Linux training

I am sure some of you have been wondering why I recently dropped off the face of the earth. Well, my company sent me to RedHat training last week.

Now most of you know I have been “doing” Linux for a very long time. Some of you may recall that I used RedHt early on, however, I was disenchanted with them around the RedHat 6.0 (pre Enterprise) when they started messing with their compiler, etc. I switched to Slackware at that time and haven’t really used RH until a year ago when I was hired as a Linux admin in a primarily RH shop.

All that being said, I went to some intensive RedHat training last week and I have to say that not only did I learn an enormous amount, but after working that hard with RHEL, my opinions have definitely changed. RedHat has come a long way baby!

The primary problem with RedHat that I used to see was rpm. I absolutely hated to be stuck in rpm dependency hell, where you would try and install an rpm only to have it tell you that you needed to fill a dependency first, and then have that one tell you the same thing until you were just fed up with the whole process. Well, this has been addressed with RedHat’s adoption of YUM. Yum now takes care of dependency tracking and fulfillment similarly to apt-get.

Once I realized that hurdle was past, I started to appreciate the huge strides that they have put into getting their Linux product enterprise ready. There really is a lot of spit and polish that has gone into things since the last time I really looked under the RedHat hood. If you haven’t looked in a while, I encourage you to do so.

The thing I was particularly impressed with is the uniformity and ease of service installs. Now I know that many of you are used to installing things like bind and dhcp and apache and sendmail/postfix, etc., what have you, on lots of other linux platforms, but there really seemed to be a uniformity to all this under RedHat, and the initial configurations or supplied config files seemed to be saner somehow. Most notably to me was the difference in ease of install for bind or sendmail between RHEL5x and any recent Ubuntu release. It could be that I had the training manual in hand, but it just seemed more ready to go and easier to change the config if you had to.

The other thing I have really come to appreciate recently, partly because of my job, is the enterprise attention to securing the server. RHEL does a good job at this with asking you for information during the install to help you start out with a working firewall and SELinux set up and running. Now, while I still see SELinux as a huge pain in the behind, the fact is that it does do it’s job if you let it, and does it well.

And, since I had spent a week doing RHEL and deciding it really is a good distribution choice for servers, I wanted to see what I could do for home use. Now RHEL costs some money, and if you are a business, and maybe even personally, the price may be right for support and the use of the RHN (RedHat Network), but for me, I want something a bit more inexpensive. Yeah, I am cheap 😉

Basically, there are 2 well known RedHat derivatives. The first is Fedora, which is a community distribution that RHEL is actually based on. Fedora is a lot more bleeding edge than the current RHEL, though, so in some instances, things just don’t match between the two. My personal criteria, however, is to be able to use something at home that is as similar as possible to what I use at work. For that, I turned to CentOS, which is a distribution that is compiled directly from the RHEL sources and rebadged.

I have done a couple installs, a lot of poking around, some direct comparisons with the RedHat manual in hand, and I can state that this certainly seems to be the case. Everything I have done over the past week has direct application to my CentOS server with the exception being the logos and color scheme (and I actually like CentOS’s better).

Now, I probably won’t be using CentOS for a desktop or workstation anytime soon. And I probably won’t be using it as the ONLY type of Linux server either, after all, I really still love Slackware, but chances are very good that I will be running CentOS at home somewhere and surely RedHat at work. If you’re looking for an enterprise level Linux server environment, you really owe it to yourself than to give one of them a try.

Verdict = It’s good stuff!

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