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Nexenta combines OpenSolaris, GNU, and Ubuntu

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What do you get when you combine OpenSolaris, the GNU utilities, and Ubuntu? Nexenta -- a GNU-based open source operating system built on top of the OpenSolaris kernel and runtime. I took the Alpha 5 release out for a spin to see how well it's progressing. It might sound like an odd combination, but after more than a year of development, it actually works well, and is shaping up to be a very interesting operating system.

Nexenta's Alpha 5 release is available as an installable ISO, live CD, or VMware image. I opted for the installable ISO.

I tested Nexenta under VMware and on a Pentium 4 notebook with 1GB RAM, an ATI Radeon R250, Intel sound card, built-in RealTek Ethernet, Intersil Prism wireless, and 60GB hard drive.

The Nexenta installer is a basic text-mode installer that's similar to Ubuntu's old text-mode installer. It asks a couple of questions about partitioning, the time zone, networking, and user setup, then copies files for about 20 minutes. I've installed various releases of Solaris and OpenSolaris over the years, and I was pleased that Nexenta is much easier to install than its Solaris cousins.

The only sticking point is the disk partitioner. Nexenta uses a less-than-friendly text menu partitioner that's even less intuitive than fdisk. If the user sticks with the default "take over the entire disk" option, it's easy as pie, but manual partitioning is going to be a bit unpleasant for anyone without prior Linux and/or Solaris experience.

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