Review: openSolaris 2008.11

At work they were asking us to get familiar with openSolaris for a potential future project.  I’d played with it a few years ago, so I decided to check out the latest version I had.  On of my LXF discs had openSolaris 2008.11 and I figured that while I was checking it out I’d review it as well.  I expected it to be spartan like FreeBSD, but it appears that Sun has learned a lot from the Linux community.  It booted up to this grub screen:

grub on openSolaris 2008.11
grub on openSolaris 2008.11

And, surprisingly, it booted into a liveCD.

openSolaris 2008.11 liveCD
openSolaris 2008.11 liveCD

Like Mandriva it asked me some keyboard and language questions up front:

openSolaris 2008.11 keyboard and language questions
openSolaris 2008.11 keyboard and language questions

And then I found myself in Gnome.

openSolaris 2008.11 Gnome 2.24
openSolaris 2008.11 Gnome 2.24

I had to do a double-take at first because the icon theme seems more KDE-like than Gnome-like.  Overall, I found the theme to be very reminiscent of Fedora.  Very blue and bubbly.  That weird-looking icon in the top right is a network status applet.  I then opened up a terminal.

openSolaris 2008.11 Terminal
openSolaris 2008.11 Terminal

First of all, what’s up with jack?  Is it an inside joke?  Is it a Sun tradition?  Just curious.  What I DO like is the OSX-like colorization of the minimize, maximize and close buttons.  I’ve previously praised KDE 4 for separating them to make it less likely that you’d click on the wrong one.  But having different colors also helps with that.  And, even better than OSX, the icon remains showing along with the color so that someone who’s never used it before still knows what it means.

openSolaris 2008.11 Installer Partitioner
openSolaris 2008.11 Installer Partitioner

I moved on to installation.  The partitioner gets 7/10 in my eyes.  You can’t change the partitions so that /usr or /boot gets its own partition.  But it’s not too hard to figure out what the right thing to do is.  So it’s not awesome and it’s not horrible.

openSolaris 2008.11 Installer Time Zone
openSolaris 2008.11 Installer Time Zone

Next up was time zone selection.  Dividing things up into regions helps to speed things up although some Linux distros have moved on to allowing you to click on a map and set the timezone.

openSolaris 2008.11 Installer Installation
openSolaris 2008.11 Installer Installation

After setting the locale and user info (including setting root password and creating the first user), installation started.

openSolaris 2008.11 booting up
openSolaris 2008.11 booting up

Again, surprisingly for a BSD non-Linux Unix variant, openSolaris had a nice graphical boot like Ubuntu.  (editor’s note:  As was brought up in the comments, Solaris is not BSD)

openSolaris 2008.11 grub
openSolaris 2008.11 grub

And I found myself at an attractive GDM boot screen.

openSolaris 2008.11 Gnome post install
openSolaris 2008.11 Gnome post install

In addition to informing me that I was connected to the network, this also showed me that Solaris has a much longer interface name than eth0.

openSolaris 2008.11 Getting Started
openSolaris 2008.11 Getting Started

I really, really like the addition of a “Start Here” info box to openSolaris.  Some Linux distros do this, but many don’t.  I think it should definitely always be there to give people an idea of how do to the basics.  They shouldn’t have to go hunting around the net for ideas or even have to post to a forum.  It should all be there in the beginning.  Good job Sun!  So, what is installed by default on openSolaris 2008.11?  A few accessory items.  Strangely no GIMP, but then again, Solaris is meant for business computers.  Internet has Evolution, Firefox, Thunderbird, and Pidgin.  But the REAL shocks is in the Office category.  No Open Office.org.  Sun is responsible for OO.o and it’s nowhere to be found.  (by default)  Rounding things off is Rhythmbox and Totem.

openSolaris 2008.11 weird directories
openSolaris 2008.11 weird directories

Apparently Solaris has some weird non-POSIX thing going on with its directory structure.  Although I checked under / and there was a home directory, nothing was in it.  Instead my home directory was in /export/home and there was this weird rpool thing going on.  I’ll have to look into that some more.  Minus points for deviating from UNIX (at least the BSDs I’ve seen) and from Linux and (as far as I know) POSIX.

openSolaris 2008.11 package manager
openSolaris 2008.11 package manager

openSolaris has a really neat package manager that appears to take the best of Synaptic and some other package managers that I’ve seen out there and mix it all together.  You get some really nice things that I’d like to see in Fedora such as what files it installs, what dependencies it has, and legal information.  I dig around in there a bit.  OpenOffice.org is available (as it should be!).  Blender is not available.  I’m not sure where you’d go to get non-standard packages.

Overall, it appears that openSolaris is suitable for someone who’s doing the basics on a UNIX or UNIX-like system.  You’ve got Firefox, Pidgin, OpenOffice.org.  But there is the weird file structure and the small repository.  So I feel that it’s perhaps worth checking out, but I can’t really recommend it above Linux or even BSD.  I’d say, if you need it for work (and a lot of businesses use Solaris), definitely get openSolaris so you can get familiar with the platform.  Otherwise, stick to Linux or BSD and you’ll have a lot more support for a wider array of programs and standard POSIX directories.

Author: Eric Mesa

To find out a little more about me, see About Me

9 thoughts on “Review: openSolaris 2008.11”

    1. I’ll make the correction above. Part of my confusion is from the fact that SunOS was BSD derived and Solaris comes from a mixing of BSD, System V, and Xenix.

  1. If you do a OpenSolaris 2009.06 review in the future make sure you run the update manager and install “All Updates” then do the review.. Also keep in mind a new version of OS is about to be released version 2010.2

    Cheers,
    Tom

  2. About package management, you can always install pkgsrc, which is originally from NetBSD however its is ported to Linux, Solaris and other platforms. The good point is that it installs all the software in /usr/pkg or you can even use it as a normal user, so it is separate from system packages. Sorry if I was off topic.

  3. solaris deviating from posix? dude what are you talking about. Solaris includes almost all standards, posix included. That’s why it might seem odd. Not everything is (gladly) linux!

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