Thursday, November 01, 2007

A poke at Indiana

Well, never let it be said I can't be easily entranced by the New and Shiny. Especially if it's free. Which is why I downloaded the Project Indiana Developer Preview ISO ("Indiana") and then preceded to boot it on several machines within reach. This is just my initial impression of an OpenSolaris derivative, and can in no way be construed as a review. If you need something deeper then you can mosey over to Phoronix and read what they have to say about Indiana. You have been warned.


Of course the first machine I attempted to boot Indiana was poor suffering europa. It gets poked and prodded and pulled apart at the drop of a hat. Booting Indiana on it was no exception. This version of OpenSolaris booted the fastest of any I've booted to date. That's actually a good thing. Other derivations have taken longer to too long to boot into a graphical desktop.

What worked:
  • Oddly enough, the screen resolution. Using the ATI X1950 Pro video card, Indiana put up a readable screen resolution of 1920 x 1440. It also had reasonable performance considering it wasn't using the ATI drivers.
  • Gnome 2.20. All the applications I tested (and I did not test every single one) behaved the way I would expect, especially after exposure to Gnome on Ubuntu 7.10 and openSUSE 10.3.
  • Networking. It found my Intel gigabit Ethernet card and enabled it, giving me connectivity to the Web.
What didn't work:
  • Networking and sound on the nVidia nForce 2 chip set. I had to move a cable from the motherboard ethernet port to the Intel ethernet port. That's not to put down Indiana. Linux didn't support nForce 2 networking on my machine until I installed SuSE 10.0. I purchased that Intel network card to support SuSE Professional up to 9.3 when I purchased the motherboard.
  • Screen captures. For some strange reason I could not save a screen capture without getting an error saying it couldn't access the drive. Whatever.

Altair4 is one of my work systems. It's built around an Athlon 64 FX-55 processor with 4GB of RAM and an Asus A8N SLI Deluxe motherboard. It currently hosts Windows Server 2003 only.

What worked:
  • The screen. It came up in it's always-limited 1280 x 1024 resolution on the Samsung SyncMaster 740B LCD screen.
  • Nearly all the Gnome stuff as before.
  • Networking. It wouldn't at first until I reached around the back of the box and plugged the network cable into the RJ45 that allowed 'nge0' to be automatically brought up. This was the same event that occurred with europa. I have no idea what hardware is behind the nge0 interface.
  • USB. I was able to plug in and use a Kingston 4GB thumb drive for screen captures.
What didn't work:
  • Gnome network tool. A nice dialog popped up informing me it was disabled as long as 'nwam' was enabled. Rather than read a man page or two and poke at nwam, I just accepted it and moved on.
What follows are a few screen shots with comments taken from altair4.

The ubiquitous screen shot. There's an icon on the right for the Kingston thumb drive. I found out that I'm Jack to the system. I don't know Jack. What would you expect to be a part of a distribution based on Solaris and distributed by Sun? Would you say 'Java'? Guess again. Note to the Indiana developers: you might want to think about distributing the latest version of Java, Java 6, with your next release, and to make sure it's available on the Live CD. After all, Sun owns Java and can do that. Even Linux distributions are shipping it now.

Finally, a comment about fonts. The default fonts on the opening web page are pretty crappy. According to the Firefox preferences panel the default font is Times. Yuck. I changed them to the various Bitstream fonts to get something that looked halfway decent and was far easier to read.

Speaking of fonts I decided to turn on subpixel smoothing (Appearance Preferences | Fonts tab). When I clicked the radio button I got the charming little dialog you see above. Now, I've gotten read the riot act in the past when using Ubuntu and selecting 'non-free' codecs and video drivers, but nothing when I selected subpixel smoothing. *sigh* I don't know what to say; draw your own conclusions, but keep them to yourself.

The End

Not much more to say. From a purely technical perspective I have to admit I'm impressed. Trying to install, let alone run, Solaris/OpenSolaris in the past has never been this easy. It's literally handed to you on a silver platter. But from a practical bent I have to ask 'why bother'? I'm not too crazy about Linux right now and I sure would like an alternative to Windows. The other 'real' Unixes, the *BSDs, are better supported driver-wise than OpenSolaris is right now.

It is, of course, quite unfair to judge Indiana on a Developer Preview. I admit that. But the next releases are really going to have to jump out and grab you by your lapels so to speak to really grab mind-share for itself. If nothing else it's worth the time and effort to download and test boot their distributions. It remains to be seen if it's worth the effort to install it and leave it on once it's installed.


This marks my 400th post. I don't know if that means anything, except I've written 400 somethings on this particular blog. Your Mileage May Vary.

1 comment:

  1. sparked my interest, a bit. at first, i thought you were going "poke" fun at the state of indiana. since i live in indy, i was going to have to jump into the conversation. actually, my wife and i are thinking about leaving the state so you can say anything you want about it. :)

    i've been using FreeBSD for quite a number of years and it gets better and better with each new release. you should give it a try. personally, i like it better that linux and it blows the pants off of anything microsoft will put out.


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