Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8 (beta 1) – First Impressions

Tonight I finally got RHEL8 beta 1 installed in a VirtualBox VM, just trying to see what changed. I first tried a few days ago, on my work Ubuntu Linux laptop, but never got past the first GUI screen, because the mouse pointer kept disappearing (became invisible) as soon as the GUI appeared. I tried a few different settings there, but I couldn’t quite get it to work. Until this morning, that is, when I re-downloaded and installed it on my home Mac. My first attempt had the same problem, but then I figured out the secret seemed to be switching the mouse pointer hardware setting from “PS/2 mouse” to “tablet pointer” (because that was what I had in my already working Ubuntu VMs).

I was surprised to find the kernel is even newer (4.18) than the Ubuntu 18.04 I’ve gotten used to. In the past, Red Hat has had the reputation of being behind the curve, because they typically value stability over new features, so this was quite a surprise. Apparently Ubuntu 18.10 (which only has 1 year support, vs the 10 years of 18.04) uses a much newer version (5.0). so I guess I should try out an Ubuntu 18.10 VM next.

Another new addition to RHEL8 is the “AppStreams modules”, which just seems like some new package management solution. From what I’ve read, RHEL has decided to separate applications and middleware from the base operating system, so instead of subjecting customers to 10 years of one version of a software package, like MySql, PostgreSql, nginx, apache httpd, or whatever, they will let the AppStream modules offer newer version more often than the “stable” operating system they have always provided. Considering how many issues I’ve run into with older RHEL packages, I suspect this will end up being a wise decision.

I looked into the release history of RHEL, and was a little surprised to learn that RHEL5 was released in 2007, RHEL6 in 2010 (3 years later), RHEL7 in 2014 (4 years later), and now RHEL8 in 2019 (5 years later). They seem to be catering to customers who prefer a longer lifetime for their stable operating systems, like my current employer. Since RHEL5, all RHEL OSs have a 10 year standard support lifetime, and my employer is still running a few ancient RHEL5 boxes, but mostly I figure it’s because they haven’t yet embraced a more modern way of doing things, like the “cloud”. Personally, I can understand the desire to hold off upgrading critical systems’ operating system major version for a couple of years, but have never seen a benefit to hold off until the entire 10 year support deal ended. If you ask me, that’s just a lazy attitude, avoiding doing potentially beneficial work, and putting your applications, and employees, at additional risk by avoiding fixes and new features. I suspect more developers would prefer to use all the newer fancy libraries and toys that come with newer versions, than be saddled with working around the lack of the same because you’re stuck on an 8 year old OS.

I haven’t found anything really astounding and ground breaking in RHEL8, yet, but if I do, I’ll write about it here.