posted by Anthony Hicks on Tue 8th Apr 2003 16:17 UTC

"Linux Distros: Redhat 8.x (Phoebe)"
Redhat's latest offering, which was just release, is very impressive! My review's based off the release candidate, Phoebe, which is supposedly very similar to the final 9.0 release version.

In addition to getting all of the experience and support that comes with the worlds most successful Linux distributor, you also end up with a very fast, and well-built Linux system. Phoebe looks great, and KDE 3.1 simply smokes on it. It's a very fast system! Some of this speed might be due to Redhats new threading processes (due to be included with the forthcoming 2.6 kernel thanks to Linus Torvolds appreciation for the technology!) which impacts how programs talk to the kernel, but either way, Redhat's performance is top notch, and certainly among the best I've seen. Particularly when you consider that Redhat's i386 compatible and not highly optimized for the Athlon CPU that is running my system.

Phoebe also offers one of the better-looking desktops thanks to their beautifully anti-aliased fonts, and the aforementioned KDE 3.1 UI. I played around with Gnome a bit, but it was too slow for my tastes. In addition, I couldn't tweak out Gnome as easily as I can KDE. I expect some of this will be fixed with the final release, but for my needs, it doesn't matter; I'm a KDE fan myself.

If the software you want isn't included with Phoebe, there's a ton of sites on the net that offer Redhat 8-specific packages. There's also a lot of Redhat specific support available online in order to help you through any questions you might have.

I really only had a few negative impressions of Phoebe, one of those being it's implementation of KDE. Redhat is notorious in some circles for "crippling" KDE in order to make it work better with Redhats favorite UI, Gnome. Although some people will tell you Redhat's made it very hard to work with 3rd party KDE apps due to how they've changed KDE's structures, for the most part, you won't notice these changes during your day-to-day work.

They've done things like moving the KDE menus around, and installing KDE in a non-standard way, rather than using KDE's defaults, and they're totally in the right by doing so due to the way that KDE's distributed (You can really do about anything you want with it). It does however make it harder to install certain applications since they'll try to add their shortcuts and such to the default KDE locations. You'll then have to manually move such items to the correct areas on your hard drive if you want them to work with your Redhat setup.

The other problem with Redhat isn't really a Redhat specific problem, but rather one which is plaguing many of the "cutting edge" Linux distro's, and that is that they're including the latest glibc libraries (v2.3.2), and many existing apps have not been updated yet to work with this version. On top of that, Phoebe also sports an entirely new method of handling program threads, and while this new method does offer some dramatic speed increases for certain operations, like the updated glibc libraries, it also breaks compatibility with a number of existing applications.

Hence important utilities like Codeweavers Wine don't run under Phoebe yet. Updates are in the works for both the aforementioned Codeweavers product, as well as for may other apps which aren't currently compatible with this new release, but I want a system that works today. If I wait, it could be anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months before most applications are patched, which isn't too encouraging.

Redhat includes a ton of software with their distro's, and Phoebe is no exception here. It's packed full of software to help you with everything from surfing to coding, and I like the fact that I don't have to go hunting for what I need immediately upon getting my OS installed. On the other hand, this is specifically why Redhat's known for adding bloat to their distributions! While I appreciate so many tools being available, I wish they weren't all installed by default. I like a lean system, and knowing that space and CPU cycles aren't being wasted on unnecessary services and programs. While Phoebe is extremely fast, even with all of these additional software packages and services installed, I would prefer knowing specifically what's installed and why, without being forced to manually choose every single component as this is quite time consuming.

Summary: Redhat is a worthy purchase for any Linux "newbie", and arguably a good candidate for most people who use Linux. The minuses for me are the bloat, the modified KDE installation, and the fact that I cannot run Codeweavers under it yet.

I can't stress enough how easy this distribution was to setup and get running, but again, I'm not a newbie any longer (at least in my opinion. Others might argue), and Redhat's handholding and "all-in-one" installation methods remind me just a bit of Microsoft's ease-of-use efforts. It's nice, and it's powerful, but for my purposes, I want something a little more compatible with a 3rd party apps, and I'd also like a system I can currently run Codeweavers under. KDE 3.1 smokes under Phoebe, but this is also the case with many Linux distributions that are currently shipping it.

Additionally, the new threading model that Redhat sports is a nice perk, but it soon won't be Redhat specific, so this is only a temporary plus. The upcoming 2.6 kernel will also contain the updated threading methods, so soon all distributions will benefit from this, so while this is nice, it's not a "must have" reason to go with Redhat for my Linux system.

The software and support that's available for Redhat is great, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this for anyone just starting out on Linux, or anyone who just wants a system to work, and who's not that interested in tailoring it too much.

Table of contents
  1. "Intro, Windows"
  2. "BeOS"
  3. "Mac OS X"
  4. "GNU/Linux"
  5. "Linux Minus"
  6. "Linux Distros: Yoper"
  7. "Linux Distros: Redhat 8.x (Phoebe)"
  8. "Linux Distros: Mandrake 9.1 RC2"
  9. "Linux Distros: Ark Linux"
  10. "Linux Distros: Vector Linux (Soho 3.2)"
  11. "Linux Distros: Gentoo Linux (and other source based distros)"
  12. "Linux Distros: Suse Linux, Conclusion"
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