10 April 2012

What other open source operating systems???

I use Linux! I like using Linux! Based on my experience I think I can pretty evangelically profess the reasons for the choice that I have made! Of course I have weighed the pros against the cons of it and reached a subjective value used against other operating systems. Open Source is important for me so closed sourced operating systems are disqualified. But that doesn't seal the deal for Linux. There are other open sourced operating systems that compete for the attention of the community, and for mine. One of them is the BSD Unix branch that has several distributions who use the GNU applications we know and love on Linux. FreeBSD is an operating system I know and love and use, granted pfSense and freeNAS are just appliances based on it but they are awesomeness itself! We also have the BeOS based haiku which is still immature but as interesting as hell. I have tried and evaluated these operating systems and made a choice. Today I found one I haven't considered, OpenIndiana ! OpenIndiana is forked from OpenSolaris and uses the illumos kernel. I haven't read anything about it before sitting down to write this blog post so this will be a first impressions post.


openindiana
KBD layout and language selection
I do most of my testing in VirtualBox which from entering the name 'openindiana' already knows what I'm about to do, but unfortunately doesn't set "Use host I/O cache" which the openindiana people say is required. It automatically selects Solaris as the OS and the version as 10 10/09 and later. System requirements are reasonable with 512MB of RAM minimal and 768MB recommended, but ram is always the more the merrier. Hard disk space requirements are 2GB for text based and 4GB for a gui desktop install. Booting the live DVD presents you with 47 different keyboard layouts and 22 languages so it gets massive points for user-friendliness and multilingual support. Next it asks about a login and password. I tried to leave empty, nothing. Then, tried root and empty password, again nothing!

gnome 2.3, classic
GNOME 2.3 on openindiana
Tried root / toor and the GUI popped out. But I am pretty sure I was supposed to just wait. The UI itself is unresponsive and sluggish in the virtual machine but I will write this off as my computer not being up to the task. When trying 'su' in the terminal, root and toor don't cut it and I have no idea what the super user password is. I will try to install it, simply because the live-dvd experience isn't usable compared to what I am used to on Linux. The install process is very nice. Shiny and self explanatory and actually much like the live-install processes of some Linux distributions. It has a 7 step wizard that asks for whatever needs to be set for the installation, things like the partition layout, time zone, locale specific and user information. Nothing that actually needs explaining but nicely done, post install you just reboot. Booting from the hard drive goes to the familiar GRUB boot loader which is awesome, but then it loads for like 5~10 min. which isn't! Once booted it just stops at a CLI and waits at a console login prompt. I loged in and entered 'startx' to start X. Then I got a nice slick GUI to login again, so I did, again. The Gnome 2.3 desktop works much better after the install compared to the live media experience, and that is a big fail because some people will be put off and not install at all.

live install program
Install process
First order of business after an install is to update. I select update manager from the administration menu, enter the root password and wait... And then I wait some more. I clicked the package manager and entered the root password again and again nothing. No messages, no nothing. So I open a terminal and write 'su' to see if i misspelled the password or something and it comes back with "Password for user 'root' has expired"! How was I supposed to know that, there was no warning and no information and no help? I entered a new password and behold, now I can open the Package Manager. I shouldn't comment on how slow the package manager works because it is in a virtual machine, but I run all sorts of things in a virtual machine and this is slow by virtual machine on my computer's standards. By the gods, I swear that if this keeps up I'm not going to make it to job tomorrow ( again )! Should I sacrifice something in the name of Cthulhu to get this thing to move, is there a cheat code that I need to enter somewhere? After the update it requires you to reboot, to use the updated version a new entry is created in GRUB, so I presume something changed in or around the kernel. Now we wait for it to reboot. Some error messages where on the CLI that lead me to believe that I shouldn't start X manually. This time it loaded for less than 5 min. and jumped straight into the GUI environment. With the updates installed it just works fine-ish. Let's take her for a spin around the web, we have Firefox 3.6 and the current one is 11.0 so we are dated! And there are no newer versions for OpenSolaris, Chrome is also unavailable. Flash can be downloaded from the adobe site and installed by copying the .so file in the /usr/lib/firefox/plugins/ directory, works. You can forget about HTML5 unless you compile a newer browser from source ( I guess ). In the hope of getting some more performance I decided to install the VirtualBox guest additions, the install runs automagically and just works. After the restart the whole system is much better, works fine (bit better than fine-ish)!

Otherwise looking through the available packages I feel like using Fedora 12 on a ppc machine, it is like being in a package deprived desert. This can be explained by the simple fact that it is an unpopular platform, we can't complain because it is sort of early days for it. This release is from September 2011, but the software is older than that. One package that is cutting edge and can be used is VirtualBox, or at least it should be if I could manage to install it, but it doesn't want to install. If they are going to market this as OpenSolaris it should be able to run Solaris packages, otherwise what is the point? I will wait for the next release and try this interesting thing on real hardware. For now it probably can appeal to Solaris people but it offers nothing to a Linux user. Don't walk away from this post thinking it is bad or something. I actually like it. I can see myself using it for one purpose or another, but it needs work. I will put it in the same box as haiku, even if the expectation from an OpenSolaris based operating system is higher than a BeOS based one. The main problem is software support, but this is covered by GNU, somebody needs to compile and package. This has the potential of being something really nice in the future.