Red Hat Linux 9 Review

This is by no means a technical review – it is just a summary of my experience as I was going along, installing and configuring a Red Hat Linux 9 machine. I installed the standard “workstation” installation on my 2 year old desktop machine. I like Gnome at home, KDE at work, but this review only covers my experience with the default Gnome installation.

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

Note: In this review, a [DOH] line represents something that the author didn’t like – or felt the desire to complain about…


Click for a larger view Red Hat installations are becoming pretty boring now – always the same thing – which is a very, very good sign. No more “learning the installation procedure” – it is just there and it works (for me anyhoo).
Everything went smoothly for me and its obvious that anaconda has developed into a very clean and mature installer – yay!
The default workstation install took about 45-50 mins total, with 30 mins for the packages installation.
My ATI Radeon 8500 was detected as a radeon 8500LE but who cares when I just selected the 8500 driver from the list and it was configured perfectly. (probably same driver anyway!)

[DOH] The X configuration section is missing a test button for X. This could be bad for newbies with a bad X config, where it’s often the case of – no X == no Linux!

Panel configuration

I always put my panel at size “large” and put it to the right vertical side. I have several gnome-panel DOH’s actually :
[DOH] Clock applet date goes off screen because the panel isn’t wide enough
[DOH] Workspace switcher applet still doesnt remember names after a logout
[DOH] Quick-lounge applet should be included as a default panel applet
[DOH] Notification-area applet should have transparent background too
[DOH] When the panel is chockas full, there is no free space left for right-clicking to bring up the general menu panel.
I wanted to add the menu panel across the top but it took ages of precise clicking before I thought to shrink the window list applet to get a clear shot at some panel free-space, just so i could get the menu!!

Configuration interrupt

As I was going about my configuration, I noticed that awk started going nuts taking up 75-90% cpu – dunno why – but I thought it might have been a new replacement for updatedb, but then after a couple of minutes, updatedb itself kicked in and started crunching away, then awk went nuts again after that for a few more minutes, and then everything went back to normal – just some system housekeeping I think …


I was nicely surprised by the update to the bluecurve theme. It is now a highly polished and mature theme with many fine finishing touches, and groovy icons to boot. As difficult as it is to get a theme that is generic enough, yet funky enough – bluecurve looks pretty sweet and is a good compromise.


It’s incredible what a difference cursors can make. These cursors will stay with me for the rest of my life – discrete yet visually appealing! My wife doesnt use linux because the link pointer in mozilla used to be a small ugly pointy hand – well good-bye ugly hand – hello cool hand!! (not Luke) Times are a changin’ baby – it’s time to give it another shot. I’m not even gonna get started on how nice the spinning hourglass is – but i will say, its a much shorter wait for the program to load when your staring in wonder at the detail in this thing.

RPM mananger/(update/remove programs)

After having chosen the stock standard “workstation” install during the installation, I went back for more package goodies after the reboot. Individual package management is easy with Red Hat 9, due to all packages being well sorted into sensible groups – with easy searching within the groups (ie. not too many packages within each group).
I found this to be quite an unstable piece of software with Red Hat8 and the betas that followed. I was anxious to see if the bugs had been worked out of it, so I tried to put it to the test. Whilst updating many new packages that I wanted to install (ie. kde, etc.), and removing others at the same time, I continued on with my configuration of this newly installed system – no holding back!
I managed to slow things down quite a bit with many things running (eg. rhn update, update/remove programs, system monitor, and random panel preference settings) – but what can you expect from a pIII-733 with 256 meg of ram? But, nothing crashed and nothing failed – so I was very impressed.

“start here icon” configuration

A quick run through the “start here icon” configuration will set you up with a look and feel to match your tastes, and get most of the general configuration out of the way. I must say it was a pretty smooth 25 minute run to setting up a great looking desktop. Only hurdles to jump were those “strange and mysterious Red Hat icons” that represent the same folder as the one they are in (yeah right – lets click on an icon so that we can go to the folder that we are already in!! – but for some reason I still click them??) It must not be an easy fix for Red Hat to remove these icons, because they have been sitting around giving error messages ever since the beta releases before Red Hat 8.


Click for a larger view Fired up gedit to write this review and it is very smart and snappy with some new icons as well. File history in the menu is a new and useful feature. I really like this practical little editor (*cough* syntax highlighting would be nice though *cough*).


I went to and downloaded the mp3 plugin for xmms, double-clicked the package icon in nautilus, typed root passwd, clicked ok and that was all it took to install. It works perfectly (but I should be using .ogg anyway).

Printer configuration

CUPS is the default print daemon now with Red Hat 9 and my printer installation couldn’t have been easier. I turned my printer on, clicked the printer icon in the panel, clicked ok a couple of times and my Epson Stylus Color 740 was good to go. Gotta like that!

Open office writer

OpenOffice broke the longest start-up time world record by taking a good 45secs on its first load, but consequent start-up times in the same session were incredible, at less than 5 seconds!!! (15 seconds after a reboot). The menus font looks good (which is a big improvement) but my newly added truetype fonts haven’t been detected – but I know there is a doc somewhere on the OO site that can help me out there.


Nothing to say here but mozilla is mozilla – beautiful font rendering, excellent page compatibility, rock solid stable, and it takes a rare day on a windows machine with IE now to actually remind me that the web is plagued with pop-up ads. Thank-you soo much mozilla crew for allowing us this freedom – and mozilla’s tabbed browsing makes everyday a great day for cruising the net.

Miscellaneous discoveries/thoughts/tips

It is not a well advertised fact that installing truetype fonts is super easy nowadays with Red Hat. You just need to creat a .fonts folder in your home directory and plonk all of your fonts in there (or link to them).

Nautilus cd-burning is a neat add-in (limited in features) but it just does what it should do – burns files to a cd! K3b is by far the king of the cd-burning software in my books.

[DOH] Not really a Red Hat complaint – more of a Gnome one – I was disappointed to find that the Gnome file/save dialogs are still the old boring ones, which I find to be limited in features. But I hear the new ones could be coming in gnome 2.4 (don’t quote me on that), so it just gives me something to look forward to.


Red Hat 9 racks up another winner with this release, and if things continue to go as smoothly as they have been, Red Hat is bound to remain my stable base distro that other distros may come and go by (at least until the next frenzied distro release period in six months).
It is a delight and pleasure to be able to work and play in an attractive and super functional desktop environment. The fact that it is all linux and free software, and it works so well just makes me gooey with pride – proud for anyone who contributes to open-source projects around the globe.

About the author
I am an Aussie, living in Quebec, and I have been working in linux for about 6 months now full on, and for 6 months before that I was just been playing around with linux – with mandrake mostly (btw – gotta love their new galaxy theme). I have been a fan of Red Hat since 7.3 and it has been my stable distro ever since. Tried many others and liked them all, but for whatever reasons (mainly laziness) I seemed to always come back to my good old stable Red Hat install.


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