os2008.05#1 : a week with OpenSolaris

Well, what do you know… Time has passed rather quickly it seems ever since I dealt with OpenSolaris here for the first time, and by now, the first “official” release, 2008.05, is available for you to be downloaded or ordered for free, waiting for you to get it started. And, which possibly comes as no surprise, all of a sudden the web is rapidly filling with all sorts of comments, reviews and “tests” of what might turn out to be the new incarnation of the Solaris operating system one day… Overally, given the fact that OS 2008.05 initially comes as an easily installable Live CD, one is tempted to actually go for a “quick-shot” installation, at very best using some virtualization application like VirtualBox, to then get along with a quick write-up on virtually anything to be discovered in just five minutes of playing around with the OS before attention span has found its end and some other shiny new toy is begging for attention. Given that this hardly is a good and/or meaningful way to making a sane judgement, this time I wanted to try something different: Given someone like me (who has been a Free Software supporter and GNU/Linux enthusiast for the last twelve years at the very least) spends a week doing productive work with a tool next to unfamiliar, what would eventually happen?

Day#0: Booting things…
Before eventually starting out this very week, I did a clean installation of OS 2008.05 on my notebook, having a 12 GB partition left empty for purposes like that. Did upgrades using the IPS system in order to have the system up-to-date…. Synced most of my relevant work data along with configuration files (oh well, ~/.ssh, ~/.screenrc and friends…) either to our SVN repository or my external hard drive. Got my Ubuntu 8.04 installed grub to boot the OpenSolaris partition. Ready to go, I guess… Getting completely ready for work was quite a quick job, considering the amount of applications I usually require is not that extensive:

  • A recent Java runtime environment comes pre-installed with OpenSolaris. In order to install NetBeans, the glassfish application server and a few other tools required, I needed to install the “full” JDK which, using IPS, was rather easy: pkg install SUNWj6dev.
  • Same way, Subversion (SUNWsvn), Ant (SUNWant), OpenOffice (openoffice) and a few other applications quickly made their way to my hard drive, to then almost completely work out of the box.
  • Restoring some configuration files off my external drive also happened rather fast (like most of the up-to-date Linux distributions, OpenSolaris does auto-mount external drives so things couldn’t be easier…), as well.

Overally, getting everything to work was just a matter of few hours, including time required for files to be downloaded from the remote IPS repository. Insights I made this very “zero day”:

  • Installation, hardware-autodetection and desktop overall “ease of use” of OpenSolaris is absolutely on par with most “current” Linux distributions.
  • Especially hardware support has considerably improved compared to earlier SXDE releases, I was astounded seeing that even my xrandr script used on Ubuntu to establish the multi-monitor / Xinerama setup while being “docked” in my office worked with just minor xorg.conf tweaks (maximum screen size).
  • IPS is a great thing if SVR4 packages are what you hated about Solaris (especially compared to IPS’ obvious inspiration, the Debian package management system), but in some fields there’s still work to be done: Asides the fact that the package repositories still are rather limited (which comes as no surprise given that the Debian packages are mainly community-maintained…), in some situations I felt that IPS and its tools are just astoundlingly slow. The graphical package management tool does lag / hang often and massively, and, in example doing a pkg image-update (the equivalent to Debians apt-get dist-upgrade, things take just astoundingly long – the time required on Debian to upgrade a mid-sized system is likely to be spent on IPS “creating plan”. It works stable and reliable however, and along with the beadm utility, a few nice things beyond the scope of apt are possible.
  • I feel sort of surprised to see OpenOffice.org (a) missing from the standard install and (b), talking about the OpenSolaris IPS repository, being just “slightly” packaged for this system, both missing localization packages and a really clean integration with the OpenSolaris GNOME desktop (mainly in terms of fonts). A little more love would have made things really better here.

However, the overall impression after installing and configuring things are good enough to not throw things away immediately but rather go on…

Day#1: Getting to work
Looking back at it now, the first day of working solely with OpenSolaris hasn’t been as “challenging” as I suspected it would be – most things were rather straightforward: Checking out projects from our SVN repository, launching NetBeans, installing a bunch of additional plugins, building and deploying projects to our internal testbed servers, watching remote log files, the usual kind of stuff to be done. Improved my maven2 based projects by replacing all occurrences of my statically configured Linux home folder with maven2’s ${user.dir} as this happens to live elsewhere on OpenSolaris than it does on Linux.
As a matter of fact however I only had to leave my machine once as I didn’t yet get our networked printer to work with OpenSolaris, but I am sure I will tomorrow, as, which possibly is the most important lesson I learnt today, despite a few years of Linux experience, OpenSolaris requires some learning to be done initially in order to really manage things. But that’s just okay, I guess. On the other side, talking about the same hardware, I do have a slight feeling that OpenSolaris is a little bit faster than Ubuntu 8.04 in a more or less similar configuration (well, actually OpenSolaris is heavier on resources talking about the applications as so far I am using stock GNOME that comes with it whereas, on Ubuntu, XFCE does serve my daily desktop needs). The first day of work with this platform, however, was a very pleasant experience. I am curious what’s likely to come…

more days of this week:

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2 Kommentare

  1. Where is the rest of the week? I was really enjoying this post until I finished Day 1 😀

  2. marty duffy

    for the snv86 release at least there are some bulk package labels

    amp-dev for apache, mysql, and php
    java-dev for java, netbeans, and glassfish
    ss-dev for the sun studio compiler

    command line would be
    pkg install amp-dev