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Sun hopes Project Indiana will help OpenSolaris

Company wants to create an OpenSolaris-based OS familiar to Linux and Solaris users in a long-term attempt to propagate the software.

Sun Microsystems has revealed the outline of a project code-named Indiana, an effort to package up the OpenSolaris operating system into a convenient and usable "distribution" in the mold of Linux.

"This project proposes to create an OpenSolaris binary distribution with a long-term goal of increasing the user base and growing mindshare in the volume market by providing easy access to the technology created within the OpenSolaris community," according to a mailing list posting Wednesday by Sun programmer Glynn Foster.

Computers understand binary software. Developers can turn source code into binary software, but most ordinary computer users typically lack the time, expertise and interest. Free Linux versions typically are downloaded as binaries that can be burned onto a CD and installed.

And as reported, a key Project Indiana goal will be to make Solaris less alien to the relatively large number of Linux enthusiasts. Indiana has "a focus on closing the familiarity gap for new users of the platform, but also compatible to Solaris users today," Foster said.

OpenSolaris is Sun's open-source project for improving its Solaris version of Unix, an effort it hopes will engage developers and ultimately lead to more customers. But OpenSolaris components don't constitute a full operating system.

In Linux parlance, a distribution consists of core components such as an operating system kernel along with higher-level software such as utilities, programming tools, graphical interface components and even word processors. Some of those components stem from the Gnu's Not Unix (GNU) project, and some programmers already have begun building GNU-based Solaris distribution, called Nexenta.

Indiana will fit on a single CD and be updated every six months, Foster said. "With a focus on the user experience, it is hoped that with wide distribution, the OpenSolaris ecosystem will grow, providing valuable feedback to the project."

And although Foster said the project is intended to be grassroots and consensus-driven, "there may be a real need for a sole arbiter, Ian Murdock," who is Sun's chief operating systems officer and a founder of the Debian version of Linux.