Review: Solaris 8/SPARC

Reviewer: Bill Bradford
Vendor: Sun Microsystems

Review Date: Started 03/28/00

Tested on system: Ultra 1/200E (512k cache), 256mb, 4.2gig, Creator3D

Today, I received my copy of the Solaris 8 final edition “free” media
(actually $75 + shipping from Sun).

It came via UPS in two nice plastic CD folders (similar to what the Solaris
2.5 and 2.6 CDs are provided in, when you buy the full retail product; this
is unlike the simple “CDs in a paper folder” provided for the “freebie
Solaris 7″ program). There are two “folders”:

Solaris 8 Media – SPARC ™ Platform Edition:

  • Solaris 8 – Installation (SPARC)
  • Solaris 8 – Software 1 of 2 (SPARC)
  • Solaris 8 – Software 2 of 2 (SPARC)
  • Solaris 8 – Documentation

Bonus Software – SPARC ™ Platform Edition:

  • Software Companion (SPARC/Intel) – this is the GNU stuff
  • StarOffice 5.1 (SPARC)
  • iPlanet Advantage Software vol. 1 – only included w/SPARC
  • iPlanet Advantage Software vol. 2 – only included w/SPARC
  • Oracle Migration Workbench – only included w/SPARC
  • Oracle Enterprise Edition v8. – only included w/SPARC

Also included is a sheet of paper that tells how to start the installation, on
both x86 and SPARC systems.

I’m really impressed with Sun’s decision to include (even tho there is no
support whatsoever for the CD or its contents) pre-packaged/compiled/binary
versions of common GNU tools such as GCC, gmake, etc, along with the source
code to those programs. However, they should have included *more* – I can
see why they included the GIMP, but why
not GNU tar, or GNU wget? Also, the packages install using the VERY slow
“Installshield” interface. You can bypass this by installing the packages
using “pkgadd” from the command line. The only other problem is that all
of the GNU stuff is installed in /opt/sfw – I ended up symlinking /usr/local
to /opt/sfw for convenience’s sake (everyone I know installs GNU stuff in

One of the major changes with Solaris 8 is that installation of even the
basic OS is now a multi-CD install. Sun suggests you start an install by
booting up the system with the “Installation” CD in the drive, but the
InstallShield/WebStart install takes *forever* to start up and install, and
in my case, was *broken* and would *not* install. (see problem about DNS
and setup below; even after I told the setup procedure to use no naming
service, it said my configuration was bad and to start over).

I ended up tossing the Installation CD, and booting the system up with the
“Software 1/2” CD in the drive – this will go through a normal OpenWindows/
SunInstall-based install procedure (similar to Sol7 and below), although
once your system reboots, you’re stuck with the horrid WebStart interface
to spend half an hour installing the stuff off of “Software 2/2” if you
picked any of the developer options.

Install on my Ultra 1/200E with a (4x?) CD-ROM drive took about an hour
and a half (I think.. I actually fell alseep during the installation).
This is a HUGE difference from prior releases of Solaris – I prefer quick
installs to pretty pictures any day…

Obvious bugs – These were in the beta, and I dont see that they’ve
been corrected at all:

  • If you select “DNS” as your naming service, but your nameservers arent in
    the same Class C IP block as the system you’re installing, since there hasnt
    been a default gateway setup, the system will attempt to do a lookup on your
    hostname and fail. However, unlike Sol7, Solaris 8 gets stuck in a loop where
    it will want you to put in “correct” nameserver information. The only way
    around this so far is to select “none” for namng service, and then setup DNS
    by hand, after the system is installed.
  • “Web Start” only lets you choose “developer install”, “End user install”,
    etc – it does not let you customize the packages you want installed, unlike
    Solaris 7. If we’re being forced to use WebStart, I *want* to be able to
    specify what goes on my systems, and not have to remove it later.
  • Even if you ONLY pick one language to be installed on the system (English_US
    /POSIX for example), you’ll still get a ton of Thai, Japanese, and Chinese
    partial locales and packages installed.

added fatures:

  • Perl 5.005_03 is now included with the base OS
  • You can now choose “DNS” as a naming facility
  • Install is via an InstallSheild-remisnicent dialog box
  • (note: you can also do an old-style install by booting off software 1/2)

More info:

Forgot to mention, the “bash”, “tcsh”, and “zsh” shells are now included
as part of the Solaris 8 install. Along with the stuff off of the GNU
CD-ROM (gcc, libs, rxvt), all I need to do is download and compile SSH
to have a “minimum workable” Solaris box in my opinion, now. Having
bash available without having to download it first is nice.


The version of Perl5 that is included with Solaris 8 was

compiled with the Sun set of compilers, so if you try to add stuff to it

with CPAN, etc, some things will break if you’re using the GCC thats

included on the “Software Companion” CD-ROm. My suggestion is to pkgrm

SUNWpl5m, SUNWpl5p, and SUNWpl5u (the Perl packages), and then either get

a precompiled binary package (done with GCC) from, or

download the sources ( and compile it yourself with gcc.

(03/29/00) – from a reader:

I did a little hacking of perl and found that all of the compiler

options perl uses are in /usr/perl5/5.00503/sun4-solaris/ you

can change them to use gcc and the options you need.

– William J. Mittelstadt (

(06/27/00) – from an authority at Sun:

Please DON’T pkgrm the packages, even if you want to ‘roll your own’

perl. The reason for this is that the new kstat(1) command uses the

perl installed with the system, and if you pkgrm the perl packages you

will break the command. The level of breakage will increase if and when

we add more perl-based utilities to the OS. I have both the stock

5.005_03 (installed under /usr/perl5) and 5.6.0 (installed under

/usr/local) installed on my machine, and they coexist just fine. Just

make sure that the one you prefer is found first in your PATH.

Hope that helps,

Alan Burlison

Solaris Kernel Development, Sun Microsystems

(07/22/00) – Solaris 8 6/00 Update Received:

I just got the Solaris 8 6/00 release. If you’ve kept your

system up to date with patches and the MU1, the biggest change

you’ll see is the improvement of the “Software Companion” CD-ROM.

Whoever is in charge of this, needs to get a gold star and a pat on

the back – because I cant think of a single thing I need on what I

consider a “good basic ready-tot-work Solaris install” that is NOT

on this CD, except for the WindowMaker window manager (and lets not

even get into the argument about which window managers should be


A list of the included files (all also with source, for i386 and SPARC):

SFWaalib      ASCII Art Library                                                 
SFWaconf      GNU autoconf                                                      
SFWamake      GNU automake                                                      
SFWbison      GNU bison                                                         
SFWddd        DDD                                                               
SFWdiffu      GNU diffutils                                                     
SFWemacs      GNU Emacs                                                         
SFWenscr      GNU enscript                                                      
SFWflex       GNU flex                                                          
SFWfvwm       fvwm virtual window manager                                       
SFWgcc        GNU compilers                                                     
SFWgdb        GNU source-level debugger                                         
SFWgimp       GNU Image Manipulation Program                                    
SFWglib       GLIB - Librps JPEG software                                       
SFWlestf      LessTif                                                           
SFWmpage      mpage - print multiple pages per sheet                            
SFWmpeg       The MPEG Library                                                  
SFWncftp      NcFTP                                                             
SFWncur       ncurses library                                                   
SFWolvwm      OPEN LOOK Virtual Window Manager                                  
SFWpftpd      ProFTPD Server                                                    
SFWpng        PNG reference library                                             
SFWpppd       pppd Device Drivers                                      
SFWpppdu      pppd Daemon, Utilities, and Configuration files          
SFWpppdx      pppd Device Drivers (64-bit)                             
SFWrxvt       rxvt                                                              
SFWsamba      samba                                                             
SFWsed        GNU sed                                                           
SFWslang      S-Lang library                                                    
SFWslrn       slrn - An easy to use NNTP based newsreader                       
SFWsquid      SQUID                                                             
SFWtexi       GNU texinfo                                                       
SFWtiff       The TIFF Library                                                  
SFWvim        vim - Vi IMproved                                                 
SFWwftpd      FTP Server                                                        
SFWwget       GNU wget                                                          
SFWxmacs      XEmacs                                                            
SFWxpm        XPM library                                                       

Pretty complete, eh? The guys at Sun should get a bonus for this one..!