I have been running an evaluation of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, SUSE Enterprise Linux and Ubuntu for Business for about a week now and when I told a colleague of mine about this he reminded me not to forget about CentOS when doing an “Enterprise Ready” Linux Desktop Evaluation. CentOS provides an interesting statement on its website homepage “derived from sources freely provided to the public by a prominent North American Enterprise Linux vendor” and that North American Enterprise Linux vendor is Red Hat.
Unlike the full evaluations that I am running on the 3 OSes (these are Physical installs), I chose to run CentOS through my OS Sunday paces which is installed in a VirtualBox environment with 4GB of RAM and 20GB of HDD. The Torrent Download of the 5.3GB DVD images was tedious and for that much bandwidth investment I am hoping that I have a winner to unseat Ubuntu from my main user environment.
The install was fairly straightforward and having just gone through the RHEL install earlier this week, most of the settings were quite familiar, the one very nice surprise was the option to install Desktop, Minimal, Minimal Desktop and several flavors of Server all from the same installation media. While I have become accustomed to the Live Desktop to evaluate quickly before the installation actually occurs, speed of the install with CentOS did not have me wishing that I could play with features before they were installed…so far so good.
The first boot (after setting up the User Settings) was well under the 30 second mark that has become the benchmark for all Linux Distros that I test, but I was instantly at home when the desktop arrived. The Windows Manager that is default is Gnome (version 2.28 “thanks to Ryan for catching this one“) and it reminded me fondly of my days with Ubuntu before Unity took over my life.
As far as included software with this setup…I was more than a little disappointed with the 5.3GB download and when choosing a full desktop getting what most Distros today would be a Light version.
- Internet – Firefox, Pidgin and Ekiga
- Office – Full LibreOffice 3.6
- Sound and Video – Rhythmbox, Movie Player and Cheese Webcam
By any standards this is really light…but allows for some customization that can be applied for different roles and responsibilities. I get that but the reality for me is…if I am going to download 5.3GB…I should get a full desktop…just saying!
Adding new software though was a surprising challenge as none of the Repositories were configured and for some reason my network connection was disabled by default? I enabled all of the available repositories and to my surprise…there was very little selection available. The click and wait and refresh process was not only frustrating…Enterprise grade or not…something should have been configured beyond what was installed with my Desktop Selection (and to my surprise there was no CentOS 6.4 repository???).
After a log out and log back in though…the software packages did arrive despite getting several error messages about hosts not being reachable. The depth of options that did arrive were daunting and I was back in my element of customizing my desktop.
As a Community based OS though, these challenges to me present a real problem as this is billed to be an Enterprise Ready solution and having to muck around with this many settings just to get the setup right would be huge waste during the configuration of dozens if not hundreds of Desktops. I went on the hunt for a tool that would allow me to customize the install more and found that I missed a single click that would have allowed me to add the software that I wanted to the initial install. To see if this would change my opinion of the lack of Out of the Box functionality I deleted the VM and started over.
The availability of a wide range of choices by simply clicking on Customize Now was impressive and the need for 5.3GB in downloads became very apparent immediately. I was very much like a kid in a candy store clicking away at all of the things that interested me. Needless to say, the 2nd install was not nearly as fast as the first.
Despite taking far longer to install, the addition of a KDE desktop and several other options radically changed what came with the install. This customization feature is something that I wish Ubuntu would bring in with their DVD installation.
So I can not pass blame on the OS for me missing out on that click and the second install worked in every way except for the instant connection to my Network Shares (which is not that big of a deal and in past installations that I struggled with turned out to be an issue with a few settings that are easy to resolve) so I would have to say…for its effort in bringing back Gnome in all its glory and really not pretending to be something more or something less than a functional work horse.
Cheers and Happy Sunday everyone!
Chris J Powell