20210502 - Going Solarish

Going what?

Since one of my mentors during the vocational training showed me the Minix teaching operating system, I had been inclined towards Unix-like operating systems. Very early during the 1990's I was sure that Linux would be a thing. Well, it was and still is. But I also thought of a desktop dominance and that still hasn't happend. Due to the needs of the companies I've worked for, Unix and Linux was not much of need, at least in the first years or so. Even after that, the most servers were running with Microsoft Windows, Linux was more a niche for relaying mail and playing an internet proxy. A coworker mocked me the "niche operating system representative" at this time --- don't worry, we are still friends.

My workstations at home changed to MacOS (or OSX as it was called in the year 2010), a small server remained on an Intel NUC running with Debian. It's main purpose was being a caching DNS server, since the DNS server from my internet service provider was -- and still is -- frackin' slow. MacOS got worse with every incarnation and Debian jumped onto the systemd band wagon, which I didn't like but much more out of a gut feeling, not so much for hard evidence (boy, did that change; systemd has proven to be real PITA when used in server environments). That made me look for alternatives and since MacOS has some BSD heritage, looking there was a natural choice. There was a PC-BSD successor, called TrueOS, at this time with a pretty decent desktop and server flavor of FreeBSD. Updating my Intel NUC from Debian to the systemd free Devuan distribution failed in spectacular ways, probably due to myself neglecting to read the fineprint before trying the update. Since the system was bricked, I switch to the TrueOS flavor of FreeBSD and was happy. Well, unitl iX systems decided -- or the people of their staff behind TrueOS -- to abandon TrueOS. The TrueOS/FreeBSD desktop flavor changed to Project Trident which is based on the great -- systemd free -- Void linux distribution, which I would probably never have used without the TrueOS detour. So no hard feelings here, in the contrary.

The Intel NUC needed some updates nevertheless and the question "which operating system is it gonna be?" remained. FreeBSD would have been a natural choice. But with dipping into TrueOS/FreeBSD came the knowledge about ZFS, I've heard and read about jails and finally saw some videos from Bryan Cantrill. With that came the knowledge of Solaris and zones and the fact that it is still very alive.

So FreeBSD or some kind of Illumos (which is the current open source successor of Solaris)?

The OmniOS flavor of illumos was the first one with a security patch for OpenSSL and OpenSSH in march 2021. That gave the decisive and final impulse to try OmniOS and dip into the world of Solaris. Or Solarish as I have learned to differentiate from closed source Solaris from that company starting with an O. My old and small Intel NUC runs with OmniOS and purrs like a cat. It serves as my Syncthing clearing house and Baikal server. My data belongs to me, thank you very much.

The more I dive in, the more often I wonder why Illumos isn't more popular? Everything seems so on point and Sun was clearly ahead of time when they created Solaris and zones.