Tuesday Jun 02, 2009

JavaOne/CommunityONne OpenSolaris 2009-06 Install

I'm blogging from the OpenSolaris install booth at CommunityOne/Javaone 2009 at Moscone Center, San Francisco. This must be the 10th show I've actively participated in. Prior years, I was a Java guy setting up talks, doing BOFs and sessions of my own or with a team, but in recently years, since moving over the C-side of Solaris drivers, that hasn't been the case. And in a way, it was a protest against policy on giving away bags to the Sun speakers, which I have a great collection of in the early years. LOL!

Of course, from an internal standpoint, my colleagues and I in the driver team always have a lot of fun doing bring up of systems on earlier versions of OpenSolaris. Some versions die horrible deaths and take hardware with it. But as part of the Instal-Booth staff at the show, I gave a final test run of the bits yesterday, and after a little bit of fiddling last night, I've now got 3 laptops installed with the June 2009 bits of OpenSolaris. BTW, we announced them yesterday.

Overall, the experience was pretty good. I've really gotten fond of USB-stick install, and so I carry around at least a few 1GB sticks. The image is about 800MB on the USB stick. The CD image is just under 700 MB. The USB stick seems to average just 18 minutes on my dual core laptop, and over 31 minutes from a USB CDROM drive. Most of the folks have some trepidation about install because currently, we're not bundling a partition utility. But colleague Mark Logan recently checked GNU parted ported to Solaris into the build tree, so it should be coming soon, at least on Nevada. It may take a bit of time to appear on formal install media, but what that means hopefully is that folks will be able to boot the runnable image, then upload via USB bits as a separate wad of stuff, and then unpack and run it. It includes NTFS support and I've gotten it to work on most disks and laptops and systems for dual-boot.

But just in case we have issues with some disks and VTOCs that don't quite follow a standard, I carry a Knoppix 6.0.1 bootable USB jumpdrive which seems to deal with partitioning a little bit better than Solaris due to a broader support for standard and non-standard VTOCs disks. Speaking of disks and VTOCs, some of the really cheap 2GB and 4GB USB sticks don't seem to follow VTOC standards either and while those sticks are flashable and bootable for OpenSolaris, for some reason, we can't install from them due to a particular read and mount issue. Most higher-end Sandisk USB sticks have worked great, and the higher quality sticks usually have been great. But the low-end 2GB+ ones have been problematic.

Armed with the right tools, OpenSolaris 2009-06, at least for me, installed fine, didn't kill my Windows slice, and most everything works. HD Audio, graphics, networking. I was even surprised when my Realtek USB wifi came up automatically with NWAM. That's impressive. Even my webcam works on both the Acer which has a built-in unit, and my el-cheapo A4Tech 720MJ $25 usb cam.

community one webcam image

Above is a picture of a developer session I sat in at Community One while playing with my webcam. I was video conferencing with another colleague via Ekiga.net. The A4Tech camera is fairly inexpensive but follows the USB Video Class standard and works fine with Solaris. It's been problematic in the past with OpenSolaris finding a cheap USB Video Class webcam because of cost. It seems like a lot of vendors either claim support but don't quite follow the standard, or use one of two other protocols. But with Microsoft demanding vendors to follow the USB VC standard for 2009 and later cams to have Vista certification, hopefully, more cheaper cameras will arrive on the market for under $25. I will testify that the on-board webcams for many netbooks and laptops, like the Toshiba M10 and R600 and for the Acer 8.9 and 10 inch netbooks, the Toshiba NB200 network, etc. all seem to have working USB webcams that run fine with OpenSolaris. One thing with the software on GNOME is that it's still a bit fresh and so the streaming images have streaks. I haven't looked at the source yet, but it may be that double buffering or lack there of is leading to streaking, or maybe some USB interrupt architecture that unnecessarily impacts streaming video is causing streaking on OpenSolaris. But the picture is still very usable.

Signing off for now. More conference to attend.

I did find out the latest Mozilla Firefox has some better security, but I used to set my forms to prefill name and email address for me, but those settings are lost. I have to figure that out




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