It is true that what is now called Scientific Linux began as Fermi Linux, a vendor-cleansed version of the latest Red Hat Enterprise Linux. The latest version of the 3x tree is called Scientific Linux and still bears all the earmarks of the Fermi craftsmanship. The new and exciting aspect of this Linux is that the world-famous CERN Lab in Switzerland is now a direct part of the development and maintenance of the very Linux both these major scientific facilities use as the primary operating system of their facilities.
Of late, a number of leading U.S. and European university physics research laboratories have joined in the project.
The latest stable version is 3.04. It is made and used in both i386 and x86_64. At CERN, at least 100 the x86_64 version. Fermi's entire facility, "banks and banks" of computers, run on this Linux and it is used in servers and workstations.
When the ITs first receive a new distribution, or new ERRATA, from the vendor, they check the code thoroughly for any problems that might be inherent in it and fix them. In general, this means that every stable release, or subsequent ERRATA addition, leaves the distribution rock-solid. After all, this is the tool that is part of the driving force behind the largest linear accelerator in the world (I understand CERN is, or has built a larger one).
The nature of the facilities at which this Linux version is used is such that security is of paramount importance, so that is something you can count on with this distribution. It is built with the purpose of being functional and secure for years to come.
The latest test release is 4.0-rc2, both i386 and x86_64, and with the speed at which Fermi and CERN work, the final release is expected quite soon.
Red Hat is aware that this Linux version exists. Fermi, nor CERN, pays not one dime to Red Hat, a fact that nonplussed the SuSE salesman when he took a tour of Fermi. The developers of Scientific Linux have been fastidious in their removal of vendor identifiers, and precise about using open source program. They feel they have created a stable base that can be easily customized by pointing at one's own repositories, or by using it "out of the box."
They are the first to say that many of the vendor's codes do not work "right out of the box." So they fix them. I would imagine the vendor is or could be helped by such precision.
I am a disabled home user of Linux, with relatively little scientific or programming knowledge, but I have followed with great fascination Fermi/Scientific Linux as best I could. Their Web site is immaculate, simple, straight-forward. Their mailing lists are useful, intense, and absent the deviations from the project at hand that result in other distributions' attempts to move forward. Their servers are blazing fast, for download and updates.
This Linux has been around for a long time, but has made no effort to become widely know. Only a recent announcement on DistroWatch brought it to the attention of some of the community. Since then, the community has show serious interest in it.
The latest release candidate features the latest Firefox, and Thunderbird can be "yummed." OpenOffice.org and Helix media player is also included. Scientific Linux also recognizes the usefulness of APT and has included it in stable versions. I suspect that the 4x versions will, at some time soon, also include this feature, making it possible to apt, yum, or up2date.
The simple addition of five easy-to-find xine-related rpms to my Scientific Linux and I can watch any DVD I chose, and stream media. I know that's an indulgence, but heck, I'm an old shut-in.
If you want a rock-solid Linux that has undergone the scrutiny and use of some of the world's foremost scientists, you could do no better.
My advance apologies for such a long post, and to the people at Scientific Linux for any errors I might have induced into it.
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