Tuesday, May 6, 2008

OpenSolaris, or How I Learned To Stop Fearing Virtual OSes and Installed Sun's New Solaris System

Tonight I spent a few hours with OpenSolaris, Sun Microsystem's newest Unix offering aimed at developers. Just to be all technical about it, I installed the system on my Intel iMac using VirtualBox (my first, EXTREMELY positive experience with this application, also from Sun); 1 GB of system RAM and 16 GB of HDD space were delegated to it. My previous experience with Linux/Unix/BSD includes Slackware, Red Hat, FreeBSD, Debian, and Arch Linux, so I'm pretty comfortable with getting down-and-dirty when I need to. I took a lot of screenshots, so bear with my over-enthusiasm for pretty pictures.

The first thing I did was boot into the LiveCD just to get a feel for how this system was going to work for me. Although it booted slowly (to be expected with a virtual emulator I suppose), I was eventually greeted with an extremely clean, appealing Gnome desktop. I have never been a huge fan of Gnome (I'm more of a Fluxbox user myself, I love ultra-clean), but I have to admit I was very impressed with the desktop.

Here's a shnazzy shot of it running on my Mac!

I didn't mess much with the LiveCD, more because I was already planning to install the OS on my hard drive, so I didn't get a chance to explore how the LiveCD saves (or doesn't) live sessions. I do, however, want to note that I couldn't get the wireless working even though it obviously recognized my card. Another odd issue was with my sound card...not exactly necessary right now, but since my passion is game dev, this could quickly become an annoying issue.

Anyway, now for the real fun: the installation!

Unlike every other Linux OS I've ever installed this installation was a dream...if I remember correctly I went through maybe 3 screens total, and the next thing I knew the system was happily installing on my computer, as shown in the picture. I'd complain again about the speed, but it's easily the fastest Linux install I've ever had, so forget I even mentioned it.

After rebooting I set to work getting the system ready for my awesome coding skills, which basically includes making sure C++, Java, and a nice IDE are installed. Somehow my internet magically started working as soon as I booted, which was a nice surprise, because I'm very sick of having to configure my internet on Linux systems. Just saying. Unfortunately the sound didn't automagically fix itself, and I'm hoping getting it to work without too much hassle. I also noticed that CDs and DVDs didn't seem to be mounted...though honestly I'm not sure if this is an issue with the OS itself or one with VirtualBox...another thing to explore at a later time.

The one thing that did strike me as very odd was the fact that the GNU C/C++ compilers weren't pre-installed. However, this gave me a chance to explore the Package Manager. Overall package management is set up very similar to Debian, definitely a good thing because I felt that the package management was the main area where Debian shined.

The two applications I immediately downloaded were Netbeans (hands down my favorite IDE), and, more out of curiosity, Sun Studio Express (through the ss-dev package), an IDE I had not heard about until now, but which I quickly realized was just Netbeans with a focus on C/C++/Fortran.

Obligatory command-line shot, with both Netbeans and Sun Studio Express installed!

Overall I was deeply impressed with this system. I'm looking forward to spending more time with it and trying some real development projects. Although initially I was unsure whether I'd even bother keeping it installed on my Mac, since I have it set up for dev work as well as an Arch Linux and a FreeBSD system, the speed with which I managed to set up Solaris with some powerful dev tools has convinced me to work with this system regularly in my coursework.


Nathan said...

Why do you have Facebook up in the background? It makes your screen shots look cluttered. Just some interesting things I noticed. You said you had problems with the sound and the wireless, but were surprised to see the Internet worked on the first try? Ubuntu is a very clean distro based off Debian, and I've never had any issues with sound cards or networking. Haven't convinced me to switch yet.

HappyCodeMonkey said...

Facebook is in the background because I was doing things on my Mac OS while writing this. Now that you point it out it does look cluttered....oh well.

The wireless problem was just flat out weird, on the LiveCD I had no luck getting internet to work, though admittedly I was planning to install it anyway so I wasn't going to worry about it until then. I install it and it worked. Magically, as it should have.

Sound...no clue, still don't. I chalked it up to Mac hardware; I didn't have time or desire to work on it because I have another desktop as my main Linux distro, and I have OS X running behind it, so no reason to mess with it.

I've tried both Ubuntu and Debian, I agree, they're very clean distros. I mainly needed a nice Linux environment for my Mac when I went out of town, and this happened to fill this need.

Felix said...

Just as a note, sound rarely works in VirtualBox from my experience, so it's not so much an OpenSolaris problem as it is Virtual Box. As for the Ubuntu note, while it may have been a nice process for nathan above, when I installed it on my laptop the sound did not work no matter what I tried, and wireless networking took more than a few hoops to jump through before working. Both capable systems, but I'd go with OpenSolaris for now.

private said...

With any virtual machine, sound needs to be enabled for the virtual machine itself before it can work with the installed operating system. On VirtualBox, highlight your installation, click 'Machine', 'Settings', 'Audio', and check 'Enable Audio'.

HappyCodeMonkey said...

Thanks both Felix and private for your comments, they were very helpful. I will say that I attempted to enable sound in my VM, and tried both sound cards available, but the system still doesn't recognize my device; it says I don't have correct drivers installed. Since this has been brought up quite a bit I'm going to work on it and try to post an answer. Thanks again!