Friday, October 26, 2007

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.

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