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Linux and Solaris face off

Some reader experiences

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Earlier this year, we asked our readers why people thinking of Linux aren't also thinking of OpenSolaris (or vice versa), now that both are pukka OSS operating systems.

Well, one reason that people might choose to miss out on OpenSolaris is because we're (in general) a conservative lot – once bitten, twice shy – and a lot of people have had bad experiences with Solaris (and, dare we say it, also with Windows and Linux) in the past. No matter how much software and UI improves, it takes ages for the community to accept this. A reputation that took years to build can be lost with one bad release – but won't be quickly reinstated with one good one. So there will always be people who resist change – and why not, if what they have now works for them.

However, various people pointed us at NexentaOS and "an OpenSolaris-based distro focused specifically on developers". So perhaps things have improved for Solaris lately and, as I said in the original article, it's now worth another look.

But there are issues to check out. Li'l Devil on skisFor instance, Matt Rose wrote in to say: "Our customers run AIX or Solaris. There are few significant differences between these two OSs (or indeed Linux) from our application's point of view, but there are significant differences between IBM and Sun's JRE. This means everything we do has to be targeted to one of those vendor's JREs. This limits us to Windows or Linux if we want to use the same OS for both vendor's JREs."

He concludes: "There's not much Solaris offers us for development above Linux (I can't actually think of anything we would care about) and there are no IBM JREs available for it. [But] if Sun's freeing up of Java means IBM's API becomes more compatible, this might change."

Nevertheless, some of you found that Linux wasn't issue-free either. Herve Regad-Pellagru, for example, has been a long-term Linux advocate but says: "Well, let's face it, after spending so much time fixing problems with Linux, including at the school where I've deployed it, I'm forced to view the problems of Linux [as]:

  • A dogmatic view of the technicity: some parts, like USB support are largely broken for users, by design.
  • Neverending reinventing [of] the wheel: how many times was the scheduler, the MM layer and the modules interface redone totally since kernel 2.0? Each time. Of course, each module providing support for any given piece of HW is obsoleted, and unless it's redone by some good will, it's gone for good. That's the end of any vendor support.

On the other hand, he recognises that "the fantastic progress of the desktop part (Gnome, Nautilus and all what is behind) is absolutely stunning...and totally portable to Solaris or any Unix. This is the real workhorse of freeware.

"Freeware has to find another kernel to run on, as a desktop for devs or anyone else. Might be OpenSolaris, why not? I believe the folks at Sun have understood the need and sure as hell I'm downloading OpenSolaris tonight!

"Sorry, Linus, but to me, the Linux goal, aka being an incentive to vendors, and an incubator, is over, now is the need for something the user finds usable, and supported."

So, I had supporters of both Linux and Solaris writing in, and my overall impression was that there is now a valid choice – providing you were using the latest versions and resources – with neither OS being the obvious "right answer".

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