Thursday Oct 25, 2012

Documentation Changes in Solaris 11.1

One of the first places you can see Solaris 11.1 changes are in the docs, which have now been posted in the Solaris 11.1 Library on docs.oracle.com. I spent a good deal of time reviewing documentation for this release, and thought some would be interesting to blog about, but didn't review all the changes (not by a long shot), and am not going to cover all the changes here, so there's plenty left for you to discover on your own.

Just comparing the Solaris 11.1 Library list of docs against the Solaris 11 list will show a lot of reorganization and refactoring of the doc set, especially in the system administration guides. Hopefully the new break down will make it easier to get straight to the sections you need when a task is at hand.

Packaging System

Unfortunately, the excellent in-depth guide for how to build packages for the new Image Packaging System (IPS) in Solaris 11 wasn't done in time to make the initial Solaris 11 doc set. An interim version was published shortly after release, in PDF form on the OTN IPS page. For Solaris 11.1 it was included in the doc set, as Packaging and Delivering Software With the Image Packaging System in Oracle Solaris 11.1, so should be easier to find, and easier to share links to specific pages the HTML version.

Beyond just how to build a package, it includes details on how Solaris is packaged, and how package updates work, which may be useful to all system administrators who deal with Solaris 11 upgrades & installations. The Adding and Updating Oracle Solaris 11.1 Software Packages was also extended, including new sections on Relaxing Version Constraints Specified by Incorporations and Locking Packages to a Specified Version that may be of interest to those who want to keep the Solaris 11 versions of certain packages when they upgrade, such as the couple of packages that had functionality removed by an (unusual for an update release) End of Feature process in the 11.1 release.

Also added in this release is a document containing the lists of all the packages in each of the major package groups in Solaris 11.1 (solaris-desktop, solaris-large-server, and solaris-small-server). While you can simply get the contents of those groups from the package repository, either via the web interface or the pkg command line, the documentation puts them in handy tables for easier side-by-side comparison, or viewing the lists before you've installed the system to pick which one you want to initially install.

X Window System

We've not had good X11 coverage in the online Solaris docs in a while, mostly relying on the man pages, and upstream X.Org docs. In this release, we've integrated some X coverage into the Solaris 11.1 Desktop Adminstrator's Guide, including sections on installing fonts for fontconfig or legacy X11 clients, X server configuration, and setting up remote access via X11 or VNC. Of course we continue to work on improving the docs, including a lot of contributions to the upstream docs all OS'es share (more about that another time).

Security

One of the things Oracle likes to do for its products is to publish security guides for administrators & developers to know how to build systems that meet their security needs. For Solaris, we started this with Solaris 11, providing a guide for sysadmins to find where the security relevant configuration options were documented. The Solaris 11.1 Security Guidelines extend this to cover new security features, such as Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR) and Read-Only Zones, as well as adding additional guidelines for existing features, such as how to limit the size of tmpfs filesystems, to avoid users driving the system into swap thrashing situations.

For developers, the corresponding document is the Developer's Guide to Oracle Solaris 11 Security, which has been the source for years for documentation of security-relevant Solaris API's such as PAM, GSS-API, and the Solaris Cryptographic Framework. For Solaris 11.1, a new appendix was added to start providing Secure Coding Guidelines for Developers, leveraging the CERT Secure Coding Standards and OWASP guidelines to provide the base recommendations for common programming languages and their standard API's. Solaris specific secure programming guidance was added via links to other documentation in the product doc set.

In parallel, we updated the Solaris C Libary Functions security considerations list with details of Solaris 11 enhancements such as FD_CLOEXEC flags, additional *at() functions, and new stdio functions such as asprintf() and getline(). A number of code examples throughout the Solaris 11.1 doc set were updated to follow these recommendations, changing unbounded strcpy() calls to strlcpy(), sprintf() to snprintf(), etc. so that developers following our examples start out with safer code. The Writing Device Drivers guide even had the appendix updated to list which of these utility functions, like snprintf() and strlcpy(), are now available via the Kernel DDI.

Little Things

Of course all the big new features got documented, and some major efforts were put into refactoring and renovation, but there were also a lot of smaller things that got fixed as well in the nearly a year between the Solaris 11 and 11.1 doc releases - again too many to list here, but a random sampling of the ones I know about & found interesting or useful:

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Engineer working on Oracle Solaris and with the X.Org open source community.

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The views expressed on this blog are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Oracle, the X.Org Foundation, or anyone else.

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