First Impression Fail

It is said that first impressions lasts forever. Well, I sure hope these first impressions won’t keep me from using Solaris in the future. So, yes, I decided to try out Solaris, and I downloaded the VMWare virtual machine images from Sun. First there’s the usual annoying questionnaire about who you are, what you do, why you want I to try Solaris. Everything short of my income and investment strategy.

So I download the file with what seems to have the biggest version number, but it turns out that’s only the second half of the virtual machine. And it’s a stupid tar bomb. OK, I reread the thing, and there’s no clear, visible indications that there are two parts to the tar ball and that I should download the two. Never mind that, bandwidth’s is cheap.

So I untar the two tar bombs into a newly created directory and launch vmplayer—I must say that, before you point it out to me, is quite enough for my VM needs, or so I thought. So Solaris launches and pops out a ridiculously large login window. Something like 2560×1726. Because it’s so big, the window explodes over my screen and some window controls are hidden. Why, thank you for asking if I wanted it that large. A strange interaction between vmplayer, Solaris and Linux disables ctrl, alt and shift, I must use setxkbmap to reset it. I manage to somewhat bring the window to my screen size (using alt+middle button), but I still had to use the scroll bars to reach the login dialog.

Now, as I type the login name—root, of course—I discover that there’s something else wrong with the keyboard. But this time, the keyboard as seen by the VM. I type root and I see rroootttt in the dialog box. Curiously enough, alphanumeric keys repeat randomly, but not backspace. So after typing the password as if I was plucking fleas from a sleeping tiger, and ten retries, I manage to log in.

So I rush (after scrolling and panning to get there, that is) to the Gnome keyboard configuration applet and try different settings before discovering the only thing that will keep random repetition of keys is to disable auto-repeat altogether. That’ll be fun with backspace. Especially that it was the only key that seems to behave as expected. So I open a shell. OK, default terminal configuration does not support the arrows.~[[A~[[B^H^H dammit! OK, delete works. It’s like BASH is in some weird VI mode, or something.

I change the resolution to a more reasonable 1600×1200, which doesn’t eat up all my display but is still somewhat spacious.

OK, so now I have a shell, I change the password to nothing since there’s no way I’m going to type password ten times like I’m disarming a bomb or something ever again.

Now, let us see what it can do. Hmm OK, commands are different, but that somewhat expected since it’s a different OS. It’s minimalistic, it doesn’t have any accounts created, it’s a bit dry, but I start exploring the differences between Solaris and Linux. So I launch the browser to look for tutorial. Ah. Network doesn’t work.

Turns out that the VM doesn’t detect the current host VM settings—it doesn’t see my already functioning vmnetn adapters, which are functioning perfectly fine in XP. It has vmxnet0 hard coded somewhere in the configuration. I’m not a VMWare whiz, so I do not find where I can set a vmxnet0 device, or alias it to an existing virtual device. So after googling a while, it appears that the only smart way of configuring network for the VM is to call sys-unconfig that… well, resets the OS configuration such as networking, time and time zones and a few other things (luckily enough, it doesn’t erase user-level settings such as resolution). So I lunch sys-unconfig and it seems to just freeze the OS. After waiting a while, I reset the VM. It reboots, and goes through something that looks like dpkg-reconfigure or maybe more accurately anaconda. It asks me if I want to use Xorg’s or Sun’s X server, but not in what resolution I’d like it to start by default. That means that the next login will be in 2560×1726 again. After that, it asks which VMWare adapter I want, it offers vmxnet0 but I can only accept it. So I completed the configuration. Window explodes again. Login screen in 2560×1726. And network doesn’t work either.

As far as first impressions go, what’ve I seen so far is a bit like discovering that the fun, smart, sexy girl you’re having dinner with for the first time speaks like an amphetamine-loaded hamster after her second glass of wine. Maybe not a show stopper, but you’ll remember to go easy on wine.

I downloaded the DVD ISO from Sun and see what I’ll manage to do with that later this week.

2 Responses to First Impression Fail

  1. pireau says:

    I think the shell you’re talking about is “csh” or tcsh: The C shell.

    The editor keys don’t always work by default, you have to use a file called .cshrc which is much like .bashrc to enable the keys you need, for example:

    in ~/.cshrc
    bindkey ~[[A up-history
    bindkey ~[[B down-history

    Note: you can’t set “backspace”; only delete, to set backspace you must use setty:
    setty erase ^H

    For more info, view the section “Editor commands” in csh(1)

  2. Steven Pigeon says:

    Nope. Solaris uses BASH as default. Regardless, that’s missing the point: I can’t figure why, in 2008, the keys aren’t configured correctly in the default .bashrc, or .loginrc, .xmodmap, or whatever file(s) Solaris uses to initialise a user session.

    I’ll still keep your tips in mind, if I ever need to configure those by hand. Thanks!

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