New Adventures in illumos: (Just Like) Starting Over

James Deagle
4 min readNov 13, 2021
The OpenIndiana Hipster desktop, circa November 2021.

It feels like an eternity since I last ran illumos on bare metal.

One way or another, my previous two laptops simply didn’t cut it — one was a Dell Inspiron (now deceased) with a wifi card that was unsupported by illumos, while the other is an older Compaq that chokes on newer implementations of ZFS. I eventually found a USB wifi adapter that played nice with the former, but that machine’s hard drive was on its final legs by that point, and the latter is running the current OpenBSD just fine, thank you very much.

A week ago, however, I saw an ad on Kijiji for a Lenovo ThinkPad T61 for a mere $100, and considering that I have never stopped mourning the loss of my beloved T61p to a cooked motherboard in late 2016, I wasted no time contacting the seller, and had the T61 booting on my desk within the hour.

As a bit of historical context, illumos-based systems (i.e. OpenIndiana Hipster, Tribblix, et. al.) and their estranged SunOS step-siblings (i.e. Oracle Solaris 10 and 11.3) always ran without issue on the T61p. Everything just worked, wifi and all. And just as I still longed for that departed laptop, I also never lost the itch to immerse myself in all things Solaris/Solarish.

(For the Dell and Compaq laptops mentioned above, systems from the BSD and Linux families were simply what worked and made complete sense under the circumstances. And on the Compaq, 9front worked like a dream. No apologies, no regrets.)

Over the past week I’ve gotten a whole lot of distrohopping out of my system, and while I predict there’ll be more to come further down the line, for now I have OI Hipster up and running, and will be exploring that system for the foreseeable future. (I’ve also tried out Oracle Solaris 11.4 on this box, but I’ll save that decidedly mixed review for another time, as there’s too much I need to say on that topic to fit in this particular space. When the time comes for that screed, I predict it will be philosophical rather than technical.)

And so for this current venture, I started out by installing the 2020.04 snapshot of OI Hipster simply because that was the most recent illumos iso I happened to have on hand, and then followed the usual procedure for upgrading the…

James Deagle

I like to write about life and make music.