posted by John Collins on Wed 4th Jun 2003 15:23 UTC
IconThere seem to be many reviews on Red Hat 9.0, but all seem to be written by Linux junkies who really know their stuff. What about the MS Windows Convert? They say people like the first thing they use (i.e. if you learn to drive a manual transmission, you prefer it over automatic). If this is true, how does Red Hat 9.0 introduce a novice pc user to the world of computers? I hope to answer some of those questions in this tiny review.

Editorial Notice: All opinions are those of the author and not necessarily those of osnews.com

Background

I'm an experienced Windows / OS X user who has dabbled with Linux here and there since the kernel was at about version 2.0. It's important that I qualify the word "dabbled" with the understanding that I've done little more than install a version or two of the Mandrake distribution and then cleaned my system and started over with Windows. Knowing full well that the *nix platform should outperform a windows box for stability, I chose to venture into the Linux world.

Install - Part 1

I began by downloading the 3 iso files from public ftp mirrors listed at http://www.linuxiso.org/. I then burned each to a blank cd-r with Nero 5.5 (Windows 2000). Simply sticking the first cd of the set into my Pentium II, 466 with 256 MB RAM system and booting was enough to get things started.

The installation process began smoothly enough. I did a scan of my cd to make sure it didn't contain any errors. I also created a root password, setup my mouse and keyboard, and set the correct time zone. Disk Druid made partitioning my hard drive relatively easy. I created an 8 GB ext3 primary and a 250 MB swap partition Package installation was the trickiest part of the process.

RH 9.0 does, like most distros these days, organize the different software applications (packages) into spiffy categories. I opted for the "Workstation" install. Everything began fine - software was copying, thing were installing, comical images were entertaining me at the bottom of the screen - and then the error message.

I can't quite recall the error verbatim, but it said it had problem installing some file for Open Office. Keep in mind there was no "Skip this file" button, just a "retry" button. I reinserted the cd (which RH kindly ejected for me) and clicked "retry." Still no luck. RH ejected my cd for me once again, only to give me another error regarding /mnt/cdrom being used on TTY2 and the cd unsuccessfully unmounting. HUH????

These kinds of error messages *might* even be considered ok in the Linux world, but the novice would seriously think something was broken. And this was a standard install! I cannot help but think my previous version of Windows installed some file, preventing the successful install of *any* Linux distribution. ;-).

A quick trip over to TTY2 (I'd dabbled enough to know how to do this) revealed what I suspected - Absolutely nothing. Being in an endless loop of unmount error messages, I did what anyone should do- I rebooted and tried again.

Install - Part 2

This time I unchecked Open Office from the package installation. I also included KDE, several other random system tools, and unchecked the games, and everything installed just fine. The installer didn't know how much RAM was on my video card, and neither did I. I guess 8 MB. It seemed to work. Within minutes I was up and running inside the KDE interface, and peering into the desktop world of Linux.

"Oh Look," I said as a box appeared on my taskbar. (Is that the name of it? It's a taskbar in Windows, so that's the terminology I'll use here). A little red exclamation point popped up asking me to register for the Red Hat network, and to update my packages. Whoo-hoo. Windows Update for the Linux world. *NICE.* Nice I thought.

There were around 35 packages that needed to be updated once I'd created a Red Hat account. No big deal. I'm on a T1 line at work so updates shouldn't take too long. About an hour later the package updates had finished. Now imagine that on dial-up÷or even on Cable/DSL! Talk about ridiculous. I will concede that Microsoft isn't exactly Slim Fast when it comes to updates either, but Microsoft updates don't take an hour to download. I think I'll fault Red Hat servers for this one, or maybe everyone else in the world was attempting the same update at the same time I was. Who knows? It could happen.

After the updates my only gripe is that the "Red Hat Network Alert Notification Tool" window won't close. I couldn't find it easily in the process viewer, either. Remember, I'm a Windows guy. CTRL+ALT+DEL just offered to log me out. Grrr. So this is where I sit- with a pretty little KDE desktop and a window that won't go away. I could reboot, but I'll just swap over to another desktop and pretend the window isn't there. Ah, Linux, I how I love thee. Should a problem arise - you really can ignore it sometimes.

Conclusion
Perhaps I'm giving Linux a somewhat unfair review by not purchasing documentation and RTFM before I do the install, but the problems I experienced were something quite possibly not covered in the manual. Regardless, these kinds of issues need to be addressed before Linux can break into the desktop world.
I would also like to point out that redrawing windows when moved seems a bit slow. Maybe it's my machine, or perhaps it's the fact that the DE's ride on top of the X Window System; I don't know. Definitely on the right track, though. Lots of software, nice desktop, pretty fonts. Red Hat is on the right track and with just a few glitch fixes and tweaks, Red Hat 9 may be ready for the consumer desktop market.

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