Trying out OpenSolaris

Having been programming (mostly in SAS as it happens) on Sun’s venerable Solaris operating system platform at work since the start of this year, the chance to try OpenSolaris x86 edition in a VMware virtual machine seemed a good opportunity for advancing my skills. Prior to this, my exposure to Solaris was when I was at university and things have moved on a bit since then, not least on the technology side but also in terms of my own skills. In those days, my mindset was fixed by exposure to MacOS and Windows with their point-and-click functionality; the fact that the terminals that we were using were ancient didn’t make for a positive impression. You can see here what I mean. And the concept of tackling a command line, even one as powerful as that in UNIX, armed with a good book was somehow foreign to me. Mind you, in those pre-Safari days, getting your hands on books not in the university library was an expensive outing for the student finances. Armed with years of programming and web development experience, the UNIX command line now looks like and powerful tool to be used to the greatest advantage. Years of exposure to Perl and Linux have made the tool a less daunting one for me. Also, the availability of shell scripting makes the Windows batch file language look positively archaic. The default ksh shell (I believe that it is ksh88) in Solaris is not as friendly as it could be bit bash is available on demand so life isn’t that uncomfortable on the command line. To date my experience of OpenSolaris has been brief because I wrecked the installation while trying to sort out an annoying graphics issue that appear after installing VMware Tools (drivers for various pseudo-devices) on OpenSolaris; I have yet to put things back. The installation procedure is pretty painless for what is a technical operating system. The Community: Tools section of the OpenSolaris website has articles on installation and installation under VMware is discussed on Developer’s Quarterdeck Log. As regards desktop environment, you have a choice between the ubiquitous Gnome and Sun’s own CDE, of which I have seen plenty at work. I installed the developer edition but there are the usual Linux mainstays on the desktop: StarOffice (in place of OpenOffice), GIMP, Mozilla Firefox, etc. I wasn’t able to sort out an internet connection but that may be because ZoneAlarm was blacklisting VMware at the time of installation. All in all, it looked a far friendlier environment for users than that which I encountered during my early years on UNIX. I must get it back in action and take things on from here…

VMware and ZoneAlarm

Contrary to appearances given by this blog, I am not exclusively a Windows user. In fact, I have sampled Linux on a number of occasions in the past and I use VMware to host a number of different distributions – my Ubuntu installation is updating itself as I write this – as I like to keep tabs on what is out there. I also retain a Windows 2000 installation for testing and have had virtual machine hosting a test release of Vista not so long ago. I also have my finger in the UNIX world with an instance of OpenSolaris, though it is currently off my system thanks to my wrecking its graphics set up. However, ZoneAlarm has been known to get ahead of itself and start blocking VMware. If you go taking a look on the web, there is no solution to this beyond a complete system refresh (format the boot drive and reinstall everything again) and I must admit that this sounds like throwing out bath, baby and bathwater together. I did find another approach though: removing ZoneAlarm and reinstalling it. This wipes all its remembered settings, including the nefarious one that conflicted with VMware in the first place. It’s amazing that no one else has considered this but it has worked for me and having to have the security software relearn everything again is much less painless than rebuilding your system.