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OpenSolaris vs. Linux, For Linux Users 303

Posted by timothy
from the give-it-a-whirl dept.
An anonymous reader writes "With Sun busy being swallowed up by Oracle, should Linux geeks pay any interest to OpenSolaris? TuxRadar put together a guide to OpenSolaris's most interesting features from a Linux user's perspective, covering how to get started with ZFS and virtualisation alongside more consumer-friendly topics such as hardware and Flash support."
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OpenSolaris vs. Linux, For Linux Users

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  • by hilather (1079603) on Monday September 14, 2009 @07:19PM (#29420483)
    At home I love to use Ubuntu, I've long given up on Windows. I've tried out OpenSolaris a few times, mainly to get use to the subtle differences between Linux and Solaris. As part of my job heavily involves using Solaris its nice to use the OpenSolaris system to learn what I can in my spare time. I know there are many differences between Solaris and OpenSolaris, but the gap isn't as large as from Linux. That said, personally I think the icon theme in Gnome for OpenSolaris is pretty nice looking. Gnome has a very polished look in OpenSolaris. It would be a shame to see Oracle kill this project, I think OpenSolaris has a lot of potential. If anything, they should invest more in OpenSolaris. If I had a home server, I would definitely consider using it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by NoYob (1630681)
      I'm curious about the differences between Open Solaris and Linux, and Open Solaris and Solaris.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 14, 2009 @07:53PM (#29420743)

        * Solaris only includes Unix versions of system tools.
        * OpenSolaris includes a mishmash of crappy Unix tools and crappy GNU tools.
        * Linux only includes GNU tools.
        In other words, if you thought the Linux ecosystem was a mess, Solaris will not surprise you - pleasantly, that is.
        The only selling point for OpenSolaris is SUN's ZFS that seems to give some geeks a hard-on.
        If you are looking for a consistent system any BSD will beat OpenSolaris and FreeBSD has also better performance.
        Hardware support is also a lot better for BSDs.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by smash (1351)
          Take GNU out of the path and just use the sun tools...
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            I'm not particularly devoted to the GNU tools, but... sadist.

            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by smash (1351)
              Heh. They may be simple and crude, but at least they work the unix way, and the command line switches aren't shit like "--fuck-me-this-is-a-lot-of-typing"
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by digitalunity (19107)

        Here's a short list of keywords or programs you'll need to know abotu. Google for anything that interests you.

        Role based access control
        prstat instead of top
        prtconf
        vmstat
        iostat
        svcs, svcadmn
        dtrace

  • Nexenta (Score:5, Informative)

    by Korin43 (881732) on Monday September 14, 2009 @07:22PM (#29420505) Homepage
    Anyone who likes Linux and wants to try OpenSolaris should give Nexenta [nexenta.org] a look. It's basically Ubuntu using the OpenSolaris kernel instead of Linux (so GNU/Solaris?). All the fun of Solaris, all the ease of apt. I can't find builds for anything except x86 though.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by NoYob (1630681)
      First an alternative OS like Open Solaris and now a garage OS? What next, an Indie OS? The developers go around on tour and sell the CDs at the OS Concert?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by armanox (826486)
      That's because SPARC support wasn't added to OpenSolaris until 2009.06. I expect downstream distros to add the support before too long though.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rantingkitten (938138)
      I love the idea of Nexenta but I have never gotten it to successfully install and boot on any machine I've tried. OpenSolaris, on the other hand, has never failed me. As of right now, I completely suck at administrating it, but it does install, boot, and I can get around it well enough for my day to day tasks.

      What I liked about this article is that it has nice clean tables showing the Solaris verison of the Linux commands I already know. Nexenta seems to want to hide me from all the Solaris stuff under
    • by CAIMLAS (41445)

      That is exactly what I've been looking for - but not for desktop use, for a server on some old x86 hardware with 1G of RAM. I just love the debian packaging tools that much.

  • by Agent ME (1411269) <agentme49@nOspAM.gmail.com> on Monday September 14, 2009 @07:29PM (#29420561)

    OpenSolaris looks polished in many areas, but I see Linux as ahead of it as a Desktop OS. I hope that Desktop Linux distributions (and Linux kernel hackers) take note of what OpenSolaris does right (easy snapshot support - sure Linux doesn't have ZFS, but it has LVM which appears to be able to do snapshots) and play a bit of catch-up. And who knows, maybe OpenSolaris will do the same and try to catch up to Linux.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by cenc (1310167)

      That is why they are developing btrfs file system, which in theory should be superior to ZFS or at least do more.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Btrfs [wikipedia.org]

      If you really want ZFS in linux right now, it can be done through fuse in linux as I understand.

  • Where are the forks? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by xiando (770382) on Monday September 14, 2009 @07:46PM (#29420691) Homepage Journal
    I do not consider OpenSolaris future safe until we get a few forks. Now there is The OpenSolaris and it's future depends on just one (evil) corporation. If one GNU/Linux distribution dies a horrible death then it is of no importance since there are dozens of other BNU/Binux (with a B) distributions. If Bubuntu dies then that does not stop Bedora or Bentoo from carrying forward. I'll take a look at OpenSolaris when there's at minimum 3 variants of it being developed.
    • by Vardamir (266484) on Monday September 14, 2009 @07:51PM (#29420735)

      OSOL's own site lists several different distributions. There's also auroraux, which aims to have its own kernel source repository and freedom from any remaining binary bits: http://www.auroraux.org/index.php/Main_Page [auroraux.org]

      • by An dochasac (591582) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @06:35AM (#29424123)

        I'll take a look at OpenSolaris when there's at minimum 3 variants of it being developed.

        Here is a list of 13 OpenSolaris distros [opensolaris.org] as of March 2009:

        1. Solaris Express Community Edition DVD (b110, GNOME 2.24.2,SPARC/x86)
        2. OpenSolaris 2008.11 'preview' Live CD (b109, GNOME 2.24.2, SPARC/x86)
        3. BeleniX 0.7.1 (b93, KDE 3.5.9)
        4. Milax 0.3.3 (b105, JWM 2.0.1, SPARC/x86)
        5. Pulsar 0.3a (b104)
        6. MartUX Natamar 0.4 (b96, IceWM 1.2.35, SPARC)
        7. SchilliX 0.6.7 (b92)
        8. NexentaCore 1.0.1/2.0b2 (b85+/b104+)
        9. NexentaStor 1.1.4 (b85+)
        10. EON 0.58.9 (embeddable NAS, b104)
        11. OpenSolaris for System z (release 20081023)
        12. Polaris (OpenSolaris on PowerPC project, b104+)
        13. AuroraUX (b101, Xorg 7.2)
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by legojenn (462946)

      I am waiting for Blackware, but don't want Batrick Bolkerding to over-extend himself.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by digitalunity (19107)

        I grew up on Slackware. If Patrick switched to the dark side and forked OpenSolaris, I would probably drop Linux from my home server and switch just on principle.

  • ZFS (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zorkmid (115464) on Monday September 14, 2009 @07:56PM (#29420783)

    Having had a few EXT3 filesystems go tits up because they've been quietly borking themselves on a 24/7/365 server being able to do a weekly "zpool scrub" in a 4TB array without the downtime is a beautiful thing. Kernel CIFS with proper ACLs and integration with ZFS snapshots is pretty great as well. When btrfs is released and gets a few miles on it I may switch back. But for now my file server stays OpenSolaris.

    • by evilviper (135110)

      being able to do a weekly "zpool scrub" in a 4TB array without the downtime is a beautiful thing. Kernel CIFS with proper ACLs and integration with ZFS snapshots is pretty great as well.

      Why OpenSolaris, rather than FreeBSD? ZFS support is stable, Samba is certainly better supported/tested, and it's much less of a departure from Linux (Open Source, really) than Solaris.

  • /tmp and /var/tmp (Score:5, Interesting)

    by foorilious (798451) on Monday September 14, 2009 @08:33PM (#29421095)
    There's a lot of little things you'll notice over the years about Solaris / OpenSolaris that are unique, cool, neat, or useful -- too many to list in an article like this, of course. One example I was reminded of by the "differences" table -- the authors note that the Solaris equivalent of Linux's "/tmp" is "/var/tmp" -- but they failed to point out that Solaris also has a /tmp, and that, by default /tmp is actually partially backed by RAM, which is extremely convenient and useful from time to time, when you want a little piece of lightning-fast filesystem space, or want to eliminate disk as a variable in some sort of timing test. Of course, linux also has ramdisks, but this is generally far more convenient.

    $ time dd if=/dev/zero of=/var/tmp/foo bs=1024k count=128
    128+0 records in
    128+0 records out
    dd if=/dev/zero of=/var/tmp/foo bs=1024k count=128 0.00s user 0.71s system 24% cpu 2.910 total

    $ time dd if=/dev/zero of=/tmp/foo bs=1024k count=128
    128+0 records in
    128+0 records out
    dd if=/dev/zero of=/tmp/foo bs=1024k count=128 0.00s user 0.43s system 98% cpu 0.438 total

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dserpell (22147)

      -- but they failed to point out that Solaris also has a /tmp, and that, by default /tmp is actually partially backed by RAM, which is extremely convenient and useful from time to time, when you want a little piece of lightning-fast filesystem space, or want to eliminate disk as a variable in some sort of timing test.

      In any new Linux distribution, /dev/shm is also backed by ram, so you can do:

      $ dd if=/dev/zero of=/var/tmp/foo bs=1024k count=512
      512+0 records in
      512+0 records out
      536870912 bytes (537 MB) copied, 1.12253 s, 478 MB/s


      $ dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/shm/foo bs=1024k count=512
      512+0 records in
      512+0 records out
      536870912 bytes (537 MB) copied, 0.754747 s, 711 MB/s

      Obviously, I had to copy four times the data to reach the slowness of Solaris :-)

    • Re:/tmp and /var/tmp (Score:5, Interesting)

      by nabsltd (1313397) on Monday September 14, 2009 @09:44PM (#29421535)

      One example I was reminded of by the "differences" table -- the authors note that the Solaris equivalent of Linux's "/tmp" is "/var/tmp" -- but they failed to point out that Solaris also has a /tmp, and that, by default /tmp is actually partially backed by RAM, which is extremely convenient and useful from time to time, when you want a little piece of lightning-fast filesystem space, or want to eliminate disk as a variable in some sort of timing test. Of course, linux also has ramdisks, but this is generally far more convenient.

      Is the way Solaris handles /tmp really all that different from the Linux tmpfs implementation?

      solaris-box:$ mount
      /tmp on swap read/write/setuid/xattr/dev=2

      linux-box:$ mount
      none on /tmp type tmpfs (rw,nodev,noatime,size=256m,uid=0,gid=0,mode=1777)

      Other than picking the maximum size at mount time, tmpfs seems to be the same thing. If you pick a size equal to swap space, I think it is the same thing:

      • Both use RAM if available but are backed by swap (just like any other memory allocation).
      • Both use essentially no RAM or swap until you write files to the mount point.
      • Both can set various permissions and features on the mount point.
    • by evilviper (135110)

      by default /tmp is actually partially backed by RAM, which is extremely convenient and useful from time to time, when you want a little piece of lightning-fast filesystem space, or want to eliminate disk as a variable in some sort of timing test.

      Those who do not understand RAM caching are doomed to re-implement it... poorly.

      Just mount /tmp async and be done with it.

      Writes as fast as your memory can store it, and will be cached in RAM (like everything else on the filesystem) until something more important fo

    • by chrb (1083577)

      /tmp is actually partially backed by RAM, which is extremely convenient and useful from time to time, when you want a little piece of lightning-fast filesystem space

      Depends on your application. Benchmarks can often show that the regular (cached) file system outperforms tmpfs.

      or want to eliminate disk as a variable in some sort of timing test.

      If the mount is backed by hard drive (as tmpfs is) then the space might get swapped to disk, so to eliminate that you need a ram disk. It isn't difficult, but the ram drive size is fixed.

  • Linux Wins (Score:4, Informative)

    by rainmaestro (996549) on Monday September 14, 2009 @08:55PM (#29421251)

    I was recently tasked with doing an inventory and repurposing of a stack of older Sun machines (Sunfire, Netra, etc).

    What I discovered is that OpenSolaris won't even install on some of the models. Install from CD? Nope. Install remotely via a network install? Nope, and let me go on record as saying that the network install process is *absurdly* complex.

    On the other hand, I popped a Debian CD in, and it installed beautifully once I booted into expert mode and loaded fdisk (parted blows when dealing with Sun tables).

    That's right, Linux was easier to work with on these Sun servers than OpenSolaris. OSOL has some really cool features (ZFS and DTrace, for example), and I've mucked around in it on my x86 boxes before, but overall Linux is still easier to work with in my experience, even on Sun servers.

    I always keep an OSOL VM in VirtualBox, but it doesn't see much use. I'd rather use Linux or BSD.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by armanox (826486)
      OpenSolaris didn't even include SPARC support till the current version. It was intended for IA-32 and amd64 desktops first.
      • I was working off the most recent release, but yeah, I know SPARC support is pretty new. I'm hoping it will get better in the future, but I've had so many issues even on x86 platforms that I'm not expecting a whole lot.

        I'm typically an early adopter, so I'm not too concerned with having to do workarounds, rebuild packages, etc. But it seems that with OSOL I was running into more issues where I just couldn't find any workarounds, both in KB searches and in my own playing around.

        There's some really great feat

        • by armanox (826486)
          I've been working with OpenSolaris since 2008.05. In my opinion, it's biggest setback has been hardware support. I ran it in a VM until the current version b/c of that. I used to say when they have wifi support I'll install it on my laptop, and bam, it came. It has progressed greatly with each version, and I expect to be playing with it on my Sunblade 150 within two releases.
          • Yup, it has definitely improved. Another year or two with the right focus and it could be really useful. I'll continue to keep an updated install in VirtualBox for testing (I agree about hardware issues). Of course, VirtualBox has its own issues with OSOL (building the guest tools really mucked things up, but I blame VB for that, not OSOL).

    • by arth1 (260657)

      Personally, I've always found Solaris way easier to install on both headless systems (i.e. servers) and diskless systems (i.e. lean clients).

      Almost every distro out there assumes that you have a graphics card, and in half of those that claim they still support serial setup, it's not tested and not working.
      And diskless? To almost follow the standard guidelines doesn't cut it -- if a single process requires write access to a ro resource, it won't work.
      And even trying to run a typical linux distro with a read

      • I haven't tried it on a diskless system, but I didn't really have any issues installing Debian on the Sunfire servers (all were headless).

        Started the install through the serial port, configured SSH and did the rest through an SSH conn (serial is just too painful on the eyes *grin*)

        I can't speak for all distros, but I've found serial setups to be fine in both Debian and Gentoo (my two primary distros over the past 8 years).

        The OSOL install isn't really *bad* up to the point where it failed (though I really h

    • by Temkin (112574)

      I was recently tasked with doing an inventory and repurposing of a stack of older Sun machines (Sunfire, Netra, etc).

      What I discovered is that OpenSolaris won't even install on some of the models. Install from CD? Nope. Install remotely via a network install? Nope, and let me go on record as saying that the network install process is *absurdly* complex.

      On the other hand, I popped a Debian CD in, and it installed beautifully once I booted into expert mode and loaded fdisk (parted blows when dealing with Sun tables).

      That's right, Linux was easier to work with on these Sun servers than OpenSolaris. OSOL has some really cool features (ZFS and DTrace, for example), and I've mucked around in it on my x86 boxes before, but overall Linux is still easier to work with in my experience, even on Sun servers.

      I always keep an OSOL VM in VirtualBox, but it doesn't see much use. I'd rather use Linux or BSD.

      Network install isn't finished yet on OpenSolaris. Regular Solaris Jumpstart (net install) on SPARC is trivial compared to Linux (Or Solaris x86). PXE boot is some kind of absurd joke.

    • Re:Linux Wins (Score:4, Insightful)

      by evilviper (135110) on Monday September 14, 2009 @11:04PM (#29422029) Journal

      OSOL has some really cool features (ZFS and DTrace, for example), and I've mucked around in it on my x86 boxes before, but overall Linux is still easier to work with in my experience, even on Sun servers.

      If you want the best of the Solaris and Linux world, install FreeBSD. Stable ZFS support, DTrace, etc. Plus ports and packages, and Linux binary compatibility if you need it.

      It still heavily favors the BSD side of things, rather than SysV style... in fact, much more than any Linux distro I've seen... but it still definitely has far more of the nice features of the old commercial Unix systems than Linux.

      • Yup, I always have a FreeBSD guest installed in VirtualBox. I've always like the BSD distros, mainly for the reason you mentioned (getting the best of both worlds...old-school Unix and Linux).

  • I'll weigh in... (Score:2, Informative)

    by wh1pp3t (1286918)
    I have been using OpenSolaris development builds for over about a year now(?).

    One thing I thing the Linux community could take from OpenSolaris is its concentration on the approval and standardization of applications, so long as you stay on the OpenSolaris repositories. There is pretty much one tool for each job. That's it -- generally speaking of course.
    It is exactly why the Linux community shun it (cannot find binaries of specific software). When I use a Linux based OS, I feel the ADD in me kick in; to

    • by Ash-Fox (726320) on Monday September 14, 2009 @11:28PM (#29422189)

      One thing I thing the Linux community could take from OpenSolaris is its concentration on the approval and standardization of applications, so long as you stay on the OpenSolaris repositories. There is pretty much one tool for each job. That's it -- generally speaking of course.

      As a quick example off the top of my head, I'll take GNU's tar, cron (Solaris' doesn't even have */5 or @reboot), grep over Solaris' default equivalents. From my own experience, I don't find this "standardization" allowing much room for any kind of innovation.

      It may not have all the bells/whistles of Ubuntu

      The utilities don't even have the past decade of enhancements we've seen on BSDs and Linux, never mind Ubuntu.

  • I've tried OpenSolaris, and also NexentaOS/StormOS, which is Ubuntu running on the OpenSolaris kernel instead of Linux.

    I found that there was a lack of good documentation, and incompatibilities with certain hardware (for example, the hardware emulated by VirtualBox). Also, it seems to be hard to get ZFS to play nicely with other filesystems on the same hard disk.

    Ubuntu already does everything I need it to. Persisting with OpenSolaris would be a bit masochistic.

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