First experiences with OpenSolaris

On a previous entry I explained some of the reasons why I moved to OpenSolaris. There have been many reactions to the entry: some users have asked me for more information, so here we go.

Hardware support?

I'm quite happy with hardware support. It has some rough edges, and you may have to search the web (as you would in Linux), but I'm very happy.

My ethernet and wireless cards work perfectly. Yes, you can do wifi with WPA/WPA2 PSK. You can even attach a wifi USB dongle that works very well.

My graphics card is also recognized correctly, and I can attach an external monitor easily.

Multimedia software

OpenSolaris doesn't bring MP3 support pre-installed. I think this is due to licensing issues, but you can install the Fluendo MP3 driver. There's a shop there, but the MP3 decoder is free to download.

After enabling MP3 support next was video codecs. I added Life with Solaris package repositories to the install manager and I then installed vlc. I can now see videos encoded with those funny Windows formats. If you're wondering: yes, you can watch pron: no worries.

I do miss KDE's amarok, with was excellent. I don't like songbird (too heavy for me) so I'm currently enjoying Rhytmbox.

I had to install the flash player for OpenSolaris. It works very well.

I can burn CDs without problems. I haven't tried yet to rip them, though.

Moving from KDE to Gnome

I'm quite happy with Gnome at the moment. I do prefer Gnome to KDE4 (although I miss KDE3). As you may know Linus Torvalds prefers Gnome to KDE4 too.

Of course, I haven't tried out KDE4 on top of OpenSolaris. I know there're packages for KDE4, but I won't install them at the moment.


My Brother HL-2170W is very well supported. I browsed to http://localhost:631 (cups) through the "System/Printer Manager" menu item. The printer was detectted immediately. After a few "press next" the printer was up and running. Printing is perfect.

I think I had to enable cups by hand (svcadm enable cups) previously, but I'm not sure of that (sorry).

Filesystems: samba, ext2fs

Access to windows shares is very good and faster than on Linux (on Linux I had to do some tricks to mount an IOmega drive where I hold my media). By the way, there's a new firmware for the networked IOMega drive.

You can access ext2fs and ntfs formatted partitions by using the FSWfsmisc package from the OpenSolaris "Belenix" distribution. Access is in read/only mode at the moment. Good enough for me.

I prefer gnome's Nautilus to KDE's konqueror.


I do miss skype, which is not available for OpenSolaris. I'm using "Pidgin" with my AOL account. I even enabled my Messenger account, but I had to fight passwords as it was years without using it.

Firefox and Thunderbird work very well. I may try seamonkey in the future.

I installed Opera for OpenSolaris, but I don't use it that much.

The "Transmission" bittorrent client works well (it even has a web interface). It has less bells and whistles than ktorrent, but I do prefer that.

I'm using privoxy to get rid of ads while browsing. Works like a charm (install it and svcadm enable privoxy).

I do ftp with the embedded ftp client in Nautilus. It's handy to have this included in the file explorer.

Office software

Of course, OpenOffice works very well. OpenSolaris comes with OpenOffice 3.0.

There's no Adobe Acrobat Reader for OpenSolaris. I'm using "evince" (the one that comes bundled in) and it works very well.


Java - Perfect. Very fast. Swing applications have the same look and feel that the underlying system theme. This is something that shocks me, because this does not happen in KDE. If you switch the gnome theme then the running java applications change the theme on the fly too. Great!

Of course NetBeans works very well.

I haven't tried out Eclipse. I don't think Eclipse works on top of OpenSolaris. I don't really know (nor do I bother, either).

There's little support for Scheme in OpenSolaris. I've learned that you can contribute packages to OpenSolaris, so I my add up a few interpreters there. At the moment I've compiled SCM and I've downloaded "guile" from the Sunfreeware package repository.

You have a full GCC included, as well as the Sun's free C/C++ compiler.

There's a python included (version 2.4.4) that I don't use (but that the Mercurial SCCS does use).

There's a Perl 5.8.4, an awk (gawk) and make (gnu make). I can't remember if I installed these or if these came bundled with the default installation.


The Gimp 2.4 is available, and it's all I need. There's an image viewer that I do use called "eog" on the command line.


Gnome contains games!! The chess game is very good. I won once, I think.

Laptop APIC stuff

I don't hibernate my laptops, so I haven't tried OpenSolaris support on that. I do change screen brightness with my laptop-specific keys (Fn+Up and Fn+Down) and these work very well (better than on Kubuntu 8.04). I can even control the fan speed with the specific laptop key. So everything seems to work well.


To summarize: I can't see any difference as an (advanced) Linux user. Gnome seems to work well (much better than previous versions I tried ages ago) so I'm overall quite satisfied with the change.

In future versions I'll talk about things that do make a difference.

Cheers, Antonio

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