Let's continue our tour of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 (RHEL 4) with a look at Red Hat System Monitor, network configuration issues, GNOME and OpenOffice.
Red Hat System Monitor
Regarding the setup itself, I like the SuSE YaST (Yet another Setup Tool) installation because it offers lots of neat graphical tools. RHEL 4's Red Hat Systems Monitor is also a nice tool that almost seems to replicate the Microsoft Windows tool, which graphically represents CPU activity, memory, swap and the available devices.
Anaconda is still RHEL's install utility, and when the installation is completed, you can view the /root/anaconda-ks.cfg file for information. My file showed that the packages that I installed were admin-tools, text-internet, gnome-desktop, dialup, smb-server, base-x, web-server, printing and server config.
I'm not sure why, but I did have to install the Firefox browser separately since it did not come up after the first installation. The install.log provides a list of all installed RPMs. Other than some few quirks here and there, I was very satisfied with the installation software. It is very easy to use, yet very configurable.
Configuring the networking initially took a little longer than I had expected; the configuration seemed to have lost some of the network parameters that I had entered in during the install. I used the red-hat utility, neat, to help me here. I also used ifconfig and iwconfig to help me configure my wireless adapter, while also using the route command to establish my default gateway. There were some additional files that I also would modify subsequently, so that it would retain the network configuration information after a reboot.
I was impressed by how quickly I was able to get my wireless adapter to work with my PC on RHEL 4. I can honestly say it took longer for the wireless adapter to work with Windows than with Linux. Even better, I had to install absolutely no software at all because this version intelligently configured almost everything on its own with the Linksys WMP11 adapter I installed as a PCI card. The new version provided support for this adapter through the Intersil Corp. Prism 2.5 Wavelan chipset.
I was very happy with GNOME 2.8 and how it displayed on my flat monitor. It is very crisp and much less cluttered than your standard Windows desktop and even other GNOME versions that I've used. I like the application and actions sections and also the buttons at the top, which allow you to quickly open up a browser or start other applications such as OpenOffice. If you click on the bottom left icon, it closes all open windows automatically. Ever try to do that in Windows? Ha! RHEL 4 has a help section that describes how to do GNOME system administration, which I found it very helpful.
If you've only used Microsoft Windows before, it will take a little time to get used to this interface. But trust me, it will be well worth your trouble.
As for the applications bundled in with RHEL 4, I absolutely love OpenOffice (version 1.1.2). It comes with a word processor, a spreadsheet, presentation-type software, a calculator, drawing software and a math program. I did not miss Microsoft Office for a moment.
I created a document in OpenOffice, saved it as a Word document and later sent it to a Windows client. When I opened up the e-mail, the attached document looked exactly as if it were created on a Windows PC with Microsoft Word. And I did this without the cost of Windows or Microsoft Office.
One shortcoming of OpenOffice on RHEL 4, however, is the need to do manual installation. OpenOffice did not come installed, though it said it was installed in the install.log, and I had to do the install manually. During this process, the software repeatedly complained about prerequisite filesets that it could not find. I had to install each RPM separately, and that was a little frustrating. Red Hat should fix these problems since PC users accustomed to working in the Windows world usually don't have these types of installation problems.
Continue to part 3: Firefox, more apps & what's missing