CentOS 5 and RHEL 5

CentOS 5 was finally released this week after RHEL 5 was released earlier this month. I did an install on a spare server to play around with it, and so far so good. I may post a more in depth review after I’ve logged some more time playing around.

I just read an article in eWeek titled Red Hat should lighten up.

I think Red Hat’s current policy of requiring subscriptions for access to RHEL is flawed. CentOS has a huge userbase which could contribute more directly to the development and community around RHEL if Red Hat opened up RHEL to users who don’t need support.

I understand that there are definite costs to having mirrors for all of the users. Many companies have stepped up and offered mirrors, and I think they would have no problem continuing to do so if Red Hat opened RHEL.

Since CentOS currently has a 2-3 day lead time to download the new source RPMS and compile them for the OS’s after they are released, why not do the same for the free version of RHEL? Add that as another advantage to buying a subscription — priority updates.

If there were a free version of RHEL, it could also change Oracle’s plans on Unbreakable Linux, which like CentOS, is just another rebadged RHEL.

I think that what bugs me the most is that there’s so much wasted productivity in the rebadging/recompiling/etc that could be better utilized in the further development of the OS.

I do understand Red Hat’s position on RHEL. I do see potential downsides to opening it up — the main one being that some users that now pay for subscriptions might switch to the free version. However, I think the potential benefits outweigh the risks.

Termination of RegisterFly.com Registrar Accreditation

ICANN has terminated RegisterFly’s Registrar Accreditation. After all of the recent controversy surrounding RegisterFly, I’m not surprised. It will be interesting to see what happens now — it sounds like RegisterFly may be forced to transfer customer domains in bulk to another registrar. If that happens, will RegisterFly get any kind of compensation? Watching this story play out could prove to be very interesting.

RHEL 5 out today

Red Hat Enterprise Linux version 5, at long last, was released today. This release is based roughly on Fedora Core 6, which is a huge update from RHEL v4 (which was based off of FC3). I look forward to installing CentOS 5 when it is released in about two weeks.

One other thing worth noting — The Fedora Project recently started Extra Packages for Enterprise Linux (EPEL) which looks to add a new repository for RHEL/CentOS/etc users who are looking for packages that are not included with RHEL but are available in Fedora. This will bridge a gap between Fedora and RHEL.

Good job, Red Hat!

Avoid TigerDirect

I just got this in from my friend Josh. Somewhat surprising that a major online retailer would try to pull this stuff. I think I’ll stick with NewEgg when I need tech gear.

I recently purchased a Motorola H700 Bluetooth Headset from one of our favorite retail venues, Bestbuy. I paid full retail price, $124.99 for the H700. It’s a little expensive but I just got tired of the Jabra ($79.99) headset underperforming so I decided to upgrade. After purchasing the H700 I found out that TigerDirect.com had the H700 for $54.99 so I decided to buy one from there and return the one to Bestbuy. All totaled, I paid $71.00 with 2nd shipping from TigerDirect.com. I was very happy to save the $55. Today I received the new one from Tigerdirect and immediately, I noticed that the package was different. The one from BB had to be cut open with a knife (its that hard plastic bubble type package) and the one from TD opened up like a clamshell (no knife, just snapped apart). As soon as that happened, I got curious and began comparing the two packages directly.

To make a long story short, I determined that the product from TD was a knock off. The quick start guide was a different color; the pictures in it were pixilated and blurry. The user manual was cut wrong, the cardboard packaging that shows thru the clear plastic bubble was all pixilated and the colors were off…after a closer look, even the Motorola M circular logo was misprinted.

I called TD and explained to them that they were selling counterfeit products and that I wasn’t paying for it or the shipping. They of course denied the facts but did agree to cough up the total cost, shipping included.

I sent it back and I’m not buying from them ever again.

Vonage – Recommended!

I first used Vonage about four years ago. At the time, I really didn’t need it. It was a new technology and I thought it was worth trying out. I was pretty impressed at the time, but Lingo and Packet8 both came out with cheaper plans, so I figured I’d give the others a shot. I returned Packet8 within the first 30 days because of severe latency issues. I don’t know if they were still working out the bugs in their system or what, but it was painful to use. I used Lingo for about two years on their $8 plan because it was a pretty good deal. I never had the best quality, and the sound level was always really low even with the phone cranked to maximum volume. But for $8 per month, it was hard to beat. I canceled Lingo when I moved last year and just used my cell phone.

I decided to get Vonage again on Monday. I went to Circuit City and purchased one of the D-Link Vonage Telephone Adapters (VTA) for $50 that came with a $150 mail-in rebate. Not a bad deal even without the rebate, when you consider what Vonage charges through the web site. I brought the VTA home and was making phone calls in about 5 minutes. Setup was really, really easy. Phone quality is way better than it ever was with Lingo, and I really can’t tell the difference from a land line. I got the first month for free, and once I get the $150 back, that will pay for about 3-4 months of service. Vonage is definitely king when it comes to VoIP, and I highly recommend them.

Not another Vista review…

Sorry, but I couldn’t resist.

I’ve been running Windows Vista on my laptop for several weeks now to try it out and figure out some of the headaches that it will undoubtedly cause for those responsible for maintaining and supporting computers around the world. I’ll give it to Microsoft, they definitely know how to make you feel like you need to upgrade. My laptop, a Dell 600m with a Pentium M 1.6 GHz processor, ran sluggishly with Vista and 512 MB RAM. So, I upgraded to 2 GB and it runs a little better. My computer, which is fairly up to date hardware-wise, got Vista’s lowest performance rating of 1. I’m betting that greater than 90% of computers out there will get this rating (if they’ll even run Vista at all!).

My brand new Microsoft Wireless Notebook Optical Mouse 4000 doesn’t work right at all in Vista. The scroll wheel works sometimes, and the software won’t install because it requires Windows 2000/XP to install. My ATI Radeon graphics chipset does not perform even close to the same in Vista as it did in Windows XP. Don’t even bother trying to hook up an external monitor with a different resolution, it will cause problems. If you like to suspend your computer at night when you go to bed, count on Vista locking up about 75% of the time when you try to resume.

I’ve run into quite a few programs that simply refused to run on Vista, and others that are severely broken when you try to run them in Vista. While I applaud Microsoft for trying to make things more secure, they have made accessing the Application Data folder very difficult, and have blocked off some things that should be more easily accessible if you have administrative clearance. In Linux, if you type in the root password, you have root access to do what you need to do, even if it’s just change some settings. In Vista, if you want to do something that requires administrative access, sometimes it’s as simple as clicking continue, other times, it’s near impossible without significant effort to make something happen.

I just ordered in a new hard drive so I could have one drive for Windows and one for Linux. However, I will be loading Windows XP and dumping Vista when the drive comes in. I’m done with the hassles of broken programs and having to fight with the security to let me access simple settings.

Problem with CentOS 4.3 Fresh Install

I was working on a fresh install of CentOS 4.3 and the box was being incredibly sluggish. For a machine with 1 GB of RAM, I realized that the system was using 200 MB of RAM, and 100 MB of swap space for no apparent reason immediately after boot. I couldn’t understand why this was happening until I figured out that there are some problems with kernel that is included with the default CentOS 4.3 install. So, I downloaded kernel-smp-2.6.9-39.0.2.EL.i686.rpm from the CentOS testing archives, ran rpm -Uvh, and rebooted. This solved the problem. It took many hours of frustration to figure that out, so I hope this post saves someone the trouble.

Gigabyte i-RAM SATA Storage Device

The Tech Report has a great article on Gigabyte’s new i-RAM SATA Storage Device.  The PCI card uses regular DDR SDRAM paired with a battery to create up to a 4 GB hard drive that requires no special drivers.  Simply hook the card up to your SATA port and your BIOS recognizes the card as a hard drive.  The battery also will keep your data safe for around 10 hours if your power goes out, which is a good precaution.  Needless to say, if you were putting this in a place where the power could fail, you should back up frequently, or buy a large battery backup for your PC.  I’m looking forward to future revisions of this card that allow for more than 4 GB of RAM to be used, and perhaps an upgrade to the transfer rate to take full advantage of the RAM.

LinuxCOE / Instalinux

LinuxCOE is a “Common Operating Environment” developed as an open source project by Hewlett Packard over on SourceForge. The great thing about it is what I saw over at PCLinuxOnlinea new way to install Linux without having to click through the install screens. The article links over to Instalinux which gives you the option of creating an ISO for Fedora, Debian, SuSE, or Ubuntu with your customized options that can be in the 30 MB range. This could be very useful if you work in an environment where you duplicate machines all the time. Also, if you have a non-technical person on the other end of the phone, putting a CD into the computer and rebooting is a lot easier than trying to walk them through how to partition their hard drive and which packages to select.

Instalinux is a great step forward. Kudos to HP for supporting this project, and to the Instalinux folks for putting up the site.