Thursday, July 16, 2015

Centos Linux 6.6 Good, 7.0 Bad

When a new major release of an operating system comes out, I generally wait six months or a year, and then try installing it on a non-critical, non-production machine that I keep for just this purpose. That way I can keep doing serious work on my main systems while I work out the issues with the latest release.

In the past this has worked out well for me.

I have been very pleased with Linux as a workstation environment as well as a production server environment. Although not real Unix, it has certainly been very reliable and surprisingly scalable, which is remarkable I think.

For those of you who do not know your Linux distributions, Centos is basically the same as the major Redhat releases, but without the Redhat logo and without the formal support (for which of course you are expected to pay).

It has lots of people working on it both at Redhat and out in the world and although it has its quirks, as all Linux distributions do, I have had really very little to complain about beyond the usual issues that one faces when there are too many solutions to a problem and it is not clear which one to use.

For the first time, I have tried a new release of Centos and backed off to the previous release. Several things happened to cause me to do this.

The major annoyances all came down to the situation that the desktop part of Linux was not getting the attention that those of us who use Linux as a development environment would desire. In particular, the X window system does not automatically come up any more, and you have to jump through hoops to try and make it automatically start. Also, a variety of features that I have been pleased with in Gnome (one of the two desktop environments) suddenly went missing. Third, there were serious performance issues after a period of use that I could not explain, and did not seem to have anything to do with the usual things one looks at in tuning a system. It made the system both cranky and unreliable.

But the final disaster that just was unacceptable, is that this release of Linux insists on installing system patches and updates whether or not you want it to, destroying the old version, and imposing the new version on you. The problem is that it did so, but did not deliver a working version of Linux. The system had been automatically trashed and I then had to decide how I wanted to recover when there was no easy fix. Some of this brought on because of brain damage of the Linux community involving graphics drivers. I use the Nvidia driver exclusively and that may have complicated things.

But it is an ironclad rule here at my place of work, that updates are not installed until I want them to be installed just to avoid this kind of problem. This is not an isolated incident. I have in the past had very bad experiences where kernel updates were made and the OS stopped being usable. But in this case it is not obvious how to turn off the automatic updates and I dont want to fuck with it.

So for my uses Centos 6.6 is infinitely preferable to Centos 7. It comes with a working window system, a working desktop, is more reliable, and doesnt self destruct whenever it wishes to.

I dont know what this means for the future, and that does worry me.

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