Sometimes you learn about what’s going on in a distribution by accidentally breaking something. Such was the case for me recently with respect to Fedora.
Fedora is an RPM based GNU/Linux distribution that does focus on providing a free software license clean repository, with the one unfortunate exception of the Linux kernel itself including binary blobs, and that publicly fights against software patenting. Fedora also happens to focus on enabling community self service a lot. For this latter reason too it came to pass that I maintain some of my upstream packages directly in Fedora over two years ago, rather than having this done by an intermediary Fedora package maintainer, as more often occurs in other GNU/Linux distributions.
Often Fedora provides the most current software in the community. Recently (in F17) Fedora choose to upgrade to the latest ortp. We have been in the process of quietly integrating GNU ZRTP into ortp since last year. The result of this was first realized accidentally with this new Fedora release, when my current commoncpp release, for the first time, broke KDE Kopete and Linphone in Fedora 17 over an old and never before identified bug.
Breaking something in a distribution is not the most horrible thing, and we were quick to resolve it by providing a fixed package. However, it made me think about something deeper. In Fedora, we have sflphone, linphone, and kopete, we may even still have Twinkle too (I haven’t checked), and all of them are now offering the potential for secure calling using the GNU ZRTP stack. They may well be the first widely used distribution that now potentially offers media path secure calling in most of the included voip clients by default. And Fedora does also include GNU SIP Witch.
I think it is time again to think about what secure calling means from the perspective of a distribution. How do we effectively put together something at a GNU/Linux distribution level where all the pieces work together seamlessly, and it is easy for anyone to setup and deploy secure calling clients or services, whether for private use or for an organization. And what does this vision mean for what we need to do next with GNU Free Call, how does a GFC client finally help bring these pieces together.
The last time I thought about the question this way was also over two years ago, and it was perhaps premature then. We still did not have all the parts needed to do so available to end users in any distribution at the time. We were still struggling with what was an artificially overly political process even getting packages included in some GNU/Linux distributions. It also before GFC, and what was thought about then is now rather obsolete.
Fedora operates as a true community of equals without politics, and I will give them much credit for doing that also. It was at the time back then, and I think it remains the easiest GNU/Linux distribution to try and work with in this way. This time I want to get more feedback about what others think and expect a distribution that offers the possibility for providing secure communications through free software much more out of the box should look like, and this need not be limited to voip.
If there is interest in this I would be happy to put together and propose a new feature for what will be Fedora 19 and 20, as well as seeing what packages would need to be suggested for inclusion in their repository, or otherwise modified as part of such a feature proposal. Some of this work will be needed anyway to introduce GNU Free Call into Fedora when the time comes to do so. Having more feedback I think will make for a cleaner and more compelling feature set. If we can similarly work better with other free software distributions, I would be very happy to do that also.