Red Hat Linux 5.0
The sendmail featured in this release has improved anti-spam protection. No longer is it possible for a random spammer to use your host as an unwitting e-mail relay.
TheNextLevel is an excellent front end to X, offering much the same look and feel as Windows 95 and NT 4.0. The Red Hat 5.0 release of TheNextLevel is much closer to the look and feel of Windows 95; in particular, the “feature” of having to click to gain keyboard focus is enabled by default now, so first-time Linux users feel more at home.
Red Hat has announced a set of support plans and partnerships that should make Linux more acceptable in the corporate world. Also, Linux's distributed support model has recently won awards from Infoworld and other magazines for “Best Technical Support”.
Over the course of these upgrades I did a number of things that are difficult, expensive or impossible to do with NT or Windows 95. Immediately after the base install was complete, I was able to exit the computer room. From the comfort of my own office, I completed the upgrades, added additional software, etc. From the comfort of my home, through two firewalls, I initiated a remote backup, did an A/B comparison of the new features of Red Hat via X in an ssh tunnel, wrote this review and installed, configured or updated even more of the Linux software. UNIX's enormous advantage in the remote administration area will probably continue into the age of high speed Internet access in the home.
Red Hat 5.0 is a solid core Linux distribution with a sharp eye out for the future. The new Glibc library implies a little risk and breaks some backward compatibility—expect to update this library a lot over the coming months as new bugs are found and fixed—however, the additional features are worth it. The future for both Red Hat and Linux looks very exciting—with the rapidly advancing KDE and GNOME/Enlightenment desktops and the release of Netscape source code.
But it's not all clover. During the installation, configuration and upgrade process there remain many problems which stopped two otherwise enthusiastic first time users and had me stumped more than once.
Due to the large number of patches and upgrades already required, I'm going to wait for 5.1 to put this release onto the rest of my production machines. I'm very concerned about potential security holes in Glibc. Red Hat 5.0 is an evolutionary release. Sometimes you have to take a step backward to take two steps forward. Red Hat 4.2 is a more mature, easier to use distribution than Red Hat 5.0. At this point I'd recommend 5.0 only to developers.
Red Hat is freely available from the Internet and in a commercial release that costs $49.95 US. It is also available bundled with books, manuals and/or applications.
Retro is into CGI/DBI programming, weird architectures and the EGCS project. He plans to disappear into the Santa Cruz Mountains with his laptop on March 31 and return with a working Netscape for Alpha Linux. He can be reached via e-mail at Retro@picketwyre.com.
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