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Red Hat Releases RHEL 4 Public Beta

September 29, 2004

This article was contributed by Ladislav Bodnar

The announcement couldn't have been hidden more carefully. Unlike "Taroon", the previous public beta of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), the first beta or RHEL 4, code name "Nahant", was not announced on Red Hat Watch mailing list, nor was it mentioned anywhere on Red Hat's web site. In fact, the only place the announcement was sent to was the just established Nahant Beta List, which couldn't have had many subscribers other than a handful of RHEL developers. But whatever the reason for this secrecy, the fact is that Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 has now officially entered a public beta testing phase. We downloaded the 4 ISO image set of RHEL Enterprise Server to take an early look.

First some general information. RHEL 4 is being developed in parallel with Fedora Core 3, which has been in beta testing since July. Some would have expected RHEL 4 to be based on the earlier and well-established Fedora Core 2, but remember that Fedora 3 will be released early in November this year, while RHEL 4 final is not expected until perhaps April or May next year. This will give Red Hat developers an extra 5 - 6 months to finalize the product and to iron out any outstanding bugs not caught during the Fedora Core 3 beta testing period.

The platform support and product range has changed little since RHEL 3, the only exception being the low-cost Red Hat Enterprise Linux ES, which, in addition to i386, is now also built for ia64 and x86_64 architectures. Here is a quick summary of what is available for each hardware platform:

  • i386: Advanced Server, Desktop, Enterprise Server, Workstation
  • ia64: Advanced Server, Enterprise Server, Workstation
  • ppc: Advanced Server
  • s390: Advanced Server
  • s390x: Advanced Server
  • x86_64: Advanced Server, Desktop, Enterprise Server, Workstation

Besides platform support and price, the main difference between RHEL Enterprise Server (ES) and RHEL Advanced Server (AS) is in their respective target systems. RHEL ES is designed for small and medium size businesses using systems with up to two CPUs and 8 GB of memory; in contrast, RHEL AS is intended for large departmental and data center servers with up to 16 CPUs and 64 GB of RAM. On the client side, there is little difference between RHEL Desktop and RHEL WS from a technical point of view and packages included, but RHEL Desktop is sold as a package of either 10 or 50 units with management modules for mass deployments, while RHEL Workstation can be purchased as a stand-alone product.

Apart from an extra Red Hat Network account screen during the post-install configuration, installing RHEL 4 doesn't differ much from installing any recent test build of Fedora Core 3. A subscription to Red Hat Network is, of course, an integral part of any RHEL product, providing updates and errata for the duration of the subscription period. RHEL 3 users will also note a new option to select one of the three SELinux states. The default is "Active", which enforces all policies, such as denying unauthorized users access to certain files and programs. On the other end of the spectrum is a self-explanatory "Disabled" state. The third state, "Warn", means that SELinux policies are turned on but not enforced, with a log file providing details of any access violations. This is a good way of testing SELinux, especially designed for those users who would eventually like to enable the policies, but are somewhat nervous about possible negative effects on their system operation.

Like SUSE LINUX Enterprise Server (SLES) 9, the default installation of RHEL 4 is a full graphical system. Beta 1 comes with a preview release of GNOME 2.8 as the default desktop environment (KDE 3.3.0 is also included). Although it is possible to install a text-only system by deselecting the GNOME package set during installation, having a graphical system will benefit less experienced system administrators who would appreciate the many graphical utilities for painless configuration of Apache, Samba, NFS and other server applications, as well as an easy setup of the Red Hat Network update service. An interesting new feature (courtesy of GNOME 2.8) is the configurable Keyring Manager daemon for managing passwords. As an example, it allows users to keep administrative privileges after configuring the first module that requires root password - when done, a key set icon will appear in the system tray to indicate that the user will not need to enter root password again during the next 5 minutes (default).

Besides the newly included SELinux functionality, users familiar with RHEL 3 will notice several other changes. Red Hat has now moved to Linux kernel 2.6 (2.6.8 to be exact), XFree86 has been replaced with X.Org (version 6.8.0), CVS with Subversion (1.0.6), UW IMAP with Cyrus IMAP (2.2.6) and OSS sound modules with ALSA (1.0.6). The package supplying Linux Volume Manager (now developed by Red Hat after acquiring Sistina earlier this year) is now called lvm2 (version 2.00.21) and it comes with many new features and commands. Users of Asian languages will be pleased to know that all of the various input method servers are now been deprecated in favor of IIIMF (Internet/Intranet Input Method Framework), a multilingual Unicode input framework which enables easy switching between languages, input methods and character sets, and it even allows for mixing different character sets in documents. Additionally, support for several Indic languages, including Bengali, Hindi, Punjabi and Tamil, is now available in the Anaconda installer and throughout most GTK+ applications.

Overall, the list of newly added features in this beta release of RHEL 4 is impressive. What is needed now is intensive testing on all architectures to determine the capabilities and stability of the 2.6 kernel under extreme conditions. Then some 6 months down the road, when all the known bugs have been ironed out, RHEL 4 will undoubtedly provide enough reasons for many system administrators and IT decision makers to upgrade, deploy or migrate.

Comments (10 posted)

Distribution News

Debian GNU/Linux

Martin Krafft has put together an organization chart for the Debian Project. PDF and PostScript versions are also available. If you have ever wondered how it all fits together, this chart is, at least, a place to start.

The Debian Weekly News for September 28, 2004 is out. This week's issue covers an OSCON talk on the use of Free Software in a Debian-based large scale web application, a Sarge release update, a surveillance robot powered by Debian, and more.

Steve Langasek provides a Sarge release update covering, in particular, "Qt, arts, arm, yes; freeze date, no".

Jeroen van Wolffelaar adds this message to package maintainers. "Executive summary: If you maintain one or more packages that are out-of-sync in sarge, please go to http://www.wolffelaar.nl/~sarge/, read the guidelines, login, lookup your own packages, and fill in the questions."

Andreas Barth looks at bts2ldap-gateway: updates.

Martin "joey" Schulze provides a status report on the progress of the third revision of the current stable version (woody).

Comments (none posted)

Gentoo Weekly Newsletter

The Gentoo Weekly Newsletter for the week of September 27, 2004 is out. This edition revisits Gentoo documentation and other topics.

Full Story (comments: none)

Ubuntu Traffic #5

The fifth edition of Ubuntu Traffic is available; it looks at GNOME bindings, daily CD images, Mono packages, the Technical Board, and more.

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DistroWatch Weekly

The DistroWatch Weekly for September 27, 2004 covers Fedora Core 3, Debian Sarge, Hiweed GNU/Linux and more.

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Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 Beta 1 (LinuxElectrons)

Red Hat has announced the release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 (Nahant) Beta 1. "Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 is the first RHEL release based on the 2.6 Linux kernel. We are particularly interested in feedback on hardware compatibility including sound, video, networking, storage device, and USB support on both server and desktop-class systems."

Comments (8 posted)

Fedora

Udev testers on Fedora will be interested in this website that "tries to reveal the secrets of udev and how it works on Fedora".

Fedora Core 2 updates:

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Slackware Linux

This week the slackware-current changelog shows upgrades to GNU automake-1.9.2, GNU libtool-1.5.10, oprofile-0.8.1, GNU gmp-4.1.4, bind-9.3.0, xsane-0.96, php-5.0.2, GNU gawk-3.1.4, mdadm-1.7.0, gkrellm-2.2.4, and more.

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New Distributions

TURKIX

TURKIX is a Mandrake based live Linux distribution with support for Turkic languages like Turkish and Azerbaijani. The second major release (2.0) will be in English. Turkix comes with a rehack of rpm packaging system, called as "rpmx", an embedded wrapper of rpm that understands the new virtual file hierarchy used by TURKIX. This hierarchy is designed to make Windows and MacOS users feel at home while getting them acquainted with the classical UNIX file hierarchy. TURKIX joins the list at version 1.9, released September 26, 2004.

Comments (none posted)

SAM

SAM is a bootable Linux-CD based on Mandrakelinux. Installation on hard drive is not necessary with SAM, but it is possible. SAM is under 210mb, so it fits on a 8cm-mini-CD and is ideal for carrying in the pocket. Although it is small, it contains a full graphical desktop environment with office, Internet, multimedia and graphics applications, and even a few games. SAM joins the list at TestRelease 1.0, released September 28, 2004.

Comments (none posted)

Minor distribution updates

H3Knix

H3Knix has released v1.5.2 with major feature enhancements. "Changes: This version features new install scripts, a rebuild of the base with more included libraries and applications, a new init for fast boot/low overhead, and new custom tools."

Comments (none posted)

LormaLINUX

LormaLINUX has released the first of a new line of server products. Server Edition 1.0beta 1 - LTSP Server combines the optimization, customization and features of Lormalinux 5 Workstation for low-powered thin client terminals, ideal for the classroom environment.

Comments (none posted)

slimlinux

slimlinux has released v0.8.0. "Changes: A minimal distribution of XFree86 4.2.0, yeahwm 0.2.0, ratpoison 1.3.0, nano 1.2.4, mawk 1.33, mcdp 0.4, aumix 2.8, and bplay 0.99 were added. retawq 0.2.5a and OSS support were updated. zile, clex, and cmdftp were removed. From this release onward, there is no floppy version, only a FAT16/32 version. The system uses 16 MB of RAM, and the framebuffer console display is required."

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Newsletters and articles of interest

Linux live and kicking (vnunet)

Vnunet suggests the use of CD-based Linux distributions for evaluating Linux. "Though different live options target different markets, most offer more or less automatic network configuration and a graphical desktop environment with supplied office suites, browsers and applications. There's also mileage in live distributions for the experienced user. It's possible to customise some live variants, burn them to a fresh CD and use them as a portable, instant personalised Linux environment with a writeable home directory stored on a USB memory key."

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