AlmaLinux 8.4 mini review - A clever community take on RHEL

Updated: July 14, 2021

Do you remember the soap opera series from the early 80s called Dynasty? Well, it has nothing to do with what I want to talk to you about today, except to serve as a weak allegory to the existence of multiple RHEL-based distributions. As it happens, for many years, CentOS was the thing - and still is, but this may soon not be the case, at least not in the classic sense, as CentOS 8 will prematurely EOL, and only continue as CentOS 8 Stream. Which brings its competitors into focus.

RHEL-compatible distributions all aim to do the same as the pay-for-support parent - offer a binary compatible server operating system. But on the home front, things are far more relaxed. Again, for many years, I've played with CentOS, tried to make it into a perfect distro, and recently, I did the same with Rocky Linux. Now I'd like to take a look at AlmaLinux, a community-supported enterprise operating system. From my home use perspective, of course.

Smooth sailing

This will be a short review, really. Because almost 100% of what I did before applies here. I downloaded the 9GB image, booted it, installed the system. You can choose the target type, from minimal server to workstation, plus desktop utilities and applications. Fast forward about thirty minutes, and there you have it, a Gnome desktop, with happy colors.

Desktop, installe4d

Some extra spice

Like with CentOS and Rocky, I went through the exercise of beautification, customization, and ergonomics improvement, including RPM Fusion free and non-free repos, Gnome Tweaks, Dash to Panel extension, La Capitaine icons, Ubuntu fonts, a handful of other tweaks, plus half a dozen applications - the default selection is a bit meager. I added GIMP, VLC, Steam, LyX, and these came out at about 600 MB worth of downloads and more than twice than in disk footprint.

Fonts changed

But then, Steam works without any problems - I did not encounter the 32-bit dependency issue as with Rocky, but then I tested Rocky in its pre-GA guise. Indeed, very quickly, I had a slick, stylish desktop, composed of a server distro plus extras. It looked the part, and behaved nicely.

Nice 1

Nice 2

Conclusion

I said it would be a short one, and it is. But don't be disappointed. The results are very good. Highly encouraging. Of course, deploying a system in production and doing it at home for fun are two completely different things. However, I encountered no issues with this exercise. AlmaLinux 8.4 behaved, and played along with all of my tweaks and changes.

Now, I actually have a dilemma. I'd like to go forward with one of the RHEL-based distros, but I'm not sure which one. I have a sentimental preference for CentOS, but that's only version 7. The two 8.X distros, Rocky and Alma, promise a more "modern" journey, and they both seem equally capable. Either way, I need to complicate things, of course. Perhaps I'll try to deploy these distros on a box with Nvidia graphics, and see how far I get there. All in all, AlmaLinux 8 seems like a nice distro, and I will be exploring some more. See ya.

Cheers.

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