Solaris Wireless on MacBook Pro

I've been playing with a nice MacBook Pro the past couple of weeks in a effort to evaluate if it would be suitable for Field Service engineers. Basically the model I have is this:
  • MacBook Pro
  • 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 120GB Harddisk

MacOS is an excellent OS and for the most part, it "Just Works". However, Solaris is an absolute requirement for Field Service. So, to that end, we've been looking at Parallels and VMWare as possible options for running Solaris. Those are fine and dandy too, but why should Solaris be limited to a virtual machine?

For the most part, of course, a virtual machine, would be just fine. However, when troubleshooting customer systems, the virtual machine would just add another level of "could be this problem." I don't like the idea of having to troubleshoot 3rd party software on my laptop when I should be troubleshooting customer systems.

That being said, the bare metal option is the most interesting to me.

After downloading Boot Camp from Apple, and going through the steps on Paul Mitchell's Blog about dual partitioning the MacBook Pro, I was up and running with Solaris Nevada Build 72. I updated to Build 73 shortly afterwards since it was out before I got to any serious playing.

Wired networking required adding in the Marvell Yukon driver and uttering this to get the wired network going:

# update_drv -a -i '"pciex11ab,436a"' yukonx

The wireless card is an Atheros card according to scanpci:

pci bus 0x000b cardnum 0x00 function 0x00: vendor 0x168c device 0x0024
 Atheros Communications, Inc.  Device unknown

Unfortunately, the Atheros driver that ships with Build 73 doesn't support that chip. Luckily, it looks like that driver has been updated to version 0.6. The OpenSolaris website has it here. A simple pkgrm of the old package and a pkgadd of the new package and I was in business talking with my Airport Extreme Base Station!

# ifconfig -a
lo0: flags=2001000849 mtu 8232 index 1
        inet netmask ff000000 
ath0: flags=201004843 mtu 1500 index 2
        inet netmask ffffff00 broadcast
        ether 0:1c:b3:b8:a6:c1 
lo0: flags=2002000849 mtu 8252 index 1
        inet6 ::1/128 
# wificonfig -i ath0 showstatus
        linkstatus: connected
        active profile: [Applesauce]
        essid: Applesauce
        bssid: 00:0a:95:f3:3d:f2
        encryption: wep
        signal strength: medium(10)

Score another one for Solaris on the bare metal!

The remaining things that I'd like to have working are sound through the built-in speakers and some better power management.


Very nice, cheers. The Atheros driver can do WPA too, can't it?

Posted by Dick Davies on September 26, 2007 at 10:39 AM CDT #


Im a sun field engineer too. Im looking forward to get one MacBook Pro and test Solaris 10|Nevada on it. I have some questions:

- how do you access the BIOS of the machine ? Is it the same as on any other PCs ?
- boot from DVD, do you need anything from Apple for that ? Im not interested to keep MacOSX...
- Sound, does it work ?

Posted by Stefan Parvu on September 27, 2007 at 12:33 AM CDT #

Yes, the ath driver does WPA. I just don't happen to have WPA configured on the Airport because my regular laptop has a wpi interface that can't do WPA just yet. :(

As for the BIOS, the Mac's don't have a BIOS in the same sense that SPARC systems don't have a BIOS. I saw that there is a BIOS emulated for other OS's that need it, but not a BIOS in the PC sense.

Booting from DVD was as simple as holding down the "c" key or the "option/alt" key at poweron. "c" tells it to boot from the CD/DVD and "option" gives you a menu.

I'm not sure about how the Mac would react to not having some MacOS slice on there.

For sound... well, it works. The only problem is that it only seems to work for the headphone port. I can't seem to get sound from the internal speakers. Apparently this is a common issue.

Posted by Phillip Wagstrom on September 27, 2007 at 02:52 AM CDT #

many thanks for answer

Posted by Stefan Parvu on September 27, 2007 at 08:10 AM CDT #

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Phil is an Area Technical Engineer in the Central Area of Oracle's Field Service in North America. He has 15 years of experience supporting Sun's entire product line.


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