Solaris 10 for x86 - I'm impressed!

I have an old PC in my home office which acts as time server, HTTP proxy, file store for the other computers (2) on my home network and occasional web surfing use. It's a PIII 500 with 13.5Gb disk and a mere 320Mb RAM and has been running SUSE Linux 9.1 for about a year now.

Now, I may have had it set up wrong somehow, but the performance sucked. Big time! The Squid proxy was as slow as an old tortoise and it took an age to read and write files from the PC over the SAMBA protocol. It did, however, keep good time :)

Matters came to a head just before I went on vacation. I used a 6Gb partition for all of the shared data, and unfortunately, my music managed to fill it up, so I ended up having to remove some of the home directory data backed up from the PC (with fingers crossed, I might add).

Once back from vacation, I ordered a cheap 80Gb ATA133 disk and installed it in the machine last weekend, but what to do next. The machine desperately needs more RAM and a faster CPU, so I've hunted around and think I have something lined up. However, I decided to hold off due to cash-flow problems ;)

I dowloaded the first couple of CD's worth of Fedora Core 4, thinking I would try this out, but before I installed that, I thought: why not try Solaris 10 as I've got it sitting in my cupboard ?

To be honest, my expectation of any sort of success with S10 was very low. However, I stuck the first CD and it booted first time without any problem. I then lurched through the installation process (I don't do it often enough to become good at it) and up the machine came. Unfortunately, due to my careless package selection policy, I couldn't get the window system up and running, and even services like sshd wouldn't come up properly. However, flush with the success of actually getting the machine to boot, I did a re-install, only this time instead of starting from the minimal (core) cluster, and adding packages, I started with the end-user cluster and removed a few bits of stuff I didn't really need. The install went through smoothly, and apart from forgetting to add a swap partition (d'oh!), everything went swimmingly and JDS came up with no problem at all.

I downloaded squid from Blastwave then configured it, Samba and xntpd to give me the same services as I was using on SUSE and now it works perfectly! Not only that, but Squid is running significantly faster and file reads and writes over Samba are very quick now. Whilst I don't know if this is S10 or just a function of having a faster disk, I am really impressed. I've only tried JDS briefly, but it appears to be at least on a par performance-wise with KDE on SuSE, so I'm really chuffed. Now, I can even administer the machine easily rather than spending ages with the Linux manuals trying to figure out how to do X, Y and Z!!

One small negative in the whole process is the way Solaris reports package dependencies during the install. If you manually select a package that depends on another, it will warn you, but the dependent package description is given, and it's sometimes difficult to find the corresponding package in the long list presented. It would be really nice to just have an option to 'resolve dependencies' to automate the correction, and would have saved me a good chunk of time.

All in all, I'm really glad I chose to try Solaris instead of Fedora or SuSE. Now, I just need to get that CPU, motherboard, and RAM upgraded. Oh, and I guess I'll need a new case too ;)


Hey Trevor, In case you'd like to track the package dependency enhancement, it's CR 5012563. Dave

Posted by Dave Miner on September 23, 2005 at 02:42 PM BST #

Linux will not run in 320 Kilobytes RAM...did you mean 320 Megabytes RAM?

Posted by the1 on September 23, 2005 at 08:39 PM BST #

Ah yes, thanks for pointing out my simple typo. I do remember a time, though, when SunOS 3.x would boot in under 500K of RAM!!

Posted by Trevor Watson on September 26, 2005 at 01:12 AM BST #

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