RedHat 7.0 Beta, First Impressions, by Joe
(An attempt at documenting some of my likes and dislikes about the RH 7.0 Beta release)
So, after firing up the friendly neighborhood CD burner, I walked away equipped with a pair of RedHat 7.0 Beta cds. Backing up my data and shutting things down, I proceeded to boot off the first cd and begin my journey into the world of Beta-ness.
The anaconda installer has changed very little so far, with very little in the way of visible changes. It seems to be a bit faster and more responsive than 6.2's, generally moving between screens and displaying things faster than before. Being something of a RedHat power user, I went through the custom install option, where the only real difference of note was a fairly sizeable chunk of extra packages available to be installed.
After selecting my packages, I was presented with the usual list of required dependencies, and presented with a new option allowing me to continue with the install without the required dependencies. Finding the only things that were missing were things I had accidentally forgotten, I went ahead and told the installer to install the required dependencies. It then re-parsed the list of rpms, and presented me with a revised list of required depencies. It seems anaconda now checks for required dependencies dependencies...
The install then proceeded quite smoothly, with the same interface used in 6.2's anaconda. Overall it seemed to take less time to install a larger amount of data. Whether this is perception or actual improvements via drive optimizations I'm not sure.
Nothing really new or surprising in the rest of the install process. The usual steps were included and didn't seem to have been changed. After a few more screens I was presented with the same X Configuration screen as 6.2 (which worked surprisingly well on my GeForce DDR and 21" Nanao F2-21 monitor), however this time around it was configuring Xfree86 4.01 instead of the usual 3.3.x stuff. A few more screens after that, and I was rebooting my computer to fire up my new OS.
Right off the bat, there's a noticeable difference: A large, shiny full-screen RedHat graphic with a listing of available boot options, instead of the normal LILO: prompt. Pressing tab drops you back to text mode (this is noted on the graphic), otherwise you can use the arrow keys to highlight your boot image of choice.
Bootup proceeded nicely through the usual set of RedHat initscripts. No real surprises, though some of the usual startup software has changed somewhat. I'll get more into that later.
I logged in as root, poked around a little, and then went to work recompiling and installing some of my preferred toys. That's where the troubles began.
Unbeknownst to me at first, RedHat 7.0 ships with gcc-2.96 as the default compiler. While it seems to compile most things just fine, it has a tendency to barf on larger, more complicated projects. My first large compile, WindowMaker, died miserably and repeatedly in the midst of file after file. However, it would never die in the same place. Figuring that perhaps the default RedHat kernel was not interacting well with my system (a dual-processor celeron system), I attempted to compile the 2.4.0-test4 kernel I had been using with great success prior to my upgrade. No dice. (Despite claims from various RedHat personnel on Slashdot, the 2.4.0-test3 kernel was _not_ included on either of the main distribution disks. It's possible that the 2.4.0 kernel was included on the powertools CD, but I did not have it available to check).
As I would later find out (after the fact, on the 7.0 beta mailing list), RedHat ships with gcc-2.96 as the default compiler, but includes "kgcc" (a copy of the preferred egcs version for kernels) for compiling kernels. At the time, I had no idea this was the case, and so rebooted and reinstalled without the development tools, thinking that either the new gcc/glibc versions were causing problems, or that I had accidentally left out some neccesary packages. Rather than go the custom-software route, I used a fairly 'default' installation (using a custom install and not choosing to manually select packages) and quickly found back at my root prompt.
After installing by hand the neccesary packages to get gcc working properly, I gave compiling WindowMaker another chance. Running into the same series of random compiler errors, I gave up and fired up X. For some reason, the installer had decided not to install Enlightenment (though it did install esound), instead presenting me with Gnome on top of Sawfish.
Overcoming my initial surprise, I configured a dialup connection using rp3, connected to the net, and proceeded to go looking for the cause of my compilation errors. That's when I found out about kgcc via the 7.0 Beta mailing list archive.
All in all, I'm fairly pleased with distribution so far. Aside from strange compilation problems (kgcc is now my default compiler). RedHat has replaced the regular inetd with xinetd, which uses a system of individual configuration files located in /etc/xinet.d. They've also included USB support as well as support for adsl.
Another subtle change is the use of ext2 partition labels in /etc/fstab. Each partition formatted as part of the install process is labelled with its name. This means, for example, that fsck can understand and use this label when checking that partition, and should a fsck be needed during the boot process, you will see "/root" being fscked instead of "/dev/hda2". RedHat included this feature in RedHat 6.x, but didn't have it enabled as part of the install process. See fstab(5) and e2label(8) for more details on how it works.
RedHat has also completely removed support for ppp from its 'netcfg' configuration program, which I find highly disappointing. While their rp3 tool is nice and colorful, I find myself missing the quick, no-nonsense interface that it used to have.
Everything else in the distribution seems to be the absolute latest version. Fresh versions of sendmail, bind, KDE, gtk, etc... are all provided for installation, along with a slew of new packages not previously included. While you can install a base system with just the first CD, I'd strongly recommend getting both, as there's quite a bit of software that you'll want from the second CD in order to complete your system.
There you have it, my experience with RedHat 7.0 Beta. Hope it's of use.