I’m normally a big fan of Red Hat. Both for the ideals and progress in the Fedora community and for the advantages of using RHEL in the enterprise world. RHEL as a distribution tends to Not Suck™.

With the introduction of RHEL 5 Red Hat now wants you to use an activation code to install. Called Installation Numbers. (How long did it take someone to figure up that name?) You can install without a code but you only get the core Client or Server installed. In most cases this is somewhat less than useful. But, being clear, to have the installer install much of the Open Source software on the CD sets you must enter a 16 diget hexadecimal code that configures the installer to install the options you purchased.

I’m very insulted. The ideals that Red Hat holds so highly are flushed down the toilet at the sight of something green. How is this not DRM? How would this be legal with the GPL v3? Its really a horrid, evil idea. The least of which makes me as a sysadmin have to do much more work to deploy RHEL 5. I remember when (back in the day) new distributions were easier to maintain and deploy than older.

This is Open Source software. Its all about choice. Why did Red Hat chose to not give the user a choice what flavor of Server/Client they want to install? At RHN registration time the admin could be alerted that he or she has installed features not covered under the contract and give them options for what to do. Possibly, buy the missing support? No…that would be too hard. Instead, we must give them the complete set of software and then restrict how it can be used. Bad Red Hat.

This is Open Source software. The installer needs to know how to parse these installation numbers. The RHN tools on the system need that knowledge as well to communicate with RHN. This is Open Source software Red Hat. You cannot hide the details of these codes. In fact, I have already learned all I need to generate Installation Numbers myself with any feature set I so desire.

You can find some quick code to generate these numbers in genkey.py. I have also written a more in depth article about creating installation numbers and a few examples.

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