Red Hat improves its Bluecurve interface in 9.0; it's smooth and attractive, with excellent font readability.
In terms of technology, version 9.0 combines a few new elements with an upgrade to existing ones. It runs on Linux kernel 2.4.20, with desktop environments KDE 3.1 and GNOME 2.2. Both the Web server, Apache 2.0, and the C library, GNU libc 3.23, are the most recent versions, as well. Experienced Linux users should note that Red Hat 9.0 implements the new Native POSIX Thread Library (NPTL), which replaces linuxthreads as the library for multithreaded programming. NPTL promises to make Linux more stable and consistent--although technically, Linux kernel 2.6 is supposed to be the first kernel capable of fully supporting NPTL, so Red Hat may be jumping the gun in implementing it now. We didn't experience any stability problems as a result, however.
In version 8.0, Red Hat introduced its own, proprietary desktop interface, called Bluecurve, which incorporated elements of both the open-source KDE and GNOME desktop GUIs while establishing a look and feel different from both. The interface generated controversy in the Linux community, where adherence to existing, standard interfaces KDE and GNOME carry the day, but Red Hat persisted. Bluecurve shows even further improvement in version 9.0, with icons, toolbars, and other interface elements (such as title bars) looking smoother and more appealing; its menus are more logically organized, as well. The result is a well-organized, attractive design. Red Hat 9.0 Professional comes with the same collection of applications found in competing Linux distributions: OpenOffice 1.0.2 as the default productivity suite (although KOffice 1.2 is bundled as well) and Ximian Evolution, the increasingly popular Outlook-styled e-mailer. Beyond that, you'll find everything from strategy games to advanced server packages, as well as development tools and every conceivable type of utility, bundled with the OS.
From the standpoint of the everyday user, Red Hat (and indeed, all Linux distributions) continues to lag behind Windows and the Mac OS in three significant ways. First, the ability to view or play multimedia files--particularly video files--isn't built into the OS the way it is in Windows, and you'll find yourself downloading special apps for this purpose.
Red Hat 9.0, like most Linux distributions, lacks an efficient, easy way to download and install software. Its packaging manager does, however, help find OS upgrades.
That brings up the second problem: procedures for downloading and installing. Red Hat's packaging manager works well at connecting to the Red Hat site to determine what OS elements and packages have upgrades available, but when it comes to downloading a standalone file from the Net, uncompressing it, and figuring out how to perform the installation, Linux just isn't as easy as Windows. Granted, this is a problem with most Linux distributions, not just Red Hat, but at nearly the cost of the Windows operating system, we think Red Hat should be leading the charge to improve downloading.
The third problem lies with using multiple monitors: to get a two-monitor system to work in any Linux distribution, you need to find and edit, by hand, the XF86Config file, and this is anything but intuitive. We were hoping that Red Hat would address this problem. As with most commercial Linux distributions, you'll get better support for Red Hat if you pay for it than if you download the free version. (Actually, you'll get none with the free version.) Red Hat backs its Personal version with 30 days of e-mail and online support for installation but offers no phone support. You'll also get 30 days of free access to the Red Hat Network, which automatically updates Ã la Windows and a huge array of premium downloads. The Professional version gets you 60 days of unlimited phone support (9 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday), e-mail and online support, and access to the Red Hat Network.