Improved RHEL, CentOS and Scientific Linux hardware support
The past few months a bunch of very cool CentOS community members (and I am not including myself here) spend their time creating kernel modules for the stock RHEL5 2.6.18 kernel to extend hardware support. The result is now known as: ELRepo
What does it mean ?
It means that if you have problems to get specific hardware working on RHEL5, CentOS-5 or Scientific Linux 5, you can visit http://elrepo.org/ and download kmod packages for your hardware.
It effectively means that with recent hardware (laptops, desktops), you have a high chance that you can run an Enterprise Linux distribution to get recent sound hardware, webcams, dvb-t, file systems drivers and others, to work with no fuss.
It also means that if you require vendor drivers for your server hardware, you can find the latest from ELRepo.
Why should I use ELRepo ?
If you have no problems, you shouldn't. But if you can't make your atheros/ath5k work, ELrepo has a solution. If you need ndiswrapper, just get kmod-ndiswrapper. Same for fuse, ntfs, kqemu, jfs, and many others.
Especially for sound drivers, webcam support, dvb-t, TV mpeg encoders and many more, ELRepo offers the latest drivers backported to RHEL5, CentOS-5 and Scientific Linux 5. Great for using a RHEL5-based solution as a media system. Or when you simply want to video-skype with your girlfriend.
Is it safe to use ?
Since ELRepo only focuses on hardware support, it should work with other repositories quite well. And even when you enable ELRepo, it will not replace existing packages. You pick the kmod packages you need, and you won't get more than that. Remove it, and it's gone.
What about RPMforge DKMS packages ?
In the past I found DKMS the best solution for providing additional kernel modules, but DKMS requires a lot of dependencies, compilation and slows down the boot-process or update-process. Since RHEL5 has a stable kernel ABI there is no real need for all this, and the ELRepo kmod's simply work.
So why still provide those DKMS packages, when ELRepo is so much easier ? Good question :-) That is why I converted all my RPMforge DKMS packages to kmod packages and added them to ELRepo.
In the end, the availability of one big repository providing every kernel module under the sun, with the promise of adding whatever kernel module that makes sense, is a huge step to making RHEL5 or CentOS-5 an even more viable desktop alternative.
I am using CentOS-5 now for 2 years on my laptop (first a Thinkpad T43, now a Thinkpad X200s) and I don't need anything else. Everything works.
PS Yes, I lied. The fingerprint reader has no Open Source drivers (yet), but despite it being very cool, I don't really need it.