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Your Ultimate Guide to CentOS

Your Ultimate Guide to CentOS. Whether you need an operating system to function as a desktop or host hundreds of sites across the World Wide Web, CentOS can make it happen.

While this OS isn’t particularly beginner-friendly, your efforts will be rewarded with a highly secure and perfectly customized server for personal matters, business operations and everything in between.

Oh, and did I mention it’s free? 

Keep reading for the ultimate guide to CentOS.

CentOS Overview: What is CentOS?

Short for Community Enterprise Operating System, this open-source software has a relatively small user community. But not for lack of quality.

Offered by many dedicated server companies like ServerMania CentOS is a free Linux operating system. Anyone can use, alter, and distribute this software for any reason. A communist’s wet dream.

CentOS is based on the commercial open-source code of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). A CentOS derivative usually becomes available for free within 25-45 days after a new version of RHEL drops. 

This enterprise-grade operating system can handle pretty much everything you need it to. Run virtual machine monitors. Use it as a firewall, router, desktop, or back up server. Operate servers for chat, VPN, or even a fully functional VPS.

As long as you know what you’re doing, CentOS can help your hardware do virtually anything. 

A Brief History, From CentOS-2 to Now

Way before Linux CentOS 7, there was CAOS Linux, and before that, there was RPM.

RPM Package Manager was another free and open source system that automated processes related to computer programs. RPM inspired the by-product of CAOS now known as CentOS.

The initial release of CentOS-2 on May 14, 2004, promised no bugs or problems. This trend of releasing only the most stable versions of CentOS continues today. The team allows themselves plenty of time to test the software between each release.

Lance Davis founded CentOS. But, control transferred to the CentOS team in 2009 after his brief disappearance.

The CentOS team created this project with open source communities in mind. They wanted to provide a rich and stable base platform anyone could build upon. 

In 2014, the CentOS trademarks were turned over to RHEL. They began sponsoring the project to help create a product suited to the community’s needs. 

Despite this union, the CentOS team remains separate from the RHEL team. 

Key Features of CentOS

CentOS releases mirror the RHEL life cycle and CentOS 5.0, 6, and 7 will be maintained for up to a decade after their release date. Previous versions of CentOS were only supported for fewer than seven years. 

Since CentOS 5.0’s release date was back in 2007, maintenance updates were suspended in 2017. Luckily, weaknesses in security discovered while building new versions of CentOS are transferred to older versions.

Other key features of versions CentOS 5.0 and beyond include:

  • Major updates (new release or full update) every 2-4 years
  • Frequent minor releases
  • Powerful firewall and SELinux policy mechanisms
  • 10 years worth of high-quality security and maintenance updates
  • Full updates for six years
  • Fewer bugs and security flaws than other operating systems
  • Runs longer without needing frequent hardware upgrades
  • Reduced risk of malfunction or crashing
  • Only runs software package at their most stable version
  • Compatible with third party storage
  • Customization

CentOS Architecture Requirements

Your hardware needs a certain instruction set architecture (ISA) to communicate with the CentOS software properly.

CentOS 5 and 6 support IA-32 architecture but only with an additional memory management feature known as PAE. Physical Address Extension (PAE) allows your hardware’s CPU to access larger amounts of physical address space in more bits. 

IA-32 stores data used to perform tasks in 32 bits. A PAE redefines the data storage in 64 bits and allows the CPU to access more of it directly.

Most versions of Linux CentOS 7 only support x84-64 architecture. This architecture supports much more physical and virtual memory than 32-bit versions. 

Specific versions, such as the AltArch release, can accommodate IA-32 and other reduced instruction set computing (RISC) architectures that optimize work and allow fewer cycles per instruction. 

How Does CentOS Compare to Other Linux Distributions?

Some common Linux distributions include Debian and Ubuntu. These two are closely related because Ubuntu is forked from Debian source code much like CentOS is forked from RHEL.

Debain and Ubuntu each come with tens of thousands of software packages already installed but only Ubuntu includes proprietary software and only free software is available for Debain. CentOS has limited compatibility with newer software, so it may be more of a hassle to add the software you need. 

Ubuntu is easy to install and has a large user community since it’s the most popular Linux distro. This makes Ubuntu a preference for beginners.

New versions of Ubuntu appear every six months. This may make it easy for individuals to keep their software packages up-to-date but the shorter cycles between releases give developers less time to catch bugs and produce a stable product. 

Debian takes a bit more time to release updates. About four times as long as Ubuntu. Like CentOS, this longer release cycle makes Debain slower to incorporate new technology but more stable overall. 

Both Debain and CentOS require a high level of understanding of Linux systems to operate effectively and offer more control over the system’s configuration. However, Ubuntu offers an ‘expert mode’ installation. So once you get the hand of Linux, take off your training wheels and play around in expert. 

What Applications are Ideal for CentOS?

CentOS is ideal for businesses already familiar with Linux systems. Any organization looking for a secure and bug-free distro will benefit from understanding CentOS. But truly anyone can operate this system with the proper amount of patience and willingness to dig through chat rooms and online forums for support. 

CentOS supports your organization’s or personal website and makes it accessible on the web but you can configure this system to fit any of your needs.

Run a hypervisor and create your own emulation of a Game Cube system. Play Mario Party on your desktop or Smash on your TV without buying a console. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination. 

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