Oh my, Red Hat, I very nearly donned you once again. You're so close, and yet... well, click through to find out why I think Red Hat is the best all around distro I've ever tried, and why I just can't bring myself to use it.
If you've never tried Linux, I'll tell you straight away that you should. And I'll give you a copy of Red Hat 8.0 and a free consultation to ge you started.
I'm quite taken with this distro: it's beautiful. Red Hat has created a tightly (for Linux) integrated custom theme called BlueCurve and deployed it with a high degree of consistency. The goal seems to be a cartoon version of OSX, and it works well if you like a bright, uncluttered interface:
Mozilla browser and Sun's OpenOffice.org, a drop-in replacement for MSOffice.
Within 5 minutes of install I was on the net (had to specify the correct ESSID for my wireless card, when will the installers start asking for this???)
Within 24 hours of install, I'd configured Mozilla for Flash and Java and email, captured and edited uncompressed DV video, downloaded images from a digital camera, played an internet audio stream and mp3s, and generally gotten things working in such a way that if I had to use this system for the next few years I could be productive and well-adjusted.
Not that all of this went without a hitch: Red Hat doesn't come with mp3 libraries due to patent issues, so you need to install a custom version of xmms from http://freshrpms.net-- take a moment to install their apt-get port, it's a godsend. And I had to load the raw1394 module by hand in order to grab from Firewire. Not something you'd have to do under Windows I suspect, but it wouldn't be GNU/Linux if there was no learning curve.
But I'll tell you where this distribution falls short: the $60/year subscription for the Red Hat Network, which seems both incredibly expensive, and from what I can see, unnecessary. Which is a real shame.
I've been using FreeBSD because I fell in love with their holistic approach to software distribution and support. The FreeBSD Handbook documents nearly everything about their system and their ways of doing things. And the FreeBSD ports collection allows you to quickly build a usable collection of applications and utilities from the thousands of different programs that exist out there in the free software world, and keep that codebase up-to-date. Not even Apple is that fancy, because they can't automatically update Photoshop and Word for you, whereas FreeBSD can.
Red Hat desperately needs a wide-ranging ports collection with automated install and update. Apparently there hasn't been a big investment yet in systematically creating packages for *every* program that Red Hat users use, so that one could just 'apt-get install xv' for instance.
Instead, one is forced to download the xv source, unpack it, configure, compile, and hope that all the requisite libraries and headers are already on the system. Even if only 20 Red Hat users want xv, that's a lot of duplicated effort! And on top of that, if there's a big update to the xv code, the system update tools won't know that it needs to be updated.
I *might* be willing to pay the annual fee to Red Hat Network if that gave me access to their huge database of ported applications, but from what I can see all I'll get is access to some message boards and update notifications-- and there's already a big red icon next to the clock that flashes if my system isn't up to date, so why do I need their email to tell me?
The Red Hat Network seems geared toward corporate hacks who are spending other peoples' money, and need to justify their use of open source software with big support contracts.
But like I said, if the internet stopped working tomorrow, I could be happy and productive with what I have, so I can't be too nasty about not living in a perfect world. They hit a triple with this release, and ya know, if you've already got a man on base that's good enough to score. I'm going to keep looking for the home run, though.
By Psydeshow on November 5, 2002 at 5:29pm