looking for a better solution in CentOS

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looking for a better solution in CentOS

Post by soup-n-sandwich » 2012/08/06 21:27:54

Hi guys,
This is the my first time here on the forum and on the CentOS website. I apologize for the extremely long post.
I'm here because I have some important questions to ask about CentOS as well as a desperate request for some advice from CentOS devels.

I think it's important that I tell you where I am right now and why I'm here at CentOS in the first place.
Without this information you make take what I'm about to write out of context.

I've have a small sales and service computer company for about eleven years. In those years we have progress from just your typical sales and service shop to developing our branded maintenance software packages for our Windows service customers.

It went from there to producing our own, branded computer line of products and then to producing an “OEM” version of PclinuxOS, based on their 2007 version. Between 2007 to 2009 we began using PCLOS as our base to produce our own OS for this computer line. With some unique ways of installation software and many other rather “special” and different ways of doing things. About 3 weeks from a release our base (PCLOS) our upstream fell apart. There was a big issue with the developers and the leader and the developers group almost completely dissolved. A big chunk of the original developers formed Unity Linux. Unity was from the start suppose to be a base OS to build a branch from. To this day I haven' seen anything come out of the Unity camp that would inspire me to build anything from their base.

A lot of work and time went into this project still trying to find a base that has the longevity, stability and doesn't change or stop working after an “update”. It's like fighting city hall. Whenever we find something that looks promising or just actually works and we learn it...it either stops working or changes. The latest major change now with any branch based on Mandriva (Rosa, PCLOS, Unity and many others) is the total restructure of the Mandriva community and devels, the resignation of the Drake Tools (which is the most powerful set configuration tools I've ever seen, all in one control center) for favor of something “better” and the great folks over at Unity are starting over yet again with nothing right now to work with.

Honestly I have little confidence (after over 4 years) that Unity will ever be what we hoped it would. The views of what a “core” distribution is, are very different when talking to the guys/companies/devel that would like to branch and build a distro from Unity vs the developers of Unity themselves. At least at the level of quality that we have built before. All we wanted was a base that was rock stable and didn't change every time a new version of an app was available...and of course, that is not just “good enough” for the desktop user but something that could be used in business applications as well.

We have well over three thousand customers. Many of them still want – and are waiting for our operating system that we thought was going to be release years ago. As of now we have nothing in the works because each direction we go in is another disappointment due to issues with either the base OS or it's development. I think this is our last hurrah. If we can't find what we need and get a little support to help us get there we will be in serious trouble and will have to walk away from 5 years of work in this distribution project. Just thinking about doing that is incredibly disheartening and depressing. I was hoping by now to be part of a Linux based development community that I can sink my teeth into and truly feel like I can contribute to the team and help myself and our customers at the same time. So far the communities that I've checked out in the past have either fell short or fell apart. I whole heartily love working on a devel level with Linux but so far haven't found any willing developers to guide me a bit to learn what I would love to learn. Being so involved in the business and working with customers..fixing issue and computers has never allowed me to dig into the development side of things nearly as much as I wanted to...but I hope to change this now.

Which brings me to CentOS. I've herd of CentOS for a long time now but was so involved in all the stresses and drama of trying to find a solid base all these years that I never actually looked into it.
In the last week I've installed 6.3 on three machines and like what I see. I have to say that I'm totally lost when it comes to finding the configuration tools as I have become so accustom to using the Drake Tools Control Center to configure everything from graphic cards/drivers to Samba Share/servers that I have no clue what to use outside of my familiar OS base.

I've felt right from the get go of our project that if we could just have a base distro that sees the values in NOT being cutting edge and the most up to date OS that it can possible be and having stability over the latest and greatest desktop fad AND the longevity than we would truly have something special. It seem like CentOS is just that.

I should say that I would be using KDE as my DM and not GNOME. Although I have did some devel work with Gnome I do prefer to use KDE. I notice that CentOS uses an older version of KDE than what is currently available as I'm sure that is the case with many of the apps. This is understandable because we aren't looking for “bleeding edge”...we are looking for stable, “it just works and keeps on working” performance.

I have some questions that I'm hoping can be answered by the developers themselves in the hope that I can understand what the alternative configuration tools are here in CentOS and what it might take to possibly begin using (on all of our office/shop PCs) and eventually building with CentOS as our base/core OS of choice.

1. CentOS uses stable, older packages but are the more “update critical” packages kept up to date such as Firefox, Flash-plugin (for functionality) and “security patches”?
2. What does it take to install packages that are considered “non-free” like Flash-plugin, Adobe Reader (or a free alternative'), codes for MP3, WMA, DVD playback, etc?
3. Can this be legally done to offer these “non-free” package with a finished distribution? (I'm not certain how RedHat and Suse Enterprise Desktop does this but it's available to their end users)
4. Is there a more efficient way of using and installing KDE as the default desktop? I've installed the KDE packages and set KDE as the session on the login screen but between the two installations of CentOS6, on two different machines there are somethings that are different. Is there a meta package that will grab ALL KDE related packages and make sure there all in or this is best done manually?
5. After KDE is installed and if we manually log into the KDE session, GDM remains the login manager and not KDM. I don't see any gui tools to change this...how should this be done?
6. When KDE is running I don't see any package manager tool at all in the KDE menu. I've went into /usr/share/applications and find the “gpk-application” desktop file and modified it to show in KDE's menu but is this an oversight or is there a KDE package manager like Kpackagekit that is available for CentOS when using KDE?
7. In our last project I've integrated selected KDE control center's modules and the Drake Control Center's modules into a an all in one master control center so that everything, configuration wise is all in one place. Is there such a thing in CentOS (either Gnome or KDE)?
8. Samba is extremely important for us in both printer sharing and file sharing. After using the Samba configuration tool is there a configuration GUI to add this application to the list of services that runs upon login/boot or does a script have to be made and ran in something like the “autostart” folder? I'm asking because I have yet to get samba shares working even with the Firewall disabled.
9. Does CentOS officially support KDE as the DM? It appears that the Gnome DM is better integrated into CentOS and that KDE may be a secondary after thought?
10. Once everything that is required is installed, such as KDE, Samba, Printer support and configs is there a way to capture this image to deploy on other machines? In the past we used “mklivecd” or “mylivecd” as the tool to capture the image, is there an equivalent in CentOS?

11. Is the CentOS base the best choice for my plans and wants? I understand that it's doesn't have the most current set of package but does it lend itself to making the rock stable, dependable and long supported OS desktop platform to build upon that I see as I used it for the past week or so?

12. I'm very green and have little experience working with anything but a Mandriva type base...so I'm not a wize at this stuff but I'm very willing and enthusiastic to becoming a part of what looks like a great os with a great community. I'm interesting in becoming part of a community that I can participate in. I would like to set up a built environment, check out the existing repos that CentOS has and get involved. Is there any developer that would be willing to guide me through the process of setting up this environment, teaching the necessary steps to build packages, images and over all have a better understand how it works under the hood of CentOS and help my situation in the process?

I hope the length of this post doesn't upset anybody. My intent was to be clear in my hope to better explain my situation and to make some positive relationships with a group of foks that I would like to work with to help the community and my situation.

Thanks very much for all of your time.


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Re: looking for a better solution in CentOS

Post by pschaff » 2012/08/06 21:46:48

Welcome to the CentOS fora. Please see the recommended reading for new users linked in my signature, which will hopefully help you in getting a better feeling for what CentOS is and is not. See also the Wiki [url=http://wiki.centos.org/FAQ]FAQ[/url] section.

Briefly, CentOS is a rebuild of packages provided under GPL by [url=http://wiki.centos.org/FAQ/General?highlight=%28TUV%29#head-d29a2b7e61ffc544973098f9dd49fe4663efba50]TUV[/url]. Many of your questions are actually applicable to the upstream product and not to CentOS. It does seem like CentOS may be a fit for your needs, and any concerns about the viability of CentOS are mitigated by the availability of the upstream sources, and by other [url=http://www.google.com/search?q=RHEL+rebuild+centos+puias+%22scientific+linux%22&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:unofficial&client=firefox-a]rebuild efforts[/url] such as Scientific Linux and PUIAS.

The default desktop is GNOME but many, myself included, prefer and use KDE which is also supported.

The CentOS developers (more appropriately perhaps re-builders) seldom frequent the fora, but they are the wrong target for most of your questions anyway.

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Re: looking for a better solution in CentOS

Post by soup-n-sandwich » 2012/08/07 00:49:34

Hi Phil,
Thanks for the quick reply. I have read the FAQ and preliminary forum messages prior to submitting my post.
I was hoping for a different type of response. Without qualified folks that are involved with CentOS giving me advice and answers to these question I don't think I'll be moving forward with Cent. That's would be very disappointing since you guys seems to really have it together.

Who is the target for my questions if the devels don't visit the forum often? Maybe the RedHat guys? I just don't know where to get started after I located their SRPMS repo. Understand that the folks from CentOS have more important things to do than telling me what they know. I guess I was just hoping to get pointed in the direction with some guidance from some pros in the field.
Thanks again Phil.

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Re: looking for a better solution in CentOS

Post by vonskippy » 2012/08/07 01:11:25

Redhat has announced several times that they really have no interest in the desktop.

They current take on making money from the desktop market seems to revolve around VDI, something that works in the enterprise but doesn't scale down to the consumer or small business very well.


Therefore CentOS on the desktop is iffy at best.

As with all things, it's subjective whether CentOS would be a good solution for your Desktop needs.

Personally, I would say no. CentOS is far far far away from the bleeding edge, and the moment you stray from the blessed repo's, you're on your own.

That makes them (in my opinion) perfect for most server needs, but not so for desktop needs.

Most users expect to follow the upgrade path of the applications they use. This is not possible with RHEL's need to vet each and every app to check for that upgrades impact on system stability and security. Once again, great for servers, but lousy for consumer desktops who seem to prefer the latest releases.

Although I'm not a SUSE fan, many people are, and rave about their KDE desktop and control panel.

I used to like Fedora XFCE until they went down the Systemd path. which takes a simple and straightforward concept like chkconfig and service and trashes it in a vastly overcomplicated and underwhelming rewrite.

Mint's rolling edition based on Debian is probably your best bet for the consumer market. The stability of Debian, the finishing touches provided by Mint's team of dev's. I like their Mint XFCE edition as well.

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Re: looking for a better solution in CentOS

Post by soup-n-sandwich » 2012/08/07 13:21:39

Thanks Von for the input. I do appreciate that. I'm not a Suse fan either. I've work on a two year project with their guys. Suse has always been waaay to bloated and the built system is over the top complex. I do have to say that Yast is nice but the Drake Tools Control Center of Mandriva is the best. Where Yast has what feels like 150 items in Yast all on one screen the Drake CC has what is necessary. I promised myself that I would never go back to developing on Suse again.

I do like Mint and the fact that Mint it's Ubuntu/debian based is a good thing when it comes to package availability and popularity but it's foreign territory for me. We have done tons of work on a unique and rather innovative ways of improving things, including the way packages are installed / uninstalled (no package manager) and a modular control center that allows us to add and remove items from the control center...which for the end user means nothing but for the OEM distribution branch it's very helpful. Having two control centers (like in Suse and Mandriva, PCLOS, Unity, etc) is very confusing for the end user. I'm talking about the KDE CC and either Yast or Drake CC.

One thing that I noticed is that even though CentOS is running KDE it seem to run faster and smoother than other distros that I've test with KDE. Although the versions of KDE are different (KDE 4.3 vs 4.8) CentOS is faster...maybe a result of less overhead?? The other thing that I do find attractive is that it works well on older hardware which means that the OS can be installed not only on our new machines that were built for it but also on refurbished machine or customers that have an existing machine. This all without using a different DM...which is important. Sure LXDE is really fast and runs better on older hardware but now we have to DM to support...which is not really idea.
Haveing a way to remaster would be helpful as well. I understand that the mklivecd of Unity/Mandriva days is coming to an end. I guess it relies too much on the Drake Tools kit. Actually Both the Drake Tools CC and mklivecd are both going away. Like I said before...it seems whenever I feel like I know what direction I'll go in...something big happens and I have to start over.

Anyway your feed back is most welcome and absorbed. Your post was enlightening and informative.

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Re: looking for a better solution in CentOS

Post by YBellefeuille » 2012/08/07 23:05:23

I think your goals conflict. You want a well-established, stable distribution, which suggests RedHat/CentOS, Debian, Ubuntu, and perhaps a few others, and at the same time you want to have an important and active development role. Obviously, you'll be able to have an important role more quickly if you join one of the smaller distributions rather than one of the biggest.

As for CentOS, its goal is to repackage ("bug compatible" with RHEL) rather than develop. Perhaps Debian would be more suitable for you.

I disagree with [b]vonskippy[/b]; I think that CentOS is a good desktop distribution and that's the way I use it.

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Re: looking for a better solution in CentOS

Post by soup-n-sandwich » 2012/08/09 00:48:26

Thanks for your input as well. I have to say that my first impression was that CentOS was in fact a good desktop distro. The only issues that I see with it is if the Website that the customer was accessing required a newer version of flash than what was currently available in the Cent repos..or the current version of Firefox was too old to support some features of a particular Website. Other than that I don't think anything would be an issue because outside of the Linux enthusiast, power users and Linux geeks our customer could care less if their running Firefox 12 instead of 14...as long as they get accomplish what they set out to...all is well. I've proven that with our last project that makes use of static repos. Only critical update were offered or big jumps in app versions. Other than that the OS would chug along with no issues and no melt downs after an update. So I'm sure that Cent would work for our purposes.
Thanks again guys for your opinions and recommendations.


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Re: looking for a better solution in CentOS

Post by driftwood » 2012/08/09 12:38:23

There are other repos you can use to get extra apps, like rpmforge, elrepo etc.
Centos is basically RHEL. OOps! I've named the upstream vendor!

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looking for a better solution in CentOS

Post by bluegroper » 2012/08/12 07:31:58

I tend to agree with VonSkippy.
CentOS is excellent for servers.
We've tried many desktop distros, and now mostly use PCLinuxOS, or Ubuntu, or Mac OSX. Definitely a personal choice.
- BG

BTW, IpCop is great for firewalls. ;-)

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