Red Hat releases open-source development tools

Red Hat said Wednesday that it has made in-house development tools available to the open-source community that will help enterprises more quickly test and certify applications they build to run on Red Hat Linux and other distributions.

In his keynote address at the company's Red Hat Summit in Nashville, Red Hat CEO Matthew Szulik also announced a new Web-based community for open-source developers who are looking for collaborators as well as input from its engineers.

Red Hat also said it is developing an open-source entertainment Web site that lets users easily share their reading and music preferences with other Internet users. Regarding theOne Laptop per Child project, which is aimed at children in Third World countries and of which Red Hat is a key supporter, the company said it is making progress shrinking its flavor of Linux to run within the tight constraints of the US$100 notebook computer.

Although the company is better known as a provider of software for corporate server computers, Szulik said these latter two initiatives harmonized with the company's long-standing goal of "democratizing content."

"We're thinking less about brand than about reputation capital," he said. "We hope this is what you would want and expect out of a modern enterprise."

The software for testing graphical applications running on Linux is called Dogtail. Red Hat is also releasing scripts the company has developed in-house for testing applications.

"This is the equivalent of a chef giving you his stove along with his recipes," said Jay Turner, quality engineering manager at Red Hat.

Red Hat also released its automated test suite that tests graphical and nongraphical applications under the General Public License. Szulik said the company may eventually release a commercially supported version of the test suite and a free version, similar to the way the company offers the free Fedora Core while also offering a business version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux that provides support.

Also aimed at enterprise developers is Red Hat's new Web community, called 108. The company said the beta site is broadly similar to Microsoft Corp.'s MSDN Web site for Windows developers. While 108 will host open-source code and projects, it does not directly compete with the popular Sourceforge Web site, according to Todd Barr, director of enterprise marketing.

"Sourceforge is purely a repository for open-source code and a place to go for smaller projects," Barr said. "108 is not just a place to host projects. It's more about getting the Red Hat viewpoint across. We're not trying to supplant anything that is going on, but supplement it."

The same goes for Red Hat's new entertainment Web site, called Mugshot. Available in beta form under Windows and Linux, Mugshot lets users share their personal MySpace or Xanga Web pages, the blogs they read or the music they listen to with other users in real-time. Linkswarm, for instance, tracks how many people have viewed a certain link, so people can see what Web pages are becoming popular. That helps users decide whether to view or link to it, too.

"That's the sort of tacit social experience that's not available on a Web browser today," said Donald Fisher, senior product manager at Red Hat.

Another feature, Music Radar, monitors what songs you are listening to on iTunes or Yahoo Music Engine, also searching those playlists, in order to share them with other Mugshot users. Red Hat is developing a similar feature for video clips. Fisher downplayed any competition with Web consumer players such as Yahoo Inc. or Google Inc.

"We're keeping this purely additive, so that our software interoperates with everyone else," he said.

On the One Laptop per Child initiative, Red Hat has been able to shrink down its operating system, which normally requires 1.3GB to install, to about 250MB, according to engineering manager Chris Blizzard.

It aims to bring a working operating system with essential applications such as e-mail, the Gecko Web browser, document-creation software and a VoIP application, down to 130MB by the end of the year. That will allow users of the laptop, which is expected to have 128MB of RAM and 500MB of flash memory storage, to have more than 350MB of storage available for documents, photos and more.

To prevent damage from dust or water, the keyboard and expected three USB ports will be sealed, which is possible because the processor is expected to generate so little heat, Blizzard said.

Although Red Hat has said in the past that it hopes to profit when schools or governments purchasing the laptops also buy supporting server computers with Red Hat Enterprise Linux installed on them, Blizzard said the goal is to actually make the laptops work fine without them.

"We want to make these laptops manageable without managers," he said.

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