13 Apr 2011

Is CentOS 5.6 Better Than 5.5?

CentOS is free operating system which is based on source code of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). RHEL itself is non-free open source project which has 2 free "relatives".
  • Fedora acts as sandbox and test polygon for RHEL developers. Technologies from Fedora eventually got their way to RHEL.
  • From another side CentOS is based on the existing RHEL and uses its source code with minimal changes. In spite (or because of) being free, CentOS is widely used on server market.
Because of its nature, it is very clear that CentOS is mostly oriented to server market. But CentOS can also be used on desktop  computers and laptops.
I have already reviewed CentOS 5.5. That time I fell under impression that CentOS came from 20th century, at least in terms of user interface design.
New version 5.6 was released recently. Should I check what is new? Sure!
So, image is downloaded from torrent. It weights just enough to get to one CD, so CD-RW was burnt. I am usually reluctant to burn CDs in KDE's default K3B, but this time I tried this option and was nicely surprised that CD-RW was burnt without any issues at all.
Disk is in the drive. Reboot. Choose to boot from CD. Let's go!

Once initial boot is done, you have screen with seconds countdown. The screen says that boot will be done after 10 seconds. It's slightly confusing because you don't know what is going to boot. Anyway, any keystroke shows options available. Of course, default action is to boot to Live version. Full boot time is about the same as it was before. But subjectively disk during the booting process noises are less then 5.5.
You have another question during the boot - and this is username. Again, there is 10 seconds countdown until default username is used. That default username is good for Live version. Don't know if you can use any other username actually.
Full boot time is 3m24s, not counting 2*10 seconds of countdown (I pressed Enter both times as soon as invitation appeared). It has been placed into Racecourse scoreboard.
Once booted, you get to standard GNOME desktop environment with panels on the top and at the bottom. CentOS logo is in the left-top corner.
First impression from CentOS 5.6 is slightly better than from 5.5. If, as I said, I was pushed to 20th century by 5.5's icons, then 5.6 is leap forward to 21st century, but still to early 00's.
I might be wrong, but this version also got better video driver and default wallpaper. So, quality of what I have seen on my screen was better than before.
As before, my WiFi card was not activated by CentOS. I think that's because driver for Broadcom 4311 is still in closed-source area. Though, I could see that CentOS correctly recognised my WiFi card in device manager.
CentOS 5.6 has shortcut to keyboard layout configuration right on the default desktop. But this configuration is kind of trimmed. You can only select one (default) layout there. Yes, it works correctly if you only have one layout to use. But what if you need more, like me? Then solution is in usual place for GNOME. Full configuration is available at System - Preferences menu. Using this tool, Russian layout was added easily. Although, I did not get any indicator on the panel, which is minor defect from my point of view.
My HDD has about half a dozen partitions. CentOS 5.6 recognised several of them, but unfortunately not all. The one which I missed (and missed dearly - see below) was NTFS partition with WinXP installed. I could not even mount it manually using standard sudo mount command. Neither ntfs nor ntfs-3g filesystems were recognised, even though man mount lists ntfs as available.
Software wise, CentOS 5.6 has minimal required set of packages to start working on it.

  • Firefox 3.6 is default browser in CentOS. But you cannot tell it from the first sight, because icon for browser on the quick-launch panel is not Firefox-distinctive globe with a fox. It is in blue gamma, close to the whole CentOS default theme.
  • Open Office 3.1.1 is included into CentOS in shortened version: Writer, Impress, Calc. This OS also includes Project Management tool from GNOME project. Not sure that this one is critical for CentOS users though.
  • As for graphics, CentOS only includes viewer. No graphic editor is included in distribution.
  • Multimedia tools are also represented by basic tools: CD player, Totem movie player, Sound Juicer CD extractor. I could not check if they work at all, because neither network nor NTFS partition was available.

As you can see, there is enough tools in CentOS 5.6 to start working in the office. But what if you need more? Then you need to install more software. There is Package Manager tool available for this in CentOS.
Unfortunately, I could not test how it works. Because... it does not work. At least, it did not work in my case: Live mode without network.
What is general feelings about CentOS 5.6? I would say I saw progress since last version 5.5. It is not quantum leap, but steadily progressing system. Bearing in mind that this Operating System is based on commercial software which is used by thousands of customers, you should not expect sudden significant changes in it. That is normal in corporate world.
From another point, changes which I saw today can be attributed to my own experience. I am now not the same as I was half a year ago, when my first acquittance with CentOS happened. I now know what to expect from OS, and what I can or cannot change in it. Maybe I became more realistic?
Anyway, today's review improved my general feelings about CentOS project from neutral to slightly-positive. I'll keep an eye on future developments of this project, and hopefully will report them in future posts.
Do you want to try CentOS yourself? Why not order CD from my Buy Linux CDs page?


  1. Ummm, Sorry to burst your bubble but you use CentOS because you can be confident that the developers won't introduce any major changes in a .1 point release.

    If you wanted to do a review then wait until the developers finally get CentOS6 out the door and do a review.

    If something worthwhile other then php5.3 made its way into CentOS 5.6 I would be wondering wtf.

  2. lolpost, give me my 5 minutes back!

  3. Seriously?
    You try to do a Cent OS review, but it turns out, that you can't get a network connection?!
    Because you get something about ntfs from "man mount" - you assume, ntfs-3g is installed by default?!
    Come on - what deeper sense does it make to use Windows XP in combination with CentOs at all?!
    You mention Firefox and OpenOffice and not available graphics editors... and that it's ok to start using it in the office?! Seriously?
    Did it ever occur to you, that - perhaps - CentOS is not aiming primary at the common desktop user?! Not even errr... secondary?
    Why does this article even exist?!
    Best regards,

  4. @Anonymous1:
    Different Linuxes have different approaches to version numbering. OpenSuSE has differences between .1 versions. Ubuntu does not have .1 versions at all.
    CentOS has numbering close or identical to RHEL. Knowing this, you can be sure nothing radically new appears in .1 release.
    Who may exactly tell when CentOS6 is due?

    As long as you laughed, you took your 5 minutes back. ;-)

    I could not get network connection, because it was Live run. I think this is written quite obvious in the post. Distro does not have WiFi card driver by default, and I cannot get one without being connected. Like a loop, which could only be resolved by LAN connection. I was ready to do this for Debian (Aptosid) recently, but more reluctant to do so for CentOS.
    CentOS is first distro I've seen so far which does not ntfs-3g included. That's why I was puzzled.
    As for CentOS aiming as a market... CentOS is primary aiming the server market, and I have written this. But it can also exist on desktop. And I got such messages in LinuxQuestions. That's why my post is valid and it should exist.

  5. As I read this, CentOS 5.7 is out despite assurances that such a thing would never happen while 6.x is out...

    And so it goes... I had some problems with 5.6 and so reverted to 5.5 for my herd. Not in a hurry for 6.X.

    But as Coschuetzer observes, why does this article even exist? CentOS is not for the desktop. I use Ubuntu for that. The existance of the CentOS is proforma. As long as it can run the GUI config apps that are sometimes necessary or desirable (in a pinch) it's enough. Server compatibility is the word. You can load Red Hat RPMs and be sure they will work.


  6. I don't see a reason why 5.x and 6.x can't co-exist. If you allow me to compare at car market, Peugeot produces (or produced for some time) 206 and 207 car in parallel, even though they are from different ages.

    There is a lot of people who still prefer CentOS on desktop.



    I won't discuss this further. Whether to use CentOS as desktop or not - this is user preference.

  7. Don;t make me wrong but using centos as desktop os is a but stupid. it is server oriented os. some graphical software just won;t run, because of python 2.4 req. i would likw to see how you going to uprage to 2.6 as modern software req. that!.

    On the other hand Windows 2008 R2 is table as well. Stable to aplication craches (I mean you PC won't reboot, because of proper software hand handling). but do you use windows server disttro as desktop replacement ?!

    Don't be stupid man.

    1. If you don't know how to turn CentOS into the desktop system, you should read and talk to Deidomedo. He wrote about this several times: