(Open)Solaris News: Application Management, Patching and KDE v GNOME

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In one of the more widely read pieces here in the last month or so, I outlined some of the reasons I thought centralized application (or package, if you prefer) management represented a potentially significant advantage both Linux and Solaris/OpenSolaris possessed over Windows. Well, as Dennis Clarke (of Blastwave fame) was kind enough to alert me this morning, it seems as if the OpenSolaris folks and I are on the same page. As good as the news is that the OpenSolaris folks are taking the path towards a better user experience, I was also pleased to see a fork averted with Dennis giving his official Blastwave blessing to the project. Great to see.

Speaking of Solaris, I read with interest Thomas Greene’s positive review of Solaris 10 in The Reg, but have two small quibbles. First, this bit:

Online updates should be free for non-commercial users. If you want people to stick with a product, especially early in its development, you can’t have them worrying that some security hole or bug they haven’t heard of has left them open to remote exploitation, or susceptible to some fatal error that might wipe out months of work.

I’m not quite sure what Greene’s talking about here, and it might be useful for Sun to clarify exactly what is/isn’t free as far as online updates go. Our Solaris 10 box includes a copy of the OS that was downloaded for free from Sun.com and includes no purchased support plan, yet I had no difficulties whatsoever patching my machine with smpatch/analyze/download/update (thanks to Ben Rockwood for the tip). Does this support timeout? As far as I know, I’m patched (apart from those that violate policy). So I’m not too sure where Greene’s coming from there. Then there’s this bit:

KDE is certainly more popular than Gnome among Linux users, and most would agree that it’s by far the better of the two desktops. It has more tools, it has better tools, and it’s almost infinitely customizable. Adding a full version of KDE 3.4.x and including it on the boot menu as a desktop option would make the lives of many Linux users easier, and Solaris a good deal more attractive to them.

Hunh? I certainly respect the work that the KDE guys have done, I’ve recently set up a Kubuntu instance here in the home office, and I talk to the Trolltech guys on a semi-regular basis so I’m certainly not biased against KDE, or having it available in Solaris. Quite the contrary, I think it’s great and offers users choice, which – depending on when that choice is presented – is a good thing. But to make a blanket statement that KDE is more popular, better, and has better tools seems to be questionable analysis from where I’m sitting. Having used both over the better part of a year and a half, I personally prefer GNOME but would not make any similar assertions regarding its superiority simply because the approaches are too different. Further on the issue of choice, I’m not convinced that offering additional options on a boot menu or infinite customization are good things from a user perspective (usability studies usually argue against such complexity), and at the very least I think Greene’s assertions in this area are debatable.

But don’t let these questions obscure the value of the piece, as it’s a very enlightening look at the OS, particularly from an installation perspective, and is definitely worth a read.


  1. Actually, I have some mixed feelings in regard to that article. For a side it is a positive review but, things like “Linux Killer” are just a blatant way of being slashdoted, are untrue and bring nothing of value to the article.
    Anyway, concerning patches, when to many people are saying the wrong thing, I believe it’s Sun fault for not making it clearer but, the truth is that nothing changed from has been like for over a decade (except for a short period of 1 month where all patches for Solaris 10 were available). Recommended and security patches are free to anyone PERIOD.
    Like it was since I started working with Sun, specific patches not included in the recommended cluster are for contract customers only.
    Just for you to get a notion of the impact of such a decision, in my history in a Sun reseller, we’ve had (over the years) thousands of machines under our support. Only an handfull of times patches outside the recommended cluster were required to solve a problem

  2. Jaime, I’m with you 100% on the “Linux Killer” title. I blogged about it last night: http://blogs.sun.com/roller/page/jclingan?entry=value_blogs_up_trade_rags

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