Running with Solaris 8 on the Armada E500 was not necessarily bad – but the experiece was somewhat sour due to some problems not due to the hardware – or even due to Solaris itself.

One problem is the age of the software. Because of this, Solaris 8 does not have good support for WiFi (either PCMCIA or USB), and also does not seem to have decent bluetooth support either. This, for me, is a major downside: the wireless hotspots provide me with a fast link to the Internet. Few are the hotspots that provide wired Ethernet links to the Internet as well – though I do know of two in the Janesville/Madison (Wisconsin) area – just two mind you.

Solaris 8 also does not have good support for newer software packages. Blastwave.org is unusuable under Solaris 8 (as mentioned previously, Blastwave requires a patch – 112757 – only available under a paid contract). Sunfreeware.com is an alternate source – though they do not have as many packages, and do not support the dependency-checking and auto-dependency resolution that Blastwave.org does. That is, you must download each dependency individually. One thing missing from the Sunfreeware.com Solaris 8 package lists was WindowMaker – which may be the best intersection of power and minimal memory usage there is (of course, window managers are more than software – they are personal).

Another showstopper for me was the filesystem. Today, every filesystem out there is a journaling filesystem or uses soft updates (which eliminate the need for journaling). Solaris 8 UFS uses neither, and remains firmly in the old tradition of long fscks and dire warnings about loss of power.

In essence, this brings up two major requirements of any system I want to run on this system:

  • Support for either journaling or soft updates
  • Current or almost current software repositories

What’s next?

So I tried installing CentOS 4.0 from a CD set – but it turned out that the second CD of the set was scratched just enough to be unreadable at one point. Rather than wrestle with it, I just gave it up – besides, running CentOS 4 is not unknown to me. I was hoping to install operating systems I was not quite familiar with as much as I might. This (suggested) requirement would preclude running Red Hat as well as CentOS.

I did try installing OpenBSD 3.3 – but the CD I have is not a bootable installation CD (!). Perhaps the bootable install disks are specially made for sale by the OpenBSD project.

What am I looking towards? I plan to install (at one time or another):

  • Solaris 9
  • OpenSolaris or derivative
  • FreeBSD 6
  • OpenBSD 3.x (most recent)
  • SUSE (perhaps)
  • Knoppix/Debian
  • Miscellaneous Linux distros (perhaps…)

We’ll see how this goes. Currently I am installing Fedora Core 5 via the (local) network. Last time I tried things appeared to freeze – this is as much a test of the network installation (via PXE) as it is of Fedora Core 5. However, I am using this elsewhere so it is not likely to last very long at all. Perhaps OpenBSD will be next.

One problem is that there is no DVD on this system, and it will not support booting off of a DVD. This limits my ability to install OpenSolaris (two DVDs) as well as others.

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