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:
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
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
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.