OpenSolaris, SUN-CA at SFD, PICT

Hi all,

PICT had organised SFD or software freedom day on 19th-20th September 2008. While I would talk about the event and whatever happened in another post I wanna use this post as a way to share my experience with seeing OpenSolaris.

The talk/seminar/sharing was done by Mayuresh.This was the first time ever I saw OpenSolaris so here’s my few observations on the same :-

1. OpenSolaris was able to play nicely with the projector. I dunno if they are using or not. If yes, then it was goodness. I know the kind of issues few years back when XFree86 was there and it didn’t used to talk properly with lot of projectors.

2. It was all GNOME goodness so one actually doesn’t know that its something else underneath. Just another beautiful wallpaper.

3. Compiz effects and stuff worked out of the box.

4. The unix commands, ls , pwd , some executable & , pskill all of them worked .

5. The only negative (or whichever way you look at it ) I saw was that it needs a primary partition. While GNU/Linux will happily reside in a logical extended partition OpenSolaris needs a primary partition. This I have issues with.

Apart from that, it seemed just like any other GNU/Linux clone/distribution. I’m sure if I had a chance to poke around I would have found quite some differences but as far as the UI is concerned and generic GNU/Linux commands they seem to be the same. I have to see some more in order to understand the differences and what part of problem they have solved or are solving apart from ZFS and DTrace which have been hyped or known much about. I dunno if its fact or not but kgdb lite got merged into the mainline kernel couple of kernel releases ago, after much resistance from Linus for years. Was this due to competition from DTrace or something else altogether would be interesting to know.

The other interesting thing being Btrfs , a GPL’ed GNU/Linux filesystem which surprise surprise is from big brother Oracle. That also promises to bring ZFS like features to GNU/Linux . What it all means is healthy competition and better feature-set for users like you and me.What was more interesting is to hear that Oracle has also some Operating System ambitions. It would be nice to know/hear a bit about that specifically if they are thinking to jump on the GPL or a copyleft bandwagon.

There was speculation rife when Solaris decided to go open. The most likeable answer which a large part of community,  which I also believe is that, for years it was Solaris-SPARC combination and it gave a run for databases, servers in many areas and verticals. The advent of cheap commodity hardware (read x86 and AMD) and something stable and robust like GNU/Linux entered into market, it captured whole chunks of market. Windows has never been a serious contender in the server market. In fact whole lot of their system infrastructure still relies on old debian boxes (since 1994) . Anyways, hence at some point they felt they had to fork/open it up and they had seen the Redhat/Fedora transition so they could use that model to start with. It would be interesting to see some perspectives on that as well.

What I found most compelling is Sun’s strategy to have Campus Ambassadors where Sun is spending time, money to get students excited about the whole thing for which they have also got some flak from the FOSS community. Of course, their strategy is to get young minds to use OpenSolaris and be able to contribute to make OpenSolaris have a better feature-set.

I see a good part and somethings that the OpenSolaris/Sun Community needs to work out so that the FOSS community feels its a welcome addition to the community.

The good part is obviously the fact that students would get a hands on feel on a Unix system and their logic gets developed. I had read posts on blogs as well as mailing list which confirm that a GNU/Linux user or administrator or a developer could work with OpenSolaris, Mac and all while somebody using a  monopolistic vendor’s OS user or Administrator or Developer would find themselves hard to adjust to any of the new environments.

Also as far as commitment is concerned, Java and and now OpenSolaris are their contributions back to the community.

While Java and Openoffice.Org both have established communities I don’t know how they are going to drive OpenSolaris forward.

I have few questions for the community at large :-

1. From what I heard upstream contributions (i.e. to projects like GNOME, KDE , whatever) when and how they are going to go about it?

2. Open Hardware is the only way forward for the tribe to increase. Just like ATi released the specs sometime back it would be nice if they can collaborate with the FOSS community so more things can be taken back and forth.  Apart from Intel, even VIA has been trying to hack the Open Source story.

In fact, there was an interesting hardware story developing sometime back OpenGraphics which now seems to be going nowhere.

So the question is what can Sun do to see that Open commodity hardware specifically cheap open graphic hardware is available on the x86 and again collaborate with the free software community on that front.

3. The big story is not going to be desktop but smart devices. How does OpenSolaris look at that?

(The only thing that really excites me right now is the Openmoko Project. I have read and seen quite a few videos about it, it would be nice to have atleast to see a product in hand. Android with the Apache License don’t really know. )

4. Sun has been perceived as being highly bureaucratic for many years. How does it hope to shed that perception?

5. There was the recent Fedora-Redhat fiasco in which Redhat had egg all over its face. Redhat is a public limited company (like Sun Microsystems is) , both have a community version (Fedora for RH and OpenSolaris for Sun), its not like vulnerabilities would be wiped out or things like what happened will not happen.

It would be interesting to see what steps the guys at OpenSolaris as well as Sun Solaris take to put responsibility and how open they are in the whole process?

All in all this promises lot of interesting challenges both for users, SUN and free software community. May we all thrive 😉

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