VirtualBox, Parallels and OpenSolaris 2008-05

Ok, so OpenSolaris 2008-05 was released recently (see http://opensolaris.org/index.html) and I couldn't resist. I also couldn't resist the urge to try it out on my mac. Since I didn't want to actually create a dual boot system, I decided to try a couple of  virtualization products I happened to have handy. I already had VirtualBox, which I downloaded when Sun acquired it (http://www.virtualbox.org/). The other product was Parallels 3.0, which I acquired as part of a mac bundle that was sold (very cheaply, I might add) recently. So, armed with OpenSolaris, VirtualBox, and Parallels, I jumped headfirst into unknown territory, for up until now I hadn't tried any of these.

First up was Parallels. Not for any particular reason, just because. After firing it up, and pointing it at the OpenSolaris ISO image, it fired up the install. So far, so good. However, after some disconcerting warnings/errors about UARTs, inability to write addresses, and time-of-day clock warnings, the install "hung". I let it sit for a good long while, but nothing happened. I eventually gave up and aborted the installation. I didn't have any clue what happened, but I figured that I may as well try out VirtualBox. Quite a difference, I might add. Very simple (perhaps even simpler) than Parallels, and I didn't observe any errors during the installation. That speaks well of VirtualBox with respect to installing Solaris. So, after an amazingly simple installation process for OpenSolaris (yippee! I don't think it could have been any easier), it was finally time to boot it up under VirtualBox. Again, no problems at all. It came up without a hitch. Biggest surprise of all? I think that would have to be that wireless networking worked right out of the "box" (pun intended). Now how cool is that? Solaris is now, for all intent and purposes, fully functional for me on my mac. Nice!

Oh, so what about Parallels? Well, I noticed during the VirtualBox Solaris installation that they suggested a larger amount of memory than Parallels did for the OS being installed. I believe it was 512MB instead of 256MB. I decided to up it to 1GB for the VirtualBox install. Given that, I decided to go back and retry the Solaris installation under Parallels using 1GB memory allocated to the OS. Guess what? It worked, and it installed (though the unsettling errors/warnings were still present). After the install, I was able to boot it up. Great. And it seemed to be running ok as well. One major downer, however, was networking. Under Parallels, wireless networking does not work right out of the so-called box. In fact, I still haven't figured out how to get it to work. I'm not even sure that it is possible right now. At this point, I'm happy with VirtualBox, so I won't worry anymore (at least for now) about how to get the wireless working under Parallels (note that for installing and using windows xp, Parallels worked just fine for me ... apparently, they just can't handle Solaris very well, yet). Oh, and supposedly, plugging in an ethernet cable will allow you to access the internet in Solaris (through Parallels), but I'm not interested in doing that at the moment.

Here's how I'd rate my overall experience:

  • OpenSolaris - great. Give it a try, it's free.
  • VirtualBox - great. Give it a try as well, and it's free, too!
  • Parallels - ok. It's a nice product, but it's not free and it doesn't play well with Solaris, yet. 
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