Red Hat has released a test edition of Fedora Core 2, a version of Linux that incorporates the new 2.6 kernel at the heart of the open-source operating system.

The first beta of Fedora Core 2, introduced on Thursday, also includes new versions of two popular Linux user interfaces, Gnome 2.5 and release candidate 1 of KDE 3.2, Red Hat said. The 2.6 kernel the "test1" version is based on adds support for more powerful servers, a better ability to handle multiple software tasks simultaneously and other features.

Fedora is Red Hat's more experimental version of Linux, geared to enthusiasts. Although it's free, it lacks the support and long-term bug fixes found in the Red Hat Enterprise Linux product, which isn't expected to incorporate the 2.6 kernel until 2005.

Red Hat, the top seller of the Linux OS, is trying to enlist the aid of outside programmers to help mature Fedora more quickly.

The next version, Fedora Core 2 test2, is scheduled for release March 8, with test3 due March 28 and the final version on April 19.

The software can be downloaded through Red Hat's Web site.

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