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NorthernJourney.com: Linux for Newbies, pt. 25: Upgrading Your System

Aug 12, 2001, 14:36 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Gene Wilburn)

[ Thanks to Gene Wilburn for this link. ]

"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 significantly.

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."

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