Getting a Closer Look at Solaris 9 Features - dummies

Getting a Closer Look at Solaris 9 Features

By David Taylor

The first release of Sun’s operating system was called SunOS. The last version of SunOS that was called SunOS by the Sun marketing team was SunOS 4.3.1. Since then, the OS has been marketed as Solaris. Each release of Solaris adds to the strength and capabilities of the operating system, typically for the key Sun customer running high-speed, high-demand servers or complex multisystem networks.

The most important additions to Solaris with the release of Solaris 9 are

  • Linux compatibility
  • Significant security enhancements
  • A new Resource Manager tool
  • A new directory server
  • A volume manager and other file system enhancements
  • An improved multithreaded library
  • Incremental improvements for installation and configuration

What you don’t see on the preceding list are user-level improvements. One of the most exciting changes of Solaris 9 is the gradual transition of the Sun graphical interface from the stale Common Desktop Environment to the exciting new jazzy GNU Object Management Environment, also known as GNOME.

By the release of Solaris 10, GNOME will be the primary graphical interface for Solaris. That will be wonderful for all Solaris users, whether guru system administrators or just plain folk trying to be productive and efficient on a Sun SPARC-based computer. If GNOME isn’t an option on your Solaris system, ask your system administrator to install it. It’s available for easy download at

Your login account

The first and perhaps most important step to use a Solaris system is to have an account on the system. An account consists of

  • A unique login name
  • A secret password
  • A home directory that you can fill with your files, pictures, and work

Login names are two to eight characters long. Your system administrator should have notified you of your login name. Many organizations use one of these login name formats:

  • First initial, last name (for example, dtaylor)
  • Last name only, unless there’s a name conflict (taylor or dtaylor)
  • Nicknames, cute words, or whatever else you want (author or heydave)

The initial password set up with your account probably is a simple word or a random sequence of letters and digits. Both of those are bad passwords, as is your car license, social security number, or any other public information.

The goal of a password is to protect the privacy and security of your account. Anything that makes it easy to break in is bad. Anything that makes it hard is good. Don’t write your password down and don’t share it with other people. Ever.

Working with the login panel

When you turn on your Solaris system, you are presented with a blank screen that contains the login panel. The login panel confirms which computer you’ll be connecting to once you’re logged in. If you’re impatient, you can type in your account name, press Enter, type in your password, press Enter again, and log in, but first take a moment to see what choices are available before you proceed.

From left to right, the buttons along the bottom are

  • OK (which acts the same as if you’d pressed Enter on your keyboard)
  • Start Over (if you get confused about where you are in the login process, this’ll start you back at the beginning, ready for your account name)
  • Options
  • Help
    Click the Help button, and you’ll see an informative reminder of the various options available with the login panel.

The Options button of the login panel is where all the power of the screen is hidden. Click it, and you’re presented with a range of alternatives:

  • With a local connection, these items are on the Options menu:

• Language

• Session

• Remote Login

• Command Line Login

• Reset Login Screen

  • If you’re connected to a Solaris computer through the network, the remote login reads, “Welcome to remote host xxxx.” (The “xxx” will actually be the name of the other system to which you’re connecting.)
    The Options menu on a remote login consists of these items:

• Language

• Session

• Connect to Local Host

Unlike Windows and other graphical environments, Solaris supports multiple environments in a remarkably simple fashion. You can easily log in to a session with GNOME running, give it a test drive, log out, change the Options –> Session setting to the Common Desktop Environment (CDE), and log in again. Poof — a completely different style of interacting with the environment.

All of these options are configurable, so your choices may be different from a user in a different organization. For example, one list of available languages could include

  • Canada
  • U.S.A.
  • U.S.A. (Euro)
  • Mexico — Spanish
  • Canada — French

Your list may be different, depending on what languages are installed and how your system is configured. It’s usually best not to change the default language.

The most interesting of the options for logging in is changing the session, the window manager, and the user environment. On a minimal Solaris 9 installation, you’ll have only CDE and Failsafe as choices, but on a full version you should have these choices:

  • Common Desktop Environment (CDE)
  • GNOME 2.0 Desktop
  • User’s Last Desktop
  • Failsafe Session

By default, Solaris 9 logs you in to the session you most recently used on a previous login.

  • If you’re a CDE nut, you can log in without checking the Session value.
  • If you’re interested in other desktop management environments, choosing Options –> Session –> GNOME lets you try GNOME, and choosing Options –> Session –> Common Desktop Environment puts you back in the older legacy CDE environment.

Just log in already!

To log in to the Solaris system, follow these steps:

1. Enter your account name in the text box on the screen and then either click the OK button or press Enter on your keyboard.

Your account name (sometimes called login name) is case-sensitive, so make sure that you enter it exactly as given. Account name Taylor is not the same as account name taylor in Solaris.

After you’ve successfully entered your account name, the login screen changes to say “Welcome name,” and it reminds you what type of session you have scheduled to start up.

2. Type in your password.

Your password isn’t echoed on the screen. This can be confusing when you first start using a Solaris system, especially if your password is a sequence of random letters, digits, and punctuation. It’s for your own good. (Can’t you just hear your mother saying that?) You’re already following good security by not writing down your password, so having it in clear text on your computer screen where a passerby can see it is also a bad idea.

If you enter the password incorrectly, the login panel informs you in a pretty non-threatening way, giving you another chance to log in.

The password is case-sensitive! If you’re having trouble logging in, make sure that you don’t accidentally have the Caps Lock selected: It changes the key sequence you’re sending.

If you can’t log in, call your system administrator for assistance.

Once you are successfully logged in, your screen will flash, the login window will vanish, and you’ll see the splash screen and other parts of the window manager you’ve selected appear as the system starts all the programs needed.