Tonight, I’m going to be writing about my recent experience with Red-Hat-based GNU/Linux distributions, and whether or not they apply to what you’re looking for in an operating system.
As I’ve written previously, I believe that Debian GNU/Linux is a must-have for any Linux-For-Desktop environment. The reasons for this are as follows:
-Package stability (package sources go through a rigorous testing process before they are accepted and passed along to various versions of Debian, i.e. “Stretch”/”Jessie”)
-Access to more recent versions of the kernel (through the “testing” environment)
-Ease of source compilation (most CMake configuration files are written with Debian-based distributions in mind)
-Popularity for desktop usage (to the point where Valve has built their SteamOS on top of it)
Debian is also one of the first GNU/Linux distributions to come into being, so it’s had plenty of time to cement itself within the open-source/free software ecosystem.
So, what about these “Red Hat” distributions, then?
I’ve spent the last month becoming familiar with CentOS 7 and Fedora 22. CentOS is the “free” version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Usage of RHEL isn’t free, but you’ll receive official, on-the-spot support from the Red Hat community.
If you install CentOS, you’ll also notice that the kernel is a bit old. CentOS 7 currently sports the 3.10 version of the Linux kernel. Red Hat has, of course, added drivers and packages to make the kernel more flexible with regards to different hardware offerings, but, upon immediately loading it up on a new budget machine of mine, the touchpad wouldn’t work. As a result of this, I threw the operating system onto a spare Ivy-Bridge laptop I had laying around, and didn’t see the same issue…
Instead, however, I had to go buy a new wireless USB adapter because it wouldn’t recognize the WIFI capabilities of the chip! 😡
Installing Fedora, on the other hand, was flawless. Everything worked right out of the box! The benefit of Fedora is that it has the latest upstream of the kernel, which, as a result, makes it much more accommodating for different types of hardware. On the software side, though, things are a little rough.
I spent several hours over the weekend trying to get both Blender and LMMS to compile, and both were unsuccessful. I made some comments about this over on the Fedora packages website.
Without the ability to compile from source, you’re left with whatever packages are available by default on the Fedora package manager (which now utilizes the “dnf” command, instead of “yum”, like CentOS). To give you an example, Blender is only at version 2.74 through the Fedora 22 package manager. I was pretty annoyed because Blender version 2.75 is a H-U-G-E upgrade! Given that I’m (at this very moment), writing this article on a laptop with a built-in AMD GPU, having that OpenCL Cycles support is a big advantage.
The other package in question, Linux MultiMedia Studio, however, was the latest version. Unfortunately, though, the package maintainer compiled it without SDL (Simple DirectMedia Layer) support. The problem with this is that sometimes certain audio effects/instruments don’t get along with ALSA (Advanced Linux Sound Architecture). And while ALSA may be less resource-intensive than SDL, SDL is guaranteed to give you the appropriate sound quality you’re expecting. This was a let down, to say the least. 😦
So, my verdict for Red-Hat-based distributions (so far) is that they aren’t appropriate for Linux-For-Desktop computing.
If you want a very stable server environment that utilizes Python 2.7.5 (CentOS 7), MySQL, Apache-anything, etc., then, hey, go nuts! All Red-Hat-based distributions are built with Linux-For-Server in mind. Fedora even has an ARM version for those of you interested in running it on a Raspberry Pi! Even I’m thinking about doing that at some point, albeit in a clustered environment.
As always, my job is to help readers learn how to navigate the world of GNU/Linux. If you’re looking for a desktop OS that will also provide you with the freedom to compile your own software with minimal effort, Debian-based distributions are your best bet. If you’re looking for a stable server environment for distributed computing, or even just a hobby project, anything Red-Hat-related will do just fine. The cool part about working with either family of distributions is that, besides the package manager, pretty much everything is the same. There’s very little you’d need to “re-learn” if you wanted to hop around.
Feel free to post any questions or comments if you think there’s something I missed. 🙂