Slow food - Slow boot at GUADEC

GUADEC was my first visit to Vilanova i la GeltrĂș, Catalonia, Spain. I've enjoyed the weather, the people, the prices and the quality of food. (Black Rice Paella :-) The relaxed style of eating is polar opposite of the U.S. fast food that I grew up with.

Yesterday afternoon a few of us sat down at a cafe/tapas place on Las Ramblas and ordered salads and sandwiches. I was preparing for my dtrace talk and I'd hoped to give out live OpenSolaris CDs to the audience so that they could play with dtrace during the talk. Dtrace really is one of those tools you have to play with to appreciate.

Sun's Solaris Express opensolaris distribution would have been the obvious choice. It was put together by Sun, with good i18n, documents and accessibility support. GNOME 2.14 was integrated only a few builds ago. Solaris express contains zfs, dtrace and other cool solaris tools. It has passed some Sun/QA and review for architecture stability. Unfortunately it also contains a whole bunch of stuff which has nothing to do with my desktop and won't fit on a CD. Even some of the minimal package clusters contain weird things that are hardly appropriate for a laptop. Do I really need this fiber-channel stuff on a wifi laptop?

Belinix might have been another good opensolaris choice. It fits easily on a CD, but it contains an XFCE desktop instead of GNOME. Schillix also seems to lack a recent GNOME and the last time I used it, it didn't have dtrace.

Nexenta has an interesting opensolaris demo distribution which runs from a live CD. This distribution doesn't have documentation (no man pages?) or some of the Solaris tools. It packages som GNU utilities and user space apps with a solaris kernel and it contains both dtrace and GNOME 2.14. So I burned this distribution onto a few CDs. I intended to pass the CDs out before the dtrace talk so I booted it while eating a tomato and cheese salad at the Vilanova cafe. It was still looking for a dhcp server on my primary network interface when I finished my salad. It searched for a dhcp server on my wifi interface while I finished my sandwich. When I returned from ordering my coffee, it was at a login prompt. I logged in and sipped my coffee while we discussed why Nexena didn't change the default dhcp timeout to something more reasonable for a wifi connected laptop. About 10 minutes later (total time at least 30 minutes) I still wasn't at the gnome desktop. It seems that nexenta didn't take advantage of an alternate filesystem to buffer reads from the CD. (How about something like ZFS compressed filesystem living in RAM?) My battery was quickly running down while the CD was furiously trying to supply the livecd content. I gave up.

So that's why I didn't have a good distribution to share for the dtrace demo. With Sun's new boot architecture there is no reason why boot should take so long and there is no reason why a desktop user needs so much server related cruft packaged with their desktop. Someone told me about a keychain opensolaris distribution but I haven't had time to look at it. Sun has a great kernel, some awesome tools and a 21st century boot architecture. I know it's possible to create a distribution which is neither too big nor too small. Up until a year ago when Solaris was opensourced, it wasn't possible to make a task-custimized Solaris distribution. Now it is possible. I think it's only a matter of time before someone puts together a keychain opensolaris, DVD Opensolaris, CD demo opensolaris and (maybe I'll do this one) an RSYNC/ZFS opensolaris backup server distribution.

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