Try Out the "Dwarf Caiman" Installer

Over the weekend, Solaris Nevada build 70 was pushed out to the Sun Download Center.  This build is the first candidate for the next Solaris Express Developer Edition (SXDE) release, which means the work of the Dwarf Caiman team is now generally available.  Due to a number of bugs that have already been found in internal testing we know there'll be at least one "re-spin" build, 70a, before we'll call it the SXDE release.  In the meantime, please try it out and let us know how it works via caiman-discuss (or on our new IRC channel, #caiman-discuss at  While you're downloading, read on for a couple of comments I'd like to make in relation to this new installer.

Probably the most important thing to understand is that we're closer to the beginning of producing a truly new installer here than the end.  This project was specifically scoped to provide a new graphical interface for SXDE as soon as possible, replacing the tired old GUI that's been in place for several Solaris releases now and which we'd done some minor tweaking of late last year when the SXDE program started.  To allow for delivery in the time frame we've done this on (the project went from zero to delivery in 6 months), we specifically didn't change the underlying install engine, a moldy old warhorse known as pfinstall.  The code to discover and identify the available storage (what we call "target discovery" in the architecture) is mostly new, and there's a new thing called the "orchestrator" which provides the interfaces the GUI uses.  But the actual installation and upgrade process still relies on pfinstall, which is driven by a Jumpstart profile generated by the GUI/orchestrator combo.  Replacing the rest of pfinstall is the subject of current and future projects within the Installation and Packaging community.

Because we were specifically scoping this project for SXDE, we could make a couple of simplifying assumptions - the old installer is still there for all the things we don't choose to support yet.  For those of you who are experienced Solaris users, the one you may notice is that there's no way for you to set up the UFS slices within the Solaris FDISK partition.  That was intentional, and it's because you're an experienced Solaris hand that this is even particularly noticeable; however, if that's true, then you're not the target audience for this iteration of the installer.  The target users here are people new to Solaris, and the concept that you have to both set up an FDISK partition plus lay out slices within that partition is confusing to every single one of them.  So we just left it out for now, in favor of a canned layout for fresh installs that is more appropriate than the one the old installer uses (read the discussion thread on this for details); its most important attributes are that the root slice will be larger than before, and if the FDISK partition specified is sufficiently large, you'll get a second, alternate root for use with Live Upgrade by default.  Later projects will be adding more control over the file systems than is provided here, but even before that we're expecting we'll move to ZFS as the root file system.  The pooled storage model of ZFS is specifically meant to eliminate slicing as a common exercise for system administration, so I'm not expecting it to be a particularly commonly-used function in the finished installer, either.

You might also notice that we've added configuration of an initial user account, rather than just setting the root password and leaving you to your own devices to figure out how to create a user.  Again, this is a simplified interface - you don't get to choose uid's or groups, just the necessary basics, which is essentially identical the to Gnome Users & Groups tool's basic settings tab.  If you're part of a NFS environment where uid's and gid's matter, then by all means adjust these once you're installed, and if the administrative tools don't do what you need, please file bugs.  The philosophy here is to configure a few basics necessary to get started, but not require you to get everything exactly right to start with, so if there's something in the tools that makes that not work, we'll get it fixed.

The last thing I'll mention at this point isn't new, but was new in the SXDE 5/07 release and thus may not be particularly familiar yet.  The installer doesn't ask you to do any network configuration, because it enables Network Auto-Magic instead.  If you find that NWAM's a little too magical (or perhaps not magical enough yet, since it's still an early version, too) for your taste, you can switch to the standard Solaris networking configuration with sys-unconfig, which will force a reboot and walk you through the standard old configuration dialogs.


[Trackback] In Dave Miner’s Blog wird auf einen neuen Installer im Solaris Express Build 70 hingewiesen. Dieser neue Installer mit dem Projekt-Codenamen “Dwarf Caiman” ist für neue und unerfahrene Solaris-Benutzer gedacht und vereinfacht di...

Posted by Otmanix Blog on August 20, 2007 at 10:23 AM EDT #

Very cool over view, thanks for getting me up to speed with this. I did not even know it was going to be this build :D

Would you be willing to put this article into my site Magazine about OpenSolaris?

Posted by Edward O'Callaghan on August 20, 2007 at 05:34 PM EDT #

Congrats! I just got some more RAM for my old laptop, so I'll give your stuff a spin. Also, I just gave a talk in Bangkok to the Sun APAC field organization and I showed the audience some of the new install screen shots. Everyone's very much looking forward to it. :)

Posted by Jim Grisanzio on August 20, 2007 at 09:39 PM EDT #

I've been looking forward to this for months. Can't wait to try it out. :)

Posted by Justin Lundy on August 20, 2007 at 10:40 PM EDT #

Edward, I'm not sure exactly what you're asking me to do, but it would probably make sense to just contact me directly and we can figure that out.

Posted by Dave Miner on August 21, 2007 at 04:55 AM EDT #

hey ... I installed your latest stuff on my little Sony TX750P laptop, and it all went on beautifully. Very, very nice job on this. :)

Posted by Jim Grisanzio on August 29, 2007 at 03:00 AM EDT #

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I'm the architect for Solaris deployment and system management, with a lot of background in networking on the side. I spend a lot of my time currently operating Solaris Engineering's OpenStack cloud. I am co-author of the OpenSolaris Bible (Wiley, 2009). I also play a lot of golf.


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