Sun has crafted the second release of OpenSolaris with a number of improvements in an attempt to make it more competitive with desktop-orientated Linux distributions such as Canonical's Ubuntu.
OpenSolaris is Sun's open source version of the Solaris flavour of Unix, and is primarily aimed at workstations. As a relative newcomer to the open source world, however, the platform has lacked a broad selection of applications, while hardware support has been narrower than for competing Linux distributions.
The new release, version 2008.11, was intended to address such issues, while emphasising Solaris-only features such as the ZFS file system. New hardware features include support for suspend/resume, 3D graphics acceleration, support for SD cards and better audio-hardware support, Sun said. Suspend/resume currently works on a limited range of hardware platforms from Toshiba, Lenovo and Dell, as well as Sun's own Ultra workstations.
ZFS includes built-in support for snapshots, which are used to preserve a particular state of the system. In addition, the new OpenSolaris release includes a graphical snapshotting interface that is integrated into Nautilus, the Gnome file manager. Version 2.24 of the Gnome desktop is included with OpenSolaris 2008.11.
The IPS packaging system has a new update manager for notifying users of new versions of software, and an updated graphical package manager.
Strip away all the bluster and jargon and you soon realise the end is nigh for proprietary software, says open source expert Mark Taylor. New third-party software includes file indexing and search tool Tracker, the Songbird media player and the Transmission BitTorrent client, as well as Firefox 3 and OpenOffice 3.0.
The release supports new software package repositories, in addition to the main repository, that are designed to broaden the range of software available for OpenSolaris. These include the 'contrib' repository for packages not yet approved for inclusion in the main repository, the 'extra' repository containing proprietary software such as Adobe Flash, and the 'pending' repository containing software that needs further testing and is not yet intended for production use.
Version 2009.4 is set to be released in April 2009, and is expected to include support for the Sparc hardware platform, a tool called Crossbow for resource control and network virtualisation, and other improvements to package managements, automatic install and networking, Sun said.
The new platform is available for download from the OpenSolaris website.