Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Troubleshooting SXDE installation and initial setup

Where SXDE is Solaris Express Developer Edition. In the following discussion, I am talking about Solaris Express Developer Edition 02/08, while using the word Solaris or OS.

During the last week's few nights, I struggled to pump up my Solaris as a competitve alternative to my existing Windows XP. However, I failed. Unexpectedly, I faced certain problems which I never had with most of the linux distros I ever installed.

First Problem: Solaris can't be installed on Extended Logical Partition.

I am not sure about the current status but, while googling it I found this to be declared as a bug, which was being taken care of back in 2006. I expected it to be resolved by 2008 however, I wasn't able to even look at the free space available within the extended logical partition in the Parition Manager, while installing Solaris.

Solution: Now since Windows XP don't allow you to have more than 3 primary partitions, I had to delete one from my machine. Once I did that, I had 5 gb free, but I required 20GB which is recommended for a smooth Solaris installation. Anyways, I wsa able to MOVE/RESIZE my extended logical parition to the point that the 15GB free space poped out of this extended partition, and I finally had 15+5 GB able to be used as a Primary Partition. That was it, I was done by using those 20GB to create a 'Solaris' Partition.

Second Problem: Wireless Internet connection not working.

I have a Dell Inspiron e1505, with a Dell 1390 Wireless Minicard. I assumed Solaris capable enough to do some sort of driver detection to get that thing running automatically, but it wasn't as simple. For certain reasons, I had to use Solaris NDIS(Network Driver Interface Specification) Wrapper Toolkit. This toolkit somehow makes use of the native binary Windows drivers of wifi cards to be used in Solaris. Also, one sort of limitation was that a 32 bit windows

driver can only be used in 32bit Solaris and not in 64Bit Solaris. Here, I was stucked again. By default, the installed Solaris was 64-bit Edition. And, there were no 64bit drivers for my Wifi card.

So, there was a grub-based workaround that I found in carlton's guide to boot up the 32 bit Solaris. All you have to do is to goto /boot/grub and edit the file menu.lst as follows:

Since I had a previous Windows XP Installation, I was able to find the string "title Windows" in the menu.lst file. Right above it, append (add) the following:

title Solaris Express Developer Edition 02/08 (32 Bits)
kernel$ /platform/i86pc/kernel/unix
module$ /platform/i86pc/boot_archive

Once done, restart the pc, and select this GRUB option from the boot menu to boot the 32 bit version of Solaris. Now you are ready to lookout over the internet for the 32 bit driver for you wifi card. So, find one. I got mine at In that driver package, only 2 files were required by NDIS toolkit, which were:

bcm32.inf file (ASCII text file) - It contains information that tells the Windows installer what devices this driver supports and what registry keys should be created to control driver's configuration.

bcm32.sys file (binary file) - This file contains the actual driver executable code in Windows Portable Executable (PE) format.

You also need the NDIS Wrapper Toolkit which can be downloaded from here. Now, I won't rewrite the steps I did as I followed nothing more than what Carlton's little guide talks about. It's comprehensible and straight forward.

But finally, after doing it all, I was again troubled with 3 more problems:

1- I was ONLY able to access the www using IPs and not the domain names, for e.g. I could access Google if I type at the browser. But,

I couldn't access the same if I type I resolved this by making a little change in /etc/nsswitch.conf file. I changed the 'hosts: files' to 'hosts: files dns'(more on this). And that was it.

2- I couldn't sort out to activate the wifi connection automatically on startup. Although I have checked the same option in Networks Panel but, it helping me out.
3- Sometimes, the connection is lost when I play around with and apparently the only solution then turns out to be a system restart.

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