Forum OpenACS Development: New linux distribution to replace defunct RedHat consumer?

as redhat are removing all support for redhat consumer releases, i'm looking at moving all my servers to a new distro - i was thinking debian, but maybe i should switch to gentoo.

the linux world is reall going to hurt - i have a lot of servers runnnig a few pieces of commercial code that secify redhat and may or may not work on other distros (certainly not without some pain...)

has anyone else been thinking about this? maybe we should run a poll to see what the popular distros are for dev and deployment. we might all be surprised!

the Red Hat consumer line is *not* dead. it's still alive and renamed Fedora. It will be maintained as debian is maintained, with continued support from Red Hat. As I understand it, Fedora will be the testing base for their enterprise products.

I hope the prospect of a community supported Red Hat distro isn't that frightening ;)



You must have just received your notification, as I did, that RH is discontinuing support for 7 & 8 on December 31st, and 9 in April of next year... in favor of their enterprise product support services. I was just about to pose the same question.

I liked knowing that a group of commercially-motivated folks were watching after security and stability, and provided a no-brainer means to keep current with up2date. I know lots of folks can't see paying for this service since it's all free software. But I got more than my $5 worth of peace-of-mind each month.

So, which distro(s) provides a no-brainer way of keeping current with security patches, and also provides a reasonably timely distribution channel for new and modified packakages/applications?

I don't see this thread as a "my distro is better than yours" war. As for me, I'm interested in:

1) a no-brainer way of keeping current with security patches, and

2) a reasonably timely distribution channel for new and modified packakages/applications

Debian has a good track record of keeping up with security issues. Not so sure about gentoo, but it seems to have potential.

As for professional distro, you can always trust Novell (formerly SuSE) now. Though they might go down the same path as RH did. So far I've been fairly happy with SuSE, it was never a big issue to install software and security alerts came in in a timely manner.

Professionally I am also using Suse if people are new to Linux - an easier sell in Germany.

Otherwise I suggest Debian: it is the Linux with the clearest and most open strategy out there. It is truly open source and free. Oh and it is rock-solid and hence great for server-side software.

Red Hat still supports Fedora with people, for how long that remains to be seen. The next quarterly hiccup may see a certain cut of support...

You cannot buy support from Red Hat for Fedora though.

As the person who maintains the install docs, here's where I'm at:
1) I just updated the install doc for Red Hat 9.  I have not tested 5.0 install on Red Hat 8 recently but I believe it's still valid.  Either platform is fine for a server, as long as you patch the critical security holes (kernel, ssh, ssl).  It seems very likely that someone will continue producing rpms that work for stock Red Hat.

2) Install docs work for Debian sid, with breakage for some optional packages noted.

3) We should tie our decision of which platform to develop on to our decision of which platform to try and get included as standard on.  The obvious targets are debian stable (via the whole path, so I guess this takes a few years to get there) or FreeBSD ports.  Gentoo is another option but I think it has a smaller mindshare and less of a reputation as a server distribution.  In order to make forward progress here, someone with regular access to a debian stable or FreeBSD machine needs to commit to doing the research and the work to get OpenACS and all prerequisites (AOLserver, tdom, etc) packaged.  At that point, anybody who wants to add code to acs-core that requires new prerequisite (tdom, tclwebtest, etc) will, I propose, be responsible for getting that prereq added to the necessary packaging systems as a precondition.

as a person who heavily relay on the install docs, I'm happy to learn that you care about debian.

<Install docs work for Debian sid>

Sid is the unstable distribution, the one "where active development of Debian occurs. Generally, this distribution is run by developers and those who like to live on the edge." (

Why not woody or sarge? Personally, as a beginner, I do not like to "live on the edge."

i've been researching different distros for our work webservers.  i talked to redhat and suse sales to see what their licensing stuff was.

suse was a little easier to haggle with.  personally, i like suse a lot just because i've happened to have better luck with it -- and now it's backed by novell.

i've never used debian, but it seems similar to freebsd which is my overall choice.  if you know exactly what you need to put on the machine, it works very well and the update system is great.

if we settle on freebsd, i'll volunteer to do the package stuff.

Re Gentoo,
I dumped RH a long time ago and have been using Gentoo ever since.
If anything it is a much better server distro than RH and the update system is more like BSD than anything else.
The only downside (for newbies) is it is a source based distro, i.e. all packages are compiled from source and you can't set up a system in 1 hour. The advantage is a highly optimized system
Gentoo is doing some cool things, and its best ideas are not surprisingly being adopted by Debian.

However, I'd just like to point out that the proposed "advantage" of Gentoo in getting a "highly optimized system" is more an urban legend than anything. A product of the subconscious of those who wait dozens of hours for a system to _install_ and want to believe it was worth the wait.

So far I haven't seen a single independent test that shows any  performance advantage to the source-compile-everything approach of Gentoo. To the contrary, independent tests have shown that it actually fares worse than Mandrake or Debian.


P.S.: I like Gentoo. Just trying to dispell a myth.

Do we need to pick one distribution?  I can see value in having a 'main' distribution which we can point new and distro agnostic users to as well as encourage maintenance effort for one distro...  but I would have thought it would be beneficial to have a place on for installation docs on any distro anyone wants to support.  I'm assuming this decision isn't going to stop openacs from installing on alternatives.

I've been running Gentoo for a while and I think it's a great distro.  The ebuild packages Chris Johnson put together work well and encouraged me to do some work on them myself.  Currently I plan to keep maintaining them (and an openacs ebuild if Chris doesn't beat me to it), so it would be nice if there was a place on for some docs and links even if Gentoo isn't the communities first choice.

On the Beowulf list, Robert G. Brown (who definitely knows what he's talking about) reports that Fedora's stock configuration will use Yum (functionally equivalent to Debian's apt-get) extensively. This is a Good Thing, and should be better than up2date was anyway. As far as how Fedora goes overall, we'll have to wait and see.

Lee, picking one "blesses" OpenACS Linux distribution? That might be nice, but could we ever actually agree on one? I doubt it. :)

More practical might be to have a FAQ answer including some sort of survey results saying "Experienced OpenACS users typically use:" and then break down the results by OS distribution (Read Hat, Debian, FreeBSD, Solaris, etc.) I think that would give the new OpenACS user most of what he wants to know. We've already had several informal suveys of that sort from all the Forums threads on Linux distribution X vs. Y, after all...

Some interesting followup points:

* True Fedora will continue to support - but no up2date system

* HOWEVER, Ximian has indicated that their red carpet updater will continue to channel the appropriate updates.

* Speaking of Novell subsidiaries, Novell buying SuSe (and IBM investing on Novell on condition of that purchase) makes SuSe look sensible.

* Red Hat's chief executive tells consumers to buy Windows instead of running linux, makes RedHat look stupid.,39020390,39117575,00.htm

Interesting times we live in!

Posted by Andrew Piskorski on
Unfortunately, while Szulik (Red Hat CEO) could have explained it a lot better, his basic point that Windows is still a better choice than Linux for most home users is, unfortunately, probably correct. This has nothing to do technically with Linux vs. Windows, though.

Fact is, I have more than a few computer-clueless friends and family. Linux is far and away better than Windows, yes I think that's true. But would I advise those particular friends and family to install Linux? No. Why not?

Generally, your only real resource for answering your questions and solving the problems that you really have are your peers who have similar problems, and maybe know a little more about how to solve them than you. Look at, say, my aunt and uncle in Florida. Like it or not, their peers don't run Linux, they run Windows. So counseling them to run Linux is to either sign myself up as their personal Linux help desk, or consign them to the hell of never having anyone to ask questions of at all.

Ironically, none of those home users want to have to deal with all this computer administration nonsense, they've just been forced to. It would be very nice if some service bureau offered a low cost subscription service (say, $15/month) that would really do a solid job of keeping your Linux desktop running, automatically answering all your, "How do I open this MS Word document?" questions, etc. Then I could just point people to that service. I'd hoped AOL might eventually offer that, but now I guess not. Maybe Lindows will become that, I dunno, I haven't been keeping track.

Posted by Andrew Piskorski on
Hm, it's been a year and a half now, so it's probably worth asking this again.

Is there any Linux distribution and support service uitable for the completely clueless home desktop computer user? It has to be something inexpensive and dead-simple which Just Works, yet gives them, out of the box all the Internet browsing desktop bells and whistles the expect - Java, Flash, mp3 and mpeg players, etc.

Does Linspire meet those requirements? Last time I looked (when it was still called "Lindows"), they were having the desktop user log in as root - ugh, sorry, no way in hell will I recommend any system doing that. Is that fixed now?

Any Linspire competitors? (And any that are Debian or Ubuntu based?) Mepis might be the ideal Linux distribution for this, except AFAIK there is no one you can buy AOL-like support from.

Fedora WILL have an up2date system. From the release notes of Fedora Core 1:

"The Red Hat Update Agent (up2date) now supports installing packages from apt and yum repositories as well as local directories. This includes dependency solving and obsoletes handling. Additional repositories can be configured in the /etc/sysconfig/rhn/sources file."

In fact, there's a whole page walking you through the process of downloading updates (including using up2date):

I haven't tried Fedora, but we should at least try to give factual answers and avoid spreading FUD.

i think we should try to give factual answers too.

even moreso, i think redhat should give factual answers.

i don't know whether they have some poor tech support people who are very confused about the direction of their company, but information even from them seems to be misleading or just plain wrong.

so straightening out misunderstandings will be helpful.

There is favorable review of Fedora on ArsTechnica today.

Luigi, I use debian stable, as do many other developers here. We let the doc person know whenever something doesn't work! So I wouldn't have any hesitation about using debian stable.
I have run Fedora since before it was known as Fedora.  It is basically the same is what Red Hat 10 would have been.  As far as updates go, if anyone cares to read what Red Hat says on, you will find that support will be offered in the form of updates, using up2date, via a yum channel.  It works; it works well; and it has worked for me for the last two months beta testing Fedora Core.  I am running FC 1 right now, and it's the best Red Hat that there's been yet, even if it's not named Red Hat.

As to the statements made by Red Hat's CEO, well, he's spot-on.  The typical consumer is not yet ready for Linux.  Nor is Linux yet ready for the average consumer.  But he further said 'yet' -- meaning that in the future Linux may very well be ready.  It would be nice if people would actually read what he said, instead of what they thought he said.

Up2date now works with yum and apt repositories.  The development community is much more open (which has its upside s and downsides!), and if anything Red Hat is more involved than ever.  But people will overreact to anything, I guess.... 😊  Yum itself is shipped; apt is not at this point.

As to cessation of support for older Red Hat releases, yes, Red Hat is going to do this.  But they said this nearly a year ago.  However, there is a project, called Fedora Legacy, that intends to pick this up as a community.

The canonical source for Fedora informatin is

Thanks Lamar, that is really helpful to know.

I hope the OACS community, of all Free and Open Sourec Software communities, realizes that just because a company decides to stop supporting a certain product doesn't mean the product will die...


Don't forget cAos which is basically RHEL, minus trademarks, and a Debian-like social contract.

We're probably about a week away from the first public beta now.

Thanks to Lee for pointing out that through his, mine, and other efforts gentoo packages will remain up to date and available for development and hopefully production use.

I, too, face the problem up keeping a work Redhat box up to date with the possibility of making a hard decision between Fedora, Enterprise ($$) Redhat, or Other distro next spring. I think we will end up going with one flavor of RH or another (either Fedora like I said or Enterprise).

I think Debian has shown how easy the administration of a distro *can* be.

I think Gentoo has shown how easy to configure, understand/learn, and keep extremely up to date a distro *can* be.  This is my home development and deployment distro.

But no one to my satisfaction has solved the Really Big problems, some of which have been mentioned in this thread: API upgrade paths to keep binary and API compatibility over several years on a box.  Java and .Net are designed with that more in mind, and I'm sure that WinLonghorn will be closer to it than Win32 is for sure.

The real winner will probably be DragonFly BSD, which is spinning off of FreeBSD 4.x (and something I may move to next after it gets some momentum):

This is one of the most exciting and concise descriptions of the problem and proposed plan I have come across--highly recommended if still theoretical reading.

I tried ubuntu, its look pretty good. Although in the end I will be using CentOS 4.1 aka RHEL 4.1 for my Mom. I have decided that I can configure it to be as friendly as possible. And once it works, it will be stay like that for years. Some people don't like change, so I guess I will have something that will stay for a couple of years the same way.
Fedora has recently gotten more community involvement, and is extremely nice to use. My only complaint about it is the very short lifecycle (18 months, with Fedora Legacy handling another year or two or three...but no guarantees). It's still my favorite distribution, though my latest production server, and the one where I'm running OpenACS, is running Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4.0. Yeah, it costs a little money, but I get a five year life cycle, and they do respond quite nicely to bug reports. I have about 100 Fedora servers that I'm responsible for (indirectly...they belong to customers), and only a couple of RHEL boxes, so it should be clear that I still prefer Fedora for almost everything.

Gentoo is a nightmare on servers primarily because its package management is horrible. I know portage has many fans, but it has some pretty major limitations: Creating a local repository of additional apps is very difficult compared to yum...I've read the docs on how to do it, and when they say things like "to get the dependencies for your application, build it with all options enabled and simply download them with wget". Umm, yeah, I want to babysit my repository such that I have to manually download things with wget. Querying installed packages is laughably limited, compared to RPM or deb. And egads, who thinks a 2% performance boost (or 2% drop if you choose the wrong options) is worth hours of compiling? Madness. Anyway, I just can't see running Gentoo on anything other than "play" systems. Clearly, I'm not the target audience for this distro...I compile enough software managing my own products, I don't need the thrill of compiling everything on my operating system in order to feel like I'm involved or in control. I know they provide binaries, but it is clearly an afterthought, and binary builds are second-class citizens. I've yet to even figure out how to get at the pre-built binaries, as it doesn't seem to be documented in the emerge man page (maybe I missed it).

Debian has a nice long lifecycle, and Ubuntu has followed suit. If I weren't such a fan of yum/RPM, I'd probably be on the Debian or Ubuntu bandwagon. They have proper package management, it's reasonably easy to setup local repositories without maintaining a complete mirror or jumping through crazy hoops.

I haven't tried any others, but for servers here's what I've learned to look for:

Long updates lifecycle. My desktop machines get upgraded to the next revision within days of a new release. My servers remain on the same OS for years. I've got RH9 boxes still chugging along with no plans for an upgrade (thank goodness for Fedora Legacy so I don't have to maintain all of the packages myself). If I can't expect to get updates for three years, I don't want it.

Good package management. Without good automatic package management, like yum/apt-get/up2date, maintaining more than a few secure servers just is not possible. This is my biggest beef with FreeBSD (which is otherwise a very fine server OS)--managing updates with ports is horrible (much like the ports-inspired portage). Even if many of your apps are custom-built, you still have several hundred or so packages that all effect the stability and security of the whole system. An inferior package manager is enough of a reason for me to forget about using an OS on the server.

Hmmm...That's about it. With those two things most everything else just falls into place. yum/apt-get have the ability to use multiple repositories for grabbing software which has led to a wonderful variety of high quality packages from the likes of Dag Wieers, Axel Thimm, and others. Getting a missing package is now almost always one command away (and having it under control of the package manager means that you don't have to keep the same volume of notes of what software you've installed--it will usually automatically get updated when new versions are available).

I switched from RH to and never looked back. Very stable and server-oriented, much better package manager than rpm.
Hi Vlad,

You consider Pacman superior to RPM? I've looked at it in the past and I'm utterly perplexed by this assertion. In what way(s)?

A contrarian view to be sure, but I am moving away from Linux wherever possible and going to Solaris 10 (mostly on Opteron).

The "zones" functionality is "Linux vservers ... done properly" and the multithreaded performance has so far been superb.

I think what you are looking for is CentOS. Its built from RHEL sources. Long cycle and no required payed support.
Hi Jun,

I use RHEL when I want RHEL, and Fedora when I want "community-supported". It's worth a few bucks to me to get the full bundle from RH, for those situations where I really need stability and predictability. If I had more servers that needed that kind of platform, I'd probably feel otherwise since RHEL adds up pretty quick, and I'd probably look to CentOS.

Interesting, Patrick.

I'm tempted by Solaris 10 zones (and dtrace) too, but I confess that at this point I'm addicted to apt...

I am currently standardizing on CentOS 4 at PARI.

In particular for our new Plone site we are rolling out, CentOS 4 really works well, as long as Plone/Zope are installed from source; the available RPMs are very poor, but the from source install is very easy with very few dependencies to track down and virtually everything you need in the Plone tarball (except for Zope itself).

I also find OpenACS runs well on CentOS 4 with the CentOS4-provided PostgreSQL RPMs. I am using that combination on my personal website at, on which I still have lots of work to do.

We here at MAICh are using Slackware linux 4 years now and we are pleased of the performance simplicity and security of this distro. Since we do a little bit of development too Slack is the best distro I used so far. If something will not compile in Slack it will not compile anywhere :) Maybe you can give it a chance