OpenIndiana Snapshots Viewed From Nautilus

OpenIndiana 151a Desktop review

OpenIndiana (OI) is a distribution of illumos, which is a community fork of OpenSolaris. And OpenSolaris itself was the open source version of Solaris, before it (OpenSolaris) was discontinued by Oracle, after Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems, Inc., in January 2010. Before OI’s base was switched to Illumos, it was based on OpenSolaris. I know this all sounds convoluted, but that, in summary, is the history of OI.

Compared to popular Linux distributions, OI is a relatively young distribution, with a very small development community whose members are mostly based in Europe. OI Build 151a is the latest development release, and the third so far. A stable edition is slated for release before the end of this year.

OI Build 151a has a desktop edition and a server edition. This review is based on the desktop edition, and marks the first time any distribution that can be traced back to Solaris, has been reviewed on this website.

The boot menu is shown below. The fuzzy text is original; it is not an artifact of the screen grabbing software.
OpenIndiana Boot Menu

Installer and Installation Process: But there is nothing fuzzy about the installer, which sports a simple, easy-to-navigate interface. The disk partitioning step is shown in the image below. It shows that the installer has an automated (disk) partitioning tool, which should make installation a lot easier for those not familiar with the Solaris disk partitioning scheme. The default file system is ZFS.
OpenIndiana Disk Partition

The user account setup step, shown below, is like that of any Linux distribution’s. Though GRUB Legacy (GRUB 0.97) is the boot loader, the installer does not give the opportunity to choose where it is installed. Something to keep in mind when attempting to setup up a dual-boot system.
OpenIndiana User Account Setup

This video shows all the steps involved in the installation process.
[youtube width=”600″ height=”400″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uaD3NZJQDzc[/youtube]

Desktop: The default desktop environment on OI is GNOME 2 (GNOME 2.30), and that is the only usable (by new users, anyway) desktop environment available for OI out of the box. GNOME 3 is not in the picture yet, and while Xfce is installable, on my test installations, Xfce was barely usable. KDE packages are also available, but the first time I installed KDE, a bug made it very annoying to use. That bug manifested in the startup sound looping for ever.

A screenshot of the default desktop is shown below. Looks just like any other GNOME 2 desktop. Underneath, however, lies a very powerful system, one that you will not find in a default installation of any Linux distribution. It also comes with its share of bugs. Keep in mind that this release, like all previous OI releases, is a development release, so bugs should be expected.
OpenIndiana Desktop

One of those bugs, is one that you can “fix” easily, and it involves the root password that you specified during installation. It is not something that is apparent until you attempt to use an application that requires authentication as root. The application will not start. Only when you try to su to root, from the command line, of course, that the system informs you that root’s password has expired. This image shows how I stumbled on it, and the “fix.” Note that this is a known bug. It just was not fixed for this release.
OpenIndiana Root Password Reset

Once the password was changed (renewed), a graphical application that I was able to use is the Time Slider, designed for managing system snapshots. This shows the application in its default state.
OpenIndiana ZFS Time Slider

A snapshot, by definition, is a read-only, time-defined version of a file system or volume. If snapshotting is enabled, the system will, by default, take snapshots of the system, or whatever file system you specified, at regular time intervals. When enabled, Time Slider’s interface looks like this:
Time Slider Setup

With Time Slider enabled, it is then possible to manage system snapshots from Nautilus, the file browser. Once Nautilus is started, clicking on the clock icon reveals the snapshots that the system has taken.
ZFS Snapshot Browsing

This is what it looks like. At the time this screenshot was taken, Time Slider had been enabled on the test installation for two days. Clicking on a snapshot makes it possible to view the data on the system at the time the snapshot was taken.
View ZFS Snapshots

While viewing a snapshot, it can be deleted just as easily as as new one can be created. This is powerful stuff, made easy to use. The last screenshot in this review, on the last page, shows snapshots from a system with Time Slider enabled for three days.
Managing ZFS Snapshots From Nautilus

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