Sunday, October 22, 2006

Installing Solaris - Halfway There...

In the last post when I said "I took the full version home and decided to install NexentaOS", I wasn't telling the whole truth. You could say that I was telling as much of the truth as any politician would; I took the full version of Open Solaris ON (Consolidation 46) home and then went through the long, slow process of installing that.

Why do I say long and slow? Well, for those of you have never installed a Solaris consolidation, if you do so by CDs you get to wait for about 5 CDs worth of data to be copied to your hard disk. It's painfully slow, dull and boring and renders your computer utterly useless.

In fact, I blame it on Solaris that I finally went and bought a DVD reader!

After at least 45 minutes, I had Solaris installed. Given that the NexentaOS LiveCD gave me network, I kind of assumed that Solaris itself would also give me some type of network. Sure enough, Solaris installed, my Gnome problem mysteriously disappeared (i.e. my computer actually booted into the JDS properly) and I lacked network.

Herein lay a problem, remembering that:
  1. I had never successfully managed a Solaris installation in my life
  2. I only had access to readonly fixed media (no floppy drives, no CD/DVD burners)
  3. I had no flash memory devices of any description
Consequently, although I found the Via Rhine II drivers:
  1. I needed the network enabled to transfer the drivers
  2. To enable the network I needed the drivers
I toyed with the idea of using the NexentaOS Live CD to transfer the drivers. This idea didn't work primarily because I had no idea, at the time, how Solaris named its disk slices. To me, the name:
  1. /devices/pci\@0\,0/pci-ide\@11\,1/ide\@0/cmdk\@0\,0:a
...was simply unguessable [that incidentally is the second slice in the first partition of the master device on my primary IDE channel].

Therefore, after all that time, I thought: stuff this, I'll use NexentaOS.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Move Towards Solaris...

I got bored with Debian GNU/Linux so one day when I was browsing in my local Dymocks store I chanced upon Solaris Internals (2nd Edition). I couldn't decide whether to buy it straight away or to order it from Angus & Robertson who give a standing 20% discount on all computer books; I decided to put a book order in - a wise choice because I ran out of money unexpectedly that week.

For reasons still unknown to me - call it professional interest - but I'd been trying to install a Solaris on x86 operating system for some four years. Back in those days, if I recall correctly, I did get a machine to actually boot into Solaris with one big but: it booted into the Common Desktop Environment (CDE), which I might say is one of the most awful GUI systems I've seen.

It makes Windows 3.1 look glorified!

Anyway, I resurrected a 650Mhz AMD Athlon with just 256Mb of RAM and a 40Gb, slowish hard drive. Patiently I changed over 6 CDs as I eventually got Open Solaris to install. The experience reminded me of installing Windows 3.1 and Windows 95 using floppy disks, however unlike those experiences:

The desktop manager, GNOME, did not work at all!

You might say that I was not a happy camper. You might also say that I was most annoyed that the Open Solaris developers correctly identified the problem as a GNOME problem and provided absolutely no hints on how to fix it, well at least none that worked for me. I was disappointed...

About this time, I started to talk to the LinuxSA mailing list. I detailed that problem plus maybe one or another and someone mentioned a distribution called NexentaOS - a GNU/Solaris type offering. This had me scampering to their site and downloading their LiveCD.

Now, I've used Live CDs and I've used LiveCDs. Let's just say that NexentaOS' LiveCD boots so slowly and brings up the desktop so slowly that you'll probably be dead by the time it actually does boot. In fact, there's an FAQ or instruction which essentially states it takes ages upon ages to startup.

All that aside, it eventually did impress me. Why? Not for any sensible reason but because it had sound!

I hate configuring sound. Sound is one of those subsystems that my early days of: fight with ALSO, OSS, ESD, kArts and other random things just made me give up on unix/linux and sound. It was way too hard. Therefore, when I found a LiveCD whose sound actually worked, I took notice...

And I took the full version home and started a plan to move from Debian GNU/Linux to NexentaOS.

More later!

Chapter One - How I Started Work as a Full-Time Project Manager

A chapter in my life has ended - I am once again a freelance contractor rather than a permanent member of the workforce. I guess I should write a little bit about what happened...

I had been working for a company called Bull Media - this link may still be valid. I'd started working at Bull Media about 3 years ago now and had first contracted to determine if it was feasible to synchronise a Moregroupware Calendar against a Palm Pilot.

Time went by and it transpired that the person who had introduced me to the company moved on to do chase his own dreams and I moved on to become the project manager (well, at least that's the title I liked to give myself). In that role, I worked with 3-6 other developers concentrating on a groupware product based on the Moregroupware web-application.

After about 3 months it was clear that I could fulfil the role...