My Experience with OpenSolaris (NV build 82)

I have been using OpenSolaris instead of Ubuntu on my IBM T43 laptop over the past month. I use that machine to debug gtk2 Firefox and to browse and write email while I’m sitting in my living room. Most of the time I used OpenSolaris NV build 81, for the past couple days I used build 82. I didn’t notice anything different between build 82 and 81 that I care about, so my comments here apply to both.

Install is easy. The setup screens are easy to get through, no glitches. All of the hardware that I care about works fine, including wireless. The one thing I did after my first login is disable the sendmail service via the Services control panel. That gave me a slightly faster boot time, I don’t care about sendmail.

Getting Firefox to build was also easy. There are instructions on developer.mozilla.org, they worked well for me. Remember to use “gmake” instead of “make” when building Mozilla stuff.

For editing code I used Sun Studio. It was easy to configure Sun Studio to be a straight-forward code editor, I do my debugging and most other things in the terminal so I don’t care about the project management features. Sun Studio worked really well for my purposes.

With a build environment and a good IDE I was perfectly happy doing my Mozilla work on Solaris. When I’m not writing code for or debugging Firefox, the only app I use is Firefox. The default install of Firefox works just fine for my web browsing and email-writing needs (I use gmail).

There are some things that bothered me during my experience. In order of how much I care…

  • When logging in, gnome’s volume manager and its battery monitor crash every time. This means I have to click through a bunch of crash dialogs every time I log in. Really annoying and it makes me nervous, but as far as I can tell it has no affect on my getting stuff done after the dialogs are gone.
  • There is no easy way to update your OpenSolaris NV install (that I know of). I have to download the new build iso (> 3gb) before I can update. Why can’t I just pull the new packages via software update and not have to deal with a huge iso?
  • NWAM (Network Auto-Magic) has incomplete UI. If you don’t have an ethernet cable plugged in it’ll throw up UI for selecting a wireless network, but once you’re connected to the network you can’t switch networks easily via UI. There is no pull-down menu or anything like that as there is on Mac OS X. Apparently they are working on it.
  • It is hard to find a complete changelog for OpenSolaris builds, so I never know if I should care to install a new build. There is something of a changelog here.

Updated: Updated my updating complaint based on new info. Added more changelog info, got rid of the crash reporter complaint since it isn’t specific to OpenSolaris which is confusing.

6 thoughts on “My Experience with OpenSolaris (NV build 82)

  1. There are no SXCE patches, since a new build comes out every 2 weeks. You can, however, use LiveUpgrade. You basically upgrade the system from the ISO, Live, and you end up with 2 (ore more) environments. You can fallback to the original one in case the upgrade fails. Beats having to burn ISO’s anywho.

    http://unixsadm.blogspot.com/2007/08/liveupgrade-sxce.html

    There are also OpenSolaris based distributions (Nexenta or Indiana) that do have upgrade packages. Though personally, I’d rather use SXCE.

  2. Out of curiosity, why Solaris?

    I’ve been using Solaris for more than a decade, but I find it increasingly hard to justify keeping it around (instead of Linux, Ubuntu specifically). Especially now that 10.5 has DTrace support.

  3. Josh – you could try using Project Indiana, which uses IPS and has package repositories (ala Debian/Ubuntu). It’s upgrade path is somewhat easier. I actually prefer using Nevada w/ LiveUpgrade as Mihai mentioned. Derek Crudginton has a great/concise tutorial here:

    http://hell.jedicoder.net/?p=39

    It’s quite easy to setup – gives you an easy fallback in case of failure, and let’s you have the freedom to experiment on one LU environment while keeping the other around (if you load BFU archives, etc.)

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