Updated: June 9, 2012
CentOS is mostly a server distribution. Yes, it can run on your desktop, as I've shown you before, it can be made super cool and modern, but it is not really designed with a personal computer in mind. Therefore, it is always a pleasure when you can take an enterprise product and adapt it to your home environment. Successfully.
Anyhow, I did promise to test and retest a whole bunch of distros on my new test machine, a T61 laptop with two SSD, which completely changes the game when it comes to using old and new hardware combined. I've done my share of Ubuntu family runs, all with good results. Let's see how and if CentOS 6.2 behaved on the same hardware. Numerous links to articles on a variety of subjects mentioned just now are listed further below.
Live session & installation
T61 is not that much different from T60p, which was used in the original review, hence all the expected peripherals and hardware components worked just fine, including Wireless, Bluetooth and suchlike. Most importantly, CentOS had no qualms detecting the SSD drives, which is the crucial bit here, otherwise we would not be having this article right now.
The machine has four operating systems installed - Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu, and the latest version of Mint. I replaced Xubuntu Pangolin with CentOS. I placed the bootloader into the root partition, and left Ubuntu 12.04 in control of the MBR. P.S. If you want to read these four distro reviews, links are awaiting your clicks further below.
The installation was fairly quick. Normally, CentOS takes its time churning bytes, but this time, the whole procedure, executed from a bootable USB carrying a live DVD image lasted only about 10 minutes.
Running CentOS on SSD
Now, here's the really spicy part. You know that CentOS is quick. Gnome 2, no special effects, just pure optimization and WARP speed. And it's true for older machines with 32-bit processors, it's true for my top-of-the-line laptops. SSD does offer some extra quickness, but it cannot make great any greater.
Therefore, the installed system will underwhelm you at first, especially if you're expecting magic to happen, forgetting how sprightly and nimble CentOS is in the first place. But the extra pull from solid-state technology does come to bear in several areas. One is the boot process, optimization thereof never having been a primary focus of the RedHat dev team, as most enterprise and data center hardware takes long minutes just initializing, making any speed gain in the actual system boot meaningless. So, how does SSD affect this particular vector of joy? I will not tell you yet. We will have a separate article on that, shame on me, the attention seeker that I am.
Speed gains are also noticeable in serial large data reads and writes from the disk. Battery life is also somewhat extended, showing at around 3 hours on this particular hardware, almost 20% more than most rival systems. However, most of the time, you will forget you have SSD and just work normally. You will be pleased by the speed and responsiveness, but that's nothing new.
Look & feel
If you are running a modern system on modern hardware, at least some parts, then it's only fitting to make it look as presentable. Similar to what I did with Ubuntu and Xubuntu, I started doing some quick spit and polish. I changed the theme, window borders, the icons, and the wallpaper, instantly transforming CentOS 6.2 into a lovely beast.
Here's a whole bunch of great screenshots. Scroll and drool:
It's all there, of course. A solid bunch of KDE and Gnome programs, webcam, Firefox 10 ESR, and some more. No proprietary media codecs, unless you install some of the third-party repositories, but you already know how to setup those.
I have a whole bunch of articles for you:
CentOS, the first installation before going large with my Nvidia-powered laptop
CentOS ceremoniously deployed in my high-end production setup!
CentOS - A perfect desktop pimpage guide leetness level 1337
CentOS + Nvidia card setup
Other distros tested on this box:
There's more, Ubuntu on my high-end laptop, Ubuntu with Cinnamon, just hop over into the Software section and read the whole bloody lot. This is just a friendly suggestion, not a threat, now there, no need to get upset.
I must say I'm quite pleased. I had not expected CentOS to behave so well, but then I had. It's only expected from a first-class distro, even when it pulls a desktop trick that is not warranted in its enterprise pedigree. Once again, CentOS shows its quality.
With a whole bunch of great programs, and there ought to be LibreOffice landing in the official repositories, hopefully soon, complementing the new Firefox version, plus some extras, and new themes and icons, CentOS becomes as modern and relevant as any other contemporary distro. Only it offers 10 springs of leal service, stability and blazing performance, and it's just adamant, not to be confused with Adam Ant. In fact, the performance thingie will be the main factor to cause a whiff of disappointment, because if you expect SSD to render miracles to an already extremely well optimized product, then there won't any. Which is all good.
Anyhow, you know what to expect. I like this, a lot. CentOS 6.2 + SSD, a great formula. A bit more battery life, excellent compatibility, some extra throughput for sustained operations. And there's the boot stage, but that's a separate article. Enjoy.