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Yellow Dog 3.0 Better Red Hat than Red Hat 9 - page 2

I'll Bet Odysseus Never Had These Problems

  • June 19, 2003
  • By Brian Proffitt

Let's be very clear about something: Yellow Dog 3.0 is Red Hat 9.0. Everything about it is Red Hat, from the installation tools to the GNOME/KDE unified theme (which is really Bluecurve). If you don't like Red Hat, you'll probably be thinking, "great, something else to avoid." Far be it from me to try to cure distribution bigotry, but you might want discard those preconceptions in this case.

Because, after working intensely with Red Hat 9 and Yellow Dog 3.0 on their respective platforms over the last two weeks, I have come away with the opinion that Yellow Dog is a better Red Hat than Red Hat.

This is not to disparage Red Hat. Red Hat, like all Linux distros, has to contend with being installed on a plethora of different PC and notebook configurations. And there are so many different hardware configurations out there, it's no wonder that any Linux distro will hiccup from time to time, as my Red Hat install did on the Compaq machine.

Yellow Dog, however, has a distinct advantage over all of the other distros, especially the ix86 ones: there are only so many hardware configurations you can get within the very close circle of Apple products and the (very few) Mac clones that are out there. Thus, it's very easy for TerraSoft to tweak Yellow Dog so it will fit very well on Mac machines.

It goes beyond basic hardware. This hyper-compatability extends to--you guessed it, the AirPort cards that Apple uses for its 802.11 communications. So, wireless configuration on Yellow Dog is simplicity itself: Yellow Dog will detect it, assign the eth1 port to it, and will pickup any nearby network as long as you leave the SSID variables blank in the network-configuration scripts. (That same script is where you would enter SSIDs and WEP keys if you needed to target a specific locked down network.)

Were there glitches with Yellow Dog? Sure, there were some. Even though the boxed set comes with a 296-page manual, which is great for basic configuration stuff, specific support questions need to be answered on the Yellow Dog Web site. The site is laid out fairly well, but the coverage of support topics (like just where the heck are those scripts to enter the WEP keys are) is a bit spotty. Try searching the mailing list search engine on the site for more esoteric support needs.

KDE 3.1-8a is the default desktop, which is pretty complete (I recommend installing the Development set of applications for a good set of text editors and monitoring tools). The only problem I had was the lack of an FTP tool installed by default.

If you are an RPM freak like me, you might be a bit disappointed with the number of RPMs compiled for Yellow Dog or PPC in general. I said "a bit" and I meant it. TerraSoft has done a very good job creating RPMs from the stock Red Hat 9 packages, as well as taking care of a lot of popular packages that aren't on the installation CD. When I have had to look for a package that was not included on the discs, I have had a fairly good success rate in tracking down PPC-compatible RPMs.

Then again, the easiest solution to this is to go forth and compile what you need on your own. Compiling is not as user friendly, but it gets the job done.

What you do get with Yellow Dog is pretty complete, with OpenOffice, Mozilla, and Evolution installed as the big three applications that most of us need.

Since I have left the system as a dual-boot with OS X, the inevitable comparison with that operating system is in order. I like OS X, a lot. The look and feel of the Aqua interface is very sharp. But while it is a good platform for watching DVDs and running my daugters' educational games, it seems interminably slow in starting apps.

Case in point: all of my bookmarks are in Mozilla, for consistency's sake, I went and got Mozilla for OS X. (I tried Netscape for OS X a while back and had nothing but trouble.) Mozilla for OS X runs fine, once you get it going. The startup is unbearable, especially watching that big M icon in the Dock bounce up and down, up and down...

To be fair, OS X has a great browser in Safari. Curious that this excellent tool is based on Konqueror, no?

On the Yellow Dog partition, Mozilla flys. Evolution flys too, and is much more comprehensive than the Mail app over on OS X. Mail's junk filter is okay, but when I can shunt my POP mail accounts through spamassassin in Evolution, there's no contest.

And, to complete the trinity, Yellow Dog has OpenOffice. OS X has... hmmm... AppleWorks. You can go out and get OpenOffice for OS X, and that works pretty well, though I have had some stability problems with it. If you're really flush with cash (or have a spouse that teaches at a local university and can get you Office X for Mac for a cool $15), you can go out and get Microsoft's office suite. But, having used it a few times, I have to say that it's pretty slow, too.

With these things in mind, you could argue that Yellow Dog is a better OS for Macs than OS X. But that would be pushing it, especially if you take into account all of the specialized apps that OS X can run and Linux can't. But when you compare, er, apples to apples, Yellow Dog does a much faster job than OS X getting things up and running quickly.

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