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My first impression of OpenSolaris 2008.11

After reading about OpenSolaris in ;Login:, I decided to give it a try, in VMware. Without reading much about it, I simply grabbed an ISO and downloaded. With most Linux distros that work. OpenSolaris is distributed as a Live CD, which has a installer application on the desktop. The NIC came up beautifully under OpenSolaris, with an IP and everything.

When I first tried this, the machine had 540MB RAM, which I though should be enough. I clicked the installer; nothing happened. The system was extremely sluggish, with almost no response to what I did. Even starting a terminal took ages.

After googling a bit, I learned that 400MB of RAM was the minimum needed, so I upped the machine to 1.5GB of RAM, and tried again. Presto. Terminal emulator started in seconds, and the installer application took 20 seconds to start – most of the time reading from the CD.

Installing OpenSolaris 2008.11

The installer was quite straight forward. Enter user name, and password for the new system, partitioning the disk. This was the point where I got baffled – I’ve got no idea how OpenSolaris likes its disks partitioned, so I simply hit “Use whole disk” without further thoughts. Seems to work alas.

Well, a video tells more than a thousand words I guess. Please note that I’ve not captured frames without any action, so this is kind of time lapse – quick forward through the installation. Hit full screen for details – the quality is quite fine enough to read the text. A downloadable H.264/mkv can be found here – curiously enough this had smaller file size than the flash video…

[flashvideo filename=videos/osinstall.flv /]

Then, OpenSolaris just whizzed for a couple of minutes, installing itself, without more questions. Apart from the partitioning (which could be better explained) and the memory requirements, this was like any modern Linux distribution – plug and play.

What OpenSolaris could have done differently:

  • Note the memory requirements. 512MB should be enough to try a system I thought, but obviously no.
  • Provide a default user name prominently on the download page, in case auto login fails, or you have to log in again for some reason (hint: user is jack and the password is jack – root’s password is opensolaris)
  • Give some hints about recommended partitioning strategies.
  • Add more location options. I did not find Norway in the list.

First impression of the installed OS

[flashvideo filename=videos/runningOS.flv /]

Again – the MKV version is available.

It displays a friendly graphical login manager. It runs gnome. It looks just like any Linux distro with gnome I’ve used. It even got bash. However, the uname tells it all:

bash-3.2$ uname -a
SunOS opensolaris 5.11 snv_99 i86pc i386 i86pc Solaris

So, after all it is Solaris.

The package manager seems nice – I’ve not played much with it. The included repositories seems somewhat limited, but this is a new OS – their focus is not on the apps yet I guess. Still, they’ve got a few extra repositories if you want to give that a try. Adding a repository is quite simple – use pfexec to execute as root:

bash-3.2$ pfexec pkg set-authority -O contrib
bash-3.2$ pkg authority
contrib (preferred)

Thus I’ve added the contrib tree… Took me 15 seconds. OK, it’s a new package system to get used to, but I can’t see the big problem in that.

Altogether not that different from Linux, but yet different. On the surface, it looks much the same, but the differences lurks in there.

I’ve only touched the surface of the topic, and I’m sure I’ve devoted to little time to the deeper mechanisms of OpenSolaris; the places it differs from Linux. On the surface it is more or less the same, especially with the familiar GNU tools available.

I’ll definitively spend more time trying this OS, and I recommend you try it too 🙂

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