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Is Solaris really a bright choice for developers?

All the best operating systems come on USB...

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So, you're tired of Windows and thinking of trying Linux. There are lots of good distros, RedHat or Novell have all the enterprise cred you might need. And there's a support community too, it's a no brainer....

Well, that's all true enough – but why not try Solaris - in its OpenSolaris form - too? It's just as available, at Open Solaris.org, where there's a pretty active community going.

There's also plenty of enterprise cred available, with the option to move on to Solaris 10 proper, with its proven scalability and resilience (probably rather better than Linux can manage, in practice), and you don't even have to run on Sun hardware any more. And it has a pretty cool KDE desktop now.

Of course, we actually have the arrival of Linux to thank for all this, but OpenSolaris now seems to be a valid alternative for developers (so, too, is Mac OS X perhaps). And Jim Craig, Sun Microsystems Software marketing manager, seems genuinely enthusiastic about capturing developers' hearts and minds – he would be, of course, but he does seem to realise that the barriers probably aren't as much to do with the technology as to do with cultural issues, unfamiliarity, and the perceived lack of recreational and lifestyle toys for Solaris developers (possibly less true than it was – check out the freeware here; and note that RealPlayer is now available on Solaris).

So, why wouldn't you use OpenSolaris as your developer desktop, perhaps to work up "proofs of concept" in your own time - to sell to your CIO and thus help to develop your career. I'd be interested in reader feedback as to why any people thinking of Linux aren't also thinking of OpenSolaris. Or perhaps they are...

One possible issue I thought of was the Open Source license Sun uses – the CDDL (pronounced "Cuddle" - ugh – perhaps that's the reason. But this license doesn't look too bad – although you should always read Open Source licenses yourself; and make sure you understand all their implications. CDDL delivers blanket patent immunity, without some of the possible gotchas of the GPL (you shouldn't find yourself obligated to give your IP away to all and sundry, for example).

Is the availability of applications an issue? Well, I'm not sure Solaris has the same support for cameras and photography, say, as Windows has (you'll note here that Novell is finding it necessary to help bring PhotoShop to Linux); but there are some 4,000 plus software titles from more than 2,000 vendors here.

Or perhaps you think that Solaris will be too big and Enterprise-heavy? Well, according to a front page article in The Times of India, Anil Gulecha (a third year computer science student at JSS Academy, Bangalore) has put a "Live USB" bootable version of Solaris on a 1GB memory stick. He started from Moinak Ghosh's version of OpenSolaris, BeleniX, on Live CD. Ghosh is a Sun engineer (see his Random Bit Bucket here, where you'll find an interesting piece on getting Vista and Solaris to coexist). BeliniX promises to get you test-driving OpenSolaris from CD (no hard disk installation necessary, although it is possible) in under two minutes (Live USB is faster than Live CD) and claims to include all its features.

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