"Operating systems are a work in progress. They are
never finished and never will be. New hardware, new software, new
standards and new concepts continually create fresh demands and
drive up expectations, while fixes and improvements to existing OS
code need to be incorporated back into the code base.
From time to time the collection of software that constitutes a
distribution--whether it be Linux, FreeBSD, Solaris, or Windows--is
deemed ready and is released to the user base. OS releases create a
dilemma for users: upgrade or stay put?
This Newbies series began with Red Hat 6.0 Linux. Since then Red
Hat has released 6.1, 6.2, 7.0 and 7.1. Other distributions such as
Mandrake, SuSE and Caldera have followed a similar evolution. Linux
releases tend to follow two patterns: "large jump" major releases,
often based on the release of a new Linux kernel series or the GNU
C/C++ compiler and libraries, and "small jump" minor releases that
incorporate new drivers, kernel and application updates, new admin
tools, and bug and security fixes.
Red Hat 7.1 Linux (reviewed elsewhere in this issue of the
Computer Paper) is a "large jump" release. Based on the new Linux
2.4 kernel, it addresses things like support for multiple CPUs, USB
devices, Firewire devices and extremely large amounts of RAM (e.g.
64GB). It incorporates the next generation (4.X series) of the
XFree86 X Window System and can detect a much larger range of video
and sound cards. Support for laptops has improved
All in all, it's an important release. The question is, should
you upgrade? There is no single, or simple, answer to this
question. It depends in part on what you use Linux for. You need to
weigh the inevitable risk and work effort of an upgrade against the
benefits of upgrading. Let's see how the options play out."