RedHat Linux 7.3 Review

Reviewer: Joshua Jones
Category: 
Operating System
Version: 
7.3 (Valhalla)
Price: 
$59.95

As you may have already guessed from my previous articles I prefer RedHat's Linux distribution. As a loyal follower over the years I must say that RedHat 7.3 is the best Redhat has offered so far. I'm not saying this because it is the latest incarnation. A lot of this distributions enhancements make it so. For example being able to use the keyboard number pad during the GUI installation was great. I know, it is a little thing, but the last few distributions didn't have that feature (to my knowledge) and my fingers really depend on the keypad for speedily imputing numbers.

My main test/production system was my new Dell Latitude 840. Here are its specifications:

  • CPU: P4 1.6GHz
  • Display: 15" UXGA
  • Video: 64MB GeForce 4 Go
  • RAM: 1GB DDR
  • Hard Disk: 1 60GB and 1 20GB in the media bay
  • Opical: DVD/CDRW Combo Drive, internal
  • LAN: 1 internal and 1 in Docking Station, Both 3COM

System Requirements

  • Minimum Pentium class processor
  • Recommended 200Mhz or better Pentium class processor
  • Minimum 650MB hard disk space
  • Recommended 2.5GB hard disk space
  • 4.5GB hard disk space for a full installation
  • 32MB RAM minimum for text mode
  • 64MB RAM minimum for graphical mode
  • 96MB RAM recommended for graphical mode

Installation

I was pleased with how RedHat 7.3 Installed. A full, 3 disk installation took about 38 minutes. The GUI installer provided support for the numeric keypad (I tested this on a regular desktop system), something my trained fingers rely heavily upon. A small improvement but really noticeable. As usual, RedHat gives you some options on how to install its distribution: Workstation, Server, Laptop, Custom, or Upgrade.

The workstation selection can be appropriate for new users who wish to use their Linux system for home use. A choice of KDE or the GNOME desktops are given. You may also choose to install both. The server selection installs the packages necessary for your system to act as a server only. The Laptop installation is geared for the users of laptops and installs the necessary components that benefit them. This installation is very much like workstation option. The custom option gives you the greatest flexibility during installation. You may choose which packages you wish to install, choice of boot loader, and more. For experienced users only. The upgrade option allows you to upgrade your system form previous versions of RedHat Linux. The minimum version you need for an upgraded is RedHat 4.2.

Version 7.3 was actually released with a recent version of the 2.4 kernel, 2.4.18-3. This is probably due to 2.4.18 having been "around" for a while. With the newer kernel is more and improved support for devices, file systems, and other technologies. I was very pleased to learn that a recent kernel was used in version 7.3. I would hope that this will be a continued trend but I am guessing this happened because 2.4.18 was already a stable kernel for quite some time. I don't think we would have seen 2.4.19 if it had been available. I realize that stability in an operating system is a very good thing but I would personally prefer at least the kernel to be no older than 1-2 versions behind the current. Usually I am not a big fan of the "canned" kernels bundled in distributions. They tend to be too heavily patched, bloated, and do not always take kindly to recompiling. This time around I have yet to replace the canned kernel. RedHat has outdone itself this time and has produced a really good kernel in its package.

When configuring my video for the first time I noticed that the generic Nvidia GeForce 4 driver support was weak (IE a mere 1024x768 resolution!). But this can be remedied by downloading the drivers directly from the Nvidia website.

Updates

RedHat 7.3 includes many enhancements to its predecessor. I was very impressed to see KDE 3.0 included as it had been released less then a month before. Its rival GNOME version 1.4 was also included which includes the Nautilus file manager. Ximian Evolution, a personal management system is a new addition to the RedHat lineup, well it is the first time that I have seen it. If you are familiar with Microsoft Outlook, well it is a similar type of application. E-mail, contacts, calendar, and Palm OS integration, what more can you ask for?

Other notable, new features are:

  • XFree86 4.2.0.
  • GNOME Meeting video conferencing.
  • MrProject Project Management software (Open Source).
  • Mozilla web browser (0.9.9).
  • Printing configuration tool (supports over 500 printers).
  • USB 2.0 Support.
  • Improved support for digital cameras.
  • Web, file, mail, ftp, and print servers included.
  • Apache and BIND configuration tools.
  • LPRng and CUPS.
  • Sendmail and Postfix MTA's.
  • ATA 133 support > 137GB.
  • Updated PostgreSQL.

The professional version supplies the user with Sun Microsystems Star Office 5.2. I know, version 5.2 is not the latest version but Sun now charges for Star Office 6. There is no longer a personal edition.

Summary

I was thoroughly pleased with Redhat 7.3. My installation on this laptop was without incident and I consider laptops to be one of the more difficult installation platforms due to their specialized hardware. The few hiccups I had were fixed with downloading files from the Internet. To this date I have no serious problems with my computer.

Conclusion

The Good - Pros
  • Newer kernel this time
  • Updated file managers
  • Better hardware support
  • Newer software
The Bad - Cons
  • Three disks large! Give me a DVD for installation
The Ugly - Problems
  • N/A
The Verdict - Opinion
  • A great distribution overall and fairly stable. More updated software. Great job.

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

16/20

Overall score


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