This month Sun Microsystems announced the second release of its open source OS, OpenSolaris 2008.11.
The 688MB LiveCD is packed with latest versions of firefox (3.0.4), gnome (2.24) and of course OpenOffice.org (3.0). The Time Slider (which is great) and the improved support for drivers and Suspend/Resume functions are presented as two major additions.
I chose a Dell D620 laptop (2GHz Core 2 Due, 2GB RAM, 100GB HDD) as the installation machine. Sun’s Hardware Compatibility List shows a Reported to Work level for this machine. I was especially interested in testing it from the user perspective trying to find an alternative to Linux desktops.
After successfully booting the LiveCD, in a matter of minutes the GNOME desktop is displayed, offering the user the choice (actually a desktop link) to install OpenSolaris on a HDD.
Here is a screenshot with the default desktop (you can see that I plugged in a USB drive that was automatically mounted by the OS):
The “Install OpenSolaris” link allows you to install the OS on your HDD. The graphical installer offers few options to customize (timezone, locale) and forces you to create a new user. No package selection is available, it installs all packages that are available on the LiveCD.
The Disk option offers two choices: use the whole disk for installation (all existing data is lost and the HDD is formatted) or use an existing primary partition. No boot loader options are available, so you’ll have to backup your existing boot loader entries and restore them into the newly installed OpenSolaris boot loader if you’re planning on using a multiboot environment.
The overall impression after the installation is good. OpenSolaris is fast, stable and secure. Its maintainers try to add new functionalities with each release and this one makes no exception: GNOME 2.24, firefox 3.0.4, OpenOffice.org 3, the Packet Manager, improved hardware support, just to name a few. You’ll find the detailed Release Notes on opensolaris.com.
Network Manager handles network connectivity so it automatically detected my wireless connection. I activated the ZFS snapshots under Time Splider setup window and opened Packet Manager to install additional software. ZFS is an important feature in OpenSolaris and it helps recovering lost data. You can watch a screencast here.
OpenSolaris provides a lot of online resources at http://opensolaris.org/os/ and http://opensolaris.com. A series of developers blogs are also available and can keep you up2date with latest additions.
Users with low bandwidth can obtain the latest release by placing an order for free OpenSolaris CD.