Cen­tOS 1708

Jonni Bid­well is the first to ad­mit that sta­bil­ity and re­li­a­bil­ity aren’t his strong points, so will he find in­spi­ra­tion in Cen­tOS? Here’s hop­ing…

Linux Format - - CONTENTS -

Jonni Bid­well’s the first to ad­mit that sta­bil­ity and re­li­a­bil­ity aren’t his strong points, so will he find a healthy source of in­spi­ra­tion in Cen­tOS? Here’s hop­ing…

We never re­viewed Cen­tOS when ver­sion 7 was re­leased (July 2014), but a new re­lease has just dropped, so now seems a good time to make up for that. Cen­tOS is based on the com­mer­cially li­censed Red Hat En­ter­prise Linux (RHEL). RHEL is still open source, but ac­cess to updates is by sub­scrip­tion only, and the Red Hat brand­ing is non-free. So by strip­ping out trade­marks from the RHEL sources, re­build­ing them, and ju­di­cious test­ing, one ends up with a en­ter­prise grade OS that’s also re­dis­tributable. In a nutshell, this is Cen­tOS, and you can find out more about the project in our tu­to­rial in LXF221.

There are a num­ber of ISOs to choose from de­pend­ing on your pur­poses. There are min­i­mal and netinstall op­tions, for those that wish to avoid su­per­flu­ous pack­ages or have band­width to burn. Both KDE and Gnome live en­vi­ron­ments are avail­able, too. The rec­om­mended course of ac­tion is to use the (slightly am­bigu­ously named) “DVD” im­age, which in­cludes all the pack­ages that can be set up out of the box. This weighs in at 4.5GB, and is what we used. A larger Ev­ery­thing im­age is avail­able, which con­tains all pack­ages avail­able for Cen­tOS.

The in­staller (Ana­conda, just like Fe­dora and RHEL) of­fers a choice of Base En­vi­ron­ments, which are pre­con­fig­ured for com­mon roles such as Com­pute Node, Vir­tu­al­iza­tion Host as well as De­vel­op­ment and Cre­ative Work­sta­tion. Each en­vi­ron­ment can be fur­ther cus­tomised with add-ons from the same screen. For ex­am­ple, one may wish to add the De­vel­op­ment Tools group to the Min­i­mal en­vi­ron­ment, pre­sum­ably cre­at­ing a min­i­mal de­vel­op­ment en­vi­ron­ment.

Too much choice?

From a desk­top user’s point of view, all this choice may seem over­whelm­ing, but Cen­tOS is an odd pick for a desk­top OS. Still, we in­stalled the Server with a GUI en­vi­ron­ment, to­gether with a se­lec­tion of add-ons. About 1,400 pack­ages, one QEMU crash and ac­cep­tance of a one-sen­tence li­cense agree­ment later, our in­stal­la­tion was ready to go. We found we’d booted a 3.10 ker­nel, a long-term sup­ported branch to which Red Hat back­port fea­tures and fixes, so ca­pa­bil­ity-wise it’s vastly dif­fer­ent to the vanilla 3.10 re­lease in 2013. For ex­am­ple, the NVMe driver has been re­based to ker­nel 4.10, and the AMDGPU driver now sup­ports chipsets up to Arc­tic Is­lands.

Our in­stall choices gave us a Gnome 3.22 desk­top. Yet most Cen­tOS in­stal­la­tions are for servers and so don’t bother with desk­top en­vi­ron­ments. There are sit­u­a­tions where a GUI is help­ful, and run­ning one is far from frowned upon, but there isn’t much in the way of desk­top soft­ware in the Cen­tOS re­pos, and what there is will be much older than what’s found in more desk­top-cen­tric dis­tros. How­ever, extra re­pos can be added, in par­tic­u­lar the Extra Pack­ages for En­ter­prise Linux (EPEL) pro­vides reliably ported pack­ages from Fe­dora for use with RHEL and de­riv­a­tives.

One of the main rea­sons peo­ple choose Cen­tOS is its longevity. The cur­rent re­lease, like its Red Hat­ted cousin, will re­ceive com­plete updates un­til 2020, and will still be sup­ported through main­te­nance up­grades un­til 2024, a whole decade af­ter it came into be­ing. Peo­ple don’t choose Cen­tOS purely be­cause the price is right. They do so be­cause of its rep­u­ta­tion for re­li­a­bil­ity. Many peo­ple are qual­i­fied or con­fi­dent enough to sup­port their own in­stal­la­tions, not just for their own pet server projects, but for busi­nesses, small and large, too.

Sooth­ing pas­tel shades, icons on the desk­top and a top menu may send users into Gnome 2-themed rever­ies. Pull your­self to­gether, peo­ple!

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