April 27, 2010, 5:47 PM — 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.
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)
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.
Boot time for OpenSolaris is pretty fast. I didn’t notice any lengthy delays or other annoying slowness.
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.
Package Manager is the tool used to manage software in OpenSolaris. You can access it by simply clicking the Add More Software icon on your desktop. Application categories are broken down into the following categories:
Configuration and Preferences
Graphics and Imaging
Panels and Applets
Plug-ins and Run-times
Sound and Video
The lack of sound was a big problem and I ended up googling to find out a solution to it. I found a helpful blog entry with links to the Open Sound System site where I was able to download the drivers. The blog entry also had a link to a PDF that contained install instructions.
So, after a little bit of work, I was able to get sound working fine on my OpenSolaris system. None of it really should have been necessary though. Sound should work by default as it does for most Linux distros.
As I noted earlier, OpenSolaris was an unexpected and pleasant surprise. It’s easy to install and ran very well for me. The biggest drawbacks I ran into were sound problems and lack of flash in Firefox. Both problems were solvable and my overall experience with OpenSolaris was quite good. It was pretty quick and seemed very stable to me. I didn’t run into problematic crashes or anything else that significantly impacted my experience with it.