OpenSolaris 2009.06 on a MacBook Pro

The MacBook Pro is a nice machine from Apple, that I had the chance to order (15" Uni-Body) after my TOSHIBA TECRA M2 died. Well, TOSHIBA Laptops already come pre-installed with OpenSolaris, so why using a Mac to run OpenSolaris could you ask ?

First of all, a MacBook Pro can run natively OpenSolaris, even 2009.06. Many blogs have already described the procedure (Brian Leonard ,Omsarti, Michel Wences, Paul Mitchell, Allan Perry, genunix's wiki, ) even if it was for previous builds of OpenSolaris. I have personnaly used the Brian Leonard's procedure for OpenSolaris 2009.06, and added some details at the end of this text.

So, why installing OpenSolaris on a MacBook Pro ?

  • OpenSolaris can run on nearly any x86 HW  and having it running on a MacBook is may be disturbing for a standard Mac user, but will certainly lead to questions on OpenSolaris
  • It's an excellent HW for a laptop (if not the best) to run OpenSolaris: Memory is DDR3 1067MHz, you can have SSD (very fast for compiler like Sun Studio or Netbeans), the Graphic Card is powerfull (512 MB), 3D acceleration is excellent with Compiz (even better than SPACES with MacOS X), external display is supported by the NDvidia driver included in OpenSolaris, even the iSight camera can be used (Cheese webcam booth for example)
  • It can have a lot of memory (up to 8GB on a MacBook pro 15";), so enough room to play with Zones/containers, and even use VirtualBox to run Linux/Windows OSes in a confortable way
  • There are some interesting features in OpenSolaris like:
    1. Automatic backups with TimeSlider without external disk
    2. Observability of the application scaling when playing with the resources like disabling a core/thread, changing resource pools, looking at CPU power behaviour and consumption
    3. Embedded OS virtualisation features with Zones. A very nice way to quickly deploy virtual servers, build your own Proof of Concept, and run it on your own MacBook Pro. You can even run some native linux code on top of OpenSolaris. Zone have the major advantages compared to Virtual Machines: very fast to boot/reboot (all the devices are up in the global zone), very light in term of memory used per zone so you can run many zones (here comes teh 8GB in a MacBook Pro), fastest communication speed between zones (handled by the global zone, it's memory to memory accesses, here comes the DDR3 1067MHz of the MacBook Pro) 
    4. Embedded network virtualization like virtual NIC, virtual switche and resource control like QoS. A virtual Data Center and a Network Admin (project CrossBow ) in your MacBook Pro
    5. It's an Open UNIX that know how to handle threads since a while (quad and Octo-core, dual-thread per core CPUs are coming from INTEL soon on you MacBook)

Details on installing OpenSolaris 2009.06 on MacBook Pro:

  • HW compatibiliy: Can your MacBook Pro run OpenSolaris 2009.06 ? well, the best way to know it it to run the Sun Device Detection Tool from your MacOS X. Check the wired and/or Wireless chipset.
  • Bootcamp or rEFIt: I do prefer an OpenSource solution: eEFIt for dualbooting OpenSolaris and MacOS X
  • What about multi-boot ?: keep is simple dual-boot is enough
  • How to install: here is a description on how to do it
  • Heat: OpenSolaris doesn't handle yet the SMC that is responsible of managing the internal MacBook Pro fans. So, your MacBook pro can be hot (well known issue at Apple). I do recommend to install the SMC fan controller under MacOS X, add 500 RPM to the fans and reboot. The fan's speed will be kept by the SMC untill the next poweroff.
  • Mouse: The trackpad is not working well, I do recommande to use an external USB mouse.
  • Networking: My wired network chip is a MCP79, needing a nge driver. You can find drivers at the end of How To Do It
  • Wifi: My wireless network chip is Broadcom BCM4322, as a 64bit version of this driver is not yet available, so you can use  an external USB WIFI stick or an NDIS wrapper after having boooted in 32bits (you can find the wrapper at the end of How To Do It) 
  • Audio: working perfectly with build 125 (Boomer). The MacBook is showing an MCP79 High Definition Audio chip, and is using the OSS v4 driver.
  • Keyboard: The "Apple keyboard"is not yet fully supported but work in an acceptable way, so you'll find after some tests where  "@", "|" "<" >" keys are.

If you would like to show that your macbook is powered by OpenSolaris, you can create a personnal skin like this one ;)


Is this the SMC Fan controller you're talking about?

What's this 500 RPM setting you're talking about?

There are 3 RPM settings in the program, ODD, HDD, CPU.


Posted by Das on September 13, 2009 at 06:44 PM CEST #

Something I forgot to mention, since we are relying on this SMC Fan Controller application to give us the support, I take everytime you then need to run OpenSolaris you're going to have to boot up into OS X then reboot into OpenSolaris?


Posted by Das on September 13, 2009 at 07:14 PM CEST #

regarding FANs, I was meaning the "hottest" fans, which are the CPU fans. There are in fact two fans on a MacBook Pro : a left fan taht is cooling the Core 2 Duo CPU, and a right fan cooling the NVidia GPU. Air is blowed at the back, and you should largely open you screen. By 500 RPM, I was meaning add 500 RPM to the actual fan speed.

There is also another SMC fan control here
All you need is a tool that send to the SMC a minim fan speed, like the above tool running on macOS X. This information is kept on the SMC until a shutdown occurs. I personally boot my MBP on MacOS X, adjust the CPU fan speed, and then reboot with OpenSolaris.

I hope that someone will write a driver to control the SMC from OpenSolaris.


Posted by Karim Berrah on September 14, 2009 at 03:40 AM CEST #

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