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Learning Unix
This was written in 1998, and I will leave it unchanged, except for a few comments at the end.

    The joys of Unix. I have been intimidated by this operating system for months at work, and have learned to treat it with a healthy, wary respect. I have decided, based upon the theory that familiarity breeds contempt, to set up a Unix box at home so that I can learn at my leisure in a low, to non pressure environment. I do not dare experiment with Unix too much at work, because it is considered to be in poor taste to bring down our $60, 000 server, along with the 80 to 100 machines which are served by it. This tends to limit my explorations just a bit. There is also, frankly, not much to be done with Unix, from a user's point of view. I am told by the Unix experts at work that Windows includes client software for Unix, and that the Solaris package I have is equipped with all of the server software necessary. I have already accessed this machine using the Exceed, Xwindows component, which allows a remote log on from any computer on my network.
    I had a fair amount of trouble during install, though most of this was more the fault of the hardware than of the operating system itself. Unix (as far as I know) can not take advantage of USB, the atx form factor, 3d video, or DVD. There may be ways to enable it to use these resources, but I don't know them. Unix is also somewhat fussy about hardware, and much of what I went through in installing Linux was repeated upon my Unix installation.  My education in Solaris will likely parallel that of Linux, as these two systems are, in theory, different flavors of the same operating system, though their kernels differ. My first Solaris installation (other than a Sparc install at work) was on a Pentium 166 I had laying around the house. I did this because I was getting impatient on the delivery of Junior (a story in itself), had possessed the operating system for a while, and wanted to try it out. The installation went fairly smoothly except that I could under no circumstances get Unix to see my network card. When Junior came, I immediately installed a CD rom, and then loaded Solaris; it wouldn't work. I still don't know what happened, but the problem has been solved.
    The Solaris install follows the manner of the Microsoft install for Windows. You boot off of the included floppy, which loads a version of the operating g system along with the drivers for the CD, and a script to run the installation program. During the install on Junior, the loading and hardware detection phases went smoothly, but the computer locked up at the partition and write phase. I made a number of attempts, changing parameters in the bios, turning plug and play on and off, and disabling various components, to no avail. What solved the problem was the removal of the 8.4 gig hard drive from the Pentium 166 computer on which I first installed Solaris, and it's installation in Junior. After doing this, the installation went smoothly, the network card was detected, and the operating system, along with the network, was installed on the system. I suspect that the success of the install was due to the fact that the 8.4 gig drive had already been formatted for the Unix file system on the other machine. Why this particular mother board would not format this particular drive in the Unix style is not known to me. I have installed the old Junior drive on another computer, and it formats and works fine for Windows. This is yet another of those  strange, flaky occurrences which shows that the present state of computers is still somewhat in the experimental stage, and is yet somewhat of an art rather than a complete science. One other thing that potential users of Intel platform Solaris installs should be aware of, is a certain incompatibility with large hard drives. This is unique to the Intel version, and does not affect SPARC machines. Intel versions of Solaris can not use drives over 40mb in size. What is worse, is they can not utilize more than 28 mb for storage. There are some patches out there, for some assorted drive problems, but it is unknown, at this time, if the current drive limitations will ever be patched. It also seems that with Solaris 8, we have reached the end of the Intel line of Solaris. Unlike Microsoft, Sun does not make it's money from software. It is a hardware company, which writes code for use on it's machines. As such, there seems to be little reason for the continuance of Solaris for platforms, other than Sun's own SPARC machines.
    The scarcity of user applications for Unix is a reflection of it's power, and of the niche it has carved out for itself. You do not put Unix on an office workstation, or put it on the home computer and play games with it. This is primarily a design for a server or an engineering machine. One way of looking at this might be to consider Windows the family car, and Unix as a construction  vehicle or earth mover. The family car is more comfortable, can be equipped with a radio, air conditioning, and many other options, but the earth mover is much more stable, dependable, and capable of working much harder. Few people would consider putting a stereo, air conditioning, power windows or power seats on a bulldozer or dump truck. In a like manner, it is not considered fitting to put games, and household utilities on a Unix box, and thus few have been developed for it or ported over to it. Having said this, I must now admit to looking forward to the installation of WINE, which will allow me to run Windows programs on my Unix machine. I also hope to port over several applications which are written for Linux, including CorelDraw, WordPerfect Suite, and a possible Adobe application or two. I already have Netscape on this box. What the future holds for Unix, I can not say, nor can I say how good I will get with it or to what extent I will use it. What I do know is that Unix has been around since before the development of DOS, and continues to be a cutting edge operating system; for a platform which has been around for over thirty years, this is truly amazing.

A bit of insight, and some progress (2/2003)
    Though I am far from a UNIX expert, I am a true believer. UNIX is a great system, and Linux is nearly so. The problems with partitioning alluded to above are a result of the way that certain mother boards implement LBA writing to large hard drives. The problem can generally be solved by going into the BIOS, and turning of LBA, disc caching, and any other disk "tuning" features the mother board may offer.
    I am now up to Solaris 9, and Sun has said that they will offer Solaris 10 for Intel, after having previously stated that they would not. This is good new for people like me, who like the system, and wish to retain a familiarity with it. It is also said that the problems of hard drive size (40 gb or less) and hard drive access (28gb or less) will be, or have been solved. It remains to be seen, but UNIX is gaining in popularity to the extent that actual SPARC machines can be had for a reasonable amount of money, so I may just try the SPARC route.

More progress, as well as some experiences with 64 bit Sparc (7/2005)
    I now have a genuine Ultra Sparc machine, in the form of an Ultra 10. This machine runs Solaris at it's native 64 bits, and is childishly easy to load. The exception to this is if there is a bios password. This issue is addressed here, for those who have run into this problem.
                This section will be greatly updated and expanded this spring (2008)