opensolaris-yet-again-notes, #2: tools and packages

Faster than I thought… Fixed my broken X server pretty quickly, and by the way learning how to boot up OpenSolaris into maintaineance / single-user mode (as this unfortunately is not there as a default recovery option in the grub configuration but rather easy to do nevertheless). Using the xorg.conf I copied off my Xubuntu system, now my external TFT finally works at 1280×1024 / 75 Hz, took some time to get that figured out in GNU/Linux as well. Adding a custom modeline to xorg.conf was the way to go, and this worked flawlessly on OpenSolaris’ Xorg as well, same as using xrandr to switch to the desired mode. Good.

Along with this, figured out that the Eclipse IDE in its latest (3.5) release finally is available to Solaris/x86 users again, which is pretty good – even though Eclipse is not my favorite tool getting development work done, I have little choice regarding this in a current project so having this tool available on OpenSolaris makes the platform a more likely working environment again. Downloading, unpacking and starting worked same as straightforward as on all other platforms, no problem as well.

Also managed to, again, get my fonts set up to be equally sized in Firefox/Thunderbird and the rest of the UI – setting a different resolution (obviously it’s 100 not 96 dpi) and playing around with the font anti-aliasing options in the GNOME theme configuration tool did have the desired effect. Good to also have this resolved, even though it just was a minor annoyance, and even though fonts on some web pages in Firefox still look kinda borked. :)

Installing OpenOffice, NetBeans and friends off the IPS repository by now, although once again I quickly dumped the package manager UI (which, even while attempting to get a first package installed, locked up and refused to refresh pretty quickly) in favour of the pkg command line tool which seems to work much more flawlessly. Let’s wait and see… :) Minor annoyance detected here: The Gimp, another application I (for obvious reasons. ;) ) excessively use, is just to be found in the repositories in a rather old (2.4.6) version. Maybe this is subject to change in the current development builds…

opensolaris-yet-again-notes, #1: post installation impressions

Following an extensive discussion on osnews.com evolving around the question whether Suns OpenSolaris distribution is just a bad GNU/Linux distribution, I once again did a chance downloading a recent build off genunix.org, installed with the motivation of trying to use it in everyday work for a couple of times to see where it gets me. As I usually do my everyday work exclusively using xubuntu, all comparisons just will relate to features that this platform provides, knowing that I use this distribution because at the moment it fits all my needs so there, generally, is nothing “more” I need at the moment, leaving these features being met the minimum requirements talking about OpenSolaris.

So, starting this, a few first impressions after successfully installing this ISO:

  • Installation speed seems to have somewhat improved; overally, on my machine this time it was done in under an hour (and I once again had to burn it to a DVD medium because the ISO didn’t work copied to an USB stick using unetbootin.
  • Even during running the live system and doing the installation, I merrily figured out that by now I am finally able to access my WEP encrypted home WLAN using the OpenSolaris network manager (which, in earlier versions, failed for whichever reasons). So one thing being a big issue to me in the past seems gone. Good work.
  • Starting up the system for the first time, I again had the comfortable feeling that speed has improved, both talking about bootup and logging in to the GNOME desktop which is the default (and only?) desktop environment supported out of the box. Speed also was an issue in the past at times, so this is generally good, although I have to see what happens if the system is “under load”.
  • This morning, however, I had to figure out that OpenSolaris, though providing a display configuration dialog, doesn’t out of the box allow for using a desktop that spans two different displays – although both my external TFT and my notebook LVDS display were correctly recognized in terms of resolution and frequency, I figured out that after setting things the way I wanted them to be, the tool eventually complained that the maximum allowed screen size is smaller than the extended screen I was trying to create. Oh well.
  • A minor issue that still is unresolved in my opinion is that, talking about desktop applications, fonts look slightly and in a subtle way different in applications like Firefox or Thunderbird and the rest of the screen. This is strange and I remember fighting with this in the past, so I will have to remember how I resolved this earlier. At startup, it doesn’t really look homogenous.
  • The only issue left during installation that really is annoying, always was and always will be, is that OpenSolaris, same as blind as another operating system, quietly discards any currently installed bootloader and replaces it with its own grub installation, pointing to the OpenSolaris installation and to some imaginary “Windows” installation that doesn’t at all refer to a meaningful drive or partition. I can’t really imagine what could be so hard about making the installer at least ask whether or not to install a boot loader and/or letting it include existing operating systems correctly.

So much as a start, seeing that some has changed for the better and some hasn’t. More to come later, as soon as I managed to restore my X installment which I broke somewhere all along following this blog post regarding multi-monitor setup. Shouldn’t be too hard, then again. :)

OpenSolaris notebooks… finally?

A few months ago we saw the news that Toshiba and Sun were about to team up on bringing the OpenSolaris operating system pre-installed to Toshiba notebooks. And, by now, it seems this finally happened: The first line of devices of this kind is available via the OpenSolaris store. Well… There are a few thoughts coming to my mind about that:

  • Generally, it’s rather good to see mainstream hardware being sold with any operating system other than Windows. Let’s hope this might help OpenSolaris gaining some market share in the desktop operating system world, as it surely has something to offer compared to, well, “other platforms”.
  • It should be noted that, even though not explicitely being sold with them, recent OpenSolaris installments also work with other Toshiba machines in a rather pleasant manner. My Tecra A8 (which is a little older by now already) so far has most of its components working out of the box with recent OpenSolaris builds.
  • With this hardware/software combination, I surely hope to see OpenSolaris getting the kind of attention and support needed to really be fun on a notebook. This includes, say, connecting to networks using cell phones (attached via Bluetooth or USB), sync’ing address / calendar / to-do data between mobile and desktop applications, joining wireless networks of all kind without too much ado or providing feasible ways of working in a way optimized for minimum power consumption. Though things have considerably improved here, it’s still a long way to go until being on par with Linux or Windows it seems.

Nevertheless, the mere fact a major hardware manufacturer is selling devices using OpenSolaris pre-installed is quite notable. Let’s hope for more to follow and some momentum to grow out of this. That aside, then and now I still wonder why, given the overall quality of the Solaris operating system, it took Sun Microsystems that long to get to this point. Having a viable Solaris-for-any-kind-of-desktops available along with, say, the release of MS Windows 2000 surely could have changed the operating system market. But that’s probably another story…

OpenSolaris: 2008.11 unveiled?

Though it seems an official announcement is still missing, opensolaris.org as well as genunix.org report that OpenSolaris 2008.11 finally has been made publicly available. Release notes are available same as various ISO download options of the final package which obviously is equal to the RC2 released a couple of days ago. Looking at the list of features new to this distribution, there are numerous improvements compared to 2008.05 that make considering an OpenSolaris installation (and eventually everyday use) worthwhile. Seems everyone working on the project has done a rather good job here, now all I am really waiting for is a “server” installation option to run headless infrastructure without having a fully-fledged GNOME/X11 desktop around… :)

OpenSolaris 2008.11: some light, some shadows

Once again, I’ve been through an enjoyable week of test-driving OpenSolaris 2008.11 pre-release in a production environment on my developer notebook. And, once again, now I am kind of back on Xubuntu (8.10) while trying to come to a conclusion of my recent OpenSolaris experiences…

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