OpenSolaris: Shows Promise, Needs Work

Last week, on my country’s Liberation Day, Sun released OpenSolaris 2008.05, the much awaited first official fruit of Project Indiana. It delivers many of OpenSolaris’ major features, such as DTrace, ZFS, containers, and more, in a Linux distribution-like package. The goal is to allow more people to experience Solaris. A few reviews have since hit the web.Ars Technica took a first look, and was moderately positive about the release. They very much liked the slick installation experience, which was never one of Solaris’ strong points (I repeatedly beat myself with a metal rod during Solaris 9 SPARC installs to ease the pain). According to Ars, the installation procedure is “painless, intuitive, and easily on par with Ubuntu and Fedora”. OpenSolaris boots into a live CD, and the installer can be launched from there.

Ars says that another good point is the clean GNOME theme used by 2008.05. The new theme, Nimbus, “has soft colors, smooth gradients, and a slightly bubbly look. It’s not as snazzy as Murrine, but it’s a nice improvement over Clearlooks and it beats the crap out of Ubuntu’s brown”. The GNOME installation is fairly default, albeit slightly outdated in some areas. In addition, it does not include anything Mono-related – a positive point for some, I’m sure.

Hardware-wise, there were some quirks, especially in the network area. Ars could not get OpenSolaris to connect to the network at all, which brings back bad memories on my end; getting the network up and running on Solaris 9 on my Ultra 5 was always utter hell, and I’ve more than once wanted to throw my Sun Type 5 keyboard through the window. And Sun aficionados will know how heavy a Type 5 is. Because Ars couldn’t get the network up and running, they were unable to properly test the new IPS package management system.

Ars concludes:

Although the OpenSolaris development community still has a lot of work to do before the operating system is ready to take on Linux on the desktop, the progress so far indicates that the project deserves further attention.

Another reviewer, our very own Kaiwai, tested 2008.05 on a Lenovo Thinkpad T61p, and concluded:

Apart from a few hick ups along the way, one has to acknowledge that OpenSolaris is, however, still work in progress. Although I would consider using OpenSolaris 2008.5, the problem is that the build which it relies on, B86, has a nasty bug which causes performance issues for those laptops with 4965 based wireless cards.

In light of the new release, ComputerWorld decided to interview Ian Murdock. The interview is quite interesting, but the following stands out. Upon asking which Murdock thinks is better, Debian or OpenSolaris, he answers:

I think they’re both good for different reasons. One of the advantages of Debian is it has a huge ecosystem of packages around it, so just about anything you could possibly want is just an app to get installed away. OpenSolaris has some of this functionality, like ZFS and D-Trace, that Debian – or no Linux distribution for that matter – has. So it all depends on the application environment.

Which happens to be a whole lot of wisdom and clarity put into a single answer. Something for us OSNews editors and readers to think about.


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