Red Hat 9 Review
by Steve 'Ashcrow' Milner

When I heard about the new Red Hat 9 I was overjoyed: This meant it's time to play with new releases! I quickly implored a friend to get me a copy as soon as he could so I could have my geek void filled. I quickly dumped my Debian Woody installation to test out the new Red Hat and that is where we start ....

Test Box Specs
AMD Athlon 1700+ XP
512 MB Registered DDR RAM
20 gig 5400 Western Digital HD
82 gig 7200 IBM HD (Red Hat Installed Here)
Sound Blaster Live! Sound Card
ATI Radeon 7200
Excessive Cooling
Propaganda Stickers

Installation
The installation was painless and simple. If there is one thing that the guys in Raleigh know how to do it's how to create a simple installer! The whole installation took about 20 minutes, but I installed just about everything I could ever want. The only part of the installation that I could see as a problem for average users was the 'Media Check' at the very beginning. Before the actual installation takes place you are asked if you would like to check your media (CD's) to make sure they are error free. While this is a nice feature it would easily confuse an average user who generally just hits next. On the other hand, it isn't as confusing as the partition controller in Windows XP installations. All in all the installation was painless and relatively fast.

First Impressions
On the first boot I was met with a short configuration wizard where I was asked to set up a normal user, register with RHN, etc. This took about 1 minute and I was on my way to the actual desktop.



Following in the tradition of Red Hat 8, Red Hat 9 uses Bluecurve, a unifying theme and glue code for both KDE and GNOME. Personally, I like the look and feel of both GNOME and KDE, but Bluecurve does a good job streamlining the two into one look and feel. Unfortunately for some but helpful for others, Bluecurve resembles a Windows 2000 like interface with a blue background, similar icon setup and start menu and uses True-Type fonts. There is also a big difference in the cursors as Red Hat has livened them up quite a bit.

Administration
Too easy! All an administrator must do is click the 'start-here' icon and then 'system-settings' (or whatever needs administration). Each section has an easy to use, straight forward configuration GUI that makes user modification, display changes, print configuration and much more a snap. Hats off to Red Hat for their great work in this area!



Usage
Most users just want to be able to read their email, surf the net, and write a report or two without much intrusion from the OS. Red Hat fulfills this requirement with flying colors, though there is a bit still to work on. For instance, when you set you preferences for default applications it doesn't always set them in all areas. I went ahead and set up my default browser to galeon, but there were still some apps the were not set to use the preferences nor did the browser icon in the panel change. I also had to install a separate package to be able to play mp3s (available from xmms.org). While the reason for this is due to patent issues it's still a bit of an irk for someone just switching over. I also had upgrade GAIM (and install dependencies) so that I could use Jabber. The only IM service Red Hat compiles into GAIM is it's default AIM.



Speed Issues
One of the areas that Red Hat 9 doesn't deliver on is speed. While it is 'fast enough' it doesn't seem to be able to start the same applications as fast as Debian, Slackware, or even Mandrake could. For instance, when I start something from the panel it 'jumps' up to the screen as wire frame and then about 3 seconds later materializes. The only places that I did see Red Hat 9 being faster was in the Desktop Environment start-up and it's use of Nautilus.

Main Gripes
My main problems with this release is it's speed and application set up. In the panel menu there are applications named things like 'Audio Player” or “CD Player” instead of the actual applications names. While this could come in handy for a new user it's also a little redundant seeing that it is categorized by application type anyways. At least they have moved away from some of the super generalizations that were present in release 8 (like 'browser' or 'email').

Conclusion
This is yet another quality release from Red Hat. While the company is still trying to find a true medium between new user and guru, they have made huge strides where some other distributions have been stuck.

Recommended Usage Breakdown
(1-10 Scale)
Server:
RH: 7
WinXP: 4
Debian: 9

Desktop:
RH: 9
WinXP: 9
Debian:7

Development:
RH: 9
WinXP: 5
Debian: 7

Multimedia:
RH: 6
WinXP: 9
Debian: 7

Gaming:
RH: 7
WinXP: 8
Debian: 7

Am I going to continue using it? Yes! Well, at least until another major distribution has a release!