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DistributionWatch Review: Red Hat Linux 7
A Set of Updated Tools
September 26, 2000
(Sound of non-disclosure gag being ripped off.)
Ahh! At last I am allowed to speak of the latest release from Red Hat. After being a beta tester for the last few months and constrained by the NDA from speaking of the development of Guinness, a.k.a. Red Hat 7.0.
And the verdict?
Not a lot of changes to see here, folks, I am sorry to say.
The Point Release Disguised as a Version
There were, of course, quite a few changes in this new version of Red Hat, such as the addition of Gnome 1.2, XFree86 4.0.1, and (for the server junkies) included OpenSSH encryption tools. When all put together, they add up to a significant change. But was it enough to justify a new .0 release? On the surface, many of the configuration and interface tools are exactly like those found in Red Hat 6.2, so those of your looking for a quantum leap in the Red Hat OS will be disappointed.
It does deserve the 7.0 moniker for at least one technical reason: the binaries for 7.0 are not compatible with those for 6.2. In development terms, that means its time to roll out the old .0.
One of the first noticeable changes to this release is the inclusion of multiple CDs, which, if you install anything other then the Workstation install path, means you are going to have to swap CDs during installation. While Red Hat certainly did not include as many installation CDs (two) as the SuSE 7.0 release's six, I don't know if I would be running around touting this as an improvement like Red Hat seems to be doing. Multiple CDs mean a longer installation, which in Red Hat's case is already edging to the long end of the spectrum.
As reported earlier, Red Hat 7.0 is shipping with the 2.2.16 kernel. There were some hints early in the development phase that they might try to use the 2.4 kernel, but those proved to be unfounded. For the really cutting edge users, the prerelease of kernel 2.4 will be shipped with the distribution's CDs, but this is only for the brave of heart. Red Hat is sticking with the 2.2.16 kernel for now.
Something that was a real disappointment to me while testing was the decision to not release KDE2 as the KDE release for Red Hat 7.0. The rollback occurred because KDE2 product could not be thoroughly tested before the final release. While I agreed with the decision at the time, it was still a bit of a disappointment because from what I saw of KDE2, it is much improved over KDE. If you want to try KDE2, it, like the pre 2.4 kernel, is available for installation in a preview section of the installation CDs.
As far as toolsets go, Red Hat still offers a large variety of packages for users to work and play with regardless of the environment they choose. While not as feature-rich as Slackware, Red Hat still does a good job of culling out the chaff and providing users with a solid base of apps to choose from. One complaint I do have was the decision to release productivity applications like StarOffice only with the Deluxe and Professional editions. If Red Hat seriously wants to entertain the new user market, the lack of this kind of application on the basic release is not the way to go about it.
Getting connected to the Internet is handled solely through the Add New Connection wizard, run by RP3; you can't go in an modify your setting manually through linuxconf. Linuxconf does not handle these settings any more.
Once connected, the full Netscape Communicator suite (as well as a host of other tools) is available for the novice to expert surfer.
For those who want more, GnoRPM, now using the RPM 4.0 format, will assist users not only to install RPM packages, but also to find more of them on the Internet to download and install. Of course, the Powertools CD (available in the Deluxe and Professional versions) has quite a few applications to choose from, as well. The Up2date application, outwardly unchanged from earlier versions, still provides an easy path to upgrade the applications a user already has installed.