Review: Solaris 9/SPARC Early Access

Downloaded and burned the CD images last night, and tried an install.           
First thoughts:

(this was on a SunBlade 1000, 900Mhz, Creator3D Series3, 1G RAM, 36G FC-AL hard drive)

  • The installer (when done via the Install cdrom) now finally asks for the default route when setting up a system's networking, so you can have DNS servers that arent on the same subnet.
  • When using the Install cd, it brings up the BigAdmin web page while doing the rest of the install. Neat, but kinda useless; I made it bring up SunHELP, etc... What will it do if you *dont* have internet connectivity?
  • When I got to the disk partitioning part, it wanted info in *cylinders* instead of megabytes. Not only did it have any cylinder/megabyte table, but no matter what values I put in, it kept giving me an "overlapping cylinders" warning, and would not let me either exit *or* go back and have it autolayout. *THIS NEEDS WORK*. Its a throwback to the old days of having to get out a calculator to do BSD-style partition tables.
  • I gave up on the Installation cd, and went to boot off of the Software 1 of 2 CD, which in the past, gave me an "old style" Solaris install. Did this, and instead of the old-style Openwindows-based install, it came up with the text-based install, running in an Xterm under the twm window manager. This makes sense, since OVWM has been "retired", and you have to have *something* to run the installer on (although why they dont just use a normal text-based install on the console is beyond me).
  • The text-based install works better, asking for partition info in megabytes instead of cylinders. However, the main fault I spotted with it is that it asks for IP configuration info (IP address, default route, DNS IPs, etc), but only only applies the IP address, and none of the other info! This leads to the same problem that Solaris8 had, in that it tries to look up your hostname, but if your nameservers arent on the same subnet, you get a (recoverable) error. I had to manually fix /etc/defaultrouter and /etc/resolv.conf and touch /etc/notrouter after the installation.
  • GNU tools and shells are installed, but they're not put in the path; you have to look to find them in /usr/sfw. I created a symbolic link of /usr/local -> /usr/sfw.
  • We get GNU tar, gifutils, libjpeg, ncftp, glib/gtk, samba, tcl/tk, texinfo, libtiff, libpng, perl, and wget - but no gcc or gmake (I assume these will be on the "Software Companion" cd for S9). As for shells, we get bash, csh, ksh, tcsh, and zsh. I managed to use the GCC 2.95.3 package for Sol8 from Sunfreeware to re-compile gcc under Solaris9 natively, and it works fine. I then used that to compile GNU make, etc.
  • SSH is included, but looks like a rework of OpenSSH. I dont see libSSL anywhere, and /dev/random is now "included" with the OS, so no more hackish entropy-gathering daemons are needed for good SSH performance.
  • DiskSuite (aka "Solaris Volume Manager" is integrated into this release, but apparently you have to install Solaris Management Console and the related utilities to get to it and use/configure it. If anybody knows of an alternative, please let me know. Also, SMC is slow, *too* slow. I'm running it on a 900Mhz UltraSPARC-III and its too slow. Also, why isnt there an option to use SVM during install, to setup RAID volumes, etc? I hate to say it, but even Red Hat Linux has this capability, as does MacOS X. Surely an operating system designed for everything from the desktop to the mainframe-class system can have the same capabilities as one designed for desktop microcomputers.
  • One thing I havent figured out yet. With Solaris8, if you wanted to use an alternate window manager, you just had to create an .xinitrc in your home directory, and then pick OpenWindows in the CDE login panel. This would "catch" your .xinitrc before launching OpenWindows, and use your desired window manager instead. Now that CDE is the *only* option, what about those of us who prefer a different window manager? (I prefer WindowMaker).
  • Sun's distributing Netscape 6 on their web page, but still shipping NS4 with Solaris.
  • More thoughts to come, as I work more with the system.
--Bill Bradford
  • DiskSuite (er, SVM) command-line configuration tools are in /usr/sbin/meta*. Looks like "integration" just means that "it comes on the OS CDs now".
  • Carl-Johan Schenstrom writes:
    "In Solaris 8, I add "SESSIONTYPE=xdm" to the end of $HOME/.dtprofile and create a shell script called $HOME/.xsession which loads resources and starts my WM of choice. Then logout and choose CDE from dtlogin."
  • Here's a link that shows how to "properly" add another window manager to the dtlogin screen.
  • I failed to mention that the iPlanet LDAP Directory Server is now included with Solaris 9 (not as a separate CD). I havent worked with it much yet.