CentOS 5.9 leaves users with a warm fuzzy and familiar feeling offering Gnome 2.16 as the primary desktop which is featured in this review. The desktop prospects for this release are not very impressive, but the server capabilities are endless. Derived from the recently released RHEL 5.9, here is what this version has to offer.
This is not a distribution for users who want the latest features and a flashy desktop. This release offers a reliable server platform, with mostly stable and thoroughly tested packages.
There have been big changes to the CentOS installation media for the 5.9 release. Installation files are now divided between two DVD's, though the second DVD contains more optional packages that are not required. Of course the DVD does offer the Gnome desktop or the KDE desktop during installation. Users may even choose to install both giving them the option to choose which desktop to use during the login process.
The first DVD contains files needed for the installation, the second holds additional software that users may enjoy. Language packages and many large packages like OpenOffice are found on the second CD as well.
The installer works in two steps which consist of an installation phase and a setup stage. Files are first copied to your hard drive from the CD. After rebooting you will then be prompted with additional setup options.
Though we have all seen Gnome 2.16 before, I will still cover the most important features of this release to give users a feeling of just what is offered with this version of CentOS. Because I am looking back at a previously released version of the Gnome desktop I will be rather brief. Most users are familiar with the Gnome desktop and have already used this version in the past.
This release will offer a longer battery life for Laptops and other mobile devices. Support for power management works with many applications. For example, the system will not go into sleep mode when Nautilus is copying files.
This version was the first to include the Alacarte menu editor which makes it easy for users to customize their panel menus. You can easily organize items contained within the menu, or add and remove items as you desire.
2.16 was the first release to feature the Baobab Disk Usage Analyzer. This tool is available to assist users with tracking down wasted disk space.
CentOS 5.9 delivers a truly impressive list of installed software. Tools are available for every activity you might consider. There are also alternative tools installed so users have a choice of which applications they would like to work with.
The CentOS 5.9 release includes OpenOffice.org 3.1.1 for users that require office tools. The Calc, Draw, Writer, and Impress applications are all installed by default.
Several helpful KDE tools come already installed along with the Gnome desktop applications. In fact, many of the applications come from the KDE package lineup. Clearly variety was very important to the creators CentOS 5.9.
Users interested in the server capabilities of this release are certainly in luck. These features are available if you choose to install the server packages with the regular desktop during the installation process.
Personally I find many of these features to be only useful for test environments. I never actually use a desktop on an active server deployment. But it any case, there is a cool graphical user interface available to help users set up their servers. The server settings tab in the administration menu contains shortcuts to setup wizards for Apache, NFS, Samba, and more.
I was surprised to see how many options are available inside the server setup wizards. The Apache wizard provides options for virtual host setup, and performance options.
Advanced graphical configuration options are also available for SELinux and Firewall settings. These are found inside the administration sub-menu found in the system menu.
Now we can look at some of the interesting technical details for the 5.9 release. The goal of many of these improvements are designed to take advantage of the latest technology.
MySQL support has been added to Postfix for the latest version. Support for Java 7 has also been added. CentOS 5.9 includes the Microsoft Hyper-V drivers to make virtual machines more efficient. Samba has been upgraded to the 3-6.x release which provides the smb2 protocol.
We have all the inner workings of a first class server available on demand. As a prospect for desktop users this release is seriously lacking unfortunately. Unless like me, other users are also stuck in pre Unity/Gnome 3 times. Words like user-friendly and plug-and-pray leave me feeling a bit ill. They are all good at not working properly.
Networking settings were detected flawlessly. Unfortunately users will need to install the Adobe Flash plug-in manually before watching any videos with Mozilla Firefox which is the default browser. This server is proudly hosted on Debian, set up and managed by me personally. But if I had to choose an alternative, it would be a bare-bones CentOS install.