RedHat Linux 7.2 Review

Reviewer: Joshua Jones
Category: 
Operating System
Version: 
7.2 (Enigma)
Price: 
$79.95

A buddy of mine introduced me to RedHat Linux back in 1996, on a CD. Until then I had downloaded different flavors across 28.8/33.6 modem, a rather painful experience. After that introduction I have been a loyal follower since. I have looked to RedHat Linux for stability, features, and ease of use. Their latest release, 7.2, is perhaps the best yet.

My test system: AMD K7 750, 512MB RAM, 60GB space (ATA 100, 7200RPM), 16MB Voodoo3 video. I also installed the distribution onto my laptop: Dell Latitude 650 GT, PIII 650, 512MB RAM, 20GB RAM, Docking Station, 21" Trinitron Monitor.

System Requirements

Minimum: 486DX processor, 32MB of memory (64MB for GUI operations), 400MB hard drive.

Recommended: None cited specifically for the processor; a top of the line Pentium (or equivalent) processor will do quite nicely, as much memory as you can afford, and a 1.5GB hard drive to get the full suite of applications.

A Great Distribution

The most noticeable new feature is support for the journaling file system, ext3. A nice feature supported by ext3 is that a user may migrate their old ext2 file system over to ext3, without losing any data. Other journalized file systems do not offer this feature, at least none that I know of. I actually migrated my /home directory on my K7 system form ext2 to ext3. I was pretty impressed. No data lost. Pretty Cool. Ext3 is surprisingly fast too. My StarOffice 5.2 and 6.0 Beta installations were much, much quicker. Powering off my system by ACCIDENT without issuing the shutdown command did not break my computer at all. Like a trooper it started back up without errors. Oh, you can also reboot constantly without those annoying file system checks. Oh I know, other journalized file systems allow these functions too. But can you migrate over to them from the "Universal" ext2?

Version 7.2 was released with the dated 2.4.7 kernel, and heavily patched. It's not a bad kernel and is fairly stable. I had no problems with it until I attempted to re-compile it. As with most "canned kernels" it really does not like to be messed with. If you absolutely need to re-compile, I'd highly suggest downloading the latest (2.4.13 runs well) and patch it with ext3 support. Or you can download the AC (Alan Cox) kernel patches. Both work just fine. I personally don't like packaged kernels. Stay with them if you are a beginner or need stable system. RedHat has released a packaged 2.4.9 kernel too. I'm not too sure about this one. I believe that 2.4.9 may have memory management issues. RedHat may have fixed this. I'm really not sure though. 2.4.9 from personal experience caused too many headaches.

Other notable, new features are:

  • Graphical file management with Nautilus.
  • Automatic partitioning and Auto-Kickstart profiling in the new installation program.
  • Graphical network configuration tool.
  • New user management tool, again GUI.
  • New hardware viewing tool, GUI.
  • Ext3 journalized file system.
  • Increased device support (due to a heavily patched kernel?).
  • Desktop Managers, including KDE and Gnome.
  • The latest version of XFree86.

Installation

Installation was a snap. Be sure to pay close attention, especially if you want to migrate your old ext2 partitions over to ext3. The new and improved disk druid was pretty slick. When you clicked on an older partition it would provide you its old mount point. But I just have to say this again, migrating file systems is the biggest plus yet! A full installation of RedHat 7.2 yields over 2 gigabytes! That happens to be quite a bit. Here is where I say "this is just too much." I really would like to see a smaller "full-installation". Maybe have a utility to install the other "junk" later on. Like an enhanced package manager. Those of you who have used OpenBSD know what I'm talking about. Just a pet peeve of mine. All the extra junk just reminds me of other operating systems. If picking and choosing packages wasn't so tedious I wouldn't be complaining.

Aside from a huge full-installation, it sets up quite nicely. One feature I'm still not too sure of is GRUB (a boot loader). Although GRUB as it's advantages over LILO, call me old-fashioned, but I still prefer LILO. I still wasn't able to use my number pad under the GUI Install either. Maybe next time? Anyhow I had both systems running in under 30 minutes.

I was happy to see the latest version of Xfree86, a fairly new release of KDE, Gnome (of Course!), the newest Samba, and more of the latest and greatest in software/technology.

Updates

RedHat's up2date utility still proves itself very useful. As always RedHat is on the ball when it comes to security holes and vulnerabilities. Even though they are quick to fix security related problems RedHat in the past tends to be rather slow on updating other packages. I realize that they aren't responsible for third-party software but I personally feel that if they are going to package it then they should at least provide updates to the more widely used programs. After using up2date to bring both systems up to date, the GUI front-end to the program stopped working (no third party software was installed either). The command line version works though. I would like to see more testing of these packages before releasing them to the general public. These problems also happened in version 7.1. and I had hoped would disappear in this release.

Summary

RedHat 7.2 is actually pretty good. It's biggest boon is the ext3 file system, still experimental in the Kernel though. There were a few extra features that helped administrate the distribution quite nicely. Installation was a snap although the full install was huge. This seems to be a trend in most Linux distributions nowadays. The up2date GUI stopped working after applying updates. I wouldn't rely on it. Download the updates form their ftp site or one of their mirrors. All in all it is still a really great distribution, my preferred one. Despite the problems I have discovered it is still a great distribution and definitely worth purchasing. Compared to other similar distributions it is far superior quite stable. The latest release of popular programs is always a nice touch.

Conclusion

The Good - Pros
  • ext3 journalized file system with migration from ext2
  • Easy to install
  • Fairly stable
  • Latest release programs
The Bad - Cons
  • No $30 Boxed version
The Ugly - Problems
  • Up2date GUI stopped working on both systems after applying updates to 11/01/01
The Verdict - Opinion
  • A great distribution overall and fairly stable. Could test more before releasing updates. Although I had only 2 test systems friends of mine encountered the same problem pertaining to up2date. When compared to similar distributions it is still the best.

Installation: 
5/5
Performance: 
5/5
Documentation: 
4/5
Ease Of Use: 
4/5

16/20

Overall score


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