With OpenSolaris and derivatives such as illumos, we gained the ability to build a whole IT infrastructure in a single box, using virtualized networking (crossbow) to build the underlying network and then attaching virtualized systems (zones) atop virtualized storage (zfs). Some of this was present in Solaris 10, but it didn’t have crossbow so the networking piece was a bit tricky (although I did manage to get surprisingly far by abusing the loopback interface). In Tribblix, I’ve long had the notion of a router or proxy zone, which acts as a bridge between the outside world and a local virtual subnet. For the next release I’ve been expanding that into something much more flexible and capable. I’m continuously impressed by the work Peter Tribble is putting into Tribblix. Maintaining a distribution of something like OpenSolaris is hard enough as it is, but to then also add various unique functions and capabilities, while also maintaining support for SPARC, is just amazing.
OmniOS Community Edition r151048 has been released. For those of us that lost track of the Solaris world – OmniOS is a distribution of illumos, which in turn is a fork of the last release of OpenSolaris before Oracle did what Oracle does and screwed everyone over by taking Solaris closed source again. OmniOS focuses on being a server operating system. For this release, the userland is now built with gcc 13, and it contains various improvements for AMD Zen 4 support. The which command has been replaced by an implementation in C rather than csh, dtrace has seen some improvements on machines with a lot of CPUs, and so, so much more.
ZFS was promised, and didn’t arrive. In fact, there were about 4 of us on the beta program who saw the original zfs implementation, and it was quite different from what we have now. What eventually landed as zfs in Solaris was a complete rewrite. The beta itself was interesting – we were sent the driver, 3 binaries, and a 3-line cheatsheet, and that was it. There was a fundamental philosophy here that the whole thing was supposed to be so easy to use and sufficiently obvious that it didn’t need a manual, and that was actually true. (It’s gotten rather more complex since, to be fair.) Peter Tribble – long-time Solaris expert and creator of Tribblix – gives a gimpse into the earliest versions of ZFS, and just how different it was from the shipped release.
As you may already have noticed we have released new ISO and USB images for OpenIndiana Hipster some days ago. As usual we have received many updates via illumos-gate, eg. the latest Intel and AMD CPU microcode updates, the latest time zone changes and lots of enhancements for BHyVe and the internal SMB server. Does anybody still legitimately use any of the variants of Solaris? It certainly had a moment in the final days of Sun, but ever since Oracle got their hands on it it’s been pretty much strangled to death, it seems.
This is a 1990 Solbourne Computer S3000 all-in-one workstation based around the 33MHz Panasonic MN10501, irreverently code-named the Kick-Ass Processor or KAP. It is slightly faster than, and the S3000 and the related S4000 and later S4000DX/S4100 directly competed with, the original gangsta 1989 Sun SPARCstation and SPARCstation 1+. Solbourne was an early SPARC innovator through majority owner Matsushita, who was a SPARC licensee in competition with Fujitsu, and actually were the first to introduce multiprocessing to the SPARC ecosystem years before Sun themselves did. To do this and maintain compatibility, Solbourne licensed SunOS 4.x from Sun and rebadged it as OS/MP with support for SMP as well as their custom MMU and fixes for various irregularities in KAP, which due to those bugs was effectively limited to uniprocessor implementations. Their larger SMP systems used Fujitsu (ironically), Weitek and Texas Instruments CPUs; I have a Series5 chassis and a whole bunch of KBus cards Al Kossow gave me that I’ve got to assemble into a working system one of these days. And it turns out that particular computing environment was really the intersection point for a lot of early GUI efforts, which were built and run on Sun workstations and thus will also run on the Solbourne. With some thought, deft juggling of PATH and LD_LIBRARY_PATH and a little bit of shell scripting, it’s possible to create a single system that can run a whole bunch of them. That’s exactly what reykjavik, this S3000, will be doing. This is by far the coolest thing I’ve read and learned about in a long, long time. This is an amazing source of information and collection of screenshots and explanations.
This you don’t see every day – Oracle doing something fun and interesting. I’m very happy to announce that today we are releasing a new version of Oracle Solaris 11.4 for free/open source developers and non-production personal use. Today marks the first delivery of our “Common Build Environment” (CBE) releases for the Oracle Solaris 11.4.To enable us to make new features and fixes available quicker and to more systems Oracle Solaris now uses a continuous delivery model of SRU/micro releases rather than much larger minor releases every few years. Now, this isn’t a return to releasing Solaris as an open source product – something Oracle cancelled after acquiring Sun – but at least it provides enthusiasts with the ability to install an up-to-date version of Solaris. It’s all very typical Oracle though – you need an account, and as mentioned, this is only free for non-commercial use, and not open source. The reason for this move is probably to drum up some interest to get developers to port newer versions of popular open source tools to Solaris. Regardless, it might be a fun weekend for some of us.
Another 6 months have passed and we are proud to announce the release of our 2021.10 snapshot. The images are available at the usual place. As usual we have automatically received all updates that have been integrated into illumos-gate. The new images are interesting for people with newer hardware that hasn’t been supported in the past. There is no necessity to re-install from newer images as OpenIndiana Hipster is a rolling release and will bring all updates with a simple call of “pfexec pkg update -v”. That’s all there’s to it, as there are no further details or release notes at this point, and I’m not well-versed enough in the world of Solaris and OpenIndiana and similar offshoots to provide more details myself.
A great intro to a classic platform by way of emulation and optionally even adapting a real physical keyboard: Back in the late 80s and through the 90s, Unix workstations were super powerful, super cool, and super expensive. If you were making 3D graphics or developing applications, you wanted a high-performance workstation and Sun made some of the best ones. But unless you worked for a huge company, university, or government, they were probably too expensive. More than twenty years later, we have much more powerful and affordable computers, so let’s emulate the old systems and see what it was like to run some of the coolest computers you could buy in the 90s. This is another in the series from the same author as the recently linked virtual NeXT machine, that also includes an entry for a virtual BeBox to experience BeOS.
After another 6 months have passed we are proud to announce the release of our 2021.04 snapshot. The images are available at the usual place. As usual we have automatically received all updates that have been integrated into illumos-gate. The major changes are new versions of Firefox and Thunderbird, multiple NVIDIA drivers to choose from, and a lot more. For those unaware, OpenIndiana is a distribution of illumos, which in turn is the continuation of the last open source Solaris version before Oracle did what it does best and messed everything up.
Solaris is still a thing, even though it’s now developed by a company nobody likes and seems to have lost all of the momentum among enthusiasts, so much so that I doubt anyone will even really care about this news item. Oracle released Solaris 11.4 almost three years ago, and is still updating it with monthly updates. Solaris 11.4 SRU30 is the latest one, released on 16 February. The update consists mainly of updates from upstream packages, but there seems to be little in the way of new features or big improvements. For those, we have to most likely wait until Solaris 11.5 or 12.0, if Oracle ever makes it that far with the formerly open source operating system that they closed back up.
The first step in my crazy experiment to see if you can turn a Sun SPARC server into a workstation has been completed. Thanks to an incredibly generous donation by Jon Rushton, a reader from the UK, I’m now in possession of a SunFire V245 server (I did pay for shipping, of course). The machine has some serious specifications: Two UltraSPARC IIIi 1.5Ghz processors 8 GB of DDR1 RAM Two SAS hard drives (73GB and 140GB) Sun Raptor GFX graphics card (to be replaced by a Sun Quadro FX 3450) The machine has plenty of room for expansion, as well as the usual server features like dual power supplies, lots and lots of fans that no doubt will be incredibly loud, hot-swappable drive bays, remote management ports, and so on. Since I’m still waiting on a few more accessories I needed to purchase in order to setup and use the server – a USB serial console cable and the aforementioned more powerful GPU – I can’t turn it on and use it quite yet. While we wait on those accessories to be delivered, I figured I might as well post a story in the meantime with a bunch of photos of the server. I have a lot of learning to do here, since the server world is not a place I have ever really visited. I’m going to make stumbles along the way, but the end goal is for this server to be a usable workstation – most likely running either Linux or BSD. I can’t wait to get started.
I don’t do this very often, but I’m turning to you, lovely reader, with a rather strange, obscure, and possibly entirely stupid question. As part of the first major OSNews Patreon project, I’m looking to buy and write several articles about one of the last proper UNIX workstations, and two companies immediately come to mind – SGI and Sun. Since I’m already halfway familiar with Sun’s hardware, and since their machines are more readily available, I’ve opted to look for a proper Sun SPARC workstation. The last true Sun UNIX workstation was the Sun Ultra 45, available with either one or two UltraSPARC IIIi processors. While these 15 year old machines are certainly readily available on eBay, they also happen to command what I think are crazy prices – the dual processor model, which is really the one you should want, goes for about €1200, which is far too pricey for what you get, and that’s excluding shipping, which often adds another several hundred dollars (and possible import taxes, to boot). However, do you know what type of SPARC machines are not crazy expensive, and far newer, faster, and more modern to boot? That’s right – decommissioned Oracle and Fujitsu SPARC servers. There’s tons of videos and articles out there about people buying decommissioned dual or more Xeon servers, slapping a modern graphics card in them, and use them as impractical, slow, and loud workstations or gaming machines. Basically, I want to do the same – buy something like a Sparc T4-1 server, slap some compatible GPU in it somewhere, and use it as a more impractical, slower, and louder workstation. For science. My question is simple. Is it possible to do this, and if so, how on earth would I find out which GPU is even compatible with Solaris or Linux on SPARC? There seems to be very little information available about this use case (I wonder why) and I’m at a loss as to how to figure something like this out. And yes, I know this is stupid. I know this makes no sense. I know no sane person would do this. I know the world will lose nothing if I do not do this. However, if nobody wants to make proper non-x86 UNIX workstations anymore and eBay sellers want to charge a ridiculous premium for 15 year old junkers, why don’t we just build our own non-x86 UNIX workstation? The Wrights brothers didn’t listen to all the haters, and considering this project would make about as much noise as a passenger jet, why should I? And wouldn’t you want to be part of this crazy journey? I mean, do you know anyone else crazy enough to even entertain a ridiculous, impractical, and stupid idea such as this? I thought so.
One of the interesting capabilities of Solaris zones was the ability to run older versions of Solaris than that in the global zone. Marketing managed to mangle this into Containers, and it was supported for Solaris 8 and Solaris 9. I used this extensively on one project, to lift a whole datacenter of ancient (yes, really ancient) Sun servers into zones on a couple of T5240s. Worked great. Ah yes, Solaris. One of Larry Ellison’s many, many casualties. Tribblix is a Solaris distribution that should feel familiar to longtime Solaris users, but with a set of modern packages on top.
One of the weirdest times in computing was during the mid-90s, when the major RISC vendors all had their own plans to dominate the consumer market and eventually wipe out Intel. This was a time that led to overpriced non-x86 systems that intended to wipe out the PC, Windows NT being ported to non-x86 platforms, PC style hardware paired with RISC CPUs, Apple putting the processor line from IBM servers into Macs, and Silicon Graphics designing a game console for Nintendo. While their attempts worked wonders in the embedded field for MIPS and the AIM alliance, quite a few of these attempts at breaking into the mainstream were total flops. Despite this, there were some weird products released during this period that most only assumed existed in tech magazine ads and reviews. One such product was Solaris for PowerPC. Now Solaris has existed on Intel platforms for ages and the Illumos fork has some interesting ports including a DEC Alpha port, but a forgotten official port exists for the PowerPC CPU architecture. Unlike OS/2, it’s complete and has a networking stack. It’s also perhaps one of the weirdest OSes on the PowerPC platform. I love machines from this era. There’s some seriously weird hardware from that time floating around eBay for serious prices.
OpenIndiana Hipster 2020.04 has been released. All OpenIndiana system software was rewritten in Python 3. Installation images now don’t deliver Python 2.7 interpreters or libraries, however some software still requires Python 2.7. We’ve moved to GCC 7 as the default compiler. OpenIndiana Hipster is a rolling release distribution of illumos, which in turn traces its roots back to OpenSolaris. The original intent of illumos was to replace the closed source parts of OpenSolaris with open source ones, but after Oracle discontinued OpenSolaris, illumos grew into a full-blown fork of OpenSolaris.
We’ve just released SRU 20 for Oracle Solaris 11.4, the April 2020 CPU. It is available via ‘pkg update’ from the support repository or by downloading the SRU from My Oracle Support Doc ID 2433412.1. The administrator of my organisation needs to supply me with a Support Identifier before I can do something as simple as read the documentation about this new version, so I have no idea what to tell you. I guess Solaris technically isn’t dead yet?
A few weeks back I managed to pick up an incredibly rare laptop in immaculate condition for $50 on Kijiji: a Tadpole Technologies SPARCbook 3000ST from 1997 (it also came with two other working Pentium laptops from the 1990s). So, what makes this the coolest laptop of the 1990s? I used to long for a Tadpole SPARC laptop about 15 years ago, when they came with dual processor models. Amazing technology.
"Oracle today announced Oracle Solaris 11.1, delivering over 300 new performance and feature enhancements to the Oracle Solaris 11 product family." This stuff goes way over my head.
If you have ever administered Sun machines, updates were a big part of your work. In the past, information about them were available on SunSolve, the Sun support website, to help sysadmins sort everything out. SunSolve has been decomissioned by Oracle and its replacement hasn't received a warm welcome from the Solaris community due in large part to technologies used (Flash,...). We Sun Solve was created to avoid this problem.
The OpenIndiana project has been officially announced. OpenIndiana is part of the Illumos foundation and a community distribution which aims to to continue OpenSolaris, previously shut down by Oracle. Some details of the announcement were published on c0t0d0s0.org.