Windows to RH Linux 9

Yesterday my sister wanted to try out this “Linux” thing that I was talking about and using. Never being one to pass up such an invitation, I downloaded the 3 ISOs I needed for RH Linux 9, burned them and proceeded on to her computer.

– She uses W2K on a 40GB hd. I needed to use some form of partition resizing utitily (ended up using Partition Magic) to scrunch the partition down to 30GB. this left 10 GB for the Linux installation. There’s not much to say about the installation process. Contrary to myth, current Linux installations have become literally dead simple.

The Good:
1. RH Linux 9.0 didn’t break right at the end of the installation (before writing GRUB to the boot sector). Something happened in RH 8.0 2nd beta that completely broke the ability to boot up on that machine.
2. The desktop has been cleaned up significantly. The menu structure has been simplified, the theme has been improved and firstboot has been improved.
3. XFree86 cursor support is very nice. I especially like the rotating hourglass. Very cute.
4. The monitor settings were detected perfectly. In some cases this is not as simple as it sounds. For example, my monitor on my Debian installation required my to change a few settings in the XF86Config file.
5. The NVIDIA driver installer is extremely simple to use. And I mean _really_ simple. Run the script and watch it do its work…

The Bad:
1. Red Hat still uses GTK1 versions of many apps, including XChat and GAIM.
2. Red Hat’s package manager does not deal with third party applications.
3. Still no support for apt or any tool that resolves dependencies and queries. Having followed the Phoebe list closely, I proceeded to Fedora (a project to build high quality rpms in an apt repository). I downloaded, installed apt and used it to add the pieces that are missing by default (xmms-mp3 plugin, dvd playing)
4. The desktop is not as integrated as one would like. For example, still uses its own printer and font settings (although perhaps the Ximian work will help there). Compressed files downloaded by mozilla are not immediately handled by file-roller and a number of small issues.
5. Today morning, the computer ‘siezed’. I’m not sure why, except the HD started thrashing. Needless to say _I_ way not impressed at all. I was unable to get any response out of the system. Hopefully this problem does not recoccur.
6. Why is sendmail still included and turned on by default? Switch to postfix and don’t start it up by default. People who require their own MTA are qualified enough to start it by themselves.
7. I would like to see a gnome-media player that handled all filetypes. I believe the only way this will become possible is by using gstreamer as a backend. RH could ship a bare player with support for mpeg and users would be able to download gstreamer plugins that handled other file types automagically. Needless to say, it is hoped that mime-type handling in gnome will be improved (in general)/
8. GAIM does not handle file transfer in MSN (hopefully in a later version).
9. Graphical boot is required (not suggested – required). It looks extremely unprofessional to have the bare VGA console displaying boot up messages. I have heard that work is being done on a graphical boot up for later versions of RH.

Personally, I see great potential in RH Linux 9+. There are a number of integration issues that need to be dealt with. Red Hat has made a very good effort from 8.0+. I for one, would never have exposed my sister to the horror that was the 7.x series. To say it was disgusting would be an understatement. RH 9 is worlds different. However, it is still missing the touches that make it seem like a single coherent desktop as opposed to a number of individual programs. Some of these problems are being dealt with. For example, Ximian’s version of OO.o will include fontconfig support, CUPS support and follow the GTK2 theme. It will also feature integration with Evolution. I would like to see more from Evo. For example, it would be nice if GAIM put aside some of their differences and created an IM platform that was _truly_ integrated into GNOME. Thus we could have things like contact sharing, “Send email to…” functionality that would spawn your current mailer. So on and so forth.

Blue sky wise, I would like Red Hat to immediately set the user up with a GPG key on startup and have the default mailer use that key to sign all messages (I’m asking for sign only not encrypt).

Here is a small picture of what her desktop looks like now. (She made a couple of changes). You can click on it to get a full picture (approx 750K)

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