Friday, July 17, 2009

OpenSolaris challenges

Whenever I encounter someone who's overly ecstatic about some new technology or gizmo or something, I quickly say "tell me what's wrong with it". If they can't think of anything, then I can't trust their opinion.

Nothing is perfect. There are always tradeoffs to be made. Only once you are properly informed with the facts, clearly seeing the goods and the bads, minus all the hype, can you finally make a good decision.

If you are passionate about something, and you use it day in and day out, then you ought to have a big list of the things that bother you most about it. Next time you see someone loving their iPhone, try asking them what's wrong with it.

Unfortunately, hype, "popular opinion", "conventional wisdom", "everybody's doing it", etc. drive so many decisions these days. Not long ago, when you bought a house, everyone pushed you to choose these newfangled mortgages like ARMs, interest only loans, etc., instead of the boring old-fashioned 30 year fixed rate mortgage. Alan Greenspan was giving speech after speech praising the "innovation" in the financial services industry. Look where that got us!

I came across this quote recently: "If you find yourself in the majority then it's time to switch sides". I've been realizing lately how true that is.

So in this spirit of presenting a balanced picture, here are some of the challenges I've hit with OpenSolaris:
  • It took practically an Act of God to switch from a dynamically (DHCP assigned) IP address to a static one. I ran the nice GUI administration tool, made the change, and at first all seemed good. But then on my next reboot, appparently a bunch of services failed to start. After much futzing, it was only when I uninstalled VirtualBox that things finally worked (I think VirtualBox's virtual adapter somehow conflicted). I now have a static IP!
  • There is apparently no SMART support for SATA drives, which is stunning. These days, as drives become more and more complex, we need access to their diagnostics. I rely on SMART to monitor the health, temperatures, remapped sectors, etc. of my drives.
  • The 1-wire File System has not been ported to OpenSolaris. I have a network of 1-wire devices in my house to monitor temperatures, eg, outdoors, in the kid's bedroom, the attic, etc. I'm still working on this one... there seem to be some problems talking to libusb. I may end up simply running a tiny Linux PC (the Fit PC 2 looks cute) instead, for such random services.

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