edit wiki pages and that allows for a little more contributions to be made. But since then, the Fedora Project has created its own wiki which is also growing in wealth, so we maintain both. And indeed, so contributors, it really depends on what we call a contributor. Does being a contributor mean participating in events? Is contributor answering in forums and helping newcomers on the forum? Is it contributed to wikis, is it contributed to the translation of Fedora into French, it’s a lot of things, and to come up with a figure like that, I don’t know, I’d say between 20 and 30, what do you think?

Charles-Antoine : Yes, I think it’s a possible number in the broad context, in the association itself, there are more like a handful of us who actively take care of it.

Guillaume : But the site is not the association and the association is not the site, so there are people who are in one and not in the other.

I’ll tell you something, it’s that already, just having a problem, rather than opening a topic and saying it doesn’t work and spitting your hate, but thinking a little about your problem, releasing an interesting log and opening a ticket on the Red Hat Bugzilla which we also use on the Fedora project. That’s already participating. There are plenty of ways to participate and contribute. And that’s what’s wonderful about free software.

Walid : yes absolutely. Are there people in the Francophone community who are involved in the distribution itself? In terms of I don’t know, who does packaging or that kind of thing?

Guillaume : packaging yes, well you worry about it too.

Charles-Antoine : I don’t. But for example, Remi (Editor’s note: Collet), who is one of the biggest French-speaking packagers we know, he helped a lot on the forum, he helped with the documentation.

If there is someone who asks about this, about creating their first package, for example, they will gladly answer. So the French-speaking community has a lot of active contributors in the project itself. By the way, Emmanuel Seyman you were talking about at the beginning, he maintains the Perl packages of the Fedora project as well and he goes to the shows. Guillaume also maintained a few packages as well.

Guillaume : It was before I had children but indeed I packaged a lot of things.

Charles-Antoine : I did translation. Jean-Baptiste, for example, also did translation.

There are still people who contribute to the project in the broad sense and not only in the French-speaking part. Even if there is also the opposite, there are some who are francophone but they contribute only to Fedora and the francophone community does not really touch it. There are also some.

Walid : I say hello to Remi and Johan whom I had the chance to meet for several years. And there you have it, I say hello to them with great pleasure.

The very beginnings of the Fedora-Fr community

Walid : Just a little thing about the beginnings. You said something quite interesting. The fact that you have indeed made an agreement with the people of Fedora to be able to use the name Fedora-Fr. When you set up the community, you immediately went to discuss with them and told them, we would like to set up a French-speaking community and everything, how did it go at the very beginning in fact?

Guillaume : I wasn’t there at the very beginning, I arrived three months, three or four months later, so it wasn’t there at the very beginning, I think it was done a bit without asking too much. When we started to have contributors to the Fedora project who came with a Fedora France or Fedora-Fr banner at the time, I think they quickly realized that we existed. Then at the fairs at the beginning we tried to negotiate goodies and others. I remember having beers under the Red Hat booth at Solution Linux several times, the relationship was not bad.

After what you need to know, if there are American laws that’s what causes problems, it’s that when we set up the association, we called it the Fedora-Fr association, and they subsidized us a little bit. So it was a problem in terms of accounting because we had their name and it could be perceived as transfers of funds to a company elsewhere. So that’s what caused the problem and that’s why they asked us to change our name so that they could continue to help us because otherwise fiscally it would be disturbing for them.

Charles-Antoine : To give just a few dates, I’m on hand. So the Fedora-Fr site was born in May 2004. The association was founded in January 2007 and we changed our name when we signed the agreement with Red Hat for the use of the Fedora name and so we changed our name to BorsaLinx Fr in 2011. It gives us a bit of time, so indeed for a good handful of years in any case, the association was able to run with its name without any problem and without Red Hat or the Fedora project being particularly interested in it, apart from giving us some money or goodies directly.

The evolution of the Fedora distribution

Walid : The next part I’d like to talk about is the evolution of distribution. You’ve seen all the evolutions of the Fedora distribution, and I would have liked you to tell us a little bit about them, to tell us for yourself what the big steps have been.

Charles-Antoine : What would you say that in the history of the Fedora project, one of the most important events, the first one, was Fedora 7, when there was the merger of the Core and Extra repositories. Before Fedora 7, the distribution was called Fedora Core, because in fact there were two main repositories, the Core repository which was managed globally by Red Hat employees and the Extra repository which was community. Even though the two were officially supported, they were distinct.

For Fedora 7, they decided to merge into 1, which became the Fedora repository, hence the name change at that time. In terms of software bricks, there were a lot of changes in those years. For example, we switched to Network Manager to manage the sound. For the init system, we have moved from a traditional system.

Guillaume : Network Manager is to manage the network.

Charles-Antoine : Yes, it’s the network. Then for the init system, at that time, we also switched to Upstart which was the Ubuntu solution and shortly after, to improve Upstart, we had to redo it and it was Systemd that was developed, which took over, which is now pretty much everywhere.

For sound too, at that time, there was the introduction of Pulse Audio for example to manage the sound which still allowed you to use sound on the network but also to have a better dynamic management of the sound under Linux which was at the time very static and in particular there were sometimes problems like having several applications playing sound at the same time it was not possible. There was really a lot of evolution at that time for a few years. And after the situation stabilized a little in the early 2010s, the project was gaining in maturity, stability, and asked itself the question of “well now what do we do because there are fewer breakthrough changes, is the operation of a traditional distribution still relevant?” And the project in 2013-2014 took a one-year break, that is to say there was no release for a year when usually it’s every 6 months.

The goal was to have a period of reflection to define what the distribution was going to become afterwards, and that’s what we call Fedora.next So there were several decisions that were made at that time. First of all, very quickly to create products, that is to say rather than having a generic distribution with Gnome by default for example for all uses, we decided to have three different versions, so the desktop version which is classic Fedora with Gnome for office computers, but also a server edition for purely server uses, and a cloud version that will also become atomic later, whose goal is to work within a container, to be really minimal to launch an application or two, no more.

That way, the objective was to facilitate communication, but also to define objectives for each group. As a result, there are working groups that have been formed. For example, the group around Workstation is trying to say, we’re going to improve user excellence, how are we going to do it, what packages should we install? How do you configure them? Are there compatibility problems between different projects, for example between Gnome and the Fedora installer, for example, isn’t there a way to integrate this a little better?

So the goal is to make working groups like this to improve the product little by little and I would say that overall it worked well. And another important decision, which has been gaining a bit of popularity in recent years, is to try to redefine how distribution works.

Before, I mean in the classic way, and it’s still the case with a normal Fedora today, you agglomerate a lot of software together that you can install, but already it’s basically always a version of a package together. We try to pool resources, that is to say if there is a library that is used by different software at the same time, we will try to have a version of this library for all applications, which sometimes requires integration work because there are incompatibilities to manage. And also everything is on the same level, that is to say the kernel package is on the same level as the sound management, which is on the same level as Firefox for example.

There is not really a difference from a system point of view between all this. So the objective is to eventually think of a layered architecture, where we would have a very minimal basic system, which would be very reliable, well tested, which could operate by state and be read-only. And on top of that, for example, we could put different programming languages or work environments, and on top of all that, much more independent applications. The aim is to offer more reliability and flexibility, because this is sometimes a negative consequence of traditional operations and distributions. And this is what will become for the desktop version of Fedora the Fedora Silverblue project, so a classic GNOME environment but with a layered operation with a very minimal basic system in read-only and the possibility to install software not in the form of all-integrated flatpack packages or containers for different environments.

And that’s gaining a little bit of popularity lately. We don’t know if it will ever become the reference, but maybe. In any case, there is a lot of work that is being put into it to try to move the lines a little. And maybe in fact, it’s just the two will coexist depending on the needs and the advantages and disadvantages for each. We can’t say that. But all this work stems from this reflection that took place ten years ago.

Walid : And that was a rather innovative approach in the world of classic distribution?

Charles-Antoine : I know that there have been projects around it, especially for example the NixOS distribution takes up some of the ideas that there are on this. The technological choices are not the same, nor are the implications, but it still gives some similar ideas.

But it’s still quite innovative, because no distribution, let’s say, is quite well-known, because a NixOS, let’s not hide, it’s not a very well-known and widely used distribution. Among the major Linux distributions today, it is the first to have initiated this, and in fact, many are starting to think about and offer this kind of model on their own.

Walid : We were talking about this pause in functionality, this new architecture, but in recent years, the landscape has also changed a lot. I’m thinking with the arrival of Wayland for example, to manage everything related to graphic display. Pipewire, that kind of thing.

From the outside, I feel like Fedora is kind of the first to go on this and maybe wipe the plaster and take everyone ahead. But am I wrong or is it a bit like that?

Guillaume : I have an example earlier, it was Pulse Audio. We were one of the first casts to offer it. And it’s true that at the time, we were a bit of a mess. It has been criticized. But it allowed Pulse Audio to move forward, I think. We’re in the four Fedora foundations, there’s Freedom, there’s Freedom, there’s Friends, it’s on the community side, there’s Features, it’s about offering features and there’s First, it’s about being the first.

Sometimes we’re the first, well it doesn’t work well indeed, but I think that’s also what we’re looking for on Fedora, is to have a distribution that is a little bit at the cutting edge. Pipewire also yes we integrate it. Wayland was one of the first distributions to integrate it. I think stop me if I said something stupid, Renault, but Fedora 41 or 42 is going to be the default, there will be no going back I think. So that’s the idea, it’s really to move forward with free software and to move free software forward.

Walid : It’s a choice from the beginning to make sure that the modifications are made upstream, or directly to the software package managers, to immediately contribute to the community project that we integrate.

Charles-Antoine : very clearly, and by the way when I had looked for the preparation of the 20th anniversary of the Fedora project last year, by doing My retrospective, in particular, there were articles that pointed out that very quickly Fedora made it possible to reduce the amount of patches that Red Hat maintained in Red Hat Linux on their side and that did not officially contribute and that Fedora allowed to push upstream because the objective was precisely to push towards openness as much as possible and to reduce the maintenance load also in the long term of the teams and to move everything forward the world as well.

It was really a bias from the start and it showed from the first versions for most of the projects that Fedora contributed to. I have more of the story than in mind, but it’s not precisely the mess that there would have been with Pulse Audio, or maybe it’s on a kernel worm, that made us do a real initiative Alpha, Beta, RC and even the development version of Fedora which is, I forgot its name, it’s the Rawhide which is really the development version.

The idea was still for those who want to wipe the plaster even more and who want to contribute to use these versions so that when we arrive stable we are more and more stable and it’s true that it has brought a lot. There are even weeks that are organized, for example the kernel weekend, we will do kernel tests. That’s it, so the idea is really to stabilize the version much more when it comes out via this alpha, beta, RC system and before the Rawhide.

Walid : Has the release cycle, and therefore the release cycle of Fedora versions, evolved over time?

Guillaume : It’s been a little while that it’s been one every six months, apart from the one-year break, very quickly it went up to a version every six months.

Charles-Antoine : yes in the idea at the beginning it was a little longer sometimes, there were nine months or more, it has already happened. The development cycle itself I don’t think it has evolved much but I know that with the improvement in the quality of Fedora over the last ten years, the alpha version for example no longer exists, we go directly to the beta. Indeed, even if Fedora always tries to include technologies that are quite advanced, which can pose reliability problems, compared to the 2000s, there is still a significant improvement in quality, first because there is a dedicated quality team that has tools and a lot of people working on it and it has paid off. And people, I think, are also more reluctant to include new features that are really not functional compared to the time when there was a lot of development that was being done, it was quite dynamic. Now, it’s a little more stable now, there are fewer disruptive technologies anyway.

And also, in the testing part, so in addition to improving the quality of Fedora’s tests, there is also improving the quality of the testing of the software itself. In industry, there is a lot more automated testing in all directions or integration. And this can be felt in all the projects. I remember the transition to KDE 4 for example was very difficult. A lot of things were missing, the configuration had to change every 6 months because they were incompatible with previous versions. Today everyone tells me that KDE 6 compared to KDE 5 works and it works very well, there are no problems that there were ten years ago. So it also helps to improve the quality of Fedora in the end because we integrate software that also improves from this point of view.

Guillaume : And above all, yes, updates are facilitated. I remember a time, 20 years ago, the best way to update Fedora was to reinstall it. There for years, well me last time, I changed PCs but it had been ten times that I had updated my server, well my PC and it worked perfectly. So indeed we have gained in stability.

Charles-Antoine : I reinstall more Fedora except for changing equipment. I reinstall more, I only do upgrades. Now it’s working really well.

Architectures on which Fedora is available

Walid : I forgot to ask you earlier in the beginning. At the very beginning we were talking about hardware, what Fedora architecture was available on and now what architecture it is available on. You know that at the very beginning?

Charles-Antoine : At the very beginning, I think there were only three. So the Intel processors so x86, there was the 32-bit and 64-bit version. From the start, even if it was more like 32 bits, which was the reference version at the time. There was also the souvenir PowerPC and I think that’s it.

Guillaume : Isn’t there a time when we had the i386, the i686 and the i586?

Charles-Antoine : Yes, but never at the same time. We went from one to the other. At the beginning it was i386, then we moved on to i686.

Guillaume : yes, it’s indeed IBM’s Power App. But now it’s simpler, there are more than 32 bits.

Charles-Antoine : No, in fact we still have the 64-bit x86 which is the reference today, there is the 64-bit ARM as well, the 32-bit is no longer supported for a few versions, the 64-bit PowerPC too and the IBM Z processor is the S390X architecture. That’s all that’s taken care of. Fedora has never really shone for the management of hardware in terms of diversity, it’s not really its strong point and it’s reflected quite well with that but we’ll say that it’s still enough for most uses, we’re not going to lie to ourselves.

Guillaume : I don’t agree, I think it shines because there are plenty of people who didn’t support PPC64 for example. I have memories of buying new pcs and that I was very happy to have a Fedora because it had the latest version of the kernel and I could have my wifi working.

Charles-Antoine : yes, I was talking more from an architectural point of view, yes from a driver management point of view, indeed having the last core in particular at one time was a really decisive asset.

A look back at 20 years of Fedora-Fr

Walid : I would like to take a look back on these 20 years now. I would like you to talk a little bit about what happened, or what you remember from these 20 years in terms of the French-speaking community. Are there any things that have really stood out to you over these 20 years?

Guillaume : I did it to my old man but I liked the beginnings when we were all there. It was really the beginning of Fedora so it was also the beginning of Fedora France. It was very nice, there were still a lot of lounges. In the salons, the share of free software was, it was one-third, two-thirds. These are the last shows I have done, there would have been no more folding seats, it would have been the same.

Walid : yes you’re talking about the community, the community stands. Community stands?

Guillaume : yes, I remember the Linux Solutions where it wasn’t 50-50 and then everyone came by because we knew that it was where there was the atmosphere and the beers were not very nice. After the fact that it has become less elitist, the fact that ADSL has become democratized, that we no longer need to come with USB to get the ISO and the fact that there are fewer and fewer major trade shows in France, Covid has done even more harm and that time, The golden age in quotation marks was very nice.

After that it continues to be nice but we have also aged, we have children, all that, at least that’s my case, and so it’s more remotely that we do things, for example the last General Assemblies, I did them remotely, I didn’t travel to Paris, because I’m in the south of France, I am in Montpellier. So all this adds a little bit of distance, we don’t have these Saturdays, these first Saturdays of the month in La Vilette anymore, because it’s more things that people want now. As you can see, just a forum becomes almost a dinosaur. That is to say, what do people want now? They want a live chat and live help. So, yes, and on the slightly temporal side of the forum also poses problems for some. I think I’m going to be an old man who knows it was better before. I do that.

Walid : I have the impression that it’s a bit… Our whole generation has invested a lot in it and just the practices have changed and people are not necessarily involved in the same way.

Charles-Antoine : yes I think too.

Walid : And then more and more, well you see now you want something you’re going to ask chatGPT it’s going to take all the content, it’s going to come out with something direct, even the videos. It’s true that YouTube videos and all that, it has changed things a lot even if personally I can’t do a Ctrl F in a video so it’s dead but the practices have changed…

Guillaume : I think that virtualization has also changed things, that is to say that before we already had a PC that had trouble running an OS now we have a PC that can run several OSes so before testing Fedora on a multigoot partition and putting ourselves in danger we can test Fedora we can test Ubuntu we can test Arch Linux we can test a lot of things, see what we prefer, test Fedora with GNOME, with KDE, with the systems we offer and if we like it, if we hang it, we install it on our machine.

So that also makes people much more autonomous, I think.

Walid : I was wondering if during these 20 years, there were things that made you gain contributors, where you really say, ok, from there, we gained people. There are more people who have contributed to the Francophone community.

Charles-Antoine : At the beginning, it was quite dynamic. We used to have installation parties, I think, once a year in Paris. And it brought people in anyway. I think we gained contributors during that period. It’s true that this kind of event, we don’t do them anymore. But we may try to redo them, we will also see if people are demanding, that’s also important. By the way, in these 20 years, I had already mentioned but who was memorable, was also the FUDCon in 2012 in Paris, it’s still a pretty important event, it was a great event, well organized, which went very well.

And I also remember a first of April when I think it was Guillaume who changed the theme of the site to make it seem like Red Hat was buying Fedora and the association, all that. It was a pretty advanced April Fool’s joke, which was also very funny. It showed a state of mind at the time.

Guillaume : We had everything repainted red, it was quite funny. I have to find photos of that.

Charles-Antoine : I think there are scenes that drag on, yes. I’d have to find out. yes, on archive.org maybe, we’ll see.

Guillaume : No, but I think we even have copies on our side. Possible, I have to look for it. Then there is also a fragmentation I think. Before there was Fedora, Ubuntu, SUSE, Mandriva, now there is Arch Linux, there are more and more distributions, distributions that are ultra-specialized in security for example or in electronics.

We are undergoing a fragmentation that has had and we have lost some great members of the community, Mr. Tom, think of you, is that when people started to say that they could let go of Windows and Microsoft, they didn’t necessarily go to the Linux side, they also went to the apple side (Editor’s note: Apple), so they left one software confinement for another software confinement, but suddenly with a feeling of freedom that was all false. I won’t have that much to applaud but I’m anti Apple so there you go.

So I think that indeed Apple has taken market share that could have been ours and now it’s still very hard to leave Mac so people stay there.

Fedora on mobile?

Walid : So I don’t know at all, I don’t know the answer at all. There are mobile projects around Fedora.

Guillaume : Mobile phone?

Walid : yes yes mobile phone.

Charles-Antoine : So officially not really, well let’s say that there are initiatives to try to work on it, but it’s not very successful and very structured either. It’s more of an experiment and we play with it. For example, Fedora has packages for the version of Gnome Mobile that I believe is used by Librem phones, and I believe that Fedora is installable on some phones like PostMarketOS. I believe they can target pretty much the same hardware based on the Gnome Mobile environment and maybe KDE Mobile too I don’t know. I think there are working groups but it’s not something that is very much put forward because it’s more of an experiment and maybe one day it will take but…

Guillaume : the market is a bit monopolized though, there are two big players and I think it’s difficult to get in, we can even see that even Microsoft hasn’t succeeded if it gets rid of it, so…

Charles-Antoine : The problem with mobile phones is already it’s very integrated hardware, everything has to work, it’s not like PCs or well… You may have a component that works quite seriously there if you don’t have a microphone or if you don’t have internet or if the screen doesn’t work very well very quickly you are quickly penalized and the management of the equipment is very complicated on a phone, it’s very diversified, it’s not as standardized as a PC. This is what makes initiatives of this kind more complicated, unfortunately. And in addition, installing on a phone is also more complicated than installing a Fedora on a PC. These are still more complicated steps, which are also more risky. It’s not the same approach.

Walid : For those who want to know more, I redirect listeners to the episodes I did with Agnès Crepet from Fairphone and with Gaël Duval from Murena, in which we talk a little about these subjects too, and what it’s like to work with fully integrated equipment, etc. So it can also be a complement.

Are you looking forward to the future?

Walid : I had another question in terms of association. What are your desires for the future? We talked about the fact that we can maybe reorganize events, are there things that interest you for the years to come?

Guillaume : It’s true that meeting and re-meeting could be interesting.

Charles-Antoine : Yes, to have a physical meeting base outside of the General Assembly of course, or it can also be done physically, but to do it in a more informal context, either to help people, or to also discover things. For example, we can make presentations, demonstrations, it can, it can be fun too, and just chat because we know each other a little bit, but it’s good to spend more physical and well-composed time. It’s something that I personally would like to see after the request of the volunteers all this to have more people also participate it would be something important for the renewal because it’s true that the association is suffering a little bit, especially on that side.

It’s hard to get new contributors to come and lend a hand. What also slows us down in our ability to do activities, such as organizing an event, still requires time and resources. You have to be able to count on at least a few people to do that. It’s true that it would be easier to do it if there were a few more of us too.

Guillaume : I’m going to draw a parallel between life, but the years when I contributed the most to Fedora were when I had more time, so when I wasn’t married or with children, and so it would be good, I would look like the old idiot, but younger people would take over. We have a little trouble cooling our participants, at least within the association.

Walid : It raises the question of where are we going to look for these people in fact, who don’t necessarily know you? But for many associations it’s the same in fact, generational renewal is not something that is necessarily very very easy.

Guillaume : I don’t know, I have the impression that the younger generations are less sensitive to the cause of free software. We are still on the verge of democratizing closed marketplaces. I mean, it shocks no one that when you buy a pc for 2000 euros, you can’t install what you want on it. Anyway, thank you, now there’s Europe, we will be able to install with difficulty what we want, but I think that people are less sensitive to the cause of free software.

As we can see, they have often owed their soul to Chrome and Firefox’s shares are declining. There’s this culture that gives so much data to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, – TikTok which is perhaps the worst – so they don’t even ask themselves the question of what is free that their data on a Fedora, their data is theirs. There is the possibility of sending metrics to help the Fedora project, i.e. roughly what you have on your PC, your processor, etc. To help us make our efforts and you don’t have to, this is a checkbox during installation. But otherwise, everything in it doesn’t go back to Red Hat. That’s it, this freedom side, I find that people are less sensitive.

Walid : And isn’t it also linked to the evolution of the distributions themselves? Or as you said before, it was complicated to install a distribution and now you have a container, a command line, it’s installed and you don’t even need to ask these kinds of questions. What makes you focus more on the application communities and not on the distribution community that goes with it?

Guillaume: Maybe people even use Linux on Raspberry Pi or other for very specific projects, but keep their Mac or Windows on their main computer, that’s also a possibility.

Charles-Antoine : In any case, in the last 20 years, the IT ecosystem has changed a lot. Already, it has become democratized, so it’s certain that proportionally, there are perhaps fewer tinkerers today than at the time. Because at the time, having a PC was not in every family. Now, many families have one. Many peripherals have also appeared. Tablets and phones have replaced the PC for many people, for many families.

The PC is more of a work tool now and it’s true that it may be less of an incentive to tinker because tinkering with your phone and tablet is not as easy as the PC. I think that this global evolution of the IT ecosystem makes it maybe a little more difficult to make people aware of it and that the people who contribute can indeed contribute as you say more to the applications because they have less to worry about the distribution itself because it works, it fills the need and what they want is to do something else with it. And they work more on what happens above rather than the cast itself, it’s quite possible.

Walid : Before we conclude two things, the first is that I wanted to know if among your challenges there was also the challenge of diversity?

Charles-Antoine : It’s made a subject of it, and the Fedora project has done some work on it. They are trying to have people who are already not only from the Anglo-Saxon world, let’s say, or even from the Western world. We try to attract contributors from countries that are less used to contributing to free software. The presence of women too, they try, but it’s complicated.

We have the same problem. Overall, we are only men. We had very few women members of the association. Unfortunately, it’s also something that… It’s not something that we can overturn on our own, we try to be open to everyone of course but we can’t force people to take an interest in it either, and unfortunately there is, let’s say, the historical weight of society which means that it will probably take time to absorb itself.

The Evolution of Linux Distributions

Walid : I had one last question, actually I was interested to get your point of view on how you see the evolution of Linux distributions. There are still a lot of changes on, we talked earlier about Flatpak, we talked, well there are immutable distributions too etc, so how do you see things in fact with all this hindsight? What does this inspire you? What can be on the horizon?

Guillaume : I’m a former packager, so Flatpak gives me pimples. Then nothing, if not for an eco-responsible approach or other, but having the smallest packages that take up the least space on a hard drive, etc. It’s still a little greener than saying “I don’t bother, I’m doing a big thing, I’m putting everything in it”. After the advantage of a Flatpak, it is that indeed the Ubuntu Flatpak will be able to go on a Fedora, etc. So I understand that interoperability is important, but hey it’s also the bottleneck, why also several Linux distributions?

So if there are several Linux distributions, it’s because they have several identities and I think each identity is interesting. We have Fedora which is innovative, but then we have all the Rolling Release distributions such as Arch Linux or others that also have their audience, which are also innovative, which are also interesting. On the other hand, the big gap, we have the distributions with very, very long support that we will install, that we will use a lot in the professional world such as Red Hat or other.

I think there is something for everyone. After all, I like the concept of Fedora. Earlier, Renault was talking about Silverblue. I have a bit of trouble with Silverblue for example, because there is Flatpak in it. For me, Flatpak is really by default when I can’t find what else is there. For example, if I’m currently looking at FreeCAD, FreeCAD doesn’t work in a compiled version on Fedora because there’s a Python version problem.

So effectively, Flatpak is the only solution until the problem is solved.

Walid : So that’s it, it’s one of the few packages I use in Flatpak. Precisely, I was wondering about this evolution of packaging in fact. You’ve been doing packaging in the same way for years and then it’s evolved. And so here you say that it evolves, you in a way that you don’t necessarily like. It’s also something that is interesting to see how over all these years the professions have also evolved around this.

Guillaume : Yes, absolutely, absolutely. The Flatpak is indeed portable just about everywhere. We can even see it on GitHub, we can very well have a GitHub Actions that will make a Flatpak of the project and any Linux user will be able to use his project. So it’s good, it allows an opening, but for me it’s just troubleshooting and as soon as it’s possible to create a clean RPM that is optimized for the machine, that’s where we should go.

Charles-Antoine : I think that the two models will actually coexist, for a very simple reason that globally there are antagonistic needs that have been there since the beginning of Linux, we’re not going to lie to each other.

Traditional systems are very good, very efficient, but the problem is also that it’s a bit rigid. You want a different version than what the distribution offers, whatever the reason, it can be for a reason of compatibility with the work, or because you want the latest feature that is available, well it’s complicated with a traditional distribution, whereas Flatpaks, it improves this kind of thing.

And also, for example, I have a few examples to give to give use cases where flatpacks for example or even Silverblue can be interesting. At my work we make LANs sometimes for fun, we all have our distributions for work, we’re quite free on that, it’s cool. You need the same version of the game to be able to play together with traditional distributions, it was unmanageable, we spent our time trying to find out which version we’re going to put on and eventually we have to compile, fix it. With Flatpak everyone downloads the Flatpak, it’s fixed in 5 minutes. It’s still a fairly appreciable asset and in work environments where you can be interconnected like that and you need to have the same versions sometimes to do certain tasks, it’s still a significant asset.

And by the way, for Silverblue too, I do tests of Silverblue and Rawhide on my personal machine. For the past 6 months, I’ve been giving feedback on this soon because I find it interesting. Two, three times, my machine was not bootable, not at all. I don’t know the reason in detail, but it didn’t happen. With this state system, I could get back to a working system in two minutes, just by pressing a button when I started the machine. Which, with a traditional distribution, could be very difficult to fix, sometimes even impossible, you just had to reinstall, which took a lot of time. We can see an interest in providing this kind of solution here too, in terms of reliability, at least for the basic building blocks.

And for me, as all these needs are a bit antagonistic, between the classic system on the one hand and what Silverblue and Flatpak offer on the other, I think there will be a mix and two, which will, depending on the use cases, each one will favor one or the other and sometimes make the two coexist at the same time we will use a traditional system but for some software that we need because it is not in the repository because we want a specific version etc we will use the Flatpak.

Walid : Is it potentially the same people who make Flatpaks and who make RPMs?

Charles-Antoine : Fedora makes its own Flatpaks from these RPMs. There are Flatpak repositories provided by Fedora which allows other distributions to possibly retrieve packages compiled by Fedora in the form of Flatpak to have more recent versions for example. And that’s what is used in Silverblue. As there are no more RPM packages outside the base of the system – there are RPMs but let’s say that it’s not really as accessible as before – all the Flatpaks that are offered come from this work. They are automatically generated from RPMs. There has been a lot of work on this.

But in general a packer is not going to do work on Flatpak and RPM at the same time, but conversion tools like that, to go from RPM to Flatpak allow you to do that indirectly this is the case. But in practice I don’t have the impression that it is.

Guillaume : for example, there is something that shocks me right now about the software, that is to say the gnome package manager packaged in Fedora, is that you download Flatpak or RPM without realizing it, and even by default sometimes, while the RPM exists, it will download the Flatpack if you are not careful, It bothers me.

Charles-Antoine : So it was bugs at the beginning and now the order is defined. That is to say, if there is the RPM, it is installed in priority, then it is the Fedora Flatpak, and if there is no it is the Flatpak of FlatHub or a source of your choice.

Normally now there’s a priority list like that by default. But indeed before it was a little more messy and it could cause this kind of confusion.


Walid : ok, we’re coming to the end of the interview. What would you say to someone who knows Fedora to introduce them to the Fedora-Fr community, which is finally French-speaking?

Charles-Antoine : Well, a person who knows Fedora, you could say that we’re in ourselves a community of people who are curious and competent enough to try to guide, if they have problems with the distribution or if they want to contribute to it too, we can help take your first steps. And if they want to help, also other people, because everyone has their own experience, everyone has their little tricks sometimes. If they want to give them away too, they are welcome for that of course.

Walid : I’m going to leave you a free forum if you want to get a message across before we each leave each in turn, here I let you pass on the message you want to pass on to the listeners of Projets Libres!. Guillaume, do you want to start?

Guillaume : yes I’m going to start it’s something that really matters to me and even if the Prédoral project no longer highlights it’s the four foundations (Editor’s note: the 4 foundations) it’s really Freedom, Friends, Feature and First. That’s really why I came to Fedora, it’s the First. Always have the latest stuff that goes well, even if you break your teeth on it, well we’re going to offer it anyway.

Features, because Fedora is feature-rich. Freedom, because indeed, for me it’s important to know and control what I install on my pc and on the data that circulates between my pc and the rest of the world. And then the Friends side, the community side, it’s really interesting. I’ve had great years and I’m still having great years in Fedora-Fr and I think what’s interesting about this side is to be a winner.

It’s ok, taking software, taking information but also giving time to contribute and that side for me is really interesting. The product is free, you are not the product because we are not going to sell your data but so the way to pay for the product is to help and participate.

Walid : That’s beautiful!

Guillaume : That’s it and as I said earlier, even opening a well-done ticket with logs to help us is already helping.

We’re super good at French, we have former teachers who were, we can proofread the wiki pages, we’re super picky at spelling, there are lots of string files (NLDR: strings) to help with translation, we have slightly exotic architectures, we can help and make pages written on how to install, I discussed it with a colleague earlier, Fedora on a Macbook Pro. All these things, you can contribute to help others and then help yourself.

Walid : great! Charles-Antoine, to you, Tribune Libre, the message you want to convey?

Charles-Antoine : I’m going to agree a little bit with Guillaume. If you’re looking for a distribution that is cutting-edge while being simple and usable on a daily basis, don’t hesitate to try Fedora, I think it’s still an interesting experience. After you like it or you don’t, everyone has their opinion, but test it at least once, I think it’s worth it and then if you like it if you want to help in one way or another don’t hesitate to participate in the community in the Fedora project, the association frankly we are very open about it I would even go that Fedora is a distribution centered on contributors.

There are really a lot of needs, a lot of requests on this and if you have even limited skills, you don’t need to know how to do much, you can try to participate, we will try to guide, there is no problem.

Walid : Well here we are, we’ve come to the end, I thank both of you for your time, to talk about Fedora which is your passion, but I think it’s great because I had a lot of questions, I’m not a very big connoisseur, so it’s cool, we talked about a lot of subjects.

Guillaume : Do you want to install it after this podcast?

Walid : I installed it, to be completely honest, I installed it not too long ago on a 2012 Mac Mini.

Guillaume : Okay. It’s cool to have a recent distribution on this material.

So thank you very much for the listeners of Projets Libres!. It’s as usual, you can give me comments and above all, don’t hesitate to share this episode around you.

And we’ll talk about Linux distribution again in not too long either. So there you go, it should be quite nice, we’re going to continue in this vein. Well, see you soon and thank you very much to both of you, Guillaume and Charles-Antoine.

And well listen, see you soon, I hope to have the opportunity to have you back to talk about Fedora in the future.

Charles-Antoine : Thank you.

Guillaume : well, great!

Walid : Thank you. See you again.

This episode was recorded on June 19, 2024.


This podcast is released under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license or later.

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