A thought on Linux installation versus Solaris 9 installation
July 13, 2006
I've been thinking about a question recently: why is installing most Linux distributions so much easier and friendlier than installing Solaris 9 on a standalone machine? (I can't speak for Solaris 10, as I haven't tried to install it on anything.)
(It's not just an issue of comparing today's technology against Solaris 9's 2001 or so era technology; I was doing Linux installs in 2001, and it was still much better back then.)
The simple answer is that the Linux installers are better because the Linux distributions consider them more important than Sun does. But that begs the question: why can Sun get away with an uninspiring installer in their market?
I think the answer is that you've already been sold on Solaris by the time you hit the Solaris 9 installer; a substandard installation experience is just something you get to suck up on the way to your real objectives.
(Note too that the Solaris automatic installation experience is apparently quite good; not coincidentally, ease of large scale deployment is one of Solaris's selling points.)
By contrast, Linux distributions have faced the discipline of having to keep the user sold on Linux at all times, from start to finish. Even a single bad bump could, would, and did cause would-be users to abandon the entire effort; as a result, Linux distributions have had to relentlessly improve all of the potential stumbling points in order to keep their users.
This discipline of having to constantly care about the user's experience is what makes the difference. Linux has had it and Solaris has not, and Linux is far better for it.
(Another possible factor is preinstallation of Solaris on Sun hardware; if you never install it to start with, how bad the installation experience is is irrelevant to you. However, I have no idea how many people actually run the preinstalled versions.)
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