Last week while putting together the article on 3-D design, my computer had a significant failure. I never did quite figure out what happened, but it gave me the opportunity to try something I have wanted to try for quite a while now, but did not want to bother with restoring all my files from backup. In December 2020, Red Hat announced that they planned to discontinue the development of CentOS. This announcement wrecked a lot of havoc among the open-source community. For those not familiar with the Linux landscape, there are two major variants of Linux, primarily based around the two mainstream package management systems. There are RedHat Package Manager(RPM) based distributions and Debian package manager (DEB) based distributions. There are of course several other minor varieties of Linux since anyone with programming skills can create their own Linux distribution, but of the top ten distributions on https://www.distrowatch.org, nine of them are based on either RPM or DEB and only one uses their own package management system.
CentOS was the number one RPM based free distribution up until December 2020. The main reason was that CentOS made a promise as a majority of the developers worked for Red Hat that it would be bug-for-bug compatible with Red Hat’s commercial Enterprise Linux distribution. This made CentOS the choice for small businesses, government agencies and educational institutions that wanted commercial support for their software, but did not want to be burdened with a large software license bill in the end. They would pay for a few Red Hat Enterprise Linux license for their developers and run a very large number of CentOS systems for free. They knew if they had a problem all they had to do was install the application on one of the licensed systems and reproduce the problem to get support. The death of CentOS meant a big change in the business model for all of them, and big profits for Red Hat, unless something changed.
On December 8, 2020 Red Hat made the announcement, on December 9, Gregory Kurtzer, the original founder of CentOS announced that he would restart the CentOS project under a new name. Rocky Linux, as a tribute to Rocky McGaugh another CentOS early co-founder. By December 12, 2020 the Rocky Linux code repository was the top trending repository on GitHub. For those who do not know, GitHub is the number one online source for open-source and free software, they offer free source code storage and change management to open source projects. It was not until June 4, 2021 that the first official stable release of Rocky Linux version 8.4 was available. I have wanted to try it ever since. You can find a copy for yourself at https://www.rockylinux.org.
After finally recovering my system enough by late Monday night to e-mail my completed article to the publisher I decided to take the leap of faith and install Rocky Linux 9 on my laptop. I hate to admit it, but the transition from Ubuntu Linux after using it for the last 12 years or so, to Rocky Linux was a bit “rocky”. I finally have everything working again, but it took the better part of a week to get it there. Part of it was because I probably should have installed Rocky Linux 8 for more availability of many of my favorite applications as version 9 just released a couple of weeks ago. However most of my problems came from getting spoiled by the ease of use offered by Ubuntu. There is a reason they have the number one spot on home Linux computers with nearly 40% of the market share.
First I would like to say I love a lot of things about Rocky Linux, for example better touch pad controls, and more stable software repositories. On Ubuntu I had to turn off my touch pad to prevent accidental touches from moving my cursor while typing, Rocky Linux solve that problem by automatically disabling the touch pad for 90ms after a key is touched, this feature alone made it worth the switch for me. However, I am not sure I would recommend Rocky Linux to a first time Linux user as the package management system and user interface is not quite a intuitive as the custom interface from Ubuntu. I am happy with my change and may write more about it in a future article. The good news that if you have an older computer laying around it is free to try any Linux distribution out there until you find a favorite to use on your daily machine. There are thousands to chose from and http://www.distrowatch.org is a great place to start your research. Sometimes just for fun I click their Random Distribution button and download a new operating system to take out for a spin. Tonight it gave me a distribution called Zentyal which was developed primarily to manage small home networks and is based off of Ubuntu Linux, I chose not to download and test it, but maybe next time.
Until next week, stay safe and learn something new.
Scott Hamilton is an Expert in Emerging Technologies at ATOS and can be reached with questions and comments via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or through his website at https://www.techshepherd.org