Taking the long view: Why I'm moving to CentOS Linux on the desktop

CentOS has long been considered a server operating system, but it is a very capable and stable platform for the desktop as well with long term support.
Written by Chris Clay Clay, Contributor

Fedora is community driven and its support is second to none.  I not only used Fedora for myself, but I installed it on many other computers for family and friends, with great success. 

However, over the years, a few things have come up and  recently I've started to look at switching to CentOS for these desktops instead. For those that know CentOS, it is a  proven platform mainly used in server environments. It too, has a huge community following. 

With the introduction of Gnome 3, Fedora has caused a few headaches not only for me, but for others that I support. Sure, I could have selected another desktop environment, and did move to MATE, but the huge following of Gnome 3 as well as Red Hat's plans continuing to use it has forced me to circle back around revisit Gnome 3 in Fallback Mode (and more recently, Classic Mode). 

Btrfs hands on: My first experiments with a new Linux file system

But other problems have come up. With Fedora's rapid release cycle I've found myself having to upgrade the desktops every two to three years or so. And, the upgrade process has changed over the Fedora releases, so the process it not completely seamless upgrading from version to version.  

Recently, I decided to try CentOS on the desktop. Why? My first reason is its support life, which is 10 years from the initial release date.  

CentOS 6, the current version, is supported until the year 2020: this means patches will be available until then, even though I don't anticipate running CentOS 6 in the year 2020 (I'm sure I'd have moved on to CentOS 7, 8, or whatever version is out by then). 

But this allows a system's core operating system to run and be supported for well more than two years. I anticipate about five years of having an OS running on any one of the desktops I support. 

The other reason is that there are a handful of third party repositories for CentOS that have updated packages of software, of which I will get in to in a little bit. 

So for example, if I had installed a CentOS system in 2010 when it was first released, today I can upgrade the Firefox browser to the new version. If I had chosen to install Fedora in 2010, I would be stuck with an older version of Firefox unless I could find a version of it released or install it manually. 

Upgrading the RPM packages with these GNU/Linux distributions is definitely my preferred way of keeping software up to date, because it is very easy to manage and requires much less labour keeping up to date than manually installing programs. In fact, in my opinion it beats Windows software management by leaps and bounds by design.

CentOS also has other advantages as well.  It is not cutting edge, and that can be a good thing.  It still uses the 2.6.x  kernel, and its core packages are older which means that bugs have been worked out and the software should be relatively bug-free overall. 

In addition, regular releases of CentOS do offer seamless upgrades in case you do want to do a complete refresh of a system. For example, the recently released CentOS 6.5 offers LibreOffice 4 which is fairly modern.   All which can run on the CentOS core operating system as the software is kept up to date in a lot of cases.

Current packages that are not available with the core CentOS distribution can be obtained easily by installing a third party distribution. These distributions are widely used and I've found the list below is very suitable for getting a very good platform with new software versions.

There are also many additional repos, as shown on the CentOS recommended page.

All of this combined make CentOS a very stable and manageable platform for any GNU/Linux desktop system.  I've found it  to be a very good platform because it still has Gnome 2.28 which I've found is greatly easier to use and more stable than  Gnome 3.x. 

So I can provide the Gnome 2 interface yet get the newer versions of software on systems, which is the perfect recipe for most users. So far, CentOS has provided the great support of Fedora with more reliability and long term support, and it looks like I will be changing to it for my default desktop operating system.

Further reading


Editorial standards