Test drive of the 6/06 Solaris 10 part 1, installation

My experience with the 1/06 Solaris 10 was, well, less than good. I came away with the impression of a system that is very hard to install, one might say extraordinarily hard to install, with few supported systems. Video didn’t work, networking required going to an unsupported freeware site, pulling down a binary driver, and doing something akin to insmod in linux.

I was simply not impressed with the installation. It was horrible. It took a week to achieve something like a usable system. Please note that I know a little something about installing and configuring operating systems. I wrote Autoinst which was absorbed/mangled into Roboinst for Irix many moons ago. It enabled really simple configuration/installation of many SGI machines. Made several large companies lives easier. Earned me an ATABOY from SGI, some number of stock options, and a pat on my back from management. Yeah, that does say something, doesn’t it … Aside from that I have installed and configured and used Irix, AIX, SunOS/Solaris, Windows/Dos, OS2, many flavors of Linux, … over about 20+ years of regular computer usage. I can usually hack around problems before they arise, or solve them afterwords.
This time, I started out with a video card that I knew worked. It was a new mother board, due to the old one giving up its ghost some months ago. I installed RHEL 4ES on it, verified that it worked, ran some stuff. Then I pulled down the 5 .zip files for the .dvd iso and concatenated them.
Note to Sun: Whomever told you that method of distribution was a good idea … well .. to put it nicely, they are wrong. Use bittorrent. Use ftp. Use http. Don’t use 5 zip files you have to unzip and then concatenate.
Part of this problem may be Sun wishing to control downloads. I don’t know.
If you notice the tone of this article thus far, you are probably not far off with where I am going with it.
I noted from the Solaris site that the 6/06 now has SATA support, and many other goodies. Great. Lets try it out.
Installation #1:
After burning the DVD, I booted. Figuring on using the default settings.
I should have known better.
Video came up all garbage. No problem, with Linux, you Ctrl-Alt-F1,2,3,4,5 whatever into a virtual console terminal, and can work from there.
Too bad this doesn’t work on Solaris.
What about the network? I remembered that it lets me use the LNE100TX card. The driver was a hacked non-supported one, but it worked in the 1/06 version. Fine, go find the card, plug it in, and …
Installation #2:
Since I know that it mucks up the display, lets install with a serial console, and do X later. Why not. Should be easy … right?
I should have known better.
Took a few minutes to configure minicom running from the SuSE box right next to the Solaris box to talk correctly, but this was fairly simple to setup. Once done, I could do the install. Great. Got all the way through, and this time it probed/plumbed the network card right. Sort of.
All the way to the end. Then done. Great. Now reboot. And wait… and wait… and … hmmm. Serial console reports synced disks, system shut down cleanly, lets try a reset button.
System comes up. Partially. Lots of services with errors. Cant really network. Have to set stuff up by hand.
So…. this is superior to Linux? Took me about 15 minutes from DVD to working functional networked/accelerated X system with RHEL (and SUSE). I am at 6 hours and counting with Solaris. Not all (or even most) of this is pilot error.
Finally up to a point where I can start working on configuring X. Ok, kdmconfig. Reboot. Nothing. Hmmm… ok, smcwebserver, and SMC….. nothing.
Try to SCP the NVIDIA drivers over. No dice, scp starts timing out. Fine. FTP them. That worked. Install, worked… reboot… worked and ….
There was no joy in Solaris-ville. No X. No errors. Lots of unstarted services.
Try xorgconfig. Nope. try .. (ok, you get the picture, well you would if X could run … )
Allrighty then. Lets try to get a base display going with ….
Installation #3:
Handtweaked the graphics adapter till I found one that Solaris said is working. Tried it and yay! it works!!! Yahoo!!! (not the default incidentally, nor even close to it).
It got the network interface correct. Can’t seem to talk to my NFS servers??? running Linux.
Ok. Finish installation, reboot, and wow… a graphical login!!!
Using CDE. 10 points for showing me a graphical boot screen with operational networking, -100 for using CDE.
Only took … lets see … 9 hours … to get to this point.
Right now I am pulling down the 2 zip file iso images of the Java Enterprise system. Will install them when it is down, and then install Sun Studio.
Is this system much improved?
Yes. It only took me 9 hours to get something nearly operational as opposed to about 40 previously.?? At least 4x better.
(for Sun people who may be reading this: if you want to make it easy, look really carefully at what the LiveCD Solaris people do… all of these work flawlessly on this system. Even if you used that to boot the unit, and then launch an installer in a window, that would be a *MASSIVE* improvement over what I see here. Look at the SuSE Yast installer, or the RHEL Anaconda installer, though not too closely at the latter as when it dies you have to start from the beginning… )