Red Hat – Linux 7.3 review

the popular Linux distribution for servers
Photo of Red Hat – Linux 7.3
£42.18 + VAT for Personal version, £147 + VAT for Professional version

Red Hat’s version numbering is fairly consistent – Normally, version X.0 is a bit experimental, and versions X.1 and X.2 are more stable and suitable for production servers. So version 7.3 had us hopeful of a bullet-proof release. It’s available as a download version (If you fancy downloading the equivalent of 3 CDs), in two retail flavours (Personal and Professional), and as an enterprise solution (Advanced Server).

During installation, we only really had two issues. First, we opted not to format a drive in our test machine during installation, only to find that the user-friendly ‘Disk Druid’ is only available during installation, so we had to fiddle around with Fdisk and then dig out our favourite of all Linux administration tools, Webmin.

Our second problem is ongoing – KDE 3.0. An annoying bug means that every now and then, KDE needs restarting. This issue is now fixed at the time of writing according to KDE’s website, but we had so much trouble when we last upgraded KDE manually that we’re waiting for the updates to appear on the Red Hat Update system, which is a breath of fresh air.

Red Hat Update is like Windows Update, except that updates for all packages in the distribution are supplied, so you can get updates for everything from Apache to K-Office with one click of the mouse. This is a free service even if you’re using the downloaded version of the distribution, but subscribers get a priority service. Red Hat Update has the advantage that all package dependency problems are resolved for you, and your system is updated seamlessly.

Like the other major Linux distributions, SuSE and Mandrake, Red Hat has software to suit most requirements, including KOffice, the Gimp for graphics, a decent e-mail program and several Web browsers. This release brings a new personal calendar and some project management software to the mix, along with a nice new printer management tool with easy switching between CUPS and LPR. Firewalling can be configured during the installation process as well, so your machine can be protected easily from the outset. Various other improvements oriented towards the desktop or laptop user include a multimedia player, USB 2.0 support and digital camera support.

Of course, this distribution can just as easily be used as a server, with Apache, MySQL, PHP, Samba and many other popular server software packages included. No doubt, though, many experienced Linux hackers will welcome the usability improvements just as much as ‘newbie’ users. That’s not to say that some things couldn’t be improved upon, but there’s a way round most things, and finding it is part of the fun, allegedly…

Company: Red Hat

Contact: 01483 734 943

Linux's suitability for mid-range servers isn't in doubt, but there's more debate about its suitability for the desktop. The best way to judge this question is to ask whether we would use this version of Red Hat on the desktop in preference to Windows. Despite a couple of installation hiccups, we'd have to say yes, the time has come to make the switch.