The first thing you will note is that Red Hat has decided to move away from the x.x numbering of their products. Now they've moved directly from Red Hat 8.0 to Red Hat Linux 9 ending the 7.1,7.2,7.3,8.0 releases of times past, sure there was a 8.1 beta called Phoebe but that was all it was, a beta.
The CDs available for download are now 6 in total, up one from the last major release; however, most of us will get by with just downloading the first 3 CDs only, in order to install and setup Red Hat Linux 9 (the last three are source CDs).
For those of you who are impatient, I'll answer two questions immediately. There is no native mp3 support included; you'll have to fix that yourself if you want to play mp3s and for DVD lovers, the wonderful Xine is not included, you'll have to download and install it yourself. I explain how to add both in Part III of this article.
The install went really well, with no hiccups. It was as clean and as straightforward as the Red Hat Linux 8.0 install, except now you have the option to 'upgrade' any previous version of Red Hat Linux installed on your computer. If you go this route, then make sure to read the Release-Notes for information about how it may impact your Linux installation. I chose to do a fresh install and wiped out the previous operating system altogether. The hardware that I used was a brand new Dell Latitude D600. The install worked great on this new hardware which was a big plus as Red Hat Linux 8.0 choked on the first reboot after installing on the same machine (the now 'old' default Red Hat Linux 8.0 kernel probably didn't know how to deal with the chipset/ide controllers and did a hardware lockup after GRUB).
I had to manually configure X to tell it that my monitor was a Laptop Display Panel (why can't Red Hat Linux detect LCD's ?). After installing it booted up for the first time and all looked well. I noticed that CUPS was loaded by default on bootup (I have no printer) and some reference to 3 HSA cryptography keys also. The firstboot runs a short out of box experience (its called firstboot) which asks for the user to input some details and test sound etc. Once done you are presented with a nicer looking login screen than the one included with Red Hat Linux 8.0.
So what's different about it? Well, for starters (pun intended) the start menu is now far better arranged than the clumsy bloated mess in Red Hat Linux 8.0. It's now clearly laid out and there is even a handy 'recent documents' shortcut called 'open recent' on the menu. Nothing new to Windows users but it's nice to finally see it in Red Hat Linux. Once again, Gnome is the default DE and Bluecurve is the default theme so overall it looks remarkably similar to Red Hat Linux 8.0. The release notes refer to Bluetooth support included (bluez libraries and utility programs) in this release but as I haven't got Bluetooth on this machine I cannot test that functionality. Also in the release notes were mention of once again, no (current) 3D hardware drivers for NVIDIA users. That sucks because if you want to use your Red Hat Linux install for gaming, then you'll have to configure and compile the NVIDIA source drivers for EACH kernel release for Red Hat Linux 9.0 starting with the one thats included. Oh, and by the way its 2.4.20-6.
What else is new? You'll notice pretty quickly that the mouse cursor has had some code changes; in fact its called 'Xcursor'and it has some groovy new antialiased, alpha blended (translucency) features included to make it look 'cool' while waiting for some RPM to install. Those of you that had issues with Red Hat Linux 8.0 not installing on your Intel i845,i852, i855 and i865 integrated video will be happy to note that this has been reworked so hopefully even with a 1mb bios limitation on your video card, you'll get Red Hat Linux 9 Linux to install and have a graphical mode too. I inserted a blank CD-R in order to fire up xcdroast to burn these screenshots on this machine, and was pleasantly surprised to see that Gnome now has built in (limited) CD burning support in Nautilus. And it worked too! However, once I later installed Xcdroast i seem to have lost that ability. Oh well, it was only a test install anyway.
Mozilla version 1.2.1 is the default web browser and that's good for us Mozilla lovers. You will notice that there are no plug-ins loaded in Mozilla so for RealAudio playback, Shockwave or Java you'll have to get the plug-ins yourself and install them. OpenOffice is also included (version 1.0.2) but the nice, freely available Microsoft Fonts are not installed, sadly, so that's another thing that you'll have to configure yourself if you so desire.
For those of you who use KDE you'll be pleased to note that its now version 3.1-4 and that allows you to use the included Keramik theme. Ok, now that we are done installing Red Hat 9, lets see what its like to use.