Tuesday Jan 02, 2007

Solaris 10 U3 on Gateway MX6453

I bit the bullet this weekend and picked up a Gateway MX6453 Laptop. I also immediately downloaded the Solaris 10 - 11/06 DVD and attempted an installation. It was (and still is) a bit rough going. I thought I would share a few things that are peculiar to the laptop that may help with other Gateways.

One thing to be aware of with this system, you will NOT have network functionality out of the box and as of yet, I do not have wireless working, so plan on being near a wired port for the time being.

Basic system information:
- CPU: AMD Turion 64 - worked without a hitch
- Wired Ethernet: Marvell Yukon 88E8038 PCI-E, get the driver from here, be SURE to grab the 64-bit driver. This SysKonnect supports the Marvell Yukon (note that the Marvell site does NOT have this driver available on it).
- Wireless Ethernet: Gemtek WMIB-184GW (driven by Broadcomm Driver in Windows), NOT WORKING
- Video: Don't know, worked without a hitch
- Audio: Not sure yet, not working either :-)
- Memory: 2GB (one of the reasons I bought it)
- Hard Drive: 160 GB (another reason I bought it)

Hard Drive Partitions
The Gateway comes with two primary partitions, one for system restores and one for the Windows Media Center edition. Do yourself a favor immediately, get Partition Magic before you go any further. Yes, I was able to install Solaris 10 without destroying my Windows partition, but no, I don't think I could have done it without Partition Magic.

Shrink the Windows partition down (you probably only need about 10GB to play, I put 55GB since I want NetBeans, StarOffice 8 and I'll be doing stuff for work on it).

Here are the approximate sizes and relevant information for the partitions in about the order you would see them in partition magic:
- Pre-existing partition: ~8GB, Primary Partition, System Restore already configured from Gateway, leave unchanged
- Pre-existing partition: ~150GB, Primary Partition, Windows XP, shrink to about 85GB, this will remain Windows XP
- New Primary Partition: ~55GB, no type (I think this is "unassigned"), this will be used for our Solaris installation
- New Logical Partition: ~5GB, FAT32, this will be used to transfer files between Solaris and Windows (theoretically)
- New Logical Partition: ~5GB, no type (I think this is "unassigned")

The installation is very straightforward. The only problem I had was with the initial file system sizes. The defaults were 5GB for / and the remaining for /export/home. This was not good and caused all sorts of problems for me as I tried to install larger programs (like StarOffice 8). I caught it on my second installation. Tweak the file system sizes to be more balanced remembering that if you don't explicitly set /opt and /tmp sizes, these directories will be put in the / file system.

To let you know how serious this is, I could not even grab StarOffice 8, decompress it and add it. The Solaris Companion CD also gave me all sorts of headaches as well. So, if you leave the default directories on the install, at least tweak the sizes so you have the balance in / and not /export/home.

Wired Network
The wired network worked well, but not without a lot of driver searching. For the Marvell chipset, get the driver from the SysKonnect
web site. Now you have some work to do...I think I've captured it here, but it is a bit tricky:
- Uninstall the pre-existing SK98sol package (they conflict and this is old)
- Remove all entries referring to sk98sol from /etc/driver_aliases
- pkgadd the SysKonnect driver (pkgadd -d . SKGEsolx) from the directory you decompressed and untarred the distribution from
- During the pkgadd DO NOT have it configure the interfaces, it won't find it anyway
- Once installed, edit the /etc/driver_aliases file and look towards the bottom, there should be a bunch of lines with skge in them. For the marvell card in this Gateway, add the following line to the end of the file: skge "pciex11ab,4352"
-- NOTE: How I came up with this is kind of weird, I found Ryan Hornbeck's blog that showed the basics of determining the device manufacturer number from Windows, I then used the command 'prtconf -Dv | grep 4352' to determine the rest of the string I needed.

There are many different things you could do from here to get the network up and running. I wanted to use my DHCP and have the same hostname all the time rather than have my router assign it. When the driver gets loaded, the ethernet card device will be skge0, so:
- create a file named /etc/hostname.skge0 with a single line in it: inet (where is the name you want for your host all the time)
- create a file named /etc/dhcp.skge0 (you can use "touch /etc/dhcp.skge0")
- now, you can do the rest of the work with ifconfig and a few other commands...I just rebooted (remember, I came from Windows).

You SHOULD be attached to the network, to see...run "ifconfig -a", you should see skge0 with a valid address assigned by your DHCP server.

COOOL, if I blew some of the instructions above, drop me a note and I'll try to correct them...but that is the basics.

Wireless Network
Forget about it. The Broadcom driver (which appears to drive a Gemtek 802.11b/g Model WMIB-184GW on board card) does not appear to be supported, I couldn't find a Solaris driver anywhere. Further, the laptop community on OpenSolaris and Solaris HCL don't give me much hope for this card natively at the moment.

The ndis community is working to get Windows drivers working with Solaris to help expedite all of the various Wireless chipsets out there but, to be honest, you will have to do a bit of work to get your native chipset working and the ROI isn't worth it to me.

My current plan is to go back to Circuit City and purchase a PCMCIA wireless card that is on the support list, I think this list will provide me with enough information to get started.

Obviously you want StarOffice 8 and not 7. First remove StarOffice 7:
- I forgot the package names, simply do "pkginfo | grep Office", this should return 2 packages. Remote the gnome integration one first, then the main office package.
- You should do this BEFORE you access staroffice for the first time.

Then grab StarOffice 8 from Sun Microsystems, remember to get the x86 packages and follow the readme to install it.

Not working yet, not a priority for me either, this is why Jobs made iPods.

Grub Menu
When you boot, you will see the following entries on the Grub menu:
- Solaris 10
- Solaris 10 Safe Mode (or something)
- Windows
- Windows

Be VEWY VEWY careful, the first Windows option is the one you want. The second one takes you to a system restore...if you go there, just shut it off ASAP. You can rename these when you are in Solaris, edit the file: /boot/grub/menu.lst

Companion CD
My first attempt at this failed miserably because of lack of disk space (recall I didn't set the file directory sizes properly). At the bottom of the README on the DVD there are instructions for installing all of the packages. If you don't want to be finicky and you want to explore at your leasure, go for it. Noticeable things on the companion DVD include all sorts of GNU utilities, PHP, Ruby and more.

Things left to do
- Audio isn't working
- Try out my share between DOS and Solaris partition
- Try out ZFS :-)

Total Time Spent: More than you want to know ;-) (probably about 16-20 hours thus far, which is the reason I thought I'd post as much of this as I could...there are plenty of other how-to's out there but heck, if you have a Gateway you may as well have some more info).

Finally, thanks to my friend for helping me through some of the sticky networking stuff. Hopefully she can catch any bugs in the above info :-)




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