03 June 2007

CentOS 5

I finally got around to trying out CentOS 5 yesterday (if you're not familiar with CentOS, it's a Linux distribution which is generally binary-compatible with Red Hat Enterprise Linux [RHEL]). Here are a few of my first impressions.

I installed CentOS 5 on my laptop. The laptop is about two years old, and it was nothing really special to begin with (1.67 GHz Athlon Mobile, 1 GB of RAM, video hardware which is probably way too lame for beryl/compiz).

The installation is different, in that you can no longer select 'full installation' or 'minimal installation' in the package selection screen. I really liked those features, and I'm sorry to see them go. Packages are now arranged in groups and subgroups, and you can select which groups/subgroups will be installed (but you can't select individual packages--at least, I didn't see how to). One of the subgroups probably more-or-less corresponds to the minimal install ('base system' or something, I think), and I suppose you can select all the subgroups for a full install. But it was nice having those as selection items in CentOS 4.

One of the big new features of RHEL/CentOS 5 is virtualization (they are using xen). I thought I'd try it out, so I selected the virtualization group in the installation process. This installs a xen-enabled kernel, and it's the default kernel (in fact, it didn't install any non-xen kernels). My laptop is rather noisy anyway, but the CPU fan typically ran two levels higher (faster, louder) than usual with the xen kernel, even when the laptop was idle. That was too noisy, so I installed a non-xen kernel package, and the CPU fan is now running at its normal less-noisy rate. So make sure that your computer has good cooling if you try xen.

There are lots of packages missing. This isn't an issue with a non-full installation: the packages just don't seem to be available at all. Not even in the CentOS extras or in DAG's RPMs. Here are a few examples:
  1. no xpdf and no gpdf (well, DAG has gpdf, but there's no EL5 build), just evince
  2. no xscreensaver (!): there's xlock, which isn't as cool, and DAG has an SRPM for xautolock (I had to remove the BuildRequires from the specfile), but I miss xscreensaver
  3. there's no EL5 build for audacity
  4. no grisbi (ouch)
And I had some trouble building some stuff I like. I use fluxbox, but I can't seem to build fluxter or fbpager, so I'm stuck with no decent pager program.

wpa_supplicant was installed as part of my package selection, but I couldn't make it work. I had to compile a newer version from source.

On the brigher side, it's got more current (than CentOS 4) versions of several packages: OpenOffice 2.0, PHP 5.1, MySQL 5.0, Apache 2.2 (which has mod_proxy_balancer: there was an interesting HowToForge article about mod_proxy_balancer recently).

But all in all, I'm disappointed in losing some of my favorite packages. Guess I need to quit whining and try to contribute specfiles.

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