The installation of Red Hat 8 is similar to the previous versions. While Anaconda, the RH installer, was updated to support AA and GTK+ 2 resulting in a more spiffy look, little has been changed to the installer itself. One of the changes is that now you have to click "Advanced" to tell LILO or GRUB to only install themselves to the / partition and not on the MBR (I usually use the BeOS "bootman" bootloader), the option is not right up there as it used to be. Other than that, the installation went very smoothly; it only took less than 30 minutes with my 52-max CD-ROM I have here on this AthlonXP 1600+, 768 MB Ram (KM266 VIA Apollo PRO chipset, Asus GeForce2MX-400 AGP card and on board S3 SavagePRO, Yamaha YMF-754 and VIA VT8233 sound cards, RealTek 8139 onboard NIC). The OS rebooted and I loaded it into text mode, and from there I loaded X-Free.
As always, the default environment for Red Hat is Gnome. I haven't seen any Gnome version numbers anywhere, but I think that RH comes with a modified Gnome 2.0.2. It looks pretty slick, and the fonts (default font is "Sans") are looking sharp, even being fully antialised, but personally I found them a bit too big for my taste (and I am currently running on 1920x1200 resolution). There is this new feature coming with RH8 that you create a directory called ~/.fonts and you throw in all your TTF fonts in there, and they get recognized automatically from the system! This is pretty neat, only problem is that not many people know about this feature. I think it should have been part of the font panel under preferences. Anyway, in no time I was up and running with Verdana as my main font on the Gnome2 desktop. I think Verdana and the rest of the web fonts I installed, render very nicely in this distribution (X Server included is 4.2.0)
The Gnome desktop included on RH8 looks sharp and clean. It has brand new icons, and only important plugins and launcher icons are included in the Gnome taskbar. For example, you will find a workspace switcher, Mozilla 1.0.1 (default browser), Evolution 1.0.8 (default email client) and the OpenOffice.org icons on the left side of the bar, while you will find the Red Hat Network Update Daemon (up2date) on the right, along the Time. On your desktop you will only find your Home icon, the "Start Here" preferences open in Nautilus and the trash, named "Wastebasket."
Along with the brand new icons, you will find a new GTK+ theme, called BlueCurve, and a new window manager theme. I admit that it looks much better than many other themes from previous versions or from other distributions (the window manager is clean and up to the point - I like it), but there is still quite an lot of stuff to be improved in the UI itself. None of the suggestions we did here and here a month ago made it into this release. I hope the UI at Red Hat developers will consider some of the suggestions for the next version of Red Hat.
A nice surprise is OpenOffice.org's looks in this desktop. Red Hat made some good work to make sure that OOo looks good, with full AA support on its menus, even when you try to type something on a document. Too bad that OOo does not recognize the TTF fonts I installed on my ~/.fonts dir, though. Other GTK+ application can't see them either, eg. gedit, while other can (eg. Gnome2 Terminal). This is an incosintency issue and, in my opinion, it should be fixed.
One of the biggest problems I have with the current UI is the inconsistent, confusing and bloated "Start" Red Hat menu. You are free to like it as much as you want, I just don't. What is the point of having similar menus all over the place? You have a "mouse" entry on your Preferences, and you got a "mouse" entry on your System Settings. Granted, the panels loading from each menu are doing different things, but it is just not clear enough just by looking at the menu items what is what and which one does what. You have to click both to see if it is the one you needed. A UI should be intuitive enough to clear up such misconceptions right away. Same goes for "Keyboard" and Networking panels. And if this is not enough, the Red Hat menu is cluttered with similar --at first glance-- menus: "Preferences, Server Settings, System Settings, System Tools". And if that is not enough, under the Extras menu, you will find submenus (with different apps in them) called... "Preferences, System Settings, System Tools." Same goes for the Office, Games, Sound and Video. That "Extras" submenu is not needed. It duplicates things in a bad way, even if the apps offered there are different from their counterparts in the root Red Hat menu. The Extras should have been included in the master menus, and to avoid clutter, they should have been included under a submenu. For example, under Preferences, include a submenu called "More Preferences" and put there the not-so-needed prefs. Lycoris does it that way and it works well. The way it works now, after a while, you can't remember under which "Preferences" menu you saw a specific item. Was it under the root's Preferences menu, or under the Extras? Messy.