A month ago we published the world’s exclusive review of Red Hat 8.0, Download Edition. In the meatime Red Hat, Inc. sent us a box of their newest product, Red Hat Professional. While the OS is pretty much the same as in the download edition and we have already made an extensive article on it, a few additional goodies await the customer in the box and we review them.The gray box includes quite a few items in it. You will find four booklets/guides, a 4-page Red Hat Network quick reference guide, a big Red Hat poster, some stickers, and 9 CDs: a credit card-sized mini-CD with the admininstator’s tools (that’s cool), the three installation CDs of the OS, a multimedia/office application CD, 2 CDs with the source code, one CD with the documentation, and one DVD and includes all what is to be found in the previous 8 CDs.
Except of the installation CDs, I also used the “multimedia/office application CD”, but that CD is not filled with enough non-free applications or demos. From the pretty limited bunch, I only found useful the Java 1.4 RPMs, the Flash plugin and the Acrobat reader. The rest of the apps didn’t really impress me, in fact the rest of the apps were not exactly “multimedia”. There is no Xine, Nvidia drivers, Real Player or VideoLan/Ogle to be found there. And only one from the great collection of TheKompany’s applications is included. I am sure that the CD can be filled with more interested applications (some are Free in fact). Examples: More games like FlightGear, maybe (abandoned) demos from Loki, LBreakout2, LGeneral etc. CAD demos, a copy of the Scribe DTP app, Sodipodi, Anjuta, Sketch, PurifyPlus, Sweep, ReZound, Audacity, more apps from TheKompany, phpMyAdmin, Hancom Office and much more. Just fill the CD with goodies (and a few suggestions for the future: Blender and Rhythmbox).
By re-installing Red Hat 8.0, the PRO version this time, I get the same software features (plus the credit card-sized admin CD and the applications CD) and to the same limitations as I mentioned on my review last month (plus one more). However, where Red Hat 8 PRO tries to differ from the Download and the Personal edition is in support (Web: Basic Installation, 60 days, Phone: Basic Installation, available during business hours, 60 days) and on the 60-day basic subscription of Red Hat Network.
But what really matters, help on the add-on support that is (come on, who needs such extensive installation support, you do the (pretty easy) installation only once), availability is pretty thin (“Limited Basic Installation and Configuration, available during business hours”) and the big surprise is that it is the same as in the Personal Edition! One would expect more configuration support from the PRO version than the one found on the Personal Edition.
According to what I said and seen so far, I see absolutely no reason for a company or an individual to buy the Pro edition over the Personal one, except maybe for pure support for the company. And people who can get their way around things, the free download edition is more than enough and adequate.
But then, there is the documentation. There are about 800 pages (printed with pretty small characters, so there is a lot of information there) on all 4 books. I have to say that the documentation is just excellent. Sometimes they are over-analyzing things, but overall, I find it excellent.
There is not much to be said about the installation guide, it is pretty much a step by step process, and the authors are explaining each step very carefully and give lots of information (e.g. how partitions work in general).
The Getting Started Guide is a good starter, and I only found two flaws in it: no mention of how to install fonts (I didn’t see the mention of the ~.fonts/ trick, found on Red Hat 8, but only a brief report on the /usr/share/fonts/) while the Index of that booklet is pretty poor. Other than that, it is ok.
Both the Reference Guide and Customization Guide are for more advanced users, and personally, this is where I find the whole “meat” of the Professional Edition. You will find help on how to configure BIND, CUPS, DHCP, RAID, Apache, Users, Cron and more. You will also learn more about the inner workings of your OS, like how to use modules, how to create swap files, how to deal with X, Firewalls and much more. My only beef here is that they talk a bit too extensively about Kickstart (automatic deployment of the OS to multiple machines), but other than that, these guides are great.
Personally, I find that the best and main part of the PRO version, is its documentation (as I explained above, the installation support is not an issue for most professionals). But the PRO version costs $100 more than the Personal version, and you can always buy a book on Red Hat 8 (to learn to do more with your system), for less than $45 USD.
Make no mistake, I am not saying that Red Hat Professional is overpriced. I just believe that the Personal Edition is dirt cheap and offers most of what the PRO version offers, making the PRO version really not justifiable for purchase by most people. Again, I am not saying that Red Hat does not deserve every penny, on the contrary. I just think that Red Hat, Inc. should rethink of the way they layout their products. Either the Personal Edition should lose some “fat” (and consequently, features), or bump up its price (probably not a good idea, in order to be able to compete with Mandrake and SuSE’s personal editions). If none of these two options are doable, Red Hat should reduce the price of the PRO. Otherwise, I just can’t recommend the PRO edition over the Red Hat Personal Edition, despite its great documentation.
If you are after an OS-specific review (rather than a boxed product-specific one), please read our review from three weeks ago.