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DistributionWatch Review: Red Hat Linux 7.1

Red Hat's Subtle Movement

May 18, 2001

If Linux-Mandrake likes to ride the cutting edge of point releases by jamming everything new it can find in the installation package set, then Red Hat's releases must lie toward the other end of this spectrum. For Red Hat's releases tend to be more subtle in their forward movements--slowly advancing toward technological Nirvana.

This is not so much a criticism of Red Hat Linux 7.1 as an explanation of how this latest release came to be. RH 7.1 is much like its predecessors: a stable and slightly newer collection of useful Linux tools. As this slow evolution moves along, important features start getting noticed--features that indicated more clearly than ever that in the long-term, Red Hat is definitely pushing their distribution toward the corporate end-user.

But while Red Hat's movements have been slow in some ways, there have been other changes within the distribution that make one wonder what Red Hat is doing in the short-term.

Installing Seawolf

The evaluation copy I received from Red Hat was their Deluxe Workstation, which is the company's middle of the road offering. It includes a little more documentation than the Standard Edition as well as some "extra" applications on the Workstation Applications, PowerTools, and Loki Games CD. The use of quotes around the word extra is my own affectation, because I am often puzzled why StarOffice, available on the Workstation Applications CD, is considered an extra and not bundled in the Standard Edition. Granted, you can download the suite with a minimum of effort, but why have users hassle with it?

This is particularly true when you consider that what you are really paying more for here is the added support users get over and above the Standard Edition, which allots one system 30 days of Red Hat Network Software Manager support. In the Deluxe Workstation version, you can get five systems supported for 60 days and in the Professional Server flavor, 10 systems for 90 days.

Feeling a bit impulsive, I installed Red Hat 7.1 on my AMD K6 500MHz test machine, blowing away the SuSE and Mandrake installs that resided in the machine. I realize this may not be exactly living on the edge, but you take what you can get at my age. I opted to use the Anaconda graphic install, because of its default status.

The first thing I noted right off the bat was the fact that the X implementation that was running Anaconda for me did not choose a 640X480 (re: Reader's Digest Large Print Edition) screen resolution that often truncated too many fields on previous installs. This time, it went the other way and displayed in a 1024X768 resolution.

This wasn't the only thing that changed in Anaconda. Besides the usual Workstation, Server, Upgrade installation option is a Laptop option which I am itching to try on my wife's machine later. Also new and of note was the "Firewalling" screen, which let you choose from preset firewall options or manually select which ports you want traffic to come through. I know that some have argued this is not a true firewall setup, but rather a cushy little front-end for Lokkit, but I appreciated the option nonetheless, given Red Hat's troubled history with leaving a lot of ports open by default. It worked, too, I should add--nothing was open that I didn't want to be after the installation.

One curious change was the lack of an automatic text of the X configuration. The card probing and resolution setting steps were there, but then it went right on with the rest of the install without a test start of X. In my case, no harm done, everything worked fine. I am kicking myself for not seeing if I missed hitting a checkbox somewhere, though.