- Platform: Linux
- Media: CD-ROM
- Item Quantity: 1
The most substantial innovation present in Red Hat Linux 7.2--which is based on the Linux 2.4.7 kernel--is a new filesystem called ext3. An improvement upon the reliable ext2 filesystem that's long been standard in Linux, ext3 is a journaling filesystem. A journaling filesystem keeps notes on what it's doing with data in the filesystem--it logs all of its read and write operations. This decreases filesystem downtime because after a crash, error-checking utilities (like fsck, which must run after an unanticipated shutdown) need not inspect the entire filesystem--they can look just at those regions that were being manipulated at the time of the problem. This saves enormous amounts of time, particularly on large volumes of 50 GB or more.
Another substantial improvement reflected in this version: GRUB, an improved boot loader that replaces the old standard, LILO. (Both bits of software follow the Unix tradition of naming utilities with goofy acronyms: LILO is LInux LOader, while GRUB is GRand Unified Bootloader.) GRUB serves the same purpose as utilities like System Commander, which allow you to select at boot time from among several installed operating systems. Unlike LILO, GRUB allows you to choose to boot pretty much any installed operating system, including FreeBSD, OpenBSD, OS/2, and any version of Microsoft Windows. It's a handy utility to have on a workstation, though you can opt for LILO if you prefer.
Other improvements have more to do with increased hardware support (many more network interface cards and printers are recognised) and general refinements in the user interface (this release uses GNOME 1.4 and KDE 2.2.1). A handful of new utilities make life easier for users and administrators, chief among them the Nautilus file manager. Nautilus does a decent job of displaying local and remote files intuitively--it makes it easy to manage the contents of a File Transport Protocol (FTP) site, for one thing. Another graphical tool makes it easier to manage user privileges. As has always been the case with Red Hat Linux, version 7.2 ships with a load of goodies that includes the Mozilla 0.9.2 browser, the Apache 1.3.20 Web server, and the StarOffice 5.2 office productivity suite. In this boxed product, you get the installation CD-ROMs, the complete source code, a lot of documentation, and a slew of ancillary software. Plus, you get 30 days of online (not telephone) technical support--enough to get you through any installation hassles.
Red Hat Linux 7.2 represents a significant improvement over its predecessors. The ext3 filesystem improves system reliability, and a lot of minor refinements increase the product's quality of "fit and finish". It's a worthwhile upgrade, and a better way than ever to get into Linux for the first time. --David Wall
Content: 7 CDs, more than 2000 packages, 2 printed manuals