ACPICA in Solaris

With the long history of neglect that Solaris on x86 endured, quite a few components got to be extremely stale and fragile. And this wasn't just a lack of device drivers but also a lack of basic new functionality in the core OS.

This week saw another quantum leap; the induction of Intel's ACPI reference implementation (ACPICA) into the next Solaris release.

For years I wanted to have battery support on my old VAIO and later on my Ferrari. And I wanted a power button that did something, etc. I tried to make do with the old "acpi_intp" interpreter which was part of Solaris; but it leaked memory like a sieve and was limited in functionality. Integrating ACPICA looked daunting but fortunately someone made an actual project out of this and the end result is that we now have a state of the art ACPI interpreter in Solaris.

There are basically only two ACPI interpreters in widespread use: the Windows one and the Intel one; by leveraging Intel's source, we stand a fair chance of having Solaris work with more ACPI BIOSes. If our system required ACPI to be turned of for Solaris to work, you may find yourself forced to switch it on when you upgrade later this year.

I've been distributing acpica and a number of other useful Solaris binaries in a single internal kit called "frkit" (originally aimed at Ferrari's but now running on countless systems); frkit includes acpica, a powerbutton/battery handler, an AMD PowerNOW! powermanagement module, a GNOME battery monitor, and our development cardbus and wireless drivers + tools.

One of the more interesting parts of that is possibly the "NDISulator" port from FreeBSD which allows the Sun Ferraristi to use the builtin Broadcom wireless on their ACer Ferraris in 32 and 64 bit mode.

ACPICA is just phase one of a larger project; we have not yet bothered much with the "P" (for power) from ACPI; but we hope to leverage the new implementation to provide the necessary "S3" and "S4" sleep state support.

The speed at with new features work on my Ferrari which I've had now for 4 months is in stark contrast with my Vaio which I got not too long before S9 for x86 was postponed. It's clear that we needed a ramp-up after the wind-down, but it seems to be going more quickly than ever before.
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