I have been pretty disappointed in the new operating system distros I have been trying out recently. In the last three to six months there has been:
- A horrible install of a new Mac where the Expose feature caused windows to run away when I tried to click on controls near the edges of windows. It was like some kind of demented joke or game. (The user, who was previously a dedicated PC user, now loves the Mac and thinks it is much simpler.)
- Today I tried twice to install the new service pack for MS Vista, only to have the install fail with no useful message.
- An attempt to install a mainstream Linux on my new PC failed when it could not detect the keyboard. I had to get the new box because another install of a newer Linux from another distro was disastrous for performance on my quite old box.
- I got too bored to continue with another mainstream Linux install, where the DVD instructed me to first burn the image to a bootable CD.
So instead I have installed a recent Solaris Developer, from the DVD of some Linux magazine in the newsagent.
This is one of the easiest installs I have had. (I could only install onto a partition on the main disk, install onto a partition on the secondary disk failed with a bogus message about user accounts. No biggie.)
The system boots up, SAMBA works fine and detects most things I want to detect. (It is interesting that it only detected one printer on our network, however Vista only detects the other one, so that is not so bad.) It has Firefox and Thunderbird, which are what I’d use anywhere, and StarOffice, which is good enough for now; I cannot really use it or OpenOffice for making presentations until Impress gets tables in v3.0. It comes with Java installed, and Netbeans, though I’ll be downloading Eclipse for compatibility with the workgroup here.
The desktop is a nice GNOME and really uncluttered and to the point.
Best of all, it feels like UNIX. Not a half-assed wannabee, or a messy child’s toyroom, the way some Linux distros seem to be. But lots of GNU goodness. I still have to see how it copes with some issues like updates (which was the only real flaw I found in Mandrake Linux, that I was happy with for a few years.)
So I really like Solaris. It seems to suit what I want and expect better than any other OS distro I have come across yet.
But it has one big problem: the screen graphics are super ugly. In fact, so repellent as to make it unusable. I have a 1440×900 LCD monitor and this is not one of the built-in types supported. No problem, I thought, I’ll just change the appropriate xorg.conf (or whatever is the equivalent) file. But I cannot see how to do it: it looks like it is hardcoded or something. So I have some other resolution, with a half inch dangling above the screen and unreachable. And the fonts are ugly and thick: even when I turn on anti-aliasing and play with the LCD settings it makes little real difference. Unless some kind reader can make a good suggestion, it just doesn’t compare to what I have been used to under Windows, Mac or even Linuxes.
I really hope I am doing something wrong, because apart from that Solaris really seems to fit the bill for me. Maybe I have to resurrect the old CRT monitor.
[Further Adventures] I tried to install a different card, only to have a hardware problem, so I switched back to the original new card. Oops, now the thing doesn’t boot. Checking though, for some reason the BIOS had switched around which of the two hard disks to boot from. I don’t understand how this could have happened. In fact, I don’t understand why it can happen either, because I thought both hard disks would be checked for booting in any case. But swapping the order of booting from disks fixes the boot problem, and I am online again.
I looked through the X windows logs, and sure enough the VESA driver only has a limited number of screen resolutions available, and 1440×900 is not one of them. Sigh… So to use Solaris I have to either go down in resolution to fit the monitors we have, or buy in a new monitor. I was finding the wider screen really useful for Eclipse, so I guess I will have to search for something else. All this is taking a frigging long time: I expect to live for three years on a single installation, so having to go through four or five large an problematic installs is wearing me down.