Solaris gets a Gnome of its own

Sun Microsystems has finally made good on a three-year-old promise to integrate its Solaris operating system with Gnome, the Linux GUI, the company disclosed last week (July 30). Sun plans to offer users of Solaris 9 8/03 -- the latest version of the OS for its Sparc- and X86-based workstations and servers -- the option of running it with Gnome 2.0, although the default user interface will continue to be Sun's Common Desktop Environment (CDE).

Gnome (GNU Object Model Environment) is a product of the GNU Project, an effort begun in 1997 by developer Miguel de Icaza to create a desktop environment and application development framework for GNU/Linux. Gnome is made up of hundreds of desktop applications (file managers, calculators, games, etc.) and a range of software development tools.

The Gnome interface was designed to be compatible with all Linux and Unix platforms. It runs most Java-based applications without requiring modification, according to the GNU Project Web site, and it is designed to work well in a networked environment.

KDE (the K Desktop Environment) is the other dominant desktop environment for Linux. Sun currently includes a Solaris-friendly version of KDE on CDs. However, Gnome seems to be enjoying greater popularity among some of the heavier hitters in the industry. Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Linux distro Red Hat have all announced support for Gnome.

Sun had bundled an unsupported version of Gnome with Solaris previously, but it was included as a CD only. The Santa Clara, Calif.-based network computer maker first announced plans to support Gnome within Solaris in August 2000. According to company officials, Sun has been working ever since to port the interface to Solaris, which involved moving it through the gauntlet of Sun's architectural review and product approval committees -- a time-consuming process, Sun officials said.

Scheduled to ship on August 13th, this is the fourth Solaris 9 update. Along with Gnome support, the new OS includes an extension to its Unix file system to support 16Tbytes of data; a faster version of its Live Upgrade software; and enhancements to the Solaris Volume Manager software that will enable it to convert storage devices formatted by the Veritas Volume Manager into the Solaris Volume Manager format.

Sun plans to include Gnome as part of its forthcoming "MadHatter" project, its Microsoft-compatible, Linux-based desktop package of applications, due in September. According to company officials, the MadHatter desktop bundle will provide users with the ability to connect to MS Exchange, Sun's StarOffice application suite, a Mozilla browser, Java 2, Gnome 2 and Linux.


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About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at


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