CentOS 4.1 Quick Examination

Since Redhat stopped supporting their commercially available Linux distribution, they moved to an Enterprise Linux Server (RHEL) and left everyone else to use a community effort (Fedora Core). Considering the cost of RHEL, the source packages were recompiled and redistributed. The resulting CentOS is a free binary compatible distribution of RHEL without the proprietary Redhat only software. I have seen some virtual private servers using CentOS for the virtualized operating system.

I installed the DVD based copy of CentOS 4.1 on my main desktop a few weeks ago just to experiment. For the most part it, it installs and is setup very similarly to Fedora Core 3(?). Upon initial inspection it also seems to come with the similar list of software. However the major issue here is that it is geared for server performance. Hence, it will not include the latest versions of most software and instead use widely supported and stable applications (i.e. PHP4 as opposed to PHP5, etc.). I could tell that the desktop applications were a bit out of date, but that makes sense considering its intended purpose. … After having used Fedora Core 4 for the past four months, I was shocked at the performance of CentOS. CentOS seemed significantly faster han FC4. In terms of user interface, web browsing, launching applications and even running servers and daemons – it was very notable. I do not know if it has to do with the GCC4 being used in FC4, but I’m still surprised to realize this now. Anyways, I decided I could not use it for desktop purposes since much of the software was older and there was not as much support from the community in general.

I played around configuring different installs of Apache, MySQL and PHP. I tried recompiling source RPMs (SRC.RPM) from FC4, but it became tricky to have multiple versions running. I will try again from source files instead.

My opinion so far is that it is a VERY stable and usable server distribution. If the software it included was newer I would probably be using it as my main Linux desktop. Anyways, more later as I learn more.

Virtual Private Servers

One of Linux’s many strength’s is its highly suitable web hosting options. Primarily Apache web server on Linux with various open source applications can provide cheap solutions for hosting needs.

The most commonly used hosting option is Virtual Hosting through Apache. With a simple setup, hundreds of unique websites can be run with 1 single server machine. For about $100 (US) a year, you can get a good set of features from most providers. However, most providers limit your options (minimal email, limited databases, no Java App Server, etc.).

Until recently, the next best solution was Dedicated Hosting. This requires rental or ownship of a specific server machine and managing it yourself. Multiple virtual websites can be hosted and depending on the hardware it can have other services as well. However the cost is significantly higher. Most providers change at least $50 per month for basic hardware/features and it is fairly typical to see prices of $100-200 (plus fees) per month for competitive features.

The technology has been around for quite some time, but Virtual Private Servers (VPS) are recently becoming more popular. This is the process of running multiple instances of Linux and Apache on the same machine. Every VPS on the machine gets a percentage of CPU, disk space, etc. Then each VPS can then host whatever they want without the need to maintain server hardware. When they need to be rebooted, the whole machine is not rebooting bringing down other VPS’s on the same machine – more of software reset than hardware reboot. Software such as Virtuozzo is becoming a popular product from many providers. You can find hosting plans offering VPS from $20-40 per month.

Once I hear some good reliable reviews on VPS services I plan to migrate to that option. I’d welcome any comments on how well these services work.