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Sep
22

CentOS 6.3 – Community Choice

by Rob Zwetsloot

The Community Enterprise Operating System is now at version 6.3. Is the upgrade to the Red Hat-based distro worthwhile?

CentOS is one of the more major community supported distributions of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, created from sources freely provided by the company rather than just simply respinning the distro. It’s also free for everyone, with complete compatibility with software that works on Red Hat. Even Jim Whitehurst, CEO of Red Hat, fully supports the creation and maintaining of CentOS, saying he prefers it to Oracle Linux.

Fedora Red Hat Server
CentOS is a distro of older, yet far more stable software

As well as a selection of security updates, 6.3 adds new and better tools to aid in the moving of systems (both physical and virtual) to a KVM virtual machine, and has switched to LibreOffice as the main office suite for the distribution. Otherwise there’s not a whole lot new – which is obviously the point of such a distro. It still runs on Linux kernel 2.6.x, and is incredibly stable because of it, and all the other packages are still at older versions. It’s the same story with all the packages, with GIMP at 2.6 amid every other distro lauding the inclusion of 2.8 as a major feature, and CentOS also uses the ESR edition of Firefox with a much more relaxed development rate. Even LibreOffice is at 3.4.5, and that was just added.

Installation is straightforward and is accomplished in two steps. Setting up partitions, packages and generally installing the files to the hard drive is done on the initial pass, with a quick break to add an administrator password before it finishes. After a restart, there’s a simple user setup that can either be done by a sysadmin or the user themselves, depending on the nature of the business. If you’re even using it for business, that is – we generally found that while it’s a rock-solid distro for servers and enterprise use, it’s nice enough to use on your home system if you want that extra level of security.
CentOS comes pre-installed with GNOME 2 as standard, and not just GNOME Classic from GNOME 3 either – actual GNOME 2, same as with standard Red Hat. Very few distros are still using GNOME 2, and if you’re a fan of the older offering, it’s a good reason to jump on the stability bandwagon. Alternatively, KDE 4.3 is also included for those who prefer it; while technically a little more modern, it’s still old and tested enough to meet the stability requirements for CentOS.

Fedora Red Hat Server
Plenty of great software is available for home use

The full media DVD, weighing in at 4GB, still comes with most, if not all, of the available packages for CentOS. While of course you won’t get the same security updates as making sure it’s hooked up to the software repos, it’s definitely nice to be able to add a few more packages from the disc if you need to configure a complicated networking setup.

CentOS 6.3 isn’t fancy, it doesn’t come with crazy Compiz effects on by default, it has a very solid and classic package list, and GNOME 2 is the standard interface. For some people, though, this is all that they require. CentOS is as stable as you could need, yet offers a very workable experience for desktops without the fear of running into some of the more exotic problems associated with Linux use. Of course, this translates extremely well to server and enterprise use if you don’t fancy spending the support money just yet on Red Hat.

Verdict

4/5

A rock-solid operating system that can be used in any number of ways – as a taster for Red Hat without paying a penny, a genuinely fantastic enterprise solution for both server and workstations, or even just a desktop distro for people interested more in security and stability than the new
hotness of some other distros.

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