Friday, October 26, 2007

Belenix freebie

Continuing the discussion on Belenix (see part 1)

“I cant burn the CD from the iso?”

And you used cdrw in Solaris? You probably tried:

bash$ cdrw -i belenix0.6.1.iso

Looking for CD devices...

Initializing device...done.

Size required (728453120 bytes) is greater than available space (681986048 bytes).

instead, try:

bash$ cdrw -C -i belenix0.6.1.iso

Looking for CD devices...

Initializing device...done.

Writing track 1...done.


Finalizing (Can take several minutes)...done.

“What makes Belenix so special?”

The biggest is that it supports UFS (of course, it is opensolaris afterall), ZFS, Fat16, Fat32, NTFS (really!) and EXT2 / EXT3. Wow. One key with Belenix and I can rescue a file from any x86 computer in this building (windows, solaris, linux) With ZFS that also means *bsd with zfs, mac os x with zfs, Linux FUSE ZFS... I dont know of any other solution out there currently that out of the box is capable of the same (well, maybe Indiana, but it is not out).

The other, as illustrated by my picture of the laptop with no hard disk, no cdrom and minimal memory, is that Belenix doesn't abuse of your resources. It will run with 256MB of ram. Of course, a live distro with 256MB with Xorg and XFCE doesn't leave much space. You can open a few terminals, text editor, run top (see ) and the like, but open Firefox and you need to be ultra patient. 320MB would make a big difference, while 512MB would be just right (and with the laptop back to its full 2GB configuration, wow). Or course, in text mode only, 256MB is overkill.

Also, combine my previous blog entry with memtest (replace /boot/... with /media/usbkeyname/boot/...), and you now have Belenix/memtest on USB.

“I want one!”

You can go and buy a 1GB key, download Belenix, burn it on CDROM and install it with usbdump. Or you can leave a comment on my blog and let me know how you have used Belenix on USB or plan on using it, and the best story in two weeks from now gets a free USB key preloaded with Belenix (november 9). I even pay shipping. Not a contest, just me giving personal stuff away for free to the person I choose, like MaryMaryQuiteContrary would say...

How cool is that? Start typing!

Further reading (links)

Where is the CDROM? Belenix Story

Where is your CDROM? A Belenix story

I have a Dell Lattitude D600 laptop. I've had it for a long while. You can see a picture of it (it is for a presentation for work). From that picture, a few questions might pop up in your mind. The first, I'm sure, might be:

“What OS is that?”

It's obviously not Mac OS or Windows. It is also not Linux. Thanks for playing. So what is it? Well, hint #1, it says XFCE Menu at the bottom of the screen. It also says “ innovating on opensolaris” in the middle. More on that later. Next question, please.

“Why did you call it Theremin?”

You have good eyes! My laptops have always been named Theremin. But it particularly applies to this one. It is a laptop with WIFI and WWAN, so it is really totally wireless. I'm also a big fan (and composer) of electronic music. Theremin is the french spelling of Termen, as in “Lev Sergeyevich Termen”, the Russian inventor more commonly known as Léon Thérémin. One of his invention is the Theremin musical instrument. Think of it as a synthesizer without a keyboard. You control the pitch and volume by moving your hands around antennas, wirelessly. Wireless.

“Why do you have spare components next to it?”

Actually, they are not spare at all. I removed the DVD/CDROM, the hard disk and one of the 2 memory DIMM. I even replaced the DIMM left by a smaller one, 256MB. It is as bare as I can make it.

“So how is it running an OS?”

It is booting off of a USB key. A 2GB Lexar Firefly. This thing is SMALL, but comes in capacity up to 8GB. Truly physically small enough to fit on your key chain.

“And what else?”

Belenix 0.6.1. This has already been out since mid July, but I've only gotten around to using it for the past few weeks. Belenix is an opensolaris distribution. It has KDE and XFCE, all the good stuff from Solaris like ZFS, zones and DTrace. Oh, it also has Gnu Parted. And Compiz. And Koffice. It is a live CD distribution, similar to, say, Knoppix. To use it, you simply download the ISO, burn it on CD and boot that CD.

“Ah, but isn't it hard to get it on a USB key?”

To get on the USB, you log in as root, insert your USB key (1GB or more, I used a 2GB in my case) and from the command line, you type:


That is it. No other step. You are done. You can now reboot the machine and if you have boot from USB as the first choice in your boot order, it will boot from the USB key and come up with a GRUB screen.

Yay! See also Moinak Ghosh's blog.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Fun with GRUB: memtest

So you want to add a memtest entry to your Solaris GRUB menu at boot time?

Download memtest from


[] gzcat memtest86-3.3.tar.gz | tar xvf -
[] cd memtest86-3.3
[] cp precomp.bin /boot/platform/i86pc/kernel/memtest
[] chmod a+x /boot/platform/i86pc/kernel/memtest

Edit /boot/grub/menu.lst and add at the bottom:

title Solaris memtest86
kernel /boot/platform/i86pc/kernel/memtest

When you reboot you will have the option to run Solaris, Solaris failsafe or, now, memtest.

Let me know if you are interested in more GRUB tricks.