Sunday Jan 28, 2007

Great time zone feature in Solaris Nevada

Have you ever been confused by the time difference? For me, the answer is absolutely YES. When having conference call with colleagues from the other countries, or working with the other guys on the IRC channels, or checking the information on Mozilla bonsai and Mozilla tinderbox, to calculate the time difference is always a problem.

There is a tip on Alan's blog post. The Solaris Nevada provides the functionality to show you the time for several different places. It's really convenient, isn't it? I love this feature.

Wednesday Sep 20, 2006

Lynch's Installation experience of OpenSolaris

Lynch, One of my friends, tried to install OpenSolaris on his boxes recently. From his blog post, it's definitely not a good experience for him. And at last, the installation attempt failed. Fortunately, he'll still try it later. Great! I'll also try my best to help you, buddy!
First of all, it's not easy for the users to download the huge images from the website(almost 2.5G all together) and burn them into DVDs/CDs. But lynch didn't complain about it. I guess the open source experiences help him a lot:-)
Following are the problems he met during the installation process:
1. The memory requirement is huge for the graphic installation. His very first attempt was on VMWare with 512M memory. During his installation, the memory was almost exhausted and Firefox crashed. For the second try, he allocated 256M memory to the VM, and found that 400M is the minimal requirement for graphic. So he had to choose the text mode.
2. The initialization process for the installation is really slow. It takes 3-4 minites to load the graphic installation interface from DVD on a Opteron 146 with 2G memory. It's painful for the user to wait such a long time for the response.
3. The installation control isn't user-friendly for the text mode. Solaris uses F2/F3/F4 keys to control the installation flow, and sometimes even ESC+2. The user can't go backward at some pages, for example, the domain selection page(NIS、NIS+、LDAP、None). Only after several continual input, the user can go back several pages before.
4. After the installation, there isn't a graphic interface for the network configuration(hostname, dns, etc.). As I know, we have a project related to this problem ongoing. Hope that we can give it a shoot as soon as possible. Otherwise, we can only run sys-unconfig to reset all the information.
5. The poor video device driver support. Opteron 146 has bundled the video card(nVidia) on its motherboard. Since Solaris can't recognize it, the user has to use the Text mode also. For Linux, it can still load VESA driver to start up the graphic interface.
6. During the installation process, the program crashed for several times. It's not so stable for some reason. Actually, I don't have the same experience for this problem. In the text mode, the network installation process goes smoothly all the time.
7. There isn't any Chinese Community for Solaris. When the Chinese users meet any problem, it's hard for them to continue.
8. The different label format for hard disk can make some users confused.
Hope all the problems above won't hold back the users.

Tuesday Sep 19, 2006

Solaris & OpenSolaris: Serve a diversity of audiences

I read one of Jonathan's recent blogs: Who Cares About Bridging the Divide?, and I really like his opinion. I had to say that I totally agree with him on the idea: "Sun must serve a diversity of audiences."
Here is a snippet from his blog:"Developers care about bleeding edge innovation, but have little buying power; IT executives have all the buying power, but generally avoid the bleeding edge (unless they're supercomputer specialists)." That's just the case for Solaris/OpenSolaris.
As desktop engineers, we focus more on developing new stuffs for Solaris11/OpenSolaris: GNOME2.14/2.16, Firefox1.5.0.x/Thunderbird1.5.0.x(2.0 in the near future), Evolution2.6.2/2.8, GAIM2.0, Realplayer10, Gnome Meeting/Ekiga, Gnome Single System Administration, Trusted JDS... Those are really cool applications for Solaris. To compare with some other Linux distributions such as Ubuntu/Suse/Red Hat, we're almost the same for some applications. Actually, it's more user friendly in some aspects for the users in China: the Chinese font, the Chinese input method, the bundled stardict dictionary, etc. I like it after using it for sometime, really!
Due to the long development cycle, our latest released Solaris is still version 10. Then how about it? Old applications: GNOME 2.6, Mozilla1.7, Evolution1.4, no Firefox/Thunderbird available... Why don't we upgrade it? You can find the answer in Jonathan's blog above: The IT executives avoid the bleeding edge for its possible instability. And they're the people who can pay us money. Do the developers like it? The answer is no. They'd like the latest cool features for different applications. They don't need the support from our company so much, if there is a good community for them to get the answer.
OpenSolaris community is a good place to go. And it's still growing. We also have Solaris Express for the users to experience the latest development build for Solaris. It's cool. Maybe we can also release a minor stable build for the developing Solaris11. That way, the whole community(inside and outside) can know what we're working on and get involve much more.

Friday Sep 15, 2006

The list for the software applications replacement to migrate from Windows to Solaris

This topic is a little bit arguable.

Solaris is a great OS for server market. It was secure, stable, fast especially on SPARC. And for now, it's still cool, not only the released Solaris10, but also the developing Solaris 11. We're proud of the cool stuffs in our Solaris: the kernel debugging tools--DTrace; the virtualized operating system environments--Zones. So do we still need to compare it with Windows or Linux? I think the answer is YES. We have two different sets of customers. One is the enterprise customers. Not only a secure, stable kernel, but also user friendly, easy to use/config desktop system are what they want. Another set is the developers/users. Most of the users in China are familiar with the Windows system. Some of them may have been in the Linux world for sometime. To migrate to Solaris, the first problem they'll meet is how to find the alternative applications. GNOME helps some of the Linux users. And for the Windows users, it's still a problem.

The following is the list for the application pairs with the similar functionality:

Internet Explorer ---- Firefox(firefox)
Microsoft Outlook ---- Thunderbird(thunderbird)/Evolution(evolution)
Microsoft Office ---- StarOffice(soffice)
Winamp ---- Rhythmbox Music Player(rhythmbox)/Realplayer(realplay)
Photoshop ---- Gimp(gimp)
Word Pad/notepad ---- Gedit(gedit)
Instant messaging ---- Gaim(gaim)
Windows Explorer ---- Nautilus
Windows Picture ---- Eye of GNOME(eog)
MIRC ---- Gaim(gaim)
Media Player ---- Totem(totem)/Realplayer(realplay)
金山词霸 ---- stardict
中文输入 ---- SUN PINYIN
Acrobat Reader ---- Evince(evince)
flash player ---- flash player

The aboves are the bundled applications. Beside those stuff, there are also lots of unbundled applications which are useful: xchat, mplayer, nvu... Want to have a try? Come here

Thursday Sep 14, 2006

How to disable the keys combination "ctrl+alt+backspace" on Solaris?

After making a new installation for Solaris Nevada 47 x86, the keys combination "ctrl+alt+backspace" which can log out without warning hurt me again.

I was just writing some new stuff, and I didn't know how I clicked these three keys at the same time. Then my gnome desktop logged out automatically, with data losing... As I could remember, I clicked the space button just before the black window showed up. Maybe it's not caused by the keys combination, maybe it's related to the Chinese input method. Anyway, after I disable "ctrl+alt+backspace", it never appeared again.

The instructions are as follow:
1) cd /etc/X11
2) cp .xorg.conf xorg.conf
3) Edit xorg.conf and add the following clause
Section "ServerFlags"
Option "DontZap" "true"
EndSection
4) ctrl+alt+backspace to restart your x window manager.

Or the website directly: http://jdsbj.prc/wiki//index.php/Disable_ctrl_alt_backspace

What's this category all about?

I started using Linux(Red Hat 7.0) four years ago. So the time isn't so long for me to enter the open source world actually.

At that time, I spent big part of my time on installation and configurations: How to install multiple different OSes on the same box and use lilo/grub to boot them; How to set up the network property by modifying the configuration files directly; How to administrate the services such as ftp/http; The Chinese supports include Chinese locale, Chinese input method and even the Chinese display for various applications.

Unlike the western culture, people here don't use IRC and mailinglist so much. We'd like that the useful information can be gathered together into a pool(website), or categoried into several different topics. That way, we can follow the instructions step by step. Serveral useful websites I usually searched for answer are http://www.linuxsir.org , http://www.linuxaid.com.cn/ and the Linux/Unix board of Tsinghua bbs. Although the instructions are helpful, to configure the system every time I made a new installation is still boring. Then it's the time for Debian. Apt-get, a totally new and convenient package mangement mechanism, attracts lots of my friends around. However, I still sticked to Red Hat for being tired of configurations.

Another distribution I used was JDS on Suse Linux, we also called it Cinnabar/Linux. I got an internship opportunity at Sun. One thing impressed me a lot was the administration tool--yast2. It's similar to the control center on Windows, made the configuration process a easy job. With the beautiful Chinese fonts and SUN PinYin support, it's also Chinese friendly. I had to say, it's really cool.

To align with the company goal, we abandoned the Linux support at last and transferred to JDS/Solaris. To be honest, Solaris is hard to use at the first time to compare with Linux. The using habit is an important reason of course, and the lack of applications are also a big limitation for common users. And that's just the reason why we need to work on it, to gain the developers back.

As a browser developer(Firefox/Mozilla), I'm not quite familiar with the configuration skills for Solaris. Every time I've got a question, I'll turn to the release engineers for help, or search the piles of emails to get some useful information. It's still time consuming. I think to put them together is a good idea. Not only for myself, but also some guys need them.

That's the reason why I create this new category :-)

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