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Solaris gets open-source update

Sun Microsystems releases an update to its Unix-based operating system that includes, for the first time, the GNOME open-source graphical interface.

Sun Microsystems has released an update to its Solaris operating system that incorporates, for the first time, the GNOME open-source graphical interface.

The overhaul of Sun's version of Unix, announced Tuesday, now allows people to choose GNOME instead of the interface that has been part of the software for years, the Common Desktop Environment (CDE).

The open-source GNOME project was founded to bypass CDE, which relies on technology with proprietary restrictions to build graphical elements such as windows with buttons and menus. Though the controller of the CDE technology, the Open Group, is now embracing open-source principles, Sun decided to move to GNOME.

GNOME grew up for use with Linux, but Sun and others embraced the technology in 2000 for use with Unix. It competes with another interface called KDE. CDE still is the default for Solaris, but users may elect to use GNOME, a Sun representative said.

Though Sun has had a mixed record with Linux, it has tried to tap into the energy of the open-source movement, which in many cases has aligned with Sun against Microsoft. The company, based in Menlo Park, Calif., has released some of its own software as open-source projects, notably the OpenOffice package that competes with Microsoft's Office.

The company has been backing the GNOME project, with its engineers at work on tasks such as making sure the software supports many languages.

Tuesday's revamp, Solaris version 9 8/03, is the latest on the Solaris "release train." The train is a regularly scheduled quarterly update process, which Sun also plans to bring to its Project Orion server software collection.

The new version features a reworked file system that can accommodate as many as 16 terabytes of capacity, though Sun doesn't support the use of individual files larger than 1 terabyte. It also includes version 2.1 of Solaris Live Upgrade, which adds ways to update the operating system with minimum interruption of a running machine.