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          There are a number of variants of Unix on the market; but Solaris is by far the most popular. The table below should give a pretty good indication of just how badly Microsoft has dropped the ball, when it comes to making efficient, powerful software. Previous to Solaris 7, versions were not available for the PC platform. Technically, these are all continuations of the Solaris 2 series, and version 7 could be called version 2.7. The naming was changed due to some changes in the user environments, and in concert with the introduction of the Ultra sparc series. If it seems odd that the more powerful SPARC architecture requires a faster operating speed to run the same system as the one ported over to the PC, the explanation is simple. They are not the same system. The PC version, and the SPARC version have the same user interface, and respond to the same commands; but they do not have the same underlying structure. The SPARC version has a full 64 bit architecture, while that of the PC version is of 32 bits.
          Solaris is has been around for decades, and is Sun's native operating system. While Microsoft, Intel, and AMD have been struggling to get 64 bit computing off the ground, Sun has had its own 64 bit Solaris, and 64 bit SPARC architecture running for years. There is a 32 bit version ported over for x86 architecture; but with SPARC machines selling at bargain prices, true 64 bit computing is within the reach of just about anyone. In contrast to Windows systems, these machines are stable. Solaris servers run for months, even years at a time, without crashing or needing to be shut down.
Solaris System Requirements
Version Ram Space Speed Misc
Solaris 10 256mb 2 gb 120mhz X86
250mhz sparc
Solaris 9 64mb (128) 600mb (1gb) 120mhz X86
250mhz sparc
Solaris 8 64 mb 600mb (1gb) 120mhz X86
250mhz sparc
Solaris 7 64 mb 600mb (1gb) 120mhz X86
250mhz sparc

Open Source Unix

         Sun has learned the lesson which Microsoft, and Redhat have forgotten, and Apple never learned. It has decided to open source its platform. Solaris is open source, and its source code is available for download. This immediately makes Linux a much less desirable platform, and pushes Solaris up to be in the lead of the burgeoning Unix revolution. In addition, Sun's decision to port Solaris over to the X86 platform, makes it available to anyone with a spare PC laying around the house. A look at the system requirements above, makes it plain that an old spare computer is all that is needed, for a Solaris installation. My own x86 Unix machine is a ten year old computer, with specs that would make it painful to operate, with Microsoft's newest system. Yet it is a perfectly satisfactory platform for Solaris.
    So now Solaris is free, to the home user, and is open source. Though this may seem like a drastic, and desperate move by Sun, it actually makes great sense, and should greatly improve Sun's market share. Here's why. Sun is a dominant force in the server market, and a major player in the high end workstation market. Still, it has no real presence for the home or office user. This limited user base greatly constricts the supply, as well as the need for users and techs familiar with the Solaris system. This is all fine and good, until Microsoft introduces systems to compete with Sun. Microsoft can boast a large user base, and a large base of technical professionals, who are familiar with the Windows system. Even though Windows may not be as good a system as Solaris, it often doesn't need to be. As I remark on my main computer page "good enough is the enemy of perfect". A familiar system, which is easier to use, and within the comfort zone of the average user and administrator, will suffice, even if it is not as good as a competing system.
    McDonalds is a good example of this. Few people think of this as good, high quality food. It is known to have huge amounts of fat, sugar, and salt. Even so, if you are traveling, want something fast, or don't know where to eat, there is a fair chance that you will stop into a McDonalds. This is not because most people think this is great food; but it is good enough. It is also a know quantity. If you are in Mongolia, and spot a McDonalds, you can order a Big Mac, fries, and a Coke, and know exactly what you are going to get. what McDonalds has done to food, Microsoft has done to the computer operating system. In both cases, you are getting something familiar, and good enough.
    Sun is giving away product, to a market which it can never hope to enter anyway. Microsoft owns the home computing market, and will not be dislodged any time soon. So Sun looses nothing by distributing Solaris free, to the home user. What it gains is a larger user base, familiar with it's product, and perhaps seeing the virtues of Solaris, over Windows. In it's tradition user base, of high end servers, the old licensing (and fee) structures still stand. In this, Sun has taken a page from the Microsoft play book.
    One of the reasons that Microsoft Windows got so big, is that it gave away developer kits to software producers, IT professionals, and programmers. Because of this, everyone developed for Microsoft. Because everyone developed for Microsoft, pretty much anything would run on it. So if you, your office, or your company was in the market for an operating system, Microsoft was really the only choice, since everything ran on it, and every piece of hardware had a driver for it. A the same that Microsoft was getting windows off the ground, IBM was introducing OS2. This was a much better system than anything that Microsoft was offering but IBM insisted on charging heavy fees for development kits, and licensing fees for it's compatible hardware. OS2 withered and died. Apple has made similar mistakes; but appears to have kind of learned from them.
    So sun is opening up it's source, and giving away it's flagship OS, to the home user. It hopes, by this means, to entice a new, and much larger user base, which will help to stave off any inroads which Microsoft may attempt to make on it's server market.