Tip of the Trade: OpenSolaris liveCD
Eager admins who want to give OpenSolaris a try are faced with a rather daunting installation process. One option is to use BeleniX, the excellent OpenSolaris bundle that comes on a live CD with a lot of useful extras, including the KDE and XFCE desktop environments, GNU tools, multimedia applications, and many other free/open source applications that Linux users take for granted but aren't commonly found in the old-time Unix world. BeleniX runs from the CD for an easy, no-install test drive, and it also comes with an option to install it to your hard drive. Want to test drive OpenSolaris but don't want to deal with the convoluted installation? OpenSolaris liveCD from the OpenSolaris team streamlines the process and brings a raft of add-ons from the GNU/Linux world.
And now there is a second option, an OpenSolaris liveCD from the OpenSolaris team itself. This is the result of Project Indiana, which is Sun's codename for the OpenSolaris binary distribution project. This also comes with a raft of add-ons from the GNU/Linux world: the Gnome desktop, Firefox and Thunderbird, GNU tools, and a lot of other good stuff. It includes the familiar old Solaris pkgadd command for managing Solaris packages, and a new package manager called Image Packaging System software (IPS). You get the shiny new ZFS filesystem, an improved updater, a friendly graphical installer, support for laptops, Containers, a Xen-enabled kernel and Virtualbox. You can run it from the live CD, and install it to hard disk from the live CD.
OpenSolaris still has a number of rough edges. The live CD currently supports only x86 hardware, but Sparc support is planned for later in 2008. The Project Indiana and OpenSolaris Web sites are marvels of convoluted navigation when you follow a link, you're often dumped into a new section of the site with no way to get back other than hitting the browser's back button. The sites are also marvels of unhelpful verbosity so many words, so little actual information, like they are products of Sun's marketing department. IPS seems to be an unnecessary re-invention of the wheel, and the package repository is rather sparsely populated at this point. In other words, if you're used to Linux's expansive hardware support, OpenSolaris may feel a bit confining, as it doesn't support nearly the number of devices and peripherals that Linux does.
Still, it's a friendly and easy way to try out OpenSolaris a good entry point for getting acquainted with a genuine five-nines high-powered Unix that is only going to get better. Visit Get OpenSolaris 2008.05 for downloads and information, and they will even mail you a CD if you like.
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