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DistributionWatch Review: Red Hat Linux 6.1 - page 9

Red Hat Linux: A Mainstream Linux

  • December 6, 1999
  • By Kevin Reichard

More than any other Linux distribution, Red Hat Linux relies on quasi-proprietary technologies that are in theory open source but in reality fairly unique to this specific Linux distribution. You've already seen that with GNOME and Enlightenment, but perhaps the best example of this is RPM, the Red Hat Package Manager. It's the main tool for installing new packages and updating existing packages.

Red Hat extends RPM with GNOME-RPM, a GNOME application that acts as the front end to the command line. Sure, this is technology that's available to the rest of the Linux world. But in deciding to focus on GNOME as the desktop environment and in using it as the basis of a graphical front end to RPM--instead of creating a more generic X-based RPM front end that could have been used by virtually every other Linux user, no matter what distribution is installed--Red Hat essentially foisted a proprietary solution onto an open-source world. (There is a KDE-based RPM tool buried among the KDE packages.) This is perhaps the biggest complaint we have about Red Hat Linux; within the product there are literally dozens of attempts to push "open" solutions while controlling said solutions.

RPM is a good example of this. In and of itself, RPM is good technology, but it's failed to catch on beyond the Red Hat universe. In the past, Red Hat Software failed to promote RPM within the open ethos of the Linux community, and as a result RPM hasn't been adopted by most other distributions. As a result, we have a Babelesque situation regarding installation standards in the Linux world; quite honestly, it's a pain in the butt for software vendors to support multiple installation methods, and the support of the software-development community is key to the future of Linux.

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