Is CentOS 5.0 Worth Every Penny?

Posted by jun auza On 10/05/2007
Is CentOS 5.0 Worth Every Penny?: CentOS is a Linux distribution based on the ever reliable Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). The name stands for Community ENTerprise Operating System and is not in any way related to a coin :-) The main purpose of CentOS is rebuilding the commercial RHEL and makes it available to those who want the reliability of an enterprise class operating system minus the cost.

I have used Fedora and RHEL before but have never tried any of their derivative distros. Then just recently, a new version of CentOS live CD was released so I got curious and wanted to try it out. I downloaded the almost 700MB ISO, and for my 384 kbps broadband connection it took about 7 hours to complete. Again, I utilized the very handy VMWare for testing as with most Linux distros I have tried before, to see how well it performed without physically installing it on my HDD. It also helps save time and resources as I don’t have to burn the ISO to a CD to use it. So now I’m going to share some experiences I had using 5.0 CentOS.

Test Machine Specs:
Board: Intel Corporation D102GGC2
Processor: 3.40 GHz Intel Pentium D
Hard Drive: Samsung 80GB ATA with 8GB allocated to VM disk
Memory: 2GB DDR2 RAM with 512MB allocated to VM memory
Display: RADEON X300/X550 Series [Display adapter]

The first version of CentOS, CentOS 3 build4-rc0, was released in the end of 2003. CentOS is 100% compatible rebuild of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux, in full compliance with Red Hat's redistribution requirements. CentOS has made its own name and become popular by ranking number 12 in Distrowatch.

The download site for CentOS can be found here. The live CD cannot be used as an installer, take note of that. It’s made only for testing and as a rescue CD. So I booted CentOS and it detected every major component of the VMWare system. The funny part was when logging in; you can press enter and login as guest, or you can login as root. But what is the root password? Let’s play finders keepers! No, I will just give it to you. It’s: 12qwaszx.

Look and Feel:
The highest set of resolution I can have on my 19 inch screen monitor is only 800x600. CentOS has a GNOME desktop and a very Fedora-like theme which is plain and simple. There are no extra wallpapers except for the few already included by default in Gnome. There’s nothing really fancy to see except for the Desktop Effects icon that will let you activate Compiz with just a few clicks. That is if you have a capable graphics card.

Package Management:
A good lineup of software is included in the live CD. There’s 2.0.4, Firefox, Thunderbird, Gaim 2.0.0, Scribus 1.3.3, XChat 2.6.6, K3b 0.12.17 and GIMP 2.2.13. As a rescue CD, there is a full set of LVM and RAID command line tools; QTParted; Nmap and NMapFE; graphical traceroute; Samba 3.0.23c with CIFS kernel support to connect to Windows file shares; system log viewer; GUI hardware device manager. The only setback is that the CD has a non writable /usr directory, which means it is not able to have additional software installed on it after boot-up.

It is based on RHEL so there’s no doubt about CentOS's stability. I have tried opening numerous programs without encountering problems. I also successfully ran several Python scripts with it. I really didn’t find CentOS to be that fast but it works and most if not all of the included applications are functional. As a live CD only, I could say that it is solid enough.

So is CentOS 5.0 worth every penny? Not really. A live CD of its size should have been a little more complete. Even the smaller-sized Zenwalk can do much better than CentOS live. If its main purpose is merely for testing or for rescuing a broken system, lots of mini distributions can do the job just the same. CentOS 5.0 live CD edition shouldn’t have been released in the first place because it is not ready yet. For now, I wouldn’t recommend downloading it because it’s just a waste of time. But to those who are really eager to try CentOS, perhaps the DVD installer version will do just fine based on the good things I’ve heard about it in some reviews. Maybe I will download that version also, that is after I have fully recovered from my disappointment with the Live CD. However, I still consider CentOS as one of the best Linux web servers around.

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