posted by Andy Richter on Thu 11th Dec 2003 10:46 UTC

"RHEL AS, Page 2"
I've been meaning to test out Squid for some time now too so I took the opportunity to hit 2 birds with one stone and deploy Squid at my house with RHEL. I took an old Dell Optiplex tower I had laying around (PIII 600 with 128 megs, 8 gig drive) to see how RHEL performed on less powerful hardware. The install was basically the same as above accept I didn't install HTTPD or Samba (since they weren't necessary). I booted up for the first time and I got a warning that said something to the effect of: 'Red Hat Enterprise Linux is designed to run on systems with 256 Megs of RAM or more'. The message timed out and it booted up anyway. Everything worked that I used in spite of the warning (I'm not sure what the point of that was because I (and any good Sys admin should) know that the system I was using is under powered). This time found the Squid rpm and installed it manually (I can't really get used to the Red Hat graphical package manager). I edited the squid.conf file and again, bingo everything worked fine. At the time of me writing this the server is still sitting here and working fine.

What I Liked:
Well using RHEL was very uneventful because everything I tried on it worked fine. That doesn't mean this is a perfect distribution, I didn't do anything extremely involved and I have only used it for about 3 weeks now. The system has been totally stable while I've used it. While only using it for 3 weeks is hardly a real yard stick for the long term stability of a server operating system, it doesn't seg fault daily like my desktop running Fedora Core, which I find to be quite refreshing.

Furthermore since I was already familiar with Red Hat jumping into their Enterprise distribution was easy for me. Anyone (well... pretty much any one) who's comfortable with Red Hat Linux and Fedora should feel totally comfortable using RHEL.

What I didn't Like:
I felt from the very beginning that the default install of a server should include almost nothing like OpenBSD does. Including Apache and Samba by default I feel is asking for trouble because administrators who may have a lot of Linux experience could leave an unpatched version of Apache on their server and unknowing leave themselves vulnerable. I would have liked to see a more conservative default installation.

Furthermore it by default boots directly into X Windows. This to me again doesn't make sense for a server operating system. It is simple enough to edit the inittab file, but again I felt like that was an unnecessary step that shouldn't have to happen on a server operating system.

This is not a desktop distribution. I know I'm stating the obvious because I was using Advanced Server, but I'm sure that someone out there will or has tried this as a desktop, and found the same thing. Finding rpms of applications I normally take for granted was impossible (example gaim). The obvious alternative is to compile from tar.gz or src-rpm but the reason I use Red Hat is so I don't have to compile all my applications (I'd use Gentoo if wanted to compile everything :) ).

My last grip (although minor and wont' apply to RHN users) is the lack of public ally available binary patches. I know src-rpms are available but that was one hassle I really didn't want to deal with. Call me lazy (and I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who think I am at this point) but I would have much rather had binary patches straight from Red Hat.

Conclusion:
If you currently use RHL and are looking at RHEL as an upgrade path to a supported system, I think its a great choice (IMHO). This is especially true if you qualify for the educational deal with Red Hat and can obtain it at a greatly reduced rate. I feel that the normal fee for the system ($1500) is pretty steep but if a company were to find that the advantages out way the cost then this is definitely the way to go.

If you're just a geek like me, or are really cheap and don't want to pay for anything, then RHEL is not for you. The release cycle is way too long and finding up to date rpms is nearly impossible. Fedora (or whatever else you prefer) is really the distribution for you. Although stability is not its strong point (go ahead argue with this one :) ) Fedora provides a much more cutting edge platform to sink your teeth into.

About the Author:
I'm currently a Senior at Syracuse University majoring in Information Management and Technology. I've been using Red Hat since 5.2 and I have been using it as my primary operating system on all my machines for 2 years now. I also have experience using Solaris 2.6-8, FreeBSD, and OpenBSD.

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  1. "RHEL AS, Page 1"
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