First irritations with Solaris 9

October 6, 2005

As with Fedora Core 4, I haven't been using Solaris 9 long enough to have given it a fair shake. So instead of any sort of review, this is just a collection of things that have irritated me about it on first exposure.

I'll start with a nice simple one:

# useradd -m -c 'Chris Siebenmann' cks
UX: useradd: ERROR: Unable to create the home directory: Operation not applicable.

This is on a default configured Solaris 9 machine, straight out of the 'take more or less the defaults' install. Is it too much to ask that the apparent best way to add users from the command line actually works?

(The reason this fails is that /home, the location of nominal user home directories, is actually an automounter setup. But useradd doesn't know about this. Whoops. For extra bonus fun, you actually have to make an entry in the /etc/auto_home automounter map to get things to work.)

Installer irritations:

  • the installer asked me to reinsert a CD-ROM it had already asked for (Solaris 9 Software disk 2, after the documentation). This is just sloppy; you should be able to order your entire install series so it asks for each CD-ROM only once.

  • practically every time it had me swap CD-ROMs, it stopped to prompt me if I really wanted things from the CD-ROM installed. This was despite walking me through an entire earlier 'what stuff do you want installed' step that led it to wanting those CD-ROMs.

  • periodically it would pop up a dialog about continuing in 30 seconds if I did nothing, or I could continue right away, or I could pause. The first time I rolled my eyes and clicked 'Continue'. The next time I realized that this dialog was obscuring a lower dialog with informative options that I might wish to inspect and perhaps change.

  • having previously wanted the sort of interaction normally seen in needy young children, the installer decided to automatically reboot at the end.
    Update: mea culpa; this one is my fault. Right near the start, the Solaris 9 installer asks you if you want to automatically reboot at the end. (Then you are asked sixty zillion other questions so you forget this.)

I'd criticize the installer for not looking very pretty, but it was running on an 8 bit deep framebuffer. (Probably not a very fast one, either. Ultra-10s are not where you go if you want even 1998-era PC graphic basics, like 32-bit colour.)

Then there's the small issue of patch installer error messages, which are lovely things like:

Installation of 117067-01 failed. Return code 2.
Installation of 112233-12 failed. Return code 8.

Neither are helpful error messages. Does one or both of them mean that it's a patch not applicable to this system? Does one or both of them mean that something important has gone wrong during patch installation?

(It appears that return code 2 means 'update already installed' and return code 8 means 'this update isn't applicable to your system'. But to find this out I had to read the detailed error log. It would not have killed Sun to print an actually useful error message instead of 'Return code N'.)

Written on 06 October 2005.
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Last modified: Thu Oct 6 00:16:55 2005
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