Wednesday, October 23, 2013

OpenSolaris Successor: OpenSXCE (Part 2)

[OpenSXCE Mascot with Illumos Logo]


Solaris, once the standard in workstations, became the standard for datacenter server. Sun Microsystems had open-sourced Solaris, referring to it as OpenSolaris. Oracle, purchased Sun, released Solaris 11 upon the OpenSolaris foundation, and closed OpenSolaris. Various forks were made from the OpenSolaris code, Illumos being one of the most popular across various commercial businesses, but only OpenSXCE was successful in creating multiplatform SPARC and Intel editions. As of May 2005, Martin made his second release. The first article discussed the history of OpenSXCE, the first release, the test platform, and second release using the text installer. This second article will discuss the GUI installer.

[Sun Microsystems UltraSPARC 60 Desktop]

Third Impression

The Test Platform

The Ultra 60 workstation with 2x Gigabytes of RAM, 2x 450 GHZ processor, and 1x DVD on-board, had it's video card repaired and a Gigabit Ethernet Card added - for the use of installing OpenSXCE 2013.05.
[SPARC International Logo]

The Installation Process

The OpenSXCE full install DVD booted reasonably well on the UltraSPARC platform, bringing up a desktop. By default, an command line was opened, but the terminal needed to be moved in order to reveal the Installation icon on the desktop. For new users, this might catch them by surprise.

The menus were well defined and the platform came up reasonably quickly. A simplification from the OpenIndiana installation included a single username & password combination. The root password could be changed later, after installation, using "sudo ksh".

I would have liked to have seen an option to mirror the root disks in the GUI, as the latest version of Solaris 10 offers.

The DHCP worked great, the platform picked up an IP Address after install, but only on my built-in 100 MBit hme0 card. The Gigabit card was not detected.
[SunRay running FireFox under SPARC Solaris 10]

Post Installation Process

Sampling Applications

In the Application Menu, it should be noted that Apache Open Office is bundled. The included version was 3.4.1. This is a welcome usability enhancement to any desktop! The writer applications seemed fairly snappy, even on my 10 year old desktop. I was copying large quantities of text from an xterm to the Open Office Writer application and it seemed to respond more quickly on my dual 450 MHz SPARC than similar operations using Microsoft Word on my Dell Laptop with a modern Quad-Core Intel processor. During this time, about 25% of the CPU was being consumed while the Open Office Writer application was scrolling to accept the text from the copy-paste buffer.

Firefox was also included in the Applications menu - version 21. It was not as snappy as Apache Open Office was, but it was usable, and worked fine on the Network Management blog. Normally, Firefox on a V240 over a SunRay is more snappy than this dedicated workstation. The Adobe Flash plugin was required (and not installed by default) - but somehow the system switched into HTML5 mode and played a video, albeit very slowly.

The System Tools Performance Meter is an abysmal CPU sucker! Once the Gnome tool is brought up, nearly half the CPU capacity on the dual-processor desktop is sucked up - scrolling graphs, which do not need to be updated nearly as quickly! When one clicks off the resource tab, the CPU time drops way down - the issue appears to be with the scrolling of the 3 graphs. I would suggest defaulting the poll & scroll to every 1-5 second, instead of multiple times a second. A tool to measure performance should never impact system performance.

The calculator was usable. A user could tap the keys with a mouse - even the numeric key pad on the Sun Type 4 Keyboard worked correctly.
[Protocol for remote desktop]

Sampling System Utilities

If the user did not already change the root password, this should be done via "sudo ksh" and using the "passwd root" command, before trying to access the standard system utilities. Many of these utilities require the root password.

When checking the System -> Preferences -> Display, it failed with "Could not get screen information" and a sub-error of "RANDR extension is not present". I suspect this has to do with running the the capabilities of "openXsun" that is required for the UltraSPARC system.

There was an interesting "System -> Preferences -> Desktop Sharing" application. When selecting the "Allow other users to view your desktop" - it very pleasantly described the IP Address which was now sharing. When trying to attach to the Ultra60 from my iPhone via a VNC Viewer, a pop-up appeared on the Ultra60 desktop requesting permission. After providing permission, it worked, but my iPhone app was not very good at controlling it.I tried "vncviewer" on my V240 over a SunRay - and it experienced the same problem of the commands going to the desktop but the remote viewer not reflecting the changes. A restart of the Ultr60 forced a disconnection, so I could be sure that I could run my next tests cleanly.

I brought up the System -> Services Application and thought the layout of the tool was very user friendly. I was surprised not to see the SNMP daemon in the list. This is something I was specifically looking for. The /usr/sbin/snmpd and /usr/sbin/snmptrapd binaries existed, but no default service available. This is, perhaps, the most important piece of network & systems management - yet it is the most overlooked piece, by most vendors.

Final Thoughts

This was an excellent release, so far. As more progress is made, from a networking perspective, it will be posted to the Network Management blog. Kudos to making OpenSXCE happen - I look forward to contributing to the project!

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