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Feature: Unix

First look: BeleniX live CD

By Mayank Sharma on December 06, 2005 (8:00:00 AM)

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BeleniX is a free live CD based on the OpenSolaris kernel. With it you can have Solaris, which once ran exclusively on SPARC servers, powering your modest desktop computer. But with few applications and lacking an installation script, the Live CD does little more than slake a nerd's thirst for a taste of Solaris.

Named after Belenos, the sun god in Celtic mythology, BeleniX is being developed at Sun Microsystem's India Engineering Center in Bangalore. The ISO is available in a 230MB bzip compressed file, which you can download through HTTP or BitTorrent.

Boot up

From the modified GRUB bootloader, it took my 1.4GHz Celeron IBM laptop with 256MB of RAM about 10 minutes to boot BeleniX. It took almost the same time to boot on a 1.7GHz desktop with 512MB of RAM. For comparison, Knoppix 4.0 takes two to three minutes on both machines. A little searching on Google reveals that the lethargic boot is due to a setting in the OpenSolaris kernel to make it more stable. The kernel boots with DEBUG turned on. The developers of BeleniX are testing turning off debug selectively for a couple of modules. Their tests show a reduction of about 2.5 minutes.

Unlike Knoppix, BeleniX doesn't use a compressed file system. Nor does it make use of an existing Linux swap partition, as it differs from the OpenSolaris swap format. This version of BeleniX has a rather conservative approach while sizing a RAM disk, so except for the kernel and essential system libraries, everything else loads off the CD.


When the CD-ROM disk light stops glowing, you are staring at a beautifully done XFCE desktop running on top of xorg. This is auto-configured using the ddcxinfo utility ported from Knoppix. Essential devices like the monitor, keyboard, and mouse (synaptic, PS/2, and USB) work properly. Wired network cards are auto-configured through DHCP and USB sticks are auto-mounted.

After a 10-minute boot, you'll want to do more than just appreciate the Xfce desktop. There's Firefox to browse the Web, Thunderbird for email, Vim for basic text editing, XMMS to listen to music, Gaim for instant messaging, ImageMagick for image manipulation, gcc3.4, and Super Tux, a Super Mario clone.

There's also a shell which would be of interest to anybody who wants to see the OpenSolaris way of doing things. If you pop in a USB storage device, it doesn't show up on the desktop, but it can be accessed through /rmdisk. To view memory/processor usage, there's prstat -- OpenSolaris equivalent of top, and pmap. Documentation is available at the Sun documentation Web site, since OpenSolaris doesn't have manpages yet.

The current version doesn't include a hard disk anchoring script. A Perl script that prepares a Solaris partition and installs the live CD is on the to-do list for the next version, due this month. You can also take a look at a thread which discusses the process to install BeleniX manually or to help the developers with the script. Remember, this is an open source project.

Another priority for the project is support for 64-bit hardware. This will initially be limited to AMD64 since that's what the OpenSolaris kernel supports.

Final thoughts

The developers' documentation in a blog and on the forums details the process of making OpenSolaris sit pretty on a live CD. In its current state, BeleniX is more of a learning tool than a usable distribution. However, if the developers keep to the roadmap, this could soon change. Apart from the disk installer, faster bootup, and 64-bit support, BeleniX is scheduled to sport a compressed file system and offer an alternate Gentoo platform by the end of February.

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on First look: BeleniX live CD

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Given GNU/Linux and *BSD, what's the point?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on December 07, 2005 01:06 AM
This looks to me like it will end up similar to Apple's Darwin--used by a few Solaris die-hards, but not very much beyond that.

If we need live CD's, we already have Knoppix, Damn Small Linux, and several others. Someone has even made a live CD out of OpenBSD. We already *have* the functionality...*now*...and that which we have is just getting better and better as time goes on. GNU/Linux and *BSD are already Free--and excellent--platforms.

I just don't see why someone outside of Sun, or a few Solaris die-hards, would waste time hacking on this "OpenSolaris" project given what we already have. Beyond a "cuz I can" motivation--which is a noble one, mind you--can someone describe why anyone would bother with OpenSolaris?


Re:Given GNU/Linux and *BSD, what's the point?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on December 07, 2005 07:41 AM
If OpenSolaris should work notably faster on some configurations, or offer some features missing in Linux, why shouldn't it be used?


Re:Given GNU/Linux and *BSD, what's the point?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on December 07, 2005 10:41 AM

You said solaris and faster in the same sentance! ROFL!

It's not called "SLOWlaris" for nothing you know.


Re:Given GNU/Linux and *BSD, what's the point?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on December 07, 2005 04:36 PM
When and where did you meet Solaris last time? And the future world is the multicore world and there is Solaris much better then GNU and BSD projects.


Re:Given GNU/Linux and *BSD, what's the point?

Posted by: Daniel Carrera on December 07, 2005 08:16 PM
Please learn the difference between "then" and "than".

Sample sentences:

"Solaris is better than Linux"

"I will take a shower first and then come down for breakfast"


Re:Given GNU/Linux and *BSD, what's the point?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on December 08, 2005 12:26 AM
why? Please learn the popular language known as Hungarian.


Re:Given GNU/Linux and *BSD, what's the point?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on December 07, 2005 08:03 AM
In a way you are right , we do have Linux which is great . I'm not so sure about BSD though , I didn't like it very much , pretty unstable for me . Still there are several things Solaris ( and Open Solaris ) has that make it even better than Linux . I once saw a bechmark where Solaris 10 even performed better than Linux in some server tests . Let's also not forget that Sun has experienced people working hard on Solaris so it doesn't depend that much on the comunity as Linux or FreeBSD do . I think Open Solaris is more about the adoption of Solaris rather than Sun needing people to work on the Solaris kernel for instance .


Re:Given GNU/Linux and *BSD, what's the point?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on December 08, 2005 01:02 AM
BSD is fine as long as you're somewhat careful with your hardware choices. GNU/Linux is more hardware-tolerant that way, I must admit.

I agree with you on the point about further adoption of Solaris. They've lost a lot of OS market share to GNU/Linux over the years, which matters to them because they feel that it directly affects their core business, which is hardware sales. I just think it's unfortunate that Sun deliberately crafted a license for Open Solaris that's incompatible with the GPL. Then, both projects could've fed off of each other, Free/Net/OpenBSD-style, and both projects would've benefited.

There was, I believe, a better way for Sun to try to preserve their hardware sales business. What Sun could've, and IMO, should've done, is just GPL Solaris instead of CDDL it. Thus, the best parts of Solaris could've been put into GNU/Linux (which everyone but MS, Apple, and SCO seems to be willing to support), and Sun's value proposition would've been "solid 64-bit (Opteron) hardware, with a solid, super-widely-supported 64-bit OS." Sun's development resources could thus have been directed toward improving that value proposition; IBM is now doing something similar with their POWER on Linux campaign. With Sun's development resources, and their reputation back then, they could've made a killing that way. Red Had just did a software version of that same thing with their GPL'd release of the former Netscape Directory Server, now called Red Hat / Fedora Directory Server (thank you, Red Hat!). In doing so, they just increased the value proposition of their own RHEL offering BIG TIME. They even have binaries of RHDS for Solaris SPARC and HP-UX!<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:-)

You raise an interesting point with the benchmark that you mentioned. I'd like to see that myself, actually; if you happen to have the link handy, could you post it? If not, that's cool; Google knows all, fortunately.<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:-)


Re:Given GNU/Linux and *BSD, what's the point?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on December 08, 2005 12:30 AM
Exactly! Free software is about freedom unless you want the freedom to choose a propriatary product over OSS?


Re:Given GNU/Linux and *BSD, what's the point?

Posted by: Curtman on December 09, 2005 05:23 AM
"can someone describe why anyone would bother with OpenSolaris? "

Sure. It has some really neat features, like zones, and dtrace. It's something to play with, and I enjoy exploring new things when it comes to software. The difference between Belenix, Nexenta, etc and Solaris though, is they are packed full of GNU software. Solaris comes with a really old version of Gnome, and some other stuff like Gaim which they have rebranded to "Java Instant Messenger" or something really stupid. But Nexenta is very, very much like Ubuntu, and you probably wouldn't even notice it was Solaris if you just walked up to it, apt-get and all.

The best thing about these OpenSolaris distro's is that they look and feel exactly like Linux distro's. Finally we can point to a GNU/Linux box and a GNU/OpenSolaris box, and people will see how little of what they thought was "Linux", is actually "Linux". This is good for GNU even if Sun's license sucks.

If they had gone with a GPL compatible license, they'd already have every Linux hardware driver ported by now. As it is, hardware support is very bad in OpenSolaris, and if you're not a hacker you should probably keep far away from OpenSolaris at this point.


Re:Given GNU/Linux and *BSD, what's the point?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on December 10, 2005 08:22 PM
GPL is total and complete bullshit. CDDL is just fine for what is needed by Sun and OpenSolaris.

Anyways, HW support in (Open)Solaris on x86 and x64 is very, very good and it's getting to be almost as WindowsXP. Don't believe me? Try it out for yourself!

I went to the store the other day to buy a vulgaris GigE network kit and the company that makes the NICs supports Solaris with native packages.

I bought a bare bones ASUS server and the NIC drivers, also native Solaris packages, were included right on the CD! And I didn't even need them, because Solaris10 *just worked* and recognized *everything* on that machine.

Sun kernel engineers have implemented Intel's ACPI interpreter, so Solaris is now pretty much the only Operating Environment out there with the greatest-and-latest, state of the art ACPI support.

So statements that claim Solaris HW support is poor are just complete and utter FUD and bullshit.


Re:Given GNU/Linux and *BSD, what's the point?

Posted by: Curtman on December 11, 2005 10:53 PM
HW support in (Open)Solaris on x86 and x64 is very, very good and it's getting to be almost as WindowsXP. Don't believe me? Try it out for yourself!

A tad defensive are we? I'm using (Open)Solaris as we speak, and have been for a few months now. Hardware support in Solaris is terrible.


Re:Given GNU/Linux and *BSD, what's the point?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on December 09, 2005 09:42 PM
Because it's a full blooded System V, Release 4, POSIX compliant UNIX operating environment (not system, but an environment).

Because as it stands right now, SunOS is the most advanced operating system on the planet.

Because it is ultra easy to use.

Because it is consistent in every respect.

Because it is binary forwards and BACKWARDS compatible, without any recompilation or other modifications.

Because unlike RedHat and friends, support is dirt cheap (at $33 USD per month, prorated) -- and only if you want it.

Because the community built around Solaris consists on knowledgeable people who have done UNIX 10, 20 or more years and really *understand* UNIX and can help with just about any problem one my run into.

Because everything just works, and works as expected, and I don't have to hack anything.

Because when I know Solaris, I automatically know HP-UX and IRIX (they're also SVR4, so therefore *very* similar).

Because when I know Solaris, I can design you a Linux infrastructure that you had no idea ever could exist, except that I won't, because Solaris can do it even better.

Because Sun gives you kick ass tools that are free-as-in-beer (and for which you can get support *dirt cheap* if you want): Sun Studio Compilers (which trod GCC garbage into the ground on its own native platform), the entire application stack -- the SunOne web server (Netscape enterprise web server), SunPlex clustering software, Sun Volume Manager for Sun cluster, Sun N1 Grid Engine, Calendar and messaging server, mail server, kick-ass PostgreSQL DB, IPFilter (which blows the doors off of hacked-together iptables junk in design), and so on, and so forth.

Because Solaris runs lightning fast on old (x86 and SPARC) hardware that Linux runs like a dog on.

Because Solaris is just too cool to be missed: it's simply a pleasure to work on and work with.

Because Solaris has never let me down. EVER.


Re:Given GNU/Linux and *BSD, what's the point?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on December 14, 2005 09:52 PM
But the important question here is how is what you have listed about solaris relevent to the home user? A home user is better off without all these things you listed and his primary need is good applications and decent stability and security - which by the way linux provides.

Just my two bits.


Given there's MacOSX and Windows what's the point

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on December 09, 2005 07:38 AM
of Linux and FreeBSD?


You moron.

Posted by: Anonymous [ip:] on September 19, 2007 10:51 PM
Go back to your Windows box, and stay away from Linux.

In fact, opt in for an ID card and hand over every bit of personal information to passers-by in the street, if you want. You seem to want to do so.


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