A CLEAR New OS Concept.
First of all I guess I should do the obligatory disclosure according to the American FTC which is just a guide but has lawful penalties (how do they figure that one out?) I received this product for free from the Clear Foundation. In return I am going to do a review of their product.
That being said they are giving their product away for free to everyone. In typical Open Source business model it is the service they are charging for. The product? The new release of the beta version of their latest ClearOS(5.1). I found out about this when their marketing manager Aaron contacted me here on ITtoolbox and basically just said check out what we did and tell me what you think.
Well since it was no skin off of my nose to download their ISO image and whack it into a VirtualBox session I did so. While I was trying to download it I hopped over to their website and had a peek and poke around (aah the old basic days, sigh). What I saw intrigued me to say the least. I was expecting just another fork of another Linux distribution. You know the standard Ubuntu, Debian, SUSE, RedHat type of thing. One thing was evident was that these people were definitely thinking out of the box.
Downloading the ISO was a bit of a chore as their servers were being hammered. Having a look at their forums I found out that they were having an unprecedented interest in this beta version and they were caught with their pants down. However they quickly resolved the situation and then some. So after the third try the ISO downloaded in about ten minutes.
Once the download finished I fired up VirtualBox and connected the ISO to a test session and booted the virtual machine. The initial install was done in a text console and was pretty simple to navigate. The instructions were clear and easy to understand. It was by far the easiest install I had ever seen for a Linux distribution aimed at the server end.
Yes I did say server, not desktop. The ClearOS distributions goal is to provide a simple to maintain server package for those who don't want to fiddle around with the guts of the operating system. How well they have done that I will explain later.
During the install I was presented with a choice of modules to install. This caught my notice because it was different to what I had seen before. Sure, other distributions ask you to choose different roles of the installation yet... ClearOS gave you choices on what you want to use the server for. For example, you can choose it to be a gateway, an intrusion detection box, a mail server, a web server, a vpn server, a file server and others, or all of them. I now understood what they meant by modules. They partitioned up the installation according to the required end use. Later on I understood the reason why.
Installation was fast and it only took about ten minutes to install. So fast that I actually installed it a couple of times using different module selections just for the fun of it. When the install finished there was the usual remove the install media and reboot. Which I did of course :)
When the machine rebooted I was presented with a nice clean login screen. I gave my credentials and clicked the login button. Then I received a big surprise, like Quaid gave the guard in Total Recall. Instead of a standard desktop popping up on the screen like so many other distributions I have looked at, I was presented with a configuration wizard which walked me through the final basic server configuration. Again everything was clearly explained and I had no problems. Not only that, but with each step they explained why it was needed. The developers clearly had end users in mind when they designed ClearOS.
The configuration wizard ended and for some reason I was still expecting a standard desktop to appear. It did not. What did appear was a web browser like interface where I could monitor all the different services, configure them and receive reports. With a lot of extensive clicking around it appeared to me that they have managed to do what so many distributions have failed at. They have designed and implemented a point and click server interface to set up everything you could ever need in a server. There was no need to ever manually edit a text file at all. The organisation looked to be clear and sensible. Although the developers are thinking on how they can improve it even more.
What it looks like the ClearOS developers have done, is create a truly usable point'n'click packaged server operating system, which anyone can use. I would have to say it is even easier than windows server, or any other Linux distribution I have ever seen, for installation and configuration.
I think that ClearOS definitely deserves a good look at for an easy to use and maintain server implementation. It has been specifically designed for ease of use in any server application. It is especially suitable for single purpose services or as an all in one solution from personal use to enterprise level applications. Being based on Redhat Enterprise/CentOS Linux with Clear Foundations own customised interface, it looks like a winner to me. I was very impressed which is why I decided to write this review. There is no other reason.