Friday, November 7, 2008

OpenSolaris 2008.11 pre-release, The year of the laptop?!

I've always been a Unix junkie, of course mostly running Linux for a decade now, but Solaris is starting to look more and more like a real modern option. We use a lot of opensolaris at $dayjob mostly just because of its wonderful filesystem zfs. I have to say that I am excited about opensolaris much more than I ever was with Solaris proper! With older releases, the non GNU userland was just simply painful and by my "sense" pretty stupid in many ways. Most of the pain is now gone with the new opensolaris releases. Since the release of opensolaris 2008.11 is pretty close (well it's November now already), I decided to snatch the pre-release iso and take it for a spin on my HP Pavilion 6700 laptop!

Visiting to download the iso file, I snatched the file which was significantly more than 700MB, so I had to burn that to DVD. The opensolaros 2008.11 iso is both a Live DVD that is also installable. That is sweet, as I can run opensolaris now directly from the live DVD and install latter if I want. Starting the DVD was easy, just pop it in, BIOS boots chooses DVD. Afterwards you stare at a GRUB screen, I simply chose the default option and let it boot the GUI environment. You get asked for keyboard layout and language, I just hit "enter" for the defaults (US/English). More than a minute later (booting is slow since it's using an optical drive), you get the GUI desktop. It's basically a Gnome envrionment.

Let's make sure we're really on opensolaris :)

jack@opensolaris:~$ cat /etc/release
OpenSolaris 2008.11 snv_100a X86
Copyright 2008 Sun Microsystems, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Use is subject to license terms.
Assembled 24 October 2008
jack@opensolaris:~$ uname -a
SunOS opensolaris 5.11 snv_100 i86pc i386 i86pc Solaris

As you can see the default desktop looks clean and is fairly attractive. After that I started the DDU (Device Driver Utility), a nice utility made by Sun to check your hardware compatibility level with opensolaris. I was of course expecting issues here as this is a recentish laptop bought only a couple of months ago and opensolaris' hardware support on generic x86 hardware not mention laptops is well, less than stellar to say the least. Or at least that was the impression I was under. I was however very positively impressed when the DDU said "Driver Problems: 0" and showed that there were drivers for every single piece of hardware in that laptop. That was actually nice!

Other nice touches as well, is the laptop's screen automatically started in the native 1280x800 mode, and was using the native (closed) nvidia driver

As you can see, life is not full of roses, the volume while works fine and audio generally is ok, however, it seems the volume bar can only control the "master" volume mixer! My Fedora10 rawhide shows a zillion volume bars for all of my hardware features (line in/out, headphones, pcm, ... etc). In general I felt the audio stack needed some work on opensolaris. I wish they'd put in an alsa compatibility layer, that should probably help porting applications. Another issue, was connecting to my WPA2 home network. At first the network applet was very stubborn and would not connect to my network. After a lot of clicking here and there and displaying dialogs which were asking for (username?!) and password for the wireless network, it somehow got connected. After that the connection seemed pretty stable.

Being on the Internet, I started Firefox 3.0.1, pretty solid and fast as usual. Gotta love open-source portable apps ;) Now is the time to put this OS to the test. Let's see if it's gonna let me on! It becomes quickly apparent that flash player is not installed by default. A quick visit to adobe, I download a tar file, uncompress it. There were no READMEs of any sort, just a couple of binary files. However creating a "plugins" directory under ~/.mozilla and copying those 2 files under it, seemed to have done the trick. I can now play youtube videos with no problems. Actually the whole video playback experience, and generally firefox seems faster and more responsive than under fedora. All in all, I'm very happy with the browsing experience.

Now I decided to go ahead and take a shot at crashing suspending my laptop! In order to test that, you will need to enable it by adding a line in /etc/power.conf:

S3-support enable

And then enter:

pfexec /usr/sbin/pmconfig

Afterwards, I could not find any GUI elements or commands to initiate a suspend! I hit the power button, and Gnome popped up a dialog asking what I wanted to do, I chose "Suspend" and a couple of seconds later, the laptop was suspended, with the power led blinking. I thought "sweet" .. It was pretty late, so I went to sleep, and thought I'll see if it wakes up (usually much harder) tomorrow. The next day, I open the lid, and boom, it starts back where it were! A fully successful (Hurraaay!) suspend/resume cycle, well I really did not expect that from opensolaris! Here is the relevant log part from /var/adm/messages

Nov 6 19:25:42 opensolaris genunix: [ID 535284 kern.notice] System is being suspended
Nov 6 19:25:44 opensolaris nvidia: [ID 702911 kern.notice] NOTICE: NVRM: RmPowerManagement: 4
Nov 6 19:25:44 opensolaris acpica: [ID 530733 kern.notice] NOTICE: acpica_ddi_setwake: could not evaluate _PRW
Nov 7 15:13:34 opensolaris last message repeated 9 times
Nov 7 15:13:34 opensolaris pcihp: [ID 709949 kern.notice] NOTICE: pcihp (pcie_pci0): card is inserted in the slot pcie1 (pci dev 0)
Nov 7 15:13:34 opensolaris genunix: [ID 358043 kern.warning] WARNING: ieee80211_crypto_enmic failed.
Nov 7 15:13:34 opensolaris mac: [ID 486395] NOTICE: iwk0 link down
Nov 7 15:13:34 opensolaris acpica: [ID 530733 kern.notice] NOTICE: acpica_ddi_setwake: could not evaluate _PRW
Nov 7 15:13:34 opensolaris last message repeated 1 time
Nov 7 15:13:36 opensolaris nvidia: [ID 702911 kern.notice] NOTICE: NVRM: RmPowerManagement: 5
Nov 7 15:13:36 opensolaris gnome-session[756]: [ID 702911 daemon.warning] WARNING: Could not ask power manager to suspend: Did not receive a reply. Possible causes include: the remote application did not send a reply, the message bus security policy blocked the reply, the reply timeout expired, or the network connection was broken.
Nov 7 15:13:36 opensolaris in.routed[474]: [ID 238047 daemon.warning] interface iwk0 to turned off
Nov 7 15:13:38 opensolaris /sbin/dhcpagent[2275]: [ID 967406 daemon.warning] refreshing state on iwk0
Nov 7 15:13:39 opensolaris genunix: [ID 583038 kern.notice] System has been resumed.

My conclusion at this point, is that opensolaris is now much more user friendly than it once was, it had no problems detecting my hardware and using it, most of the same applications I use on Linux are there for opensolaris as well. Support for laptops and suspend/resume is not that bad it seems (or I'm extremely lucky!). However, more work needs to be put into improving the audio stack, and other niceties like bluetooth. I suspect more hardware support is also necessary. All in all, using opensolaris as a desktop seems viable if you're coming from a Linux background at least. I still prefer Linux of course for the convenience and for knowing I can almost get anything done with it. However, I will keep a close eye on opensolaris. Overall, I am impressed not only with the current state of the system, but more so with the rate of progress that has been made!


corrosion said...

Well, I am sure that you will like *BSD. If you didn't try any *BSD, don't lose more time and start downloading :)
FreeBSD is, for me, the best one.

roboto2031 said...

that's sweet. i've been using using opensolaris since it came out. it's great to hear that it has made so many improvements.

matt said...

lol, downloading at this moment....i love linux, and since im only 12, am getting a head start on UNIX too

LiNuXaWy said...

OH, nice to see you blogging finally :)

the GNOME interface looks very sexy, they had it really good-designed. I like the logo and definitely it's completely unexpected to get OpenSolaris working on a decent laptop. I think I can give it a try on my MacBook and let's see if it's going to BOOOM! or not :)

Anonymous said...

I've been using Solaris and OpenSolaris on the desktop for ~3 years now...since the beginning of this year the improvements to OpenSolaris desktop/laptop usability has been absolutely phenomenal. Good luck with your OpenSolaris laptop!

Anonymous said...

i think it's natural in the volume control issue, this OS was designed originally for servers, and there is no much use of the specialized volume controls in a 'blind' and 'deaf' machine, but i expect that with some tuning and a wishlist request that issue could be resolved asap

Brent Jones said...

So this guy tests the Install process, running Firefox and navigating to Youtube, to find out he has to manually install Flash.
He then puts the laptop into suspend, with a successful resume.
Then he declares OpenSolaris the year of the laptop.

Am I missing something? Any additional unit testing? Benchmarks? Usability? Application availability?

Warning: I use OpenSolaris a lot as well, love it for the sake of some serious faults, but it does its job well. That job is NOT running on a laptop however. Good luck to the poor souls who try to use it as a daily driver.

Anonymous said...

Right now, OpenSolaris still comes with SADA as audio subsystem. For greater control, try Open Sound System.

There's a new project going on over at Sun called Boomer, which basically forked OSS, gutted the living shit out of it and is rebuilding it done better. The person in charge said that we might see first test bits this month, so we'll see.

Anonymous said...

Does the DVD run well? I remember running a developer preview that ran extremely slowly on fairly fast computers. What filesystem does the installer use? Can Opensolaris use usb sticks? I had problems with FreeBSD.

kim0 said...

It boots from DVD a bit slow (2 minutes?) but afterwards is fairly fast/ok. AFAIK, it uses ZFS for install. And I am struggling to install it on a USB disk as we speak ... there are still some issues in the rc though!

xRaich[o]²x said...

Got OpenSolaris on my Laptop as well.
I've been using the OpenSolaris Distro since it came out. Been a die hard Linuxuser for over a decade but Solaris is really lightyears ahead. Linux sure has a lot more drivers but when i started out with Linux i had a lot more driver issues than i have now with solaris and the gap is closing more and more. Solaris has technologies I don't want to miss anymore, dtrace, zfs and zones for example. the documentation is excellent (no howto can ever compete with it) and the killer features of solaris are so easy to use, it's a breeze.
Sure there are things that need to be done, but it's a project i really like spending my time for.

brahmix said...

Ok, except for Dtrace and ZFS- what is in it? Maybe KDE4? Support for RTL wireless? Wine? I dunno- seems like hype.

I'll stick to Ubuntu coz I have a laptop and not a server :-)

Done my gentoo time so I don't want to spend time on my OS anymore-Kubuntu just worked for me- and that is awesome- PLUS I can do all my UNIX C/C++ and Shell script development on it and ship it off to our production... Linux box :-) Love it.

L. S. said...

I used 2008.05, snv-86, on my desktop for a month when it was first released, but found it had too many issues for my purposes.

A week ago I upgraded from release snv-86 to snv-100a and was impressed by both the progress made and that the upgrade was largely trouble free.

Yesterday I upgraded again to snv-101a, which is the first release candidate for 2008.11 and most of my remaining problems were solved.

An X configuration problem for my login screen that won't go away. Perl remains broken for CPAN. Custom icons do not change with a theme change. Evolution won't play a wav file for email notification etc. etc. mostly small things, though the perl problem is not so small.

The release is noticeably faster the ubuntu linux 8.04 for most operations and speaking of linux; virtualbox + ubuntu linux is quick to install, and quick to run and largely transparent in seamless mode. I have one linux app that I need that doesn't run on opensolaris - yet, which runs perfectly in the VM.

Sound under oss is excellent as is video using mplayer and its codecs.

The rub is both these apps were only available from outside of the opensolaris distribution.

I installed them from blastwave on 2008.05 using pkgadd and not the new image packaging system.

Totem, because of a lack of day to day codecs is all but useless.

In the linux world, fedora and ubuntu, for example, have separate repositories that house these restricted codecs. Totem can install codecs as necessary from these repositories.

For now, opensolaris seems strongly opposed to this approach; it seems like their approach to the games shipped with gnome. Chess but no solitaire.

Whatever the reason, it creates a persuasive reason for users who play media not to use opensolaris.

The list of applications that ship or are in the pkg repository is small. If the community grows so will the number of applications, otherwise I expect opensolaris will become a niche and be reabsorbed into solaris proper.

On balance I'm switching to opensolaris from linux, but I'm a techie.

Normal people may find the day to day lacks of opensolaris compared Linux, Windows or Mac, hurdles, and the numerous technical advantages of the solaris platform of no interest.

Pity. Even the new york stock exchange doesn't seem to get it.

Justin said...

Regarding your comment about ALSA compatibility, I say absolutely not. The worst thing the OpenSolaris team can do is bring more cancer spreading funk to convolute the platform.

This is one of the plagues that is hurting Linux. I hope this gem doesn't go down that route.

dhuv said...

Can you talk about the battery life in OpenSolaris vs Windows or Linux on the same laptop doing pretty much the same thing?

Faryshta said...

Is that XFCE? Otherwise I will have to say. Thansk but no thanks.

lwm said...

One of the best reasons to use OpenSolaris is, as you said, ZFS. Were you aware the latest release of FreeBSD implements ZFS though so far on a beta basis?

Seriously, too many conventions in OpenSolaris are too different from Unix/Linux and I found myself floundering and/or stuck more often than I liked. Still, this is Sun's flagship product, and it has to be worthwhile to learn it.

onionbhajee said...

I've heard of ZFS, and you say its nice, but why? What is the difference between it and say, ext3? Is it a journaling FS?

kim0 said...

I'm a Linux addict, and trust me, zfs is light years ahead of ext3, or anything else linux has. The only currently present technology that can compete with zfs is netapp's WAFL

Abd4llA said...

Welcome on blogger ya Kimo, It's about time for a person who existed online since the birth of the internet to Blog :D
Surely I'm gonna try it, but my Linux Love is still aching :)

YD said...

Do they still provide CDE?

That's the one thing that could make me switch from Linux, provided my hardware is wholly supported.

Karim said...

Hi there folks,

DVD player:

What else can do an OpenSolaris laptop ?
- manage many boot environments with full roll-back :)
- live observation with Dtrace script of your kernel, php/JavaScripts/MySQL call that couold help you debug/improve your webstack based applications. There is GUI here
- run concurrently many servers (zones) that boot/shutdown in 2 seconds (with much less overhead that using concurrent full virtualized OS
- Time Slider implemented with ZFS autosnap shot => restore automatically what you deleted 2 months ago !!
- and more to come ;)


Wonderboy said...

I've really come to enjoy OpenSolaris. Their 2008.05 release was nice, although it had some pretty glaring flaws. From the reviews I've read, they seem to be pretty much ironed out, though.
I've been meaning to try out their latest release. I wonder, do they have packages for KDE 4.1/4.2 SVN yet? What about games?
In any case, I'll have to test these things out when I get home today.

Ahmed Kamal said...

Hi wonderboy,
Well, since most of the time I am a kde user as well, I was interested in kde4.1/4.2 as well. However, it seems it is not available yet (you can built it yourself, although not too easily). However, I know multiple devs are already working on it

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