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As a full-time desktop for office productivity or home users, OpenSolaris is not ready for prime time. With some exceptions, it approximates where Linux was when I started using it about three years ago. And, as with Linux, I expect this situation to change with time. I'd be surprised if usability isn't much improved by a year from now.

Only the most basic applications are available, and peripheral support is practically nonexistent. The level of pain implicit in making things work just isn't worth the effort. I might have been able to get one or more peripherals working if I'd spent a great deal more research and time on it, or worked with the OpenSolaris community, and you might be able to do the same. Given the number of viable desktop *nix-based operating systems or Windows XP, this is simply not cost-effective for a normal SOHO user, without some compelling reason that makes running OpenSolaris as a desktop worth far more trouble than running a more typical environment. While it's more stable than XP, stable doesn't help if the apps you need don't exist.

The one thing I really liked about this version is that the network driver somehow got faster transfer rates out of my DSL link than any other OS has managed. On some sites, I was getting 407kb characters per second, whereas normal is 156kb. I have a DSL with a nominal connection speed of 1.5MB up, 378KB down.

These people should consider OpenSolaris:

  • Server or specialized application users who have reason to try something other than Linux or want the traditional "big iron" features that Solaris supports. (Sun is saying that this is a great, easy way to set up NAS, for instance.)
  • Computer science students whose classes are standardized on Solaris, or who believe that they should get some Solaris experience before going into a real world that might require them to work in Sun environments. However, you should run this either on a virtual machine or a separate box; you don't want this as your regular productivity environment.
  • People who enjoy computer experimentation. You should run this in a virtual machine or a separate box for the same reason as computer science students should.
  • Solaris developers, of course. You probably should put this on a separate box rather than use a VM, because the difference between running as the native OS and as a virtual machine probably would be important to you. For your actual office productivity stuff, you probably want Linux or XP on another workstation. Even if you use Sun's VirtualBox to run Linux or XP, you're still at the mercy of the base OS to run printers, scanners, etc., and I believe this to be far more trouble than it's worth at this time.
  • Some application you must have is Solaris only.

Keep in mind that the regular non–open source Solaris 10 is also available for free download, and has many applications that OpenSolaris lacks. You can buy a subscription/support package for it, if you need one. Before downloading Solaris 10, I suggest that you read the license agreement carefully to make sure that it permits whatever you have in mind for it, and find out what level of support you need. Also note that patches for Solaris 10 are available free at the Sun website at the SunSolve Patch Access page.

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