Installing Solaris 8 (10/1) on a Compaq Armada E500

Since the Compaq Armada E500 laptop does not appear to work with the Solaris Web Start, I shifted to using the Solaris Interactive Installation (using Software Disk 1 of 2). I used the default installation choices and booted while connected to the network.

One thing to notice is that Solaris 8 requires you to know exactly what sort of monitor is in your machine, including chipset, resolution, and refresh rate. I just hate having to finagle with video; one doesn’t do this with anything else. Not only that, but all the other systems (including Windows 2000, Kubuntu, Gnoppix, Knoppix…) all immediately began to use the screen without having to be hand-held all the way through what kind of chipset the video uses…

Doing some research, it was recommended that one skip the video configuration altogether (using F4 to bypass) and then reconfigure after installing Sun Patch 109401 (which adds more up-to-date drivers). Sunsolve has this patch, but it still requires logging into Sunsolve. Signing up for Sunsolve is free, but required.

As a Solaris system administrator, access to Sunsolve will be matched to a maintenance contract, and the full resources of Sunsolve will be available.

The 109401-14 patch seems to be the most current patch; however, adding it does not provide the ATI Rage Mobility (8M) support that the Compaq Armada E500 needs. Solaris does install cleanly without a graphical configuration, but it provides only a text-based interface.

The (apparently misnamed) “XFree86 Porting Kit” actually contains a number of new video drivers that are useful immediately. The XFree86 4.0.3 version added no support for the ATI that I needed; from the looks of it, I really needed the XFree86 4.2.0 drivers.

I decided to try the generic VESA support that was added with the Sunsolve patch above. This worked! Yay!

Setting Up

Setting up access to Blastwave involved getting their pkg-get application and a wget binary. However, in the process of setting up Blastwave, it turns out that running Blastwave packages requires a patch (Patch 112757) that is only available with a paid Sunsolve maintenance contract (!). This needs to be fixed.

Looking over the Blastwave directions, list patch 110935 as a recommended patch for Solaris 8 x86. So we’ll try that when GNOME is done installing.

Completing Installation

After rebooting, the system came up (using generic VESA display) perfectly. The system never had a regular user added (did I miss something?) so I added myself (dgd) as a user. I logged in as root and selected the CDE desktop (at the time of Solaris 8, that was the destined standard desktop). After setting up dgd (using useradd) I logged back in as dgd and selected the CDE desktop.

I logged back in as root in order to install the GNOME Desktop v1.4. Looks like I’ll be running Solaris x86 for the near future.

Remote X Displays

Fedora Core 5 apparently supports remote X sessions out of the box. I’m pretty sure I never set it up; using the Solaris Chooser (from the login screen) presents my Fedora Core 5 machine as a login possibility, and it works. Eerie! However, X is a security risk, is it not?

I should set up an X font server, as I have done in the past. It goes a long ways to making applications run well on remote displays.

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