Thursday, November 8, 2012





When Solaris was open sourced, several distributions came to life from the OpenSolaris source code. Most of them however relied on closed bits provided by Sun. Then Oracle came and put Han Solo in a carbonite... err, wrong story. But you get the point.

With the emergence of Illumos (opensolaris with 100% open bits), we are starting to see again a surge in number of distributions based on it, and this is great news.

Now, there are several focusing on storage, and of course that is a natural application for an operating system based on Solaris technologies, such as ZFS.

But I want a desktop. I'm currently using OpenIndiana, and it works fine for my needs, better than any other OS on the planet, due to the fact I need to manage largish projects on my desktop. One in particular has over 3/4 million lines of code. Zones (clones) and snapshots are a must to tackle that. And dtrace to debug. But if you've ever used Solaris 10 or above you already know that.


Today, we are looking briefly at Tribblix.

The homepage is at

What's in the name? Peter Tribble answers: "
Well, while it may seem rather vain, if I were to choose a name from scratch I would probably have come up with some obscure solar-powered pun. But at one of the OpenSolaris summits we took part in a Go Game, and one of the questions was:
Which of the following is not an OpenSolaris-derived distribution:
  • Schillix
  • Tribblix
  • Belenix
  • OpenSolaris 2009.06
I'm not sure that whoever set the question knew how close that was to the name of someone on the project, but that was how the name became planted in my consciousness."

Pretty funny... At that time, there was no Tribblix, but it sparked something, and Peter has now released Tribblix.

Speaking of Sparc

When asked on the illumos discussion list about availability of a Sparc version (Tribblix is x86), Peter indicated the following:
Do you have a SPARC ISO for your SVR4 distro, Peter?

Not yet. That shouldn't be too difficult. (It's much easier to develop
and test on x86, as I can repeatedly spin something up in VirtualBox
until I get it right. The differences in building the ISOs for sparc are
relatively small.)

As I recall, though, Martin said he had stripped out the IPS packaging
from his DVD, which I would need in order to convert all the packages."

Peter is referring to Martin Bochnig's own distribution that runs on Sparc systems. I will cover that one in the next blog post.

ISO Please

It is to be found here:

From OpenIndiana, it is a simple matter of issuing:

$ cdrw -i tribblix-0m1.iso

From any other OS, use your favorite method to burn an ISO. This is a CD image, btw, something rare nowadays.


The installation process is relatively quick, but it is for people who are well versed in the Solaris OS. After choosing your country and language, you'll have to play with format and fdisk before starting the install process.

Instead of going through the steps here I will point you to Peter's install guide.

One thing I'll point out, when you are about to run the install script, make sure you type the following:

/.cdrom/ c1t0d0s0 x11 retro-desktop develop xfce
That way, you install x11 etc. Else, you are 100% command line.


When you boot Tribblix, you end up with a text login prompt. This is also the approach Raspbian are taking for the Raspberry Pi. I like that.

You login as jack initially (just as you would login as pi on a Raspbian distro). Then you can either startx, which will give you a spartan desktop called TWM. For some that might be enough.

TWM: Spartan and fast
You can also run wmaker.inst to modify your startx to use WindowMaker. I ran this with 512MB of ram, and it runs, a little tight.



Peter did set it up so you could also start XFCE effortlessly. Instead of typing the typical startx,you would:

$ startxfce4
XFCE4: light yet full featured

What is interesting is that with 512MB of RAM, I still have 108MB free on the above screenshot.

There is potential thus to port this over to the Raspberry Pi. The Pi uses an ARM11 (ARM V6) processor, but OpenSolaris had been ported to ARM in the past: Another real plus to a port to the Raspberry Pi is that the hardware is pretty much set in stone, so no need for a bazillion sound and video drivers, for example.

Anyway, this concludes our brief review of Tribblix. It is very much a work in progress, but it shows that some interesting stuff can happen still with regards to Solaris and derived distributions.

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