I’ve got this Ultra 20 which among other things has a huge disk with room for lots of operating systems. I want to fool around a bit with Linux and Solaris Classic and GNU/Solaris, run some Bonnie numbers and also shake down my own stuff on all these different boxes. I expected pain, and I’ve already had some. This post will be my diary of the things that go wrong, and right.

As I review my first draft, it’s kind of grumpy. Do bear in mind that I’m coming out of the OS X world, which sets an awfully high standard for fit, finish, and polish. Another reason is that, while I’ve done my time as a professional sysadmin, and anyone who’s used Unix-family systems for as long a I has built a few from scratch, I’ve always found this sort of work profoundly irritating. It’s so easy to make dopey mistakes, and since OS installation is by definition a slow process, each mistake costs time.

Four Operating Systems on Sun Ultra 20 keyboard

Kubuntu · First thing I did was install Kubuntu; I’m out of touch with the Gnome/KDE wars, but I used to like KDE. I wanted to split my 250G disk into four slices for Linux, Solaris Classic, GNU/Solaris, and a chunk to fiddle with filesystems.

The Kubuntu partition wrangler is pretty klunky - every time I carved out a new chunk, as a side-effect it made another little mini-partition, so I ended up with a total of 9, four big, one Linux-swap, four small. Clearly operator error, but it shouldn’t be this hard.

In fact, my overall impressions of Kubuntu weren’t that positive; admittedly, it’s a work-in-progress. First off, why don’t they either compress the ISO or offer a torrent? Downloading it over my DSL link is pretty painful.

Adept, the package manager, is disappointing; if I wanted to work at the apt-get level, then I know that I have to install and update and upgrade and get things in the right order. But when I’ve got a graphical tool and I select “OpenSSH server” and click “Install”, well, you know, it ought to just install it.

One Ubuntu-thing that’s nice is that there’s no obvious root account; it’s like the Mac, a clever wrapper over sudo so that if you want to install or configure something, you get prompted for your password.

Akregator is advertised as an “RSS/Atom feed reader”, but it couldn’t cope with my Atom 1.0 feed. Then when I clicked on “Submit bug report”, everything went to hell, Konqueror roached my X frame buffer somehow, static all over the place. And Konqueror is kind of dumb too, if you open a page with lots of pictures, it stupidly redraws after loading each. Gotta get Firefox.

Going back to Akregator, the keystrokes for moving between articles seemed really awkward, but then again I’m used to NetNewsWire, which many people think is the gold standard. Hey, NNW is now part of NewsGator, and they’re a multi-platform play, right? How ’bout a Linux reader, guys?

Here’s a real gripe: after I installed Java, I wanted to get it in my path, and it turns out that bash on this particular Linux, contra its man page, does not read .profile or .bash_profile, all it reads is .bashrc. Getting out of sync with your man page is not particularly forgiveable.

KuUbuntu! · I eventually got myself all tangled up in the disk-partition mess, so tried again with K-less Ubuntu. I’m pretty sure that the disk chopper is the same between the two, but I’d screwed it up once by this time and got it right second time through; four nice, neat 62.5G partitions.

That aside, Ubuntu’s installation/management experience is, well, wonderful. It all Just Worked. (Well OK, the Synaptic package manager made you click twice to install which is once too many, but that’s a pretty minor gripe). This is something that I’d feel pretty confident giving to Mom to install, and I bet she’d do just fine. Plus, it all looks nice; which is a pretty strong compliment coming from someone who lives in OS X-land.

You know, if people at Microsoft aren’t losing sleep over the combination of Ubuntu, the Gnome tools, the Mozilla tools, and OpenOffice, they should be. (Also see Sam Ruby on this topic).

Linux & Java · Ubuntu comes with the gij GNU bytecode stuff, which I’m pretty sure won’t work with NetBeans, so I went off to java.sun.com and grabbed the x64 download. It unpacked OK, but I wonder why it can’t have a nice graphical installer, and why it won’t place itself in all the right directories under /usr/local or some such?

Linux & NetBeans · Now this is how it ought to be. You download the .bin (a mere 50M), launch it, it starts a nice InstallShield wizard, and puts everything in the right place. Then you run NetBeans it and It Just Works.

The Java guys should go get some installation hints from the NetBeans guys.

Solaris · After running Solaris on my servers for a few months, I’m pretty well hooked and won’t be going back to Linux any time soon. But for a desktop box, the user interface and admin interfaces are just as important—more important, actually, for lots of people—than threading performance or filesystem magic. And on the desktop, Solaris installation has some catching-up to do.

I want to run OpenSolaris, obviously, and the install page said that first of all, I needed to start with a recent “Solaris Express—Community Release”, so I bopped over there and discovered that I had to download four (not one, not two, not three, but four) ISOs. They were slightly compressed, but still, this is a job for BitTorrent, n’est-ce pas?

The Solaris install startup disk partitioning was confusing, but Googling led me to Rich Burridge’s guide, and it worked, although it really sounded like it was threatening to blow away the Linux partition. Confusingly, Solaris reported subtly-different sizes for the partitions than the ones Ubuntu said it was writing. Well, we all know that a gigabyte by any other name, isn’t.

Aargh · After I had Solaris running, I wanted to build a ZFS and got confused at the difference between 0-based controller numbering and 1-based partition numbering, and built it right on top of my Ubuntu install. Sob.

Gripe Gripe Gripe · A few irritating things about the Solaris install: It doesn’t assume DHCP, thus stalls for a long time stupidly trying to configure the network. At several points during the process, it goes catatonic; it’s actually doing something, but it gives you no visual (or any other) indicator, it just sits there, while you worry that Something Has Gone Wrong. When you log in for the first time, it’s as root, unlike Ubuntu which insists on creating a user account as a side-effect of installing. I suppose this is OK, but nowhere in the JDS menus (that I could find) is a “create user account” button. Resorting to Google taught me that I had to type /usr/sadm/bin/smc and then I was fine, but really. The installation process doesn’t include a prompt for a node-name, so it comes up as hostname “unknown”, and you have to do quite a bit of digging to find out that you need to put the hostname in /etc/nodename, and woe betide you if you run SMC before you do that because it stashes a bunch of stuff in ~/.smc/<current-hostname>/whatever (or something like that, I erased it in disgust).

The upside: given that you’re loading four CD’s worth of stuff, the Solaris install gets done in a pretty big hurry without demanding much thought. Also, SMC is a decent program, did what I needed and got out of the way.

Anyhow, I have my Ubuntu, I have my recent Solaris with ZFS, they both run great, I even know 11 different ways to refer to disk partitions.

Onward and Upward · Now on to OpenSolaris. Yow, this looks kind of hairy. Think I’ll try the Nexenta alpha first.

Hmm, the Nexenta CD boots and says root login:. OK. No README, no INSTALL. Poking around leads me to /usr/gnusolaris/ where there’s some things that look like installers. I launched one and it started to look like the Solaris installer, I want to be real sure I don’t roach any more partitions and I was tired, so I nuked it. More later.

author · Dad
colophon · rights

November 29, 2005
· Technology (90 fragments)
· · Software (82 more)
· · Sun (48 more)

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