posted by Eugenia Loli on Mon 30th Sep 2002 01:10 UTC

"Red Hat 8 Review - Part IV"
Red Hat Network, System Monitor, File-Roller, Gconf, Grip etc I downloaded and installed successfully the nVidia 2D and 3D drivers. OpenGL works fine in 3D game, except that the GL screensavers have a problem to start in accelerated mode (yes, the memoryLimit is set to 0). After running a bit happy with them at the resolution and refresh rate I wanted, X would crash. SSH'ing in the machine and either stopping, or huping or killing X (which would now consume 99% cpu), it would completely kill Red Hat 8 (sign that the kernel was crashing because of the nVidia driver) and I would need to reset the machine. Andy told me to set the AGP settings to 0, and I did so. In the beginning, it was looking more stable, but after a while it would still crash in the exact same way. So, I just reverted back to the generic 2D "nv" driver that comes with XFree. The problem is that this nv driver could not drive my monitor at 90Hz. I could see the windows' edges to render as zig-zag, which is a sign that something is getting overclocked (while the gfx card _can_ do it with other OSes or drivers). So, here I am back on 73 Hz, writing this. I can tell you, I am not happy about the nVidia and nv drivers situation. The nVidia driver, which I compiled from the .tar.gz packages are NOT stable under Red Hat 8 on my machine even if when I disabled AGP support. I wish that Red Hat, who are now a big respected company (I wrote recently about their dominance in this year's LinuxWorld expo), could partner with nVidia to include these 2D/3D _better_than_nv nVidia drivers by default, but most-most importantly to have these drivers fully tested and ready for download for the time when their OS is about to come out. As for the standard XFree "nv" nVidia driver is so basic and untested on high resolutions that if it was something real that I could touch, I would have already thrown it in the river, which runs outside my house. And please don't tell me to dive in to the code and fix it, I am not a device driver programmer, neither I want to be one. I am a user when it comes to Linux and I expect things to work as nicely as they do on Windows XP and MacOSX (I do some C/C++ development only for OSX and BeOS these days).

There are three last points I would like to discuss in this review, because these are indeed real issues in the last 5 days that I am using Psyche.

First, the focus of windows does not always work and this is either a window manager or a toolkit issue. For example, I have Nautilus, gedit and the preferences/mouse panel open and I click between them (in the application body, not in the window manager) and while the clicked app gets the focus, it does not come into the front (I am using the default "click to focus" btw). Half of the time it would work and the clicked apps would come to the front, while the other 50% of the time1 it wouldn't do it. This might be a toolkit bug, because if I click inside a tab view area, the window will always come on focus, while if I click outside of this specific area, but still inside its window, it wouldn't. Weird.

Most important bug in my opinion is the GTK+ 2 combo box bug. Example: I get to the System Settings/Display panel and I open the graphics card panel which has a combo/drop down box on its right side, with the name of the driver loaded. About 60-70% of the time I hit the little arrow to open the combo box's menu, the combo box would get a different value, EVEN if I did not click to any value! In my case, it selects automatically the "mga" option! This is a toolkit bug, and while it does not happen all the time, it happens MOST of the time and if a user won't be very careful of what got selected without his consent, he/she would end up with a non working X server until he/she gets to hand-edit back the XF86Config file. Messy.

KDE, KOffice, Konqueror, KontrolCenter, Gaim The last gripe I have is the shortcut and navigability this distro does not have. For example, as I described above, by selecting the correct mouse driver for my mouse to give it the wheel ability, until I restart X, the mouse would move like crazy and I was not be able to click anything. I had to ALT+CNTRL+BACKSPACE my X Server (which was something that was not nessesary, X was fine), because none of the Windows Keys worked. By just clicking the windows key and the context menu key on my keyboard, nothing would happen, no menu would open. Yeah, yeah, I know. These are keys that the evil empire introduced. But they are freaking useful for God's sake. USE them! They are here, present on each modern keyboard! And what about the complete lack of navigation via other keyboard shortcuts? How do I logout via a shortcut, or even better how do I open a Red Hat menu (in order to navigate through it and do stuff or log out) via a shortcut or via the Windows key? The Gnome Help didn't help at all on this issue!

Conclusion

So, there are two questions remain:
How well this distribution would do as a business desktop? Let me answer this like this:
Psyche is better than most of its Linux competitors, but still way behind in both the desktop experience and feature-set from both WindowsXP and MacOSX.
How well this would serve as a server OS?
I am sure it would be good server OS. It is stable and fast. Some GUI utils are missing for configuring more servers, but for the admin who does not need GUI tools, Red Hat 8 would be better and faster than ever. But as a (business or not) desktop, I am sorry, but I am still skeptical about it. It isn't ready yet, it has a number of rough edges, and I really do not understand where the whole fuss was about the last two months about Red Hat 8 being a Windows killer on the desktop. It isn't one. Not yet anyway.

Installation: 8/10
Hardware Support: 8/10
Ease of use: 7.5/10
Features: 8/10
Speed: 8/10 (UI responsiveness, latency, throughput)

Overall: 7.9 / 10

Thanks to Ed Boyce for going through the pain of proof reading this article.

Table of contents
  1. "Red Hat 8 Review - Part I"
  2. "Red Hat 8 Review - Part II"
  3. "Red Hat 8 Review - Part III"
  4. "Red Hat 8 Review - Part IV"
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