RHEL Notes

One perk of being an RIT student, is that I can take advantage of the school’s site-license for Red Hat Enterprise Linux (you need an RIT computer account to click that link). I decided to give it a try.

Until this weekend, I had been using Fedora on my personal laptop. The relationship between Fedora and RHEL is pretty interesting. Fedora moves quickly, aiming for a new release every six months. Every two years or so, Red Hat takes a snapshot of the current Fedora, does a bunch of customization, quality assurance, and release engineering, and eventually mints the resulting operating system as a new RHEL release (with a price tag, and a 10 year support commitment).

For example, the current version of RHEL (7) is based on Fedora 19.

Are there reasons for an individual user to pick RHEL instead Fedora (Or Debian, Ubuntu, Arch, Suse, Elementary, or dozens of other completely free Linux distributions)?

I guess that’s what I want to figure out. I switched from Debian to Fedora because we had standardized on RHEL for our servers at work, and I was interested in pursuing Red Hat’s certification track. It made sense to use a Red Hat-like OS. By that logic, it’s hard to beat actually using RHEL.

That’s a pretty specific use case, though. The things I do on my personal laptop are mostly:

  • Use the web
  • Email
  • Light usage of a word processor and spreadsheet
  • Code (Mostly web apps, mostly Python)
  • Tinker and learn with the system itself, and available software.

So far, that last point seems the most impacted.

What do you mean I can’t run Docker?

Oh, I’m sure it’ll run, If I download and compile it myself– but Docker is nowhere to be found in the official repositories for RHEL Workstation or EPEL. It’s apparently only officially supported on RHEL Server.  I’m not that interested in “officially supported” anyways, so I’ll look for a more sustainable installation route before I go down the “make install” path.

This leaves a bad taste in my mouth, like running into a piece of Microsoft software in the 90’s or 2000’s that could only be installed on Windows Server, based entirely on licensing restrictions, not real technical limitations. Does Microsoft even still do that?

One thought I’ve had: is there any functional difference between using RHEL Workstation, and using RHEL Server with the desktop packages installed? Maybe I should just start over with a Server install (which is also available via the RIT license).

Déjà Dup

Over in Fedora-land, I had been using Déjà Dup to keep my files backed up to Amazon S3. Could I restore my backups on RHEL?

Pretty much. Deja is basically a more usable wrapper around duplicity, which is available in the RHEL repos. Deja Dup itself, not so much. It is technically possible to use just duplicity, but I’m too lazy for that– so I downloaded the Deja Dup source code, compiled and installed it. It did a fine job restoring my backups, and is now set to continue my daily backups in RHEL.


I like to have both Chrome and Firefox around. I generally use Firefox, but switch to Chrome when I want to use Flash, or some Google app that runs better in Chrome (Like Google Music).

Getting Chrome installed was no big deal. There are some un-advertised prerequisites, but the instructions on this post got me up and running without much fuss.


I have what (I think) is the first generation of the Dell XPS 13. There’s just nothing interesting to say here. Wifi, keyboard backlighting, volume and brightness keys– it all just works.

There’s one bit of weirdness with the trackpad– the bottom left corner doesn’t register as a left click, or really a click at all. It seems almost like it’s been reserved for some other purpose.


That corner is precisely where I do most of my “left” clicking. I’d really like to figure out how to make it work like it used to.

Android apps on Chrome

Item: Android developers can now package their apps into a form that will run on Google Chrome (including, and perhaps especially, Chromebooks).

Item: Google has been working to make Chrome apps behave more and more like traditional software on Chromebooks, Windows, and Mac.

Putting it together, the App ecosystem available to Chromebook users is potentially much larger, and the Android toolchain looks less like a kit for developing phone and tablet apps, and more like something akin to Adobe Air or Java– a portable app runtime.

The biggest weakness would seem to be that there are separate stores for Android and Chrome apps. I wonder how much longer that will be the case?