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A quick look at Red Hat 6.0

Like many others, we were out bogging down the mirror sites last week once Red Hat 6.0 became available. We have done a few installs since then, and here are the preliminary impressions that have come from that experience.

The installation procedure itself is mostly unchanged. There are a few new goodies, such as the HTTP installation method, which may be useful to some folks. The SMB install method seems to have gone away. There are now two separate boot disks; the choice of which to use depends on whether or not you are doing a network-based install. The old "supplemental" disk is no more, but there is a separate disk for PCMCIA installs.

The appearance of the install - and the questions to answer - are almost identical to the 5.x releases. The package selection window has been reworked a little, and is nicer to deal with. Perhaps the most useful change is the addition of options for setting up a system as a NIS client and for turning on shadow passwords.

I did a hard-disk install on my Sony Vaio laptop and ran into a few glitches. The distribution lived on a separate partition normally mounted as "/x". I also told the system to mount that partition there as part of the install, but not to do anything else with it. When the install proper began, things immediately failed with a "can't make symbolic link - file exists" error. No way around it, time to start over. The next time I did not tell the installation about that partition at all, and the problem went away.

The installation also asked twice if there were any SCSI disks on the system. Perhaps some people add them partway through OS installs?

With 6.0, you automatically get a kernel which is optimized for the processor, which is nice. There is also an option to install an SMP-enabled kernel. When we tried that, however, on an SMP system, that kernel ran into confusion when it found kernel modules built for the uniprocessor system and would not boot properly. 6.0 has a modern version of the PCMCIA system, and power management works out of the box, both of which are nice.

On the laptop, 6.0 still does not recognize the NeoMagic chipset, and thus configured the system as a simple SVGA device. I was able to go back to my older, binary-only NeoMagic server, but that loses the TrueType font support. Oh well. (Update: with some help from Red Hat this problem has been tracked down to difficulties with the "LCD panel 800x600" monitor type. Selecting a different monitor made X work properly, though it still fails to probe the installed memory and clock chip).

The set of packages with 6.0 is not much changed from previous releases, with the obvious exception that GNOME and KDE are both present. The default in the installation seems to be to put in GNOME and leave out KDE, but most users with adequate disk space will likely want both. The GNOME panel even includes the full set of KDE menus, making both sets of applications easily available.
[GNOME snapshot]
Red Hat 6.0/GNOME snapshot, 800x600, 93KB

And, it must be said, GNOME is looking pretty good these days. The desktop is visually pleasing, and seems stable. Enlightenment has been tamed to where it looks and behaves mostly like other window managers. The control panel comes with a nice set of utilities, including the cute little CD player, and an automatic Slashdot monitor. All I have to do now is find the option to turn off all those popup help windows, and life should be good.

One unfortunate omission, however, is xv; the GNOME image utilities, nice as they are, can't quite yet take the place of that longstanding classic. You might just want to save the xv RPM from your 5.2 distribution before getting rid of it.

The system initialization process is visually different, printing a little [OK] after each successfully-started process. It looks cute, but does not necessarily add a lot. On the laptop, it produces a scary [FAILED] when it tries to set up the network interface. In fact, the network is on a PCMCIA card that gets set up later; there is nothing wrong, but a new user might take alarm anyway.

Overall, Red Hat has put together a good distribution. For a "dot-zero" release, it seems quite stable and together - far better than 5.0 was.


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