Editor's Note: Forcing a ChoiceNov 14, 2003, 23:30 (82 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Brian Proffitt)
By Brian Proffitt
Linux is about choice. We all know that. You choose one distro, I choose another. You choose vi, I choose emacs. Some like Pepsi, some like Coke, I like Dr. Pepper. And so on.
A while back, I chose to start using Red Hat. I moved to it from SuSE Linux, mostly because I wanted to use Ximian GNOME, and it seemed easier to just shift over to Red Hat, which had better support for Ximian at the time. (Of course, that's all about to change, isn't it?)
I grew to like Red Hat, because of Ximian GNOME, because of the Red Hat Network which kept me up-to-date without having to actively seek out security updates, and because of all of those ephemeral things that make for a satisfying experience. When Red Hat 9 came out, I downloaded the Shrike ISOs, burned them, and happily upgraded.
I have quite a bit of work invested into my system, mostly tweaking and tuning to deliver content to Linux Today in an efficient manner. It goes a bit beyond this system, too. Having Red Hat on my main box and Yellow Dog on my laptop made it very easy to mirror files and tools on either system.
This is not about me giving a plug for Red Hat. I like what I like, you like what you like, and we're all cool. Except now things have changed and I am not sure what the future holds.
In April, 2004, Red Hat will officially drop support for Red Hat 9, which leaves me with making a choice on what to do next. Do I shift to Fedora? Or move to another distro altogether? Because as of last week, I am one of those Red hat users that's about to be orphaned from their distro.
A lot of people have pointed out to me that this is really no different than any other end-of-life. If I was using Red Hat 6.0, I would have long since upgraded to something with actual support, unless of course I chose to live without it.
But this really is a different situation, because there isn't anything to upgrade to. There is no Red Hat 10 down the line. Now there's Fedora. Or the Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) line. I can rule out the latter right away, because even on the company's nickel, I am not sanguine about spending that kind of money.
Fedora is the planned successor to Red Hat Linux and I sincerely hope this turns out to be the case. But it is never going to be exactly like Red Hat.
This is not me speculating based on one or two reviews. This is me after hearing it straight from the horse's mouth, when executives from Red Hat told me directly that Fedora will indeed serve as the testbed for much of the enterprise line of Red Hat. Fedora is their chance to try things on the bleeding edge and get the kinks worked out before they bring some new functionality into RHEL.
This is all well and good for Red Hat, but it is not really what I need. I like cutting edge stuff just as much as the next user, but I have web sites to run. Software to examine. I don't have the time or the inclination to play around with glitches. I need something that works, is stable, and when I absolutely can't figure it out on JustLinux, LinuxQuestions.org, or my network of guru friends, something that offers technical support.
Am I being too lazy? Perhaps, considering my background and experience. But it's for sure that my concerns are shared by other users who don't even have the technical background I do--people who just want to turn their boxes on and use them. People who need live support.
I realize I sound grossly unfair to the Fedora developers by making the presumption that there will be problems. Maybe there won't be and maybe I am worrying for nothing. But when I hear terms like "testbed" being bandied about by Red Hat itself, I tend to get concerned. Over time, I am confident that any issues that do crop up in Fedora will be handled just as well as they are in any other big OS project, like Debian, OpenOffice, or Mozilla, just to name a few.
My problem is, do I want to wait?
So here I am, humming the lines to The Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" in may head. Fedora could be the upgrade path for my needs, but SUSE, Mandrake, Gentoo, and Debian each offer attractive options as well. Debian especially, since there seems to be a resurgence in getting it ready for the enterprise.
In terms of life's crisises, this one is really very small and I am sure that be the end of the proverbial day all will be well again.
What still bothers me is not that I have all these choices but that after I finally made a choice I was happy with, I might have to do it all over again.
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