Red Hat 7.2

 in
There's a few changes that might frustrate newbies as well as current users, but overall it's a strong new version.

I have quite a bit of familiarity with Red Hat, as I have used it on various computers since around the time of Red Hat 3.0. My most recent experience with Red Hat came when I installed version 7.2 on my laptop. This laptop, an ASUS MP8300, has been finicky and has given me problems in the past when I installed other distributions of Linux, as well as other UNIX operating systems.

Installation

Red Hat's installer ran without a hitch and was straightforward and logical in its organization. When it could do so, it automatically probed and detected the hardware, and then it presented me with the option to accept the choice or manually choose one of the options. When it was unable to detect an answer automatically, such as whether to use DHCP or a static IP address for networking, the installer phrased the questions such that a novice user would not feel overwhelmed. At the same time, it did not talk down to a more experienced user. It was a pleasant surprise to find that the installer correctly detected all of the hardware in my laptop and performed the correct configuration for them, even for slightly odd hardware such as the Silicon Motion Lynx video chip.

The installer also gave the option of choosing a predefined setup, such as workstation or server. The caution I would offer here is if you just select the server or workstation and do not select packages individually, then a very general system will result. Choosing the server selection will install most of the common services but may also leave you with more services running by default than you wish. This can result in a higher-than-expected potential for security holes.

Additionally, you cannot choose either the server or workstation option unless you are willing to dedicate the entire machine, since both of those options will completely reformat the hard disk. If you intend to dual boot, you will need to perform a custom install. This necessity may create a bad situation for many neophyte users of Linux, who are likely to desire a dual boot in order to retain a partition for Microsoft Windows. These same users are also, unfortunately, the ones most likely to want to click one button to install.

The simplest solution, which Red Hat might wish to consider, is to have the workstation or desktop choice split into two options. The first of these would act as it does now and reformat the hard drive. The other would walk the user through a dual boot setup.

One of the nicer things Red Hat does offer is the option of using either GRUB or LILO as the boot loader. While I have been a LILO user in the past, I decided to try GRUB for the laptop. I have found it to be much cleaner and easier to work with than LILO ever was.

Configuration

In most cases the defaults offered by the installer were correct, and I did not need to go back and do further configuration. What little bit I did have to do was quickly accomplished with a quick edit of the correct file. For users with less experience, Red Hat provides a large selection of graphical tools to help manage everything from adding new users to configuring the DNS service.

One change in this version that I found and disliked was the default method for configuring the Gnome desktop. Gnome itself uses the Gnome Control Center, which has a nice and clean layout, for configuration. This tool is still available in the Red Hat 7.2 distribution, but Red Hat installs a different tool as the default on the Gnome panel. This new tool, named "Start Here", is a web browser based configuration tool that encompasses a variety of system configuration tasks, including Gnome configuration.

Unfortunately, this new tool attempts to do too much by combining a desktop user setup with system and desktop configuration options. This use of one tool and one interface for all things makes it particularly suited for none and makes it harder to use any of these pieces effectively. A system administrator needs different tools than a user configuring Gnome or a user working in the desktop environment. Naming that tool "Start Here" implies that system customization is a frequently performed tasked when, in reality, it is not. Removing the desktop bits and leaving them in the desktop environment, where they belong, would be a good first step. Additionally, using a web browser based configuration tool is slower and more cumbersome than using the individual tools it is replacing. From a usability standpoint, the new tool is a step in the wrong direction. It makes the system more complex than it needs to be for new users but too cluttered for more experienced users.

Package Overview

Red Hat 7.2 provides a generous selection of packages. The standard components needed to run a desktop or server system are included, ranging from X, Gnome and KDE to Netscape, Sendmail, bind and Apache. Some of the boxed sets also contain demos from Loki Games, the full version of Star Office, and additional CDs of games and other applications. The packages on these CDs are not available by default, but they are easy to install in the future via the RPM command-line tools or graphical tools, such as GnoRPM.

At least one option from each of the various classes of servers is offered, such as mail, web servers and mailing list managers, which means that you can easily get a system that handles your needs up and running. The drawback is usually only one option for each class of programs is offered. For example, if you prefer a different mail server, such as my preference for Postfix, it is necessary to go hunting through the other CDs to find that package.

Although Red Hat previously provided a companion product called "Power Tools", which contained most of these programs in one place, it is no longer provided with Red Hat 7.2. All of the packages are still available, though, and many authors do provide Red Hat packages for their programs. Unless you are willing to delve into the inner workings of constructing packages for Red Hat, however, you may find files installed in a variety of eccentric places. When previously provided by Red Hat, the packages were logically consistent with the rest of the file system layout. Now however, if the program does not exist on the distributed CDs, there are still options. First, it is often possible to use the version from the 7.1 Power Tools product. Next, packages from other RPM-based distributions, such as SuSE or Mandrake, will often work as long as there are not too many package dependencies. Finally, there is rpmfind.net, which maintains a large index of RPM packages for a variety of programs.

Documentation

The boxed set comes with three documentation booklets, in addition to the plethora of on-line resources and the recommended man pages and HOWTOs. For me, the on-line and installed resources are generally sufficient to answer the majority of my questions.

The three booklets gear themselves toward first-time users and after looking through them, they seem quite thorough. The "Installation Guide" covers the entire installation process systematically. Specifically, it includes advice concerning which of the specific options might be best for a given set of needs. The "Getting Started Guide" concerns itself with the various desktops that are available, configuring networking and printing and getting the Red Hat Network set up. The last booklet, the "Customization Guide," covers most of the system administration tasks that might be needed, such as adding users and groups or setting up Apache and bind. However, it only contains information about the graphical tools provided by Red Hat. Whether this is a good thing or not is a debatable issue. Personally, I would recommend that most people take the time to learn the actual configuration files for the various services. No matter how good the graphical tools are, and they are reasonably good, they can only cover the most common configurations. There will always be areas that require detailed knowledge of the configuration files. For this reason, I feel it is always best to learn the details of the configuration files from the outset.

Red Hat Network and Support

While the network installation does not come with official support from Red Hat via the Red Hat Network, this support is available at a cost of $19.95 per machine. Each box set purchased, however, includes one free entitlement, the term used for a machine covered through the Red Hat Network support option. I had previously purchased this support for my other machines that have Red Hat installed. As long as I am willing to take the time to swap around which two of my three machines are currently entitled, I can use the system update utility, up2date, to update all three of my machines. It is possible to upgrade these machines without using the Red Hat up2date service, but I find that up2date makes it more convenient and easier to keep things current.

One of the few problems I've noticed with up2date occurs if you install third-party replacements for system pieces, such as Ximian Gnome. In such instances, the update utility will report that you have packages to upgrade even when this is not the case. In many of these situations, the Red Hat package is actually a downgrade, since the Red Hat packages are often one or more revisions older than the currently installed packages. Unfortunately, there is currently no way to tell the update utility that you wish to treat those specific packages as newer than the ones provided by Red Hat. In order to make sure they are not downgraded, you must not select these packages during the update process. Due to this issue, if you customize system pieces with third-party replacements, I recommend leaving the automatic update feature turned off.

Conclusion

Overall, I am extremely pleased with Red Hat 7.2. Admittedly, part of this is the fact that I have been a fan of Red Hat and their distributions for a while. This distribution shows that Red Hat continues to improve and streamline their offerings. Apart from my bias, however, it installs cleanly, comes up without any problems, and it simply works. It offers sufficient options that bringing everything I need up and getting it running is possible to do quickly.

I can comfortably recommend Red Hat 7.2 for anyone. To the new person just trying Linux for the first time, it offers a smooth and hassle free installation process. The new user should be up and running in a minimal amount of time with sensible defaults and automatic detection of hardware. For the person of moderate familiarity, it offers choices and options which allows them the customization they might wish while at the same time helping them around hurdles that may arise. Finally, for the experienced user, it offers a robust system and tested packages, as well as allowing them to take complete control of the process when desired or needed.

Joseph "JT" Traub has been a UNIX software developer for 15 years and a Linux user for over eight years. He works as a software developer for pay and, in his spare time, contributes to multiple open-source projects, including the GPLd mailing-list software Ecartis.

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Linux 7.2 down

Anonymous's picture

I install Linux 7.2 on server IBM 345 (2 CPU xeon 2.6) and install oracle on it. but use period of time, I can ping the ip of this server, but can not connect in server. user also can not connect to the oracle database, restart this server, it ok.

Re: Red Hat 7.2

Anonymous's picture

You obviously work for Microsoft.

Nuff Said.

Re: Red Hat 7.2

Anonymous's picture

shame on you !

question : how much time have you lost while

restarting your crashed win box ?

question : how expensive was that ?

question : what hardware have you purchased

because your apps and your son's

games ran slowly ?

question : how expensive was the software you

bought for your mswin box ?

answer : use wine, that time and that money to

learn how to use linux "the right way" !

statement : Red Hat Linux 7.2 absolutely kicks ass !

RED HAT

Anonymous's picture

BUSCO CHICA PARA HECHAR UNOS POLVOS

jose_osej@yahoo.es

Re: Red Hat 7.2

Anonymous's picture

Boy Are u a Loser ...

I got 7.2 up and runnin on my 2 systems without a hitch i mean just that .. And im completely into games and Music and Gimp .....

GAMES goto: http:\www.loki.com

Its just been 6 months since i switched over to linux and now im thinkin of removin my windows partition ..

The flexibility i get in linux is unparalled ....

And i didn't know ***** about computers until i tried linux ... I have been using windows for ages and didn't know that there is anything beyond that ...

MSWord ? who needs MSWord I know of companies who won't even open a Resume sent to them in word format (compromise of security) use HTML or Anything else say AbiWord .....

hardware compatibility ?? Tell me about it ...

My 3 button wheel mouse is not seen by Win2000 pro in all its glory ... But linux no hitches now i can change my mouse to act the way i like to it ....

Try using any device in windows without its driver...

thats the problem with linux since its open source unless the company releases stuff about the card that the guys out in the open source can use for developing drivers or the company itself releases drivers there is no go .. so ask ur manufacturer to give u a driver for ur OS ..

And i noticed ur vocab is typical ms help ... say "It doesn't work" Find out why and fix it don't whine ...

i say put ur son with a linux distro and some hardware and let him play with it he'll turn out better than you ...

Cheers

Ani

Re: Red Hat 7.2

Anonymous's picture

"Here, here" I agree with you Paul. To much glazing for those that are seeking "The Nuts and Bolts". I too have used many different OS's on many different machines. Same scenario in programming. Why is it that it takes 2-3 more programs to make your Programming Program do the things it should in the One Program for Programming.. It is getting disgusting all this layering.

Re: Red Hat 7.2

Anonymous's picture

God, what a whiner you are. Christ, so they do start the network before the pcmcia subsys, so CHANGE IT. Christ, I could teach my computer illiterate mom how to do that.

Games on Linux, quake3 arena on Linux box. 95 fps @ 1024x768, on windows box (same hardware, MORE ram), 65 fps @ 800x600, yes, there is a noticeable difference.

Other games I have on the linux box, hereos of might and magick 3 (fun as hell), alpha centauri (best civ ever), kohan (better than starcraft).

Windows box games: starcraft and age of empires two.

Digital cam and scanner hooked up to the Linux box, run with xsane/sane, and pictures played with in the gimp, better than photoshop in my book.

Your one of those people that tried Linmux oh..... last week, and everything didn't work perfectly, so you jumped ship aren't ya? Hell, my digital camera doesn't work with WINDOWS without a lot fo coaxing. I bought it for Linux compat, how funny is that?

yeah, I liked this review, cause I could teach anyone to be very happy with a redhat 7.2 system.

Re: Red Hat 7.2

Anonymous's picture

!!!! WTF nothing is better then starcraft

Re: Red Hat 7.2

Anonymous's picture

Unix or Linux users don't have to care about your petty usability concerns. If you're so thick that you can't see that Unix/Linux is the most reliable/secure/robust operating system ever to run on a computer on planet Earth then you shouldn't be running Unix/Linux. Unix/Linux has a rich history of making the system hard to configure and use so that unworthy people like you, your father and your son won't use it. In this way, only the truly appreciative will run Linux. Then Linux users will be free to sing the praises of their chosen operating system together in their small, dysfunctional gatherings away from folks who expect well designed, easy to use and good looking applications.

Re: Red Hat 7.2

Anonymous's picture

"Unix/Linux has a rich history of making the system hard to configure and use so that unworthy people like you, your father and your son won't use it."

Statements like this make me sick. Is that what Linux/Unix is all about to you? Stuff that makes you feel like your something special?

Re: Don't feed that troll

Anonymous's picture

Enough said.

Fix?

Anonymous's picture

Depending on your default runlevel, you should be able to fix your PCMICA problem by doing the following (assumes default runlevel 5):
mv /etc/rc5.d/S*pcmica /etc/rc5.d/S09pcmica

Sure beats regedit.

Re: Red Hat 7.2 Hello?

Anonymous's picture

I must say wireless networking seems pretty neat. But the entire network security is on its mercy of the multiple points of failure: the wireless protocol. No firewall can help you when the attacker come not from the internet part, but in the perimeter of radio broadcast.

Take a look at this: Drive-by hacking http://news.zdnet.co.uk/story/0,,t269-s2099348,00.html

The protocol is vulnerable and can be attacked by brute force guessing. The Redhat startup sequence I would call it a bug. A bug can always be fixed. In this case, modify the start-up sequece so that the pc-card (a.k.a. PCMCIA) get a higher priority.

I also do some technical writing, the revision tools could be useful. However, I won't consider using any so-called word-processor as they lack many features of a powerful editor such as advanced formatting, powerful regular-expression based search and replace, fast and powerful macro (no virus infected visual basic rubbish). I can reformat paragraphs to any margin without worrying about the ruler tabs, remove text and mark-up on the entire document with a one line macro bind to a key. I can hide an entire section into one line with text folding. As for re-visioning, I can have two windows go side-by-side with colour-coded lines showing their differences. The editor is also fast, light on memory and generate clean output as oppose to Microsoft?s co?r?rup?ted rubbish.

Fonts, margins, layout just slow everyone down because it force you to keep looking at the "presentation" as you type. It is distracting. I prefer to do typing first and have programs to automate the formatting or typesetting. Most famous writers use either typewriter or text-based processors anyway.

As for photography, there are a lot of excellent HTML formatted gallery generator for free, instead of some expensive software that generate a gallery into a proprietary exe file. USB version 2 is coming to Linux, a lot more digital camera support are coming this way.

For those who has no experience in using a computer, they will find it easy enough to learn Linux, especially those has no preconception of Windows. My sister just sat down and use my browser and web based ICQ for hours without even notice that she was NOT using windows. She just find that "skin" is different from her W2K.

Re: Red Hat 7.2 Hello?

Anonymous's picture

>Fonts, margins, layout just slow everyone down >because it force you to keep looking at >the "presentation" as you type. It is distracting. I >prefer to do typing first and have programs to >automate the formatting or typesetting. Most >famous writers use either typewriter or text->based processors anyway.

Yeah, they slow you down, man. And you know you get speed with Linux, man. Only wusses need to see pretty fonts and margins and pages laid out like they will be printed. It's so distracting to see the page as it would be printed. And you'll never get to be a rich famous writer if you're distracted by all that crap. Plus, since Linux is so fast you'll get to be rich and famous faster if you use it.

Re: Red Hat 7.2 Hello?

Anonymous's picture

The original post was " I'm a professional writer and need MS Word revisioning functionality. Only the Open Office/Star Office 6.x beta offers even basic compatibility with this feature. How does RH Linux 7.2 address my needs exactly?"

I was talking about software that support more than just revisioning, not necessarily Linux, its cross platform. I do agree with Bert Garcia: OsOpinion- Why Get Microsoft Word in the First Place? by Bert Garcia http://www.osopinion.com/perl/story/12799.html

A Writer's Word Processor by Robert J. Sawyer

http://www.sfwriter.com/wordstar.htm

"Many Science Fiction writers -- including myself, Roger MacBride Allen, Michael Capobianco, Jeffrey A. Carver, Arthur C. Clarke, A. C. Crispin, David Gerrold, Terence M. Green, James Gunn, Jack C. Haldeman II, Donald Kingsbury, Eric Kotani, Paul Levinson, George R. R. Martin, Vonda McIntyre, Jennifer Roberson, and Edo van Belkom -- continue to use WordStar for DOS as our writing tool of choice"

Re: Red Hat 7.2

Anonymous's picture

If your father knows nothing about computers, than Linux is the best system for him. Windows is actually quite hard to use, but because many people have some DOS or Windows3.1 background, the oddities of Windows look to them natural.

For instance, rather than complaining why do they go to "Start" to log off, they are asking "Where in my Linux is the Start". Or they press Ctr-Alt-Del on Linux rather than being puzzled, where is the Logoff icon in Windows.

People who come from Windows backround do not realize, that Linux is easier to use and complain, that it does not handle just like Windows. Of course not, how otherwise it could be any better? I watched people spoiled by easy Linux interface try for hours to log off Windows, not being able to find Windows quirky way of doing it.

If he already had the cheapest scanner and Camera, you might not be able to have driver for it. However, you can find for him scanner, that and Camera, that will work better than in Windows.

But wait a minute you said His scanner? What does he do with a scanner, if he knows nothing about computers?

Re: Red Hat 7.2

Anonymous's picture

Yeah, you just don't understand how intelligent and easy Linux is to use. You Windows users were taught everything the wrong way. Now when you see a system doing things right you want it to behave wrong like Windows.

Re: Red Hat 7.2

Anonymous's picture

To anonymous about his "Horrible Review"..

By the read I got out of your comment, you must be working for Microsoft, or know absolutely diddly about computers and OS's!!! All the statements you made indicate you can't do anything on Linux and that the OS is unusable.

To that, I say, go pander back to Mr. Balmer and all and stay the heck out of the Linux community areas and comment not on stuff you know absolutely nothing about...!!! I won't even bother to tell you what I used for Digital photo work, Digital audio production work, and what gaming I can do... You obviously are a Microsoft bigeot... Go back to your room and play with your Microsoft product... Stay the heck out of here...

Re: Red Hat 7.2

sjlinuxfreak's picture

No RH or any other Linux distro isn't for anyone, but you are definitely wrong on most of your assumptions. First off, you must not know much about computer networking if you couldn't get it working! I have a network at home with Windows 2000 AS, Win98SE, 2 RH7.2 workstations and a RH7.2 laptop. The laptop uses the linksys WAP11 (Model# WAP11), and the Linksys Wireless PCMCIA network adapter (Model# WPC11). All I did was place the card into my laptop, and hook the WAP11 to my router. Do you know what happened? It worked. You want to alk about what blows? MS! WinME refuses to get to the Internet, but it can see my network. All my other workstaions have no problem getting to the Internet. ME blows, and Microsoft knew it. Try using the wavlan module for the wireless adapter. And use a static address for your card, this way if DHCP doesn't see it, it won't hang, oh and MS doeas the same thing when it can't get a DHCP address. Unplug a PC from the network, and reboot. You may be there for a while! I have Ximian running on my one desktop, and haven't had a problem yet. Infact I have been using Ximian since it first allowed you to download their software. All programs have dependecy issues, it is just that MS hides them with their bloated software, and a kernel so huge it takes tens of millions of code to run it.

So you have run and tested RH 7.2 on various systems. Have you done the same with Windows? I will bet you any amount of money, you can find the same problems if you try. You are just looking for problems with Linux, and that is your downfall. There are a ton of digital cameras and scanners that work wit Linux, and they are bringing in more everyday. Try going to http://www.mostang.com/sane/ and downloading the newest drivers. There are plenty of devices that run on Linux. I have a Umax USB scanner and a Kodak DC240 and an HP PhotoSmart 318 that works with Linux. You can go to www.linuxdoc.org for more info on how to use these things. The instructions on the LinuxDoc site are way more comprehensive than you would get for a product running on Windows.

For the record. Know this! MS has trained you never to have to worry about things like this. And yes, for many people it has been a good thing. I personally do not think you have done all the testing you claim, except I think that you did try Mandrake. Only because that was your first and only piece of concrete evidence that something worked elsewhere. You seem to be looking at why Linux is bad instead of using Linux the way you like it, personalized. And if you are scanning pics in, The Gimp is one of the best programs you can use. It is just as good as Photoshop, and it is free. As for Office Apps. I have been using StarOffice since 5.0, and OpenOffice since its inception. In fact, if it was as bad as you claim, then why am I working in a full MS Shop, using Linux/SO/OO/Evolution, and nobody can tell nor do I have many problems? Yes there are some problems, but you don't think a GPF or BSOD are problems either? Wherever you go, you need to know there is no perfect system out there, and that you will sooner or later have to deal with bug and defective programming. do not set the blame on one person or company, but rather know it is no different wherever you stand.

Nick

Re: Red Hat 7.2

Anonymous's picture

Hello Nick,
I wonder if you can help me.
I am running Red hat 9.0. I have a hp photosmart 318 camera (usb) and primax onetouch 5300 (paralell) scanner. I need to find drivers and software to manage these devices.
I really appreciated. Thanks in advance.

-Carlos

Re: Red Hat 7.2

Anonymous's picture

Yeah, take that Paul, you ***** loser. Do you hear what this guy says? He is too ***** stoopid to get Windows ME to access the Internet but he can get Linux running and you can't! You are not worthy of running Linux. Stick with Windows, there are a handful of scanners and printers that Linux supports see? Can't you get the driver and compile it yourself? What are you some kind of wimp? If you want an easy to use system with drivers for all your hardware just stick with Windows and stop complaining. Leave all us Linux users alone so we can go back to running the most stable, reliable, secure and wonderful operating system known to man. So what if we can't use all the scanners and printers on the planet? We're too busy tinkering with config files to bother with digital cameras and scanners and printers. Leave us alone so we can figure out how to compile some code and get our config files set just right.

Re: Red Hat 7.2

Anonymous's picture

Nick,

I am sorry to say it is Linux users like you who give us a bad name. Going off on a tangent to the user who wrote the first comment was not only rude and childesh but wrong. One might think your trying to start a flame war. I don't know, do you work for Linux Journal or Red Hat? The commenter was right, as it was one of the wroste reviews I have read in 23 years of professionally working with computers. I am not say though a review has to touch on every minor point, but one has to make an effort to cover a good solection of hardware conditions. Let me list where the review wrong:

1. Only one computer was used.

A laptop, and an off brand from what I can tell. At least a half a dozen (6 each for boxes and laptops) systems in different configurations. It should had different amounts of memory and different video, sound and network controllers.

2. No upgrade was performed.

The comment to #1 applys here, as different hardware and sofftware conditions should be tried. I for one ran into two major nasty bugs in the upgrade from 7.1 to 7.2. I will share my problems with othe readers, so as to maybe be of help to them.

The first was I selected upgrade to ext3 filesystem. I could not boot afterwards. I have a AMD system and 2.47 kernel for some reason would not boot. I had been using a 2.4.16 kernel before the upgrade and that might of had something to do with it. But it was not compiled to use ext3 filesystem. I was able to boot with the cdrom in rescue mode and edit the fstab file and down grade it to ext2 and then edit the grub.conf and have it boot the 2.4.16 kernel. I booted and recompiled the 2.4.16 kernel and it reboot ok under 2.4.16.

The second of my problems was the network would not start up. Come to find out (through linux.redhat.install newsgrougp) you have to compile a new network option. You have to make sure that you have configured 'Kernel/User Netlink Socket' and, right below, 'Routing messages'. Once I did this as well and recompiled and rebooted the network started to work fine.

See comment #4 below for more insite.

3. No performance stats were done.

I expect to see performance stats and to what the difference between different RH release are. The first would be what is the gain (or no gain) in performance if I am going up one notch, i.e. 7.1 to 7.2. I would like to know what performance there between the latest 6.x and 7.2.

For RD 7.2 there is alot of complaints of performance issues.

4. Research and Relay problems that others have had.

Mr. Traub obviously did not read the news group linux.redhat.install. If he had he would have seen that going back as far a last October. He would have saw that two major themes are going on. One is problem with the install/upgrade procedure itself and two performance.

I can say as one who has upgraded that there is a performance hit. A rough guess would be in the 30-40% range.

-----

These are mostly the major problems I can see with Red Hat 7.2 and Mr. Traub's review of it. So you see all your comments about MS and Linux are backwards. If you look at most any MS mag that is review an OS or software you will see that they will include the items I have mention above. I know that there are no perfect systems out there and may never be. I do know that if we do not point out problems that we do see nothing will change/get_fixed. For the Linux users that have been using it for a while have come to expect that there will be problems. The important thing is to find those problems and pass on the information of how to fix or prevent them. We will get the world (MS/Mac users) to change over to Linux if it continues to have these level of problems. They (MS/Mac users) will go back to what their using at the slightous hint of a problem. I want to see Linux succecd, don't you???

Regards,

A Linux Advocate.

Re: Red Hat 7.2

Anonymous's picture


I'm a professional writer and need MS Word revisioning functionality. Only the Open Office/Star Office 6.x beta offers even basic compatibility with this feature. How does RH Linux 7.2 address my needs exactly?

Only basic compatibility? -- see here
and here.
And it meets your needs by

  • Letting you run MS Word under Wine (yes it does work)
  • Offer increased system stability
  • Open/StarOffice provides migration route
  • Choice!
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