Seven years is a long time. Most people won't know where they are in 7 years. I'm interested to find out how many kids will be running around the house in 2016 :-) However if you are responsible for thousands of Enterprise Linux servers, seven years may no longer be sufficient.
Let me explain what I mean. When Red Hat released RHEL2.1, seven years of support was perfect, seemed more than one would want. RHEL3 came 18 months after RHEL2.1 and after one year of testing RHEL3 and 3rd party integration new systems could be deployed, giving you 6 years of support. Your hardware would usually not outlive the operating system support.
Today Red Hat released a minor update (v5.4) of their Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 product line. The minor releases comprise mostly of bug-fixes and feature enhancements and the official announcement is pretty light on both, likely because Red Hat has its yearly summit right now in Chicago. (And yes, I lack the budget to go there :-/)
The past few months a bunch of very cool CentOS community members (and I am not including myself here) spend their time creating kernel modules for the stock RHEL5 2.6.18 kernel to extend hardware support. The result is now known as: ELRepo
What does it mean ?
It means that if you have problems to get specific hardware working on RHEL5, CentOS-5 or Scientific Linux 5, you can visit http://elrepo.org/ and download kmod packages for your hardware.
It effectively means that with recent hardware (laptops, desktops), you have a high chance that you can run an Enterprise Linux distribution to get recent sound hardware, webcams, dvb-t, file systems drivers and others, to work with no fuss.
At the very same day as Firefox 3.5 hit the mirrors, Red Hat released Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.4 Beta with a lot of interesting new functionality:
- KVM hypervisor now supported (backported to stable 2.6.18 kernel)
- Fencing agents for IBM LPAR HMC and Cisco MDS SAN switches
- Updated ALSA drivers (backported to stable 2.6.18 kernel)
- Improved laptop docking support
- Updated graphics drivers
- FUSE support (already available from RPMforge and elrepo.org)
Since some time I was wondering why my Gnome did not generated thumbnails for various video formats (avi, mkv, ...) as thumbnails in my file browser (nautilus) really help me navigate.
Today I investigated some more, and even though I have the whole gstreamer-plugins set installed what I apparently needed was gstreamer-ffmpeg !
When RPMforge is enabled, simply do:
apt-get install gstreamer-ffmpeg
yum install gstreamer-ffmpeg
One of the things I do on a weekly basis is follow the kernel development that Red Hat undertakes for their future RHEL5 kernels. This is very interesting because you can check the changelog for fixes, new hardware support, backported features (eg. kvm) and newly supported stuff (eg. fuse, xfs) that is coming in RHEL 5.4.
We discovered xfs was coming to RHEL, new ath5k fixes prove helpful on a friend's laptop, and I was waiting for I/O accounting, kvm and fuse to hit these releases too.
When I installed CentOS 5.2 on my Thinkpad X200s only to discover that neither my onboard ethernet (e1000e), nor my onboard wireless (iwlagn) was supported by CentOS 5.2's 2.6.18 kernel, I managed to manually configure my Bluetooth UMTS connection to my cellphone to fix my connectivity problems and get back in business in no time.
Funny how the newest technology (UMTS) apparently is better supported by older kernels than ethernet or wireless (ieee 802.11) technologies.
The CentOS community is pretty limited in what we can do to the core distribution. Since our mantra is "aiming to be 100% compatible with Red Hat Enterprise Linux" we cannot fix bugs or improve the CentOS core without waiting for Red Hat to make those modifications first. We have limited leverage and a 6-month release cycle against us.
But that is not the complete truth, Red Hat usually has an internal, a vendor and a
publiccustomer beta period and everything that is found within that time-frame might get fixed before it is being shipped (and frozen) for the next 6 months.
Today RHEL 5.3 Beta was announced with a lot of interesting improvements.
I just released mrepo 0.8.6 with RHEL 4.7's RHN/up2date code included which makes mrepo work on other distributions without requiring to copy those libraries.
Some of the highlights include:
- Support for RHEL5 and CentOS-5.
- Added YaST Online Update support.
- Added fuseiso support (root access no longer needed).
- Added unionfs support to merge ISOs to a single tree.
- Faster relinking of repositories.
- Caching of directory indexes to prevent regenerating repositories.
I am planning to do an mrepo 0.8.5 release very soon. For those new to mrepo, mrepo is a python tool that can download RPMs from repositories, but also from Red Hat Network and Yast Online Update (or CentOS or OpenSUSE for that matter), mount ISO images if needed, and create repositories out of it.
For the people that have heard of Red Hat Satellite, consider it a (free) light version that only covers downloading the updates and making it available.
Remember when I wrote an opinion piece about Ubuntu LTS titled Ubuntu's need to catch a wave ?
That night someone, nicknamed mapnjd, submitted the article to Slashdot with the above title (Dag Wieers intelligent swipe at Ubuntu) but I guess the Slashdot editors thought it would be a better headline if they phrased it Dag Wieers Scoffs at Coordinated Linux Release Proposal ... and overnight I became an Ubuntu-hater ...
At the 2008 Red Hat summit in Boston, Red Hat outlined to support Red Hat Enterprise Linux for new hardware and installation media one year longer than it did in the past.
This is a major event. In the past Red Hat offered new hardware support, bugfixes and feature enhancements (dubbed full support) for 3 years after the initial release. But now that will be for 4 years after initial release. New installation media will be release up to 5 years after initial release !
Everytime I am surprised that people don't know that apt-get works on RPM-based distributions and works much better than the alternatives. Especially in a CentOS/RHEL environment where you have various distribution releases running, apt-rpm allows you to use the same apt version and the same apt features across CentOS/RHEL 2.1, 3, 4 and 5.
In an attempt to persuade you to try out apt, let me denounce some myths about the current apt-rpm: