By Dave Edwards
Development of a Linux distribution consists of three parts: the
updating of existing packages, the addition of new packages and
integration of those packages through tools and configuration. Every
major distribution updates its packages with each release, so the
novelty with a new version is its new packages and how well they are
integrated into the whole. RedHat has not added anything startlingly new to
RedHat 8.0 but it has made a greater effort on integration.
Integration, however, implies difficult choices. It means deprecating
redundant functionality and building a greater dependency set. The
danger with integration is that it becomes more difficult to introduce
radically new software: it must be tailored to the RedHat environment -
that takes more time. It also takes much more effort to maintain the
release. Users now expect a consistent look and feel - you can't go back
to weakly coupled applications. All this makes it inevitable that RedHat
will drop KDE.
At the moment RedHat have configured GNOME and KDE to have a similar
look and feel, but under the bonnet they are radically different APIs
and they probably will remain so. This means that application developers
for Linux have a difficult decision - do we build our application with
KDE, GNOME or bundle the libraries. For example, OpenOffice.org bundle
their graphical libraries which means start-up times are large and
memory is wasted. It is redundant to have multiple APIs in memory at the
same time and frankly it can't continue. We believe the community should
decide what they want and the way to do that is for each distribution to
stick its neck out and plump for an API. We applaud RedHat for their
current strategy and furthermore encourage them to drop KDE. We
encourage Mandrake and SuSe to make their decisions too. Competition is
good but not when it comes to standards. That's what the market wants
and Microsoft have proved it.
This release of Linux is aimed clearly at the corporate sector.
Business people generally use Computers to add value to their business.
A major factor for any IT decision at any company is support - can we
support this thing. RedHat 8.0 is an operating system which can
realistically be supported because it decreases repeated
functionality. If you throw in a complete Office suite like
OpenOffice.org then RedHat 8.0 is a possibility on the Corporate desktop
because that's the dominant desktop application.
But once you have a standardised API do we really want a development
environment based on C ? Microsoft are ahead of the game here - .net is
their solution, Java is Sun's. If Sun were wise they might consider
integrating Java into Linux i.e. persuade RedHat to install it by default.
A built-in Java run-time in Linux looks an attractive proposition.
Tailor the development environment, make Linux the standard JVM platform
and much of the .net hype disappears. There's no need for C# if you have
Java because C# is Java. Microsoft developed C# to kill Java and Linux
may provide a way out for Sun. At the same type it would give Linux a
modern OO language to build GUI applications and the tools to build them
So where does that leave the home user - less choice ? Not really. We
don't believe the operating system should provide the alternatives - that's
for other to try out and maybe if it works well it should go into the
mainstream release. So at the moment RedHat RPMs are fairly thin on the
ground - goto freshrpms.net to find new ones. KDE is an excellent desktop
environment and if you want to install it then do so.
We had a few minor gripes with our RedHat installs. PostGres is now
the default database while MySQL is an option. No doubt this will
please the relational purists, but sadly not us, since our systems depend on
it. Still it is a simple matter to select it and as a server based program
should always run pretty well on any desktop system. At first though
we were unable to connect externally to MySQL. This may be a change
in the release of MySQL RedHat bundle - the solution was to specify the external
hostnames in the /etc/hosts file. We'll let you know if we find a better solution.
PHP was also a cause of problems for us in RedHat 8.0. PHP no longer accepts
<? tags by default and any code that makes use of them isn't called or
defined - this can be pretty tricky to track down in a large PHP site like LinuxLinks.
The solution is to use <?PHP tags instead.