After nearly 3 years of doing a weekly post on the amazing diversity of the Linux OS and its many derivatives I wonder how I still keep stumbling across new and always interesting versions of the the Operating System kernel that got its start way back in 1991. This week though I take a bit of a turn away from the Pure Linux experience and visit a fork of one of my all time favorite OSes…OpenSolaris.
Released just a few days ago, this newly minted OS has a lot of updates and although the main page for OpenIndiana does not sport the existence of this OS yet, the considerable efforts to build a solid Wiki for the previous iteration of the OS will hopefully remain relevant to my installation and the subsequent evaluation of the OS.
It has been some time since I visited the world of anything related to OpenSolaris. I remember during my initial foray into the world of OpenSource I was a true download hound and would spend hours, downloading, installing, testing and then starting over until I found my one true love Ubuntu to rest my hat on while I really got a solid understanding of the world of OpenSource Operating Systems. Despite having tried all of the major flavors (BSD, Debian based, RPM Based, Solaris and even a few shades of pure Unix), there was something about OpenSolaris that caught my attention and an affinity that I felt to Sun Microsystems (I even interviewed for a position with them, and as I found out the person that I interviewed still remembers our 3 hour conversation that consumed an afternoon).
Installation took some configuring as when I first tried to boot into the ISO it gave an error about my BIOS Virtualization not being enabled???? So I took a bit of a quest to update and configure the BIOS and after updating everything and falling down a 45 minute rabbit hole of updates and restarts I was ready to jump into the installation.
The interesting thing about the install itself was the rather dated look of the installer, it needed me to set up a few things to prepare for the GUI installer (which actually added a substantial amount to the download – 1.2 GB over 690 MB). Once into the Gnome Desktop though, the simple process of configuring the install was a breeze as all of the inputs were setup in the front end of the install (Drive Partitioning, Root User and Primary User) and off to the races I went…except that it would appear that despite the considerable power of my main PC, the install was not exactly the Rabbit version of the Aesop Fable of the Tortoise and the Hare! The 40 minute installation takes me back to my frequent installs of Windows XP that would often start at night and then would still be chugging away when I would wake up in the morning!
Once the VirtualBox Virtual Machine was finally over its painfully slow process (I set it up with 4 GB of RAM and a 20GB HDD), the initial boot was to say the least, as painful as the installation and the OpenIndiana boot is slow…very slow, but when it finally did come up, it revealed a nice, clean Gnome Desktop that brought me back to my early days of using Linux…but then I started looking at what came with the oversized installation ISO and what I found was more than a little disappointing.
There was almost no productivity software included with the OS, and that includes a usable Package Manager to find any new software. I turned to the documentation at wiki.openindiana.org and what I found was at least as disappointing…not only was there not a fleshed out GUI Package Manager (which leaves the user needing to use the Command Line) but as far as being able to locate what packages may be available, you circle around a new Rabbit Hole that takes you from the OpenIndiana site, to the Illumos site (the maintainer of the kernel), then over to the Oracle Site for further support.
I am not sure what the point of this all is, but as a user, I was left with a sour taste in my mouth that I had spent 3 hours of my time installing, prepping and configuring a system that for the most part is completely unusable. Firefox is my only browser…ok, Thunderbird is my email…ok but no Word Processor, only basic media support and no real way of being able to install anything new or substantial without knowing the individual package names. I followed the documentation path to find out how to install new software and all I ended up with is a Terminal Window that would not complete the tasks requested until such point as the terminal itself would not open.
There comes a time when frustration overtakes the adventurous spirit of even someone like me and at this point I concluded that my return to OpenSolaris and its derivatives was a moot point and while the old adage of “Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained” does come to mind…this experience not only left me wanting more, but it had me wondering how I get the time that I spent with this OS back, realizing that time is the one commodity that can not be purchased or saved…but only spent. Thank you OpenIndiana for helping me realize that every moment that I have is precious…and not to be wasted.
In a final note…don’t waste your bandwidth or time with this OS, it is far from ready for prime time use!