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…
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!