The Best of All Possible Red Hats?



Ratings: pr_03

Price: $149.95 or $39.95

$149.95 for Red Hat Linux 8.0 Pro (Reviewed); $39.95 for Red Hat Linux 8.0 Personal (desktop-oriented, but only OpenOffice is supplied)



  • Anaconda installation was as smooth as silk

  • Worked well in all facets

  • Bluecurve interface is a win, especially if you like Gnome


  • If you love KDE, you probably won’t care for Bluecurve

  • Without a killer app, the desktop still belongs to Windows

System Requirements: CPU: Pentium-class (minimum), 200 MHz Pentium-class or better (recommended). Hard Disk Space: 650 MB minimum, 2.5 GB recommended, 4.5 GB needed for full installation. Memory: 64 MB minimum for text-mode, 128 MB minimum for graphical mode, 192 MB recommended for graphical mode.


Some people love Red Hat 8. They say it’s a Windows-killer. Others hate it. They say that the new Bluecurve GUI combines the worst features of both KDE and Gnome. They say that Mandrake 9 kicks Red Hat 8′s rump.

My opinion? The naysayers need to get over it. Red Hat 8.0 is a good, solid, complete, and professional Linux. The operating system, whether as a server or as a desktop, installed and ran flawlessly. And other than the SuSE 8 server, that’s the first time I can say that of any Linux I’ve used. How good is it? That depends on what you want from it.

All the Server You’ll Need

After running tests on several HP Pavilions, there’s no question in my mind that I could turn over all my serving needs to Red Hat’s 2.4.18 kernel without a second thought. For file serving, Red Hat 8 comes with Samba 2.2.5 and the Network File System (NFS).

For Web serving (from a personal home page to an advanced e-commerce site), Red Hat 8 includes Apache 2.0.4 plus OpenSSL, and all of the other tools needed to build a serious web site. Of course, Apache 2 has had, to date, a poor reputation for security and for not working well with code optimized for earlier versions of Apache. Still, this is Linux. If Apache 2 isn’t to your taste, you can easily download Apache 1.3.x. And, to give Red Hat credit, the version of OpenSSL that ships with 8.0 isn’t the “perforated” one of last summer, which led to the infamous Slapper attacks.

In addition, Red Hat 8 bundles the usual tools you need for an Internet server, and also includes some new features that make it more network server friendly. For example, you can now do a network installation after booting from the CD, and can now create a redundant array of inexpensive disks (RAID) from the get-go. While a home user may never need to know about these options, they make a life lot easier for a system administrator working with an advanced server.

Whether you’re running a small- to medium-sized business, or if it’s just you and your cat, if you don’t need the enterprise-level power of Red Hat Advanced Server (RHAS) or UnitedLinux, Red Hat 8 is all you’ll need. It’s the server to beat in the low- to mid-range Linux server arena.

…But Maybe Not All the Desktop

First, let me say I like Bluecurve. I don’t like it as much as my customized KDE 3 on my SuSE workstation, but if I were a new user, I’d probably find it a lot friendlier. Compared to Lindows and Lycoris, I prefer Red Hat and Bluecurve.

While Netscape is gone, Mozilla is a more than worthy successor. I’ve grown to prefer OpenOffice (included in Red Hat 8) to StarOffice, and Ximian’s Evolution e-mail and scheduling programs have matured into user-friendly programs that an open-minded Outlook user could pick up without too much trouble. Indeed, Red Hat 8 currently offers the best pure Linux desktop around.

Unfortunately, Red Hat 8 is probably not an alternative for Windows users. They don’t want desktop programs that are almost the same. Windows users want Windows applications on Windows. Win4Lin is still more likely to tempt desktop users than Bluecurve and OpenOffice.

Red Hat 8 does what the other Red Hats have done before: consolidate its hold on the SMB server market, while making existing Linux desktop users happy.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is a long-time Unix guru and technology writer. He can be reached at sjvn@vna1.com.

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