OpenSolaris 2008.05 – interesting but not yet for me.

I downloaded and tried OpenSolaris 2008.05. I had high hopes this would be “as easy as Ubuntu” but with the stability I rememberd from my days at the University or the few Unix boxes I’ve come across during my work. I downloaded the CD to try out on a virtual VMWare machine (latest version 1.0.6).

Downloading and burning a live CD posed no problem and booting it up was as easy as any other LiveCD. A slight dissapointment was the text-interface for choosing keyboard layout and locale, even for being a text-layout which I could accept it was a very boring text-layout.

After bootup the problems began. First thing I noticed was that I had no network. Apparently the Network Auto-Magic (NWAM) wasn’t magic enough to understand my network card. After some digging on the Internet I found the reason was not the network card but rather some other drivers in VMWare that OpenSolaris had problems with. This issue will most likely be gone in a future patch of either VMWare or OpenSolaris.

The first thing that struck me, before the network errors above, was how Linux-like the installation was with Gnome as desktop manager. I of course expected it to be very similar but not to this degree. Much of the “standard” Linux software was included. I was a bit dissapointed that Gnome was the only window manager found on the system, I had hoped to see the “old” look and feel from my University days (allthough I quickly switched to Gnome at the University when that was opened up as an option on the UltraSparcs we where using).

Next I tried to install the distribution to my virtual machine, and not run it as a live CD anymore. This was a very easy procedure, just add all the information needed and then start the installation. Having asked all questions first the installation then completed on it’s own but to me it felt quite slow.

Overall the impressions was mixed. While not impressed by the “first try” I am impressed about what I’ve read about OpenSolaris. The Zetabyte File System (ZFS) available and the support for high end machines with high availability (or so they claim but they are Sun so I take their word for it!). However since it has current legal problems with full integration with the Linux world (OpenSolaris is released under the CDDL license while most of the Linux world are distributed under the currently non-compatible GPL license). I hope in future versions this operating system will bring about a stable open source platform generally available.

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