Wednesday Nov 09, 2011

What's new on the Solaris 11 Desktop?

Much has been written today about the enterprise and cloud features of Oracle Solaris 11, which was launched today, but what's new for those of us who just like to have the robustness and security of Solaris on our desktop machines? Here are a few of the Solaris 11 desktop highlights:

  • GNOME 2.30: It may not be the bleeding-edge GNOME 3, but GNOME 2.30 is the most stable version of GNOME ever released, and has many improvements over GNOME 2.6 as found in Solaris 10.
  • X.org 1.10.3: See Alan's blog for details of this X server update.
  • Updated Firefox and Thunderbird: Solaris 11 ships with Firefox 6.0.2 and Thunderbird 6.0.2 from Mozilla.
  • Compiz: Solaris 11 uses this compositing window manager by default, enhancing the desktop experience with judicious use of customizable effects such as translucency, drop shadows and transition animations. (Not supported on all graphics cards, which will fall back automatically to the metacity window manager.)
  • Package Manager: IPS is the new package management system in Solaris 11, and it has a full-featured GUI that allows you to quickly browse and install new packages, or perform a live update of your entire OS in a couple of clicks, safe in the knowledge that it can be rolled back to a previous version just as quickly in the event of any problems.
  • Time Slider: Making its debut in OpenSolaris, the Time Slider feature that allows you take automatic, periodic ZFS snapshots and explore them in your file manager application now also allows you to make backups to removable media and network devices.
  • Network Auto Magic GUI: Allows configuration of the NWAM subsystem, including creation, editing and switching of network profiles and locations.
  • Visual Panels: A suite of GUI tools for system administration tasks, such as configuring firewall and SMF services.
  • GParted: The venerable Linux graphical disk partitioning tool, now ported to Solaris and included on the Live CD.
  • CUPS: The lp printing subsystem has been removed, and Solaris 11 now uses the open source *nix printing technology from Apple, with the same system-config-printer GUI found in several Linux distros.

Solaris 11 is free to download and use for most non-commercial purposes (but IANAL, so do check the OTN License Agreement on the download page first -- it's short and sweet, as these things go), and you can download various flavours, including a Live CD and a USB install image, right here.

Happy Solaris 11 Day!

Nearly seven years after the launch of Sun Solaris 10, today sees the official launch of Oracle Solaris 11 at an event in NYC*.


Oracle Solaris 11 Launch
November 9, New York City
Register Now!

There's a host of new enterprise-class features in Solaris 11, including a modern package management system, live upgrade with the ability to reboot to previous known good versions, network virtualization, ZFS encryption and reduplication, and many SMF, DTrace, zone and security improvements. On the desktop, CDE has taken its final curtain call, and now GNOME takes centre stage. Solaris 11 is fully supported on both SPARC and x86, and it still has the best binary compatibility guarantee in the business.

The road to Solaris 11 has been a particularly long and winding one, of course. Starting from the closed source base of Solaris 10, Solaris was gradually open-sourced, mostly under the CDDL license. The OpenSolaris project was founded, part of which was a Sun-built distro called Project Indiana, under the brief leadership of Debian founder Ian Murdock. Project Indiana was a Fedora-like concept, with its own release cycle and the eventual intention of being forked to produce Sun's next commercial release of Solaris (which at that time was codenamed Nevada, and seemed unlikely to be called Solaris 11 at launch).

Before its first milestone release, Project Indiana was somewhat confusingly renamed OpenSolaris, a fully-fledged, developer-focused distro that saw three releases, snappily called OpenSolaris 2008.05, 2008.11, and 2009.06. Then, of course, Sun was sold to Oracle, who (regrettably, IMHO, without any official announcement to the OpenSolaris community, just a leaked internal memo) closed it all up again**, and decided that the next version of Solaris was going to be called Solaris 11 after all.

Nearly two years of spit and polish, and an intermediate Solaris 11 Express release later, here we are at last. Enjoy!


* No, we're not launching it on 11/11. Yes, it would be nice if US-based global corporations would hold their launch events in other parts of the world now and again, so some of the many thousands of non-US staff and customers could be there.

** Of course, once the open source cat is out of the bag, there's no pushing it back in, and there are still some thriving OpenSolaris communities out there today, notably Illumos and OpenIndiana.

About


I am an Interaction Designer in the Systems Experience Design team, arriving at Oracle via Sun where I've worked since 2000. I currently work on sysadmin user experience projects for Solaris. Formerly I worked on open source Solaris desktop projects such as GNOME, NWAM and IPS.

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