Upgrade Laptop from Vista -> Solaris - well worth the trouble

Discussion in 'Windows Vista Help' started by Dave, Nov 22, 2007.

  1. Dave

    Dave Guest

    Less than 6 months ago I bought what was at the time one of the highest
    spec laptops around - a Sony VAIO SZ4XWN/C

    2 GB of RAM,
    Intel Core 2 Duo T7200 / 2 GHz (Dual-Core) CPU
    Carbon fibre body
    NVIDA GeForce Go 7400 graphics etc etc


    Even after negotiating a better price as I would not pay on a credit
    card, this thing was the US equivalent of around $3200, so not a cheap
    budget laptop, which only just meets the specs for Vista.

    It came with Microsoft's Vista Business. But probably due to:

    1) Sony's insistence in installing so much crap software on it
    2) The fact it has Vista on it

    I don't feel the laptop is very responsive. Certainly it is one of the
    least response computers I have, even after a fresh install, setting it
    back to how it is shipped from Sony.

    I thought I'd install Sun's Solaris Express Developer Edition on it,
    which is either a free download, or Sun will even ship you a DVD for
    zero cost - not even postage:


    I won't deny there are a few teething problems with Solaris, not all of
    which I have fully resolved, but overall it is so much quicker and nicer
    to use.

    The biggest hassle to installing Solaris, was nothing to do with Solaris
    as such, but Vista. Windows Vista would not allow me to shrink its own
    volume by much, wanting to keep more than 50 GB of space in addition to
    what was actually being used!. (I think with 90 GB free, it would only
    let me shrink it by 25 or so GB).

    I had to get install a trial version of a 3rd party disk defrag program
    before I could shrink the Windows partition to a suitable size.

    But once I'd done that, installing Solaris from the DVD was very simple.

    It is just so much nicer to use. Things actually happen almost
    instantly. I can click on a Word document and StarOffice has it open for
    me to read or edit in about 3-4 seconds. Word was never like that.

    If you find Vista a pain, have half a brain and are willing to spend
    some time learning Solaris, you might be very surprised how much quicker
    a high end laptop is when Vista is not the operating system loaded! If
    you have a low-end laptop, I assume the benefits would be even more
    Dave, Nov 22, 2007
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  2. Dave

    John Doue Guest

    Vista is more than a pain, it is the worst OS MS has ever produced after
    Win 98 ME. I got rid of it the day I got my machine and struggled for
    two days to get XP and the adequate drivers loaded. Well worth the
    trouble indeed.

    But what you say about Solaris would be much more convincing if you
    could tell us what software can be run with it ... Main point of an OS.
    I am ready to give a try.

    John Doue, Nov 22, 2007
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  3. Dave

    Dave Guest

    A list of software that can run on Solaris would be a very long list
    indeed, but a few that on the free DVD (even free postage) that you
    might know, and find useful are

    Thunderbird for email
    Firefox for Web browsing
    Gimp for image editing
    StarOffice for office tasks (reads/writes powerpoint, word, excell etc
    Software to read PDF files
    Software to write CD's DVDs.
    Software to sync to PDS's
    Connects to the WiFi network
    Games ...
    A full development system, if you want to write your own.

    There's a bit of a list at


    Want to spend some money? Then of course there is commercial software
    such as the seriously expensive Mathematica, which runs on Solaris x86


    But there is an awful lot of free software too.

    I think it would be better for you to list what sort of software you
    use, and let myself, or someone else tell you of the nearest version for
    Dave, Nov 22, 2007
  4. Dave

    John Doue Guest

    Thanks for this helpful reply. Is it possible to assume (ok, spare me
    ....!) that most Linux software would run on Solaris?

    John Doue, Nov 22, 2007
  5. Dave

    Dave Guest

    Yes, most will. Often you will not find binaries for Solaris so easily,
    so it will have to be build.

    But there are sites that keeps binaries for Solaris x86 - see for example

    Dave, Nov 22, 2007
  6. Dave

    Dave Guest

    What I meant to say was that often software would need to be built from
    source code. But not always. I tend to build most from source myself, as
    one is sure of having the latest version. Often sites will have Solaris
    binaries, but they often tend to be old.
    Dave, Nov 22, 2007
  7. Dave

    Dave Guest

    What I find a bit surprising though is how badly Vista runs on an almost
    new very high specification laptop.

    But then perhaps I am not surprised by that either!
    Dave, Nov 22, 2007
  8. Dave

    mike Guest

    Extremely optimistic posts like this show up frequently.
    I'm no lover of Windows. I've been around long enough to remember
    writing product proposals with NROFF.
    I've been trying to get off the Windows bus for years.
    I've downloaded many gigabytes of magic linux distributions.
    And I still run Windows XP.

    And here's why...

    There's a song that sums it up nicely: "99 and a half just won't do".

    Doesn't matter how well it does 99% of what you want to do if it
    won't do the last bit. Yes, you can get generic software to do generic
    stuff. Once you get used to the strange behavior of linux, like clicks
    that don't seem to do anything, no feedback, no nothing, so you click
    again, and 30 seconds later, two windows pop up. Once you get used
    to the many vairiants and resign yourself to the fact that you
    really can't help granny fix her email without going there.
    I've found linux
    applications to "feel slower" than windows applications. Yes, there
    are stripped down linux apps, but if you compare like functionality and
    complexity, OO vs. MSOFFICE, I find the linux variant feels slow.

    But the real killer is the odd stuff. What do I do about the box of
    webcams. The box of non-webcams. The box of WM and Palm PDA's.
    The GPIB card. Printers/plotters. All the utilities written in Visual
    basic. Bluetooth devices. WiFi devices. USB headsets. VOIP.
    PCMCIA/Cardbus/Infrared stuff. How about something as simple
    as getting your touchpad mouse to use it's enhanced features?
    I don't use my scanner much, but what do I do when I do need it?
    It's GOTTA WORK!!!

    If you have the time to go searching, you can often find some high-school
    kid who wrote a buggy, undocumented driver for some of your stuff.
    If you fully understand how linux works, you might even figure out how
    to resolve all the dependencies and/or recompile the whole thing.

    Now, go to CompUSA and ask for a (insert your favorite hardware toy here)
    with a linux driver.
    Bottom line is that old hardware won't work, because the kids who
    used that stuff have all graduated high school. The new stuff won't
    work, because no high school kid has one yet.

    Linux will be feasible about 10 years after you can walk into CUSA and
    get hardware with linux drivers. That's how long it's gonna take for me
    to find one used/cheap.

    Now, look at the way the world works. If you're a hardware vendor,
    your market is 99% windows. You decide to put some of your scarce
    resources into linux support. Then you go visit MS for a windows
    compliance certification of your device. What do you think MS is
    gonna have to say (unofficially) about your linux support? What are
    your stockholders gonna say about your little tiff with the owner
    of 99% of your business.

    Monopoly is a bitch! But it's also the reason that I can tell you my
    problem and you can understand enough about what I have to help me fix
    it. Try calling up a Ubuntu user and asking him where to find the
    configuration files on YOUR distribution. Ever have the experience of
    loading one distribution and finding your sound card works, but your
    lan won't. Then trying another distribution where you lan card
    works but your sound card won't. Sure, a linux guru could (probably)
    easily fix either. I didn't have the energy to go searching for the

    Only way for linux to flourish is for MS to take it over...or some other
    big company with a need for a write off...and charge big bux for the
    privilege of using it. Linux is interesting only because people think
    it's free. If you run a webserver, I'm not talking to you...you're good
    to go, because you don't need drivers for my sound card...

    For most of us who use more than open office and a web browser, linux is
    not and never will be a viable option.

    Yet, I still pop in my linux hard drive occasionally and fantasize about
    a fully functional system that does what I want.

    And since I'm bored, I'll probably even download solaris and load it up.

    mike, Nov 22, 2007
  9. Dave

    Fred Guest

    Right now, my computer is hard-wired to my stereo using a USB
    digital/analog interface that I hunted for on the Web for two days.
    Found exactly one, made in Germany and carried by one vendor in the US.
    It's either this or nothing. So I get the thing, plug it into Windows
    XP, and I'm up and running. Just that easy, just that quick. No separate
    drivers, no shell scripts, no distro hell, just plug and play. Plays
    nice with the computer's sound card, too.

    So given the choice between being morally superior or using what works,
    I choose to use what works.

    As Stone Cold Steve Austin would say, "And that's the bottom line."
    Fred, Nov 23, 2007
  10. One difference I noticed a few years ago, while running on a dual-CPU
    box (back when that meant two CPU packages and a special motherboard):
    If you run something graphics-intensive under the X window system, you
    can use a substantial portion of both CPUs. The X server is a separate
    process from your code, and runs in its own context that can be on a
    separate CPU running in parallel. The stuff to be drawn is passed via
    some sort of IPC mechanism, probably shared memory. This is a feature
    of X, so it's probably true whether you're using Linux, Solaris, BSD,

    In comparision, under Windows 2000, a graphics-hungry process keeps one
    CPU busy while the other is idle. (The actual CPU in use can switch
    from time to time, but total CPU use doesn't go significantly above
    50%). It looks like the whole windowing system runs in the same context
    as your process, and can't run in parallel with it.

    This was a dual Celeron 400 system, so the responsiveness difference was
    quite noticeable.

    I don't know whether WinXP or Vista perform any better in this regard.
    There is certainly more incentive for them to do so, now that
    multi-thread and multi-core CPUs are so common.

    Dave Martindale, Nov 23, 2007
  11. Dave

    Dave Guest

    IIRC, I did not mention the word Linux at any time, only Solaris. You
    did not mention Solaris, only Linux. Did you have a point there?

    Many people do find Linux very usable, and Windows frustrating in
    comparison. Only the week before last I was at a meeting with my laptop,
    but I needed access to a UNIX box, so the company arranged a network
    connection so I could use mine via remote access.

    But running graphical software over the internet is not so much fun. I
    just sat there thinking "If I had Solaris on this laptop, I could do
    what I want. I could read all the documents they gave me, give them
    documents, shared some photos.." Next time I go back, my laptop will
    have Solaris on it! I will leave Vista on it, in case it is necessary,
    but I don't actually envisage needing it for my work, although I play
    the odd game of the chess on the internet and find the Windows clients
    better than the UNIX ones. But apart from the games, Solaris is more
    usable and less hassle.

    You mentioned GPIB cards. I can assure you drivers are available for
    GPIB cards from National Instruments for both Solaris and Linux. I have
    a couple here - both an sbus and a pci GPIB card. I've used the sbus one
    in a Sun SPARC 20 and the PCI one in a Sun Ultra 80.

    And I've written software to control instruments myself via GPIB. Of
    course, you can also get Labview for Solaris, and I assume Linux too.
    Dave, Nov 23, 2007
  12. Dave

    Thommy M. Guest

    philo wrote:
    Solaris a "few years ago" on x86 is totally different from what is out
    today. And now it's all open source too.
    Have a look at http://opensolaris.org
    Thommy M., Nov 23, 2007
  13. Dave

    Huge Guest

    Solaris != Linux.
    Huge, Nov 23, 2007
  14. Dave

    mike Guest

    My bad. I jumped to a conclusion without sufficient research.

    Your strong distinction sounds like Solaris must not be a
    unix/linux variant?
    Are you saying that it's yet another OS that's incompatible with linux?
    Yet another market fragmentation?

    I'm 9 hours into the download. I can hardly wait to fire up that bad
    boy and see what new wonders (drivers) await.

    mike, Nov 23, 2007
  15. Dave

    Dave Guest

    Solaris existed before Linux, although I think Linux was on x86 before

    A lot of software can be shared. Generally one just needs to recompile.
    As I said in my original post, you need to have half a brain, and you
    need to spend some time on it. There probably will be some teething
    problems, especially if you have obscure hardware. I very much doubt I
    would get a driver for the fingerprint reader in my laptop, but I don't
    see that a high priority. Solaris is probably not ideal for someone who
    is not IT literate and has no intension of being. But in my opinion as
    soon as Windows develops problems, it is extreamly difficult to fix
    unless you have an awful lot of knowledge, or you go down the reinstall
    route. Reinstalling seems to be the answer to most problems on Windows,
    but it is not one I personally find attractive.
    Dave, Nov 23, 2007
  16. Dave

    Thommy M. Guest

    Solaris is UNIX in contrast to Linux.
    It's Linux that is incompatible with UNIX.

    Linux is like Microsoft, trying to invent its own standards.
    Thommy M., Nov 23, 2007
  17. Dave

    Dave Guest

    Like it or not, Linux has become a 'defacto' standard.

    Of course, there are various incompatibilities between various linux
    distros, but so are there between various UNIX distros.

    But on the whole, most things that work on Linux will work on Solaris.

    To me, a computer is a tool to do a job. Solaris allows me to earn my
    living *using* the system - I don't work in the IT industry, but as a
    professional engineer.

    If I want to read a PDF someone sends me, I can do it. If I want to send
    emails I can do it. If I want to read or write a file in Word format I
    can do it.

    If I want to write software I can do it. If I want to upgrade the
    system, I do it when it suites me, rather than when the system is so
    broken it needs a fresh install of Windows.

    Running Sun hardware (as I normally do), allow me to almost forget about
    drivers and incompatible hardware. I know it will just work. That does
    not apply to the same extent on random bits of x86 hardware I would
    agree. But my laptop seems to be OK with Solaris x86, which is fine by me.

    IF I wanted to have the latest game running, a web cam, I'd probably
    look to Windows. But those things are not too important to me.
    Dave, Nov 23, 2007
  18. Dave

    John Doue Guest

    Ok, but one thing bothers me: what do you mean by Sun hardware? Any
    available to an individual user ... ?
    John Doue, Nov 23, 2007
  19. Dave

    Rich Teer Guest

    He means hardware manufactured by Sun. And yes, it is all available to
    individual users--I'm typing this on my Sun Ultra 20, which is served
    by my Sun E220R server, protected by my Sun Netra T1 105 firewall. All
    machines are running Solaris, of course.

    Rich Teer, SCSA, SCNA, SCSECA, OGB member

    My Online Home Inventory

    URLs: http://www.rite-group.com/rich
    Rich Teer, Nov 23, 2007
  20. Dave

    Dave Guest

    Plenty of Sun hardware is available to an individual user.

    The Sun Ultra 20 M2 Workstation sell brand new from Sun for $895. I'm
    not sure if that is the cheapest, but it probably is the cheapest you
    would get a new machine from Sun.

    Look on eBay you will find used Sun workstations selling for as little
    as $10, to as much as $60,000. It depends how deep your pockets are.

    I bought this machine (Blade 2000) used from the USA. It cost me $1300
    including shipping to the UK. It has dual 1.2 GHz UltraSPARC III CPU's,
    8 GB of RAM and a pair of 73 GB disks, which I have since upgraded to a
    pair of 147 GB disks. It also has a decent high-end graphics card

    Just today I fitted a card inside, which has a complete PC on the card.
    It uses the display, keyboard, mouse, disks, but allows one to have a
    normal PC if one needs it.

    So Sun hardware is more expensive than commodity PCs, but then the
    better quality Sun hardware is built a lot better too.

    There are lots of people who run older Suns at home.
    Dave, Nov 23, 2007
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