OpenSolaris 2008.05

I’m a big fan of Solaris. But maybe my expectations for OpenSolaris’ Project Indiana are too high…

My idea of Project Indiana was that the final product would be something like a Debian for Solaris. I mean… they’ve got Ian Murdock and stuff 🙂 .

So, what is good, what is bad?

Let’s sum up the good things first:

  • The driver diagnostics tool is an awesome idea. I don’t know why this isn’t part of any better live system. It shows you exactly what devices will work and where you’ll expect trouble. In my case I was a little puzzled that my cheap-ass SATA II RAID controller on my ASUS main-board worked out of the box but my PCI IDE controller didn’t/doesn’t.
  • Familiar programs, easy migration: SUN doesn’t leave you in the cold, the familiar programs of your run-of-the-mill GNOME desktop are also present in OpenSolaris. Furthermore, the GNU userland tools are available (thank goodness!) and the shell du jour is BASH 🙂 .
  • I love the way you administer and control services. svcadmin is such a powerful tool. Haven’t worked much with it since I don’t have to tinker with the configuration, though.
  • If there’s KDE, that’s a good sign. 3.5.8 could be running on my machine… but I’d have to get it through the package management first (what an ordeal!).
  • All the ZFS goodness makes my heart all warm and fuzzy. For every negative point I’ll list in a few lines… just scroll up to read about ZFS again. It makes up for so much (especially since the performance is worlds apart from ZFS on Fuse [which I love a lot!]).

The problem with OpenSolaris is that it is relatively immature. So, without further ado:

  • pkg performance is abysmal. This is my biggest complaint. I wanted to install Mplayer, which should be a rather trivial task. I ended up downloading the sourcecode and building it manually because that actually saved me time. Remember: If building the application takes longer than installing it through the package system your package system is flawed. This needs to be fixed ASAP, it’s not about the GUI or whatever, fix the CLI tool!
  • Did I mention that searching software with pkg was abysmal as well? It deserves it’s own bullet because searching is just as painful as watching the software do nothing. Why can’t I search in all repositories at once, for pete’s sake?
  • The installer took half an eternity to evaluate my disks. Maybe it doesn’t like mdraid?
  • Improve your GRUB support, SUN! I already had GRUB, I read in your documentation that you would just overwrite it without asking me for my consent… but still. Make it an option, at least. And when you detect Windows, why don’t you detect Linux? Ah wait, that’s a GRUB problem… 😉
  • I couldn’t seem to get the partition part of the installer to work properly, had to create a partition manually and overwrite it through the installer. Creating new partitions resulted in a error message.
  • What the hell? No support for NTFS by default? Are you joking? Installing some extra program from the repositories is no option for me (because it’s just a pain to use pkg).

So, overall… what’s the verdict? I love Solaris. I did before, I do now. There are flaws, that’s to be expected. I was really stunned by the repository of drivers that is shipping with OpenSolaris now. When I tested Nexenta last year many components didn’t work — now they perform flawlessly. I somehow feel I can’t always name ZFS as my favorite feature (gosh, I love ZFS, did I mention it’s the default filesystem in Solaris now?) so I’ll go with something else I found really attractive: OpenSolaris has a certain pure UNIX feel to it. With Linux you have all your kinky tools and graphical frontends to control your system, OpenSolaris – in contrast – has absolutely great CLI tools that did the job just as good (even better?). I can’t say anything about usage or administrative tasks on servers but for desktop machines the system quickly catches up to Linux. Don’t ask me what I consider a pure feeling, it’s probably something gross to you 😉 .

So… throw in improved package management and keep building packages — and you’ll have yourself a winner, SUN. But until then… I’ll stick with Linux.

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The fool's herald.

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