Red Hat 9

or system-wide by adding nosysinfo at the end of the kernel load line in your bootloader configuration. The release notes also warn that “kernel support for the new NPTL feature changes several internal kernel programming interfaces significantly. As a result, several external kernel modules may not compile without modifications.. Examples currently include the NVIDIA and ATI 3-D modules.”

User Interface

Fonts are anti-alised and are beautiful. The integration with the xft2/fontconfig system has matured from Red Hat 8. The most common problem annoying early users, the fact that the dash and other characters in man pages were not displayed properly under an UTF-8 locale, now is gone. Some applications still work outside the system, however. OpenOffice.org is the main case, but being a cross-platform application it will move to fontconfig later, and Red Hat configured OpenOffice.org fonts properly anyway.

The process started with Red Hat 8—customizing GNOME and KDE to offer a consistent look called Bluecurve and the same default choice for the most common tasks such as Web browsing and e-mail—continues. I deliberately chose to review the KDE desktop partly because it is not Red Hat's first choice, and partly because the difference is smaller in Red Hat. Figure 1 shows an almost vanilla Bluecurve/KDE screenshot. My only changes were placing the panel vertically, not installing Evolution and choosing different colors for the main panel icons. The icons for the text files include the beginning of the text of the file.

Figure 1. KDE in Red Hat 9

Figure 1 also shows a change from Red Hat 8 that came from popular demand—a different menu organization. Each submenu lists only five to ten applications and has a “More programs of this type” submenu. This definitely makes searching for programs easier. The first five entries of the main menu are filled dynamically with the five most used or most recently used programs. For some reason, not all the menu entries are considered when doing this. I added Mutt, opened it continuously, and it never showed up at the top.

Another minor annoyance with the desktop is the fact that, although automount works nicely and opens a file manager window as soon as you insert a CD-ROM, it works too much in at least one case. When I inserted the first Red Hat 9 CD, simply to read the release notes, the system said that to run the rh-install-helper, I had (rightly) to type the root password. When I clicked cancel, it exited with “unknown exit code”.

Multimedia

The short story is that Red Hat 9 can play music and movies fine, it simply doesn't want to by default. The distribution does not include MP3 players, deCSS or anything else, including the fortune program, that cannot be certified as freely redistributable with respect to current law. Please don't whine about this, as it does the right thing, which is to force the end user to choose between asking her government representative if certain laws, such as the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) can be reformed, or deliberately installing the missing packages herself, which is really easy anyway.

System Management

Under both GNOME and KDE, normal users can do everything they typically are allowed to do without problems. The only misconfiguration I found is shown in Figure 2. LPD is declared as the currently used printing system, although CUPS had been chosen. Everything printed fine, but the text is misleading.

Figure 2. The Shrike/KDE Control Center

Red Hat provides its own set of system administration tools, most of them named redhat-config-* (simply type redhat-, then press Tab while logged in as root to see them all). All are documented in the downloadable or printed Red Hat manuals and are adequate for beginning and intermediate system administrators. Figure 3 shows the security/firewall tool, which is limited but sufficient for home users. The only problem found with other services is that the redhat-switch-mail tool would not work in the text version.

Figure 3. The Firewall Manager

______________________

Articles about Digital Rights and more at http://stop.zona-m.net CV, talks and bio at http://mfioretti.com

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