Red Hat Linux

Why does Red Hat Linux have such an odd name? Why was it the dominant Linux distribution for so long, and why was it split up into two different products? Like many histories, it’s not a matter of what happened, but who made it happen.

Where did Red Hat Linux get its name?

Founder Marc Ewing used to wear his grandfather’s red lacrosse hat when he was a student at Carnegie Mellon University. He quickly became identified with this hat, and would start the names of his computer projects with “red hat.” Naturally, when it came time to name his new Linux distribution project, he called it “Red Hat!”

Co-founder Robert Young also attributes the Red Hat Linux name to the use of red hats and bandannas as a symbol in revolutions from slave rebellions to the French revolution.

Why was Red Hat Linux popular?

The key feature of the distribution was Ewing’s Red Hat Package Manager. Where installing programs on Linux used to require tracking down dependencies and compiling from source, RPM let developers build packages that could share metadata with an internal database. For users, this meant they could get a binary RPM file for their system through an installation program like Yellowdog Updater, and it would automatically check for and install any needed dependencies. Suddenly, installations went from being a complicated and frustrating process to one that could be accomplish with a single command.

Why was Red Hat Linux replaced with Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Fedora?

Red Hat development was done internally, with community support limited to bug reports and compatible software packages. This led to some decisions that users felt were questionable, like as the use of a beta version of the GCC C++ compiler in Red Hat Linux 7.

Red Hat decided to split Red Hat Linux into two products: Fedora and Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Fedora is open to community development, letting users choose what they want the distribution to do. Enterprise Linux draws from the community work on Fedora, but Red Hat has ultimate control. This version is targeted at commercial users. Meanwhile, as RPM’s use has spread to several distributions, its name has been changed to RPM Package Manager.

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