Sun Microsystems, Inc. is preparing the release of Solaris 8.0 in just a few days, but you don’t have to wait until you’ve installed the new OS to learn what’s new. Here’s a preview.

What will you need to run it?
Solaris 8 requires 64 MB of memory and 1.2 GB of disk space. It will support SPARC and Intel x86 platforms.

Solaris 8 features a facelift thanks to its new Web Start 3.0, which is geared toward novice users. Only a small amount of user interaction is required during installation.

Web Start 3.0 uses a Java interface to prompt the user with a few questions regarding the mode of install, as well as such information as host name, host IP address, subnet mask, and type of name service (DNS, NIS, or NIS+).

In general, Web Start 3.0 takes approximately 25 minutes to install. It’s pretty smart when probing for hardware and finding correct drivers, which cuts down on headache-inducing questions. Solaris 8 also comes with much-needed documentation enhancements.

The Solaris 8 release should consist of three CD-ROMs: an installation CD, a software CD, and a documentation CD.

Sun has begun labeling its CDs with sequential numbers, thus eliminating the guesswork sometimes needed during installation. Once the installation process completes, Solaris 8 reboots itself to the familiar Xwindow login screen. The only difference you’ll see is a new logo.

Solaris 8 promises many new features—including security, networking, and file system enhancements. Other new features include an XServer upgrade to X11R6.4 and Java Plug-in 1.2.

Other enhancements
According to Sun, Solaris 8 also

  • Eliminates end-user and source-code license fees.
  • Increases service levels and reduces service costs.
  • Supports expanded Hot Patching capabilities.
  • Features JumpStart to automate Solaris installation in complex enterprise environments.
  • Integrates naming and directory services.
  • Includes Kerberos v5 support.
  • Includes the StarOffice productivity suite and the Oracle 8i Enterprise Edition Database, among other programs.
  • Improves database performance by 70 percent.

Sun also expanded Solaris’ language support. The OS is now supported in nine different languages.

The two most prominent new features are support for the IPv6 protocol and Palm computer support. IPv6 supports multicast technology and performance increases. With Palm PDA support, users can transfer data to and from their handheld devices to Solaris servers. This feature, of course, is quite familiar to Microsoft users.

Personal testing results
My personal tests showed Solaris 8 beta installs smoothly on Sun Ultra1, Ultra 30, Ultra 60, Ultra 250, and newer SPARC platforms. It even includes all the drivers for the new line of PCI bus products. This is a big improvement over Solaris 6 and early versions of Solaris 7.

The beta also seems to run faster compared to previous versions. Other enhancements include a new look for the Common Desktop Environment (CDE) graphic user interface, more network analysis and monitor applications in the menu pull up, and a PC file viewer that enables users to view documents created by Microsoft products.

However, the Solaris 8 beta is a little lacking in support for the third-party vendors. Some of the “not so well known” devices aren’t supported, including devices such as video capture cards and video cameras.

The installation of Solaris 8 beta on my PC, an AMD K6 200 MHz PC with 128 MB of RAM, ran into some glitches, too. I wasn’t able to complete the installation until after removing my Philips EasyVideo video capture card and my Diamond SupraMax internal modem.

Sun helped by providing tools to find unsupported devices and diagnose installation problems. But I still couldn’t get my UMAX Astra 610P scanner to work, even with the help of Sun’s support staff.

Overall, the Solaris 8 beta indicates that a good promising product is coming—one that boasts many new features and technologies. Hopefully, the final release will eliminate some of the bugs I experienced.

John Tran is a senior UNIX system administrator for Veridian MRJ Technology Solutions in Orlando, FL.

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