Occasionally I get an interesting, off-the-beaten-path suggestion on the Request A Review page. This time around somebody suggested doing a review of OpenSolaris. Why do a review of OpenSolaris? Well why the heck not? It’s always fun to check out a different kind of desktop operating system. Sometimes you can find an unexpected jewel when you least expect it. Is OpenSolaris a jewel? I’ll try to answer that question in this review.
If you aren’t familiar with OpenSolaris, here’s a little background from Wikipedia:
OpenSolaris is an open source operating system based on Solaris created by Sun Microsystems, now a part of Oracle Corporation. It is also the name of the project initiated by Sun to build a developer and user community around it.
OpenSolaris is derived from the Unix System V Release 4 codebase, with significant modifications made by Sun since it bought the rights to that code in 1994. It is the only open source System V derivative available. Open sourced components are snapshots of the latest Solaris release under development. Sun has announced that future versions of its commercial Solaris operating system will be based on technology from the OpenSolaris project.
What’s New In This Release
Here’s a sample of the new stuff in OpenSolaris 2009.06:
Time Slider Snapshot Management (take snapshots of your home directory)
Codeina (install additional media plug-ins)
Elisa (free and open source media center)
Time Tracker (panel application that lets you keep track of your time)
IPS Improvements (reduction in memory use, fat packages)
Package Manager Improvements (better start-up performance and user experience)
Better Hardware Support (SPARC, Nehalem)
Hardware Requirements & Installation
There are only a couple of requirements listed on the OpenSolaris system requirements page:
Memory: 512MB (768MB recommended)
Disk Space: 3.2GB (7GB or higher recommended)
I opted to give it 10GB of disk space and 1GB of RAM. It ran very well for me with those hardware specs.
I wasn’t expecting much as far as installing OpenSolaris, but I was pleasantly surprised. Very pleasantly surprised, indeed.
The OpenSolaris installer is extremely easy to use and the install itself takes very little time (about 15 minutes or so). Frankly, I expected the install routine to be at least partly a headache but that wasn’t the case at all. It was better than some of the Linux distros I’ve installed over the years and certainly no worse than installing Windows.
Once the install is complete you can continue using the Live CD desktop or reboot if you want to run the installed version. I prefer the better performance of the installed version so I opted to reboot and leave the Live CD desktop. Not that the Live CD desktop was bad, but having it installed usually results in significant performance gains.
Booting & Login
Boot time for OpenSolaris is pretty fast. I didn’t notice any lengthy delays or other annoying slowness.
The bootsplash screen is simple and effective. You can opt to type ‘e’ to edit the commands before booting or ‘c’ to get to a command line.
The login screen is also simple. You can change your language or choose your session.
OpenSolaris uses GNOME 2.24 for its desktop environment.
The first thing you notice when booting into your OpenSolaris desktop is the blue wallpaper with the OpenSolaris logo. The desktop isn’t cluttered but there are a few icons on it:
Add More Software
If you haven’t used OpenSolaris before, it’s a good idea to click the Start Here icon. You’ll find some helpful links that will get you up to speed on OpenSolaris.
If you’ve used GNOME before then you’ll feel right at home in OpenSolaris. Click the Applications menu at the top left to get started. Applications are laid out in the usual categories:
Sound & Video
There are also menus for Places and System stuff as well in the upper left corner of your desktop. You’ll also find icons for Home, Firefox, Thunderbird, Package Manager and Terminal.
In the upper right corner of your desktop there is an icon you can click to update your system with Update Manager. One of the first things I did was to update mine and I had no problem downloading or installing my system updates.
Here’s a sample of the software included in this release.
Five or More
Digital Camera Browser