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RedHat 8.0 Personal Review - Part 2
LinuxLinks Review
By Dave Edwards


Rather than stick with one review machine we put RedHat 8.0 on as many machines as we could lay hands on - partly to test out how the distro coped with different hardware and partly to test out the various install options.

We used the following test machines:

  • Generic Athlon PR1800 XP, 512Mb RAM, 2x40Gb HD, Panasonic DVD burner, DVD-RAM burner.
  • Shuttle SS40, Athlon PR1700 XP, 512Mb RAM, 40Gb HD.
  • AMD Duron 1Ghz, Soltek SL75KAV motherboard with on-board sound, 384Mb SD-RAM, 17Gb Maxtor HD, ATI Rage 128 graphics card, Yamaha 20x10x40 CD burner, 52X CD-ROM drive.
  • Intel PII dual 300Mhz on a Tyan Tiger motherboard, 128Mb RAM, 40 Gb HD, 40X CD-ROM.
  • Mitac 6120 433Mhz Celeron Laptop, 160 Mb RAM, 6Gb HD, 14in TFT display, ATI Rage LT graphics card, Crystal on board sound.

RedHat 8.0 has 5 installation classes: Personal Desktop, Workstation, Server, Custom and Upgrade. We did tests on the first three of these install classes. Personal Desktop is ideal for the home user while the workstation class installs a lot of software development tools and compilers. The Server class doesn't install X and creates six partitions on your disk: a swap partition, the root partition /, /usr, /home, /var, /boot. Having all these partitions makes system administration a lot easier on a server but it does restrict file space. You can make a server with fewer partitions with the Custom class install option.

We'll take you through the install process on one of our test machines and briefly summarise how the other installs fared. The Celeron Laptop is about three years old now, which falls slightly outside RedHat's suggested specification in terms of age, but not in terms of hardware. Still it is a pretty standard Laptop and Laptop installs are generally more difficult than desktop Linux installs - so we decided to focus on this machine. Previously this laptop dual booted into Windows XP and Mandrake 8 - to make things simple we backed up our data and deleted all the partitions - viola, a virgin machine. We decided to christen this machine a Workstation and so popped Disk 1 into the Laptop and booted up.

Somewhat disconcertingly the initial graphic banner was distorted on the TFT display, but this is just cosmetic and pressing "return" continues with the install. The install is graphical and pretty straightforward - you select a language, a keyboard, a mouse, then the installation class. Partitioning is either handled automatically, by Disk Druid, or by fdisk. With a blank hard disk to install on there is very little to do as RedHat will attempt to fill the drive. The boot loader is GRUB by default though you can also install LILO. Next, you setup the networking for the machine by specifying either DHCP or an IP address. Localisation settings are easily entered via a world map just like the Windows interface. Finally a root password and a user account can be configured. The package list is then compiled.

It's at this point that you can change some of the default bundles RedHat decides to install. For example KDE isn't installed unless you specifically request it. MySQL is an optional package - Postgres is the default database install. We'll talk about these choices later. In total, a Workstation class install takes about 2Gb of Disk space. Rather annoyingly the package progress indicator is of little use - the time to install just seemed to increase with the laptop we were testing on. It also helps if you have a quick CD drive with a low access time. The install time for our laptop was well over an hour. On the faster Athlon XP 1800 install time was about ten minutes.

Once the packages are installed you have the option of a boot disk and RedHat tries to configure your graphics card. On our Laptop the ATI Mach64 graphics chipset was correctly identified, as was the amount of video RAM at 8Mb. The monitor configuration utility was unable to detect our Laptop's display but we proceeded on and the program chose a 1024x768 at 16 bit as the default display for X. On upping the color resolution to 24 bit the install was complete and we rebooted. Impressive stuff.

Like Windows there is also some post-installation configuration which is accomplished via the RedHat setup agent. Time and Date information can be synchronized via an NTP server which is nice and the utility correctly identified the Laptop's sound card as Crystal CS46xx. Excellent. Up until Windows ME, Windows used to crash on trying to install drivers on this machine. If you have a boxed version of RedHat 8.0 you can also register here to pick up new security patches and bug fixes to your OS - this is well worth the effort. There's also the option of installing software from the additional CDs that RedHat supply with the distribution. Having done all that, and it does seem a little more than comparable installations, the graphical login pops up and we are away.

Once logged in we checked the PC-card and networking had been configured correctly - it had so overall the install is fairly painless. Its a delicate balance for every distributor between keeping the install simple without losing functionality and preventing easy installation on disparate hardware. We think RedHat have achieved that balance pretty well.

Now for the other machines on which we installed RedHat Linux. The dual Processor Tyan Tiger was a fairly simple text-based install. We did a Server class install on this machine and as usual after a couple of minutes the machine switched off. Problems with pwer management under the 2.4 Kernel is the cause and this is not unique to RedHat 8.0. Turning APM off at with the text-based setup utility cured the problem. On all the other machines the install was uneventful - sometimes RedHat didn't pick up the optimal graphics card or monitor settings but everything did work. This is impressive given our motley collection of install machines.

In the next section we'll see what awaits you once you've logged in.


Read ahead

1. Introduction
2. Installation
3. Candyfloss ?
4. What's New
5. Discussion
6. Conclusion

Last Updated Saturday, November 02 2002 @ 05:58 AM EST

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