SUMMARY - Solaris X86 on Pentium

From: Edward Regan (
Date: Sat Jan 14 1995 - 00:31:24 CST

Sorry for not editing this summary a little more. I am leaving town today, and I wanted to get this out before I left. (back in 2 weeks) I have included most of the relevant responses in their entirety. Sorry if there are some repeat suggestions.
Almost everyone suggested I check the supported hardware list before I purchase anything.
Some suggested that I use Linux as my UNIX.

Thanks to all who responded!

Ed Regan
Systems Engineer
Email -

Original message

=>Sun Managers,
=>I was wondering if I could bother the collective for some impressions and
=>advice? I am curious about your experience (positive or negative) with
=>Solaris 2.4 for the X86 environment. Specifically, I am thinking of purchasing
=>a PC for home use. I want to get a Pentium based machine, and I want to run
=>Any suggestions on;
=>1) What hardware to buy. I am considering Gateway.
=>2) Software Compatability. (What is out there that runs under X86 Solaris?
=>3) Experience with speed and functinality. Specifically WABI?
=>Thank you in advance for your help!
=>Ed Regan
=>Systems Engineer
=>ECCS Inc.
=>Email -



I am using Solaris 2.4 for x86 currently, and find it to be
great! It has taken me a while to get it going, but the
effort is beginning to pay off. There doesn't seem to be a
lot of software available, though. For instance, even
though Sun's brochures say you'll be able to run FrameMaker,
etc., you can't -- it isn't available, and Frame doesn't
necessarily plan to port it. On the other hand, I just
received my Catalyst CDware today, and it seems to offer
some x86-specific software, plus I am beginning to locate
the x86 Solaris software sites on the Internet.

It runs well on my 486-33 with 32 megs of RAM, but I had to
replace a CD drive to get it to install -- hardware (really)
must be on the approved list. Please let me know how you
make out... or if I can answer any questions. Good luck!

Jon Snidal


I just set up a Solaris 2.4 for x86 system. The system I
set up was a NEC 486DX2/66 w/ 32MB Ram and a 1GB SCSI disk
and NEC SCSI CD-ROM (Adaptec 1542CF SCSI host adapter).

I was surprised, performance is very good. It looks VERY
much like Solaris 2.4 on a SPARC. There are some minor
/etc and OpenWin files that I noticed are specific
for PCs (for the boot sequence, since no boot prom, and
video displays and screen sizes). There is also some kernel
device files that must be edited to support COM2:, 3 or 4
and set up a parallel port if it's a non-standard IRQ and/or
I/O addr. It's clearly spelled out in the documentation, though.

The one thing I can't stress more: get the hardware compatibility
list _BEFORE_ you buy any PC!!!! We had a problem with the NEC
embedded graphics adapter; it would only work in IBM VGA mode
(640x480!). Try running Open WIndows in that res!!!!!

We ordered a supported Number Nine ISA graphics card, reconfigured
the system, and it works fine at 1024x768 res.

The hardware compatibility list is also very important for SCSI
controllers, disks, CD-ROMs, etc. It's best to take a look at

You can find the pointers to the x86 FAQ, patch list, driver updates
and hardware compatibility list on:


Good luck,

William J. Maggio
Lan & Computer Integrators, Inc.
242 Old New Brunswick Road Email:
Suite 100 Voice: 908-981-1991
Piscataway, NJ 08855 Fax : 908-981-8083

SPEAKING ONLY AS MYSELF and NOT for INTEL - my opinion is:

I have both a SPARCstation 1+ and a Pentium system at home. The Pentium
system performance is quite acceptable and the price is right (especially
the peripheral devices - video, CD, etc. where the workstation vendors really
gouge you). I think Solaris on Intel Architecture is the best commercial Unix
hardware and software combination available today. You can always set-up your
system to boot Windoze on another disk partition if you want to access the
cheap software base available for PCs. You might also want to consider
BSDI or Linux if you're a hacker at heart.

According to Sun, SPARC and Intel architecture are compiled from the same
Solaris source tree except for the machine dependent code, boot blocks,
and such (just like any Unix). My observation is that this appears to be

- Nate Itkin
- Portland Technology Development, Intel Corporation      Aloha, Oregon
- E-mail:

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Ed - We have been using x86 2.1 on P60s for about 6 months.

Machine - Recommendation - Get one off SUN's supported list, and be especially careful with peripheral cards and peripherals. (We did not really have much choice in what we initially received, so our SCSI card was not supported at all and the system, an IBM P6, was not on SUN's list of supported machines for 2.1, is for 2.4.) Made for a rather tricky setup. Make sure that you get a SCSI CDROM or it won't be bootable.

If your machine experience is not in PCs, be prepared for meeting up with IRQs, etc. PC devices are not exactly "Plug-and-Play" (MS TM?) yet... Be very careful to lay them out in advance or you may run into a lot of grief.

Obvious requirements for a box - PCI bus (3 slots) and PCI cards - especially graphics and SCSI. ISA slots for slow devices like modems. Our boxes have 16MB RAM, we are upgrading to 32MB, but we still get much better performance on them than on our 32MB LXs.

One non-obvious requirement - The Pentium systems have several levels of caching. Make soure that you get a box that runs Solaris with the caches ON. With them off, you are paying Pentium prices for a 486 box... In 2.1, there was a recommendation to shut off some of the caching if you had stability problems or if you had problems getting the system running. Per SUN's recommendations, in our initial trials we had our cache shut off while we got IRQs, etc set up. Once set up, we turned on the caching. The systems are easily twice as fast with the caches on.

Impressions on 2.1 -

Stable Much better performance than our LXs Not horribly different from Solaris 2.X for most things

On what runs on x86 - I'm not really sure, we mostly use ours for WABI and access to our SPARCs today. I'd certainly be interested in a list... Note that 2.4 will be the big test on whether x86 will garner real ISV support since it's the first version that gives real source compatibility to the SPARC version and since SUN's box and peripheral support is so much better than on 2.1.

WABI - Ver 1.1. Much better performance than on SPARCs, about the same as fancy boxes like SS20s. The reason, of course, is that the backend is not emulated, it is put on the hardware.

The performance is so much better than on our LXs that we got a x86 box specifically for WABI support to our LXs and X display out from it. Supports a group of us on a 60MHz Pentium.

This version is a "Save Early, Save Often" version... The current version is supposed to be much more stable.

The new version 2.0 requires a MS Windows 3.X license for the DLLs (Why not simply use Windoze??) (-; With the coming 32-bit Windoze, WABI will have a bit of catching up to do again.

John Marsh


Sun provides a list of hardware tested with Solaris 2.4 for x86. You can request it by mail (just send mail to 'x86hcl@Sun.Com' for the ASCII version or to '' for the PostScript version) or via WWW (http://access1.Sun.Com).

I'm sorry, but I do not have any experience running the configuration you want to have.

Hope it helps!




I come from an sco/interactive background where x86 platforms are the norm and I was very happy in this environment. Now, I am an SE with a sun reseller and I am still running solaris over x86 and it is fine. Version 2.4 is a superb creation when compared to solaris 2.1 (although everything is a superb creation compared to this version) I think you will be very happy with this.

There is a list of hardware which is supported with solaris 2.4. Specifically the Gateway 2000 486/33E, Gateway 2000 4DX2-66E and Gateway 2000 4DX2-66V are supported under solaris 2.4.

For other hardware, you should ask about specific pieces of hardware so that I can compare it to my list.

I have not had any experience with wabi under solaris 2.4 but under solaris 2.1 it was terrible. The best dos under unix product on the market at this point is call Merge from a company called Locus. Merge can run windows 3.1 and any windows application that plays nice. Obviously applications which access hardware directly will have to be configured a little, but should work okay.

There are lots of applications available for solaris on x86 such as FrameMaker, Wordperfect, Lotus, Pagemaker, etc. There is also Term which is like procomm, Procomm, etc. It again all depends on what you want to use your system for.

Hope this helps.


======================================================= Sharon Joseph-Tatta, B.Sc. Systems Engineer Kanatek Technologies, Inc.

Where no one has gone before...



My Gateway P5-60 works great with x86. I have a standard configuration with an added MediaVision ProAudio Spectrum with Sony CDROM and SCSI2 built on. I use the Sony interface for my CDROM and Solaris finds it ok. It also recognizes the Adaptec SCSI on it. The only thing I had to do was download the newest driver update to get OpenWindows to run with my Matrox MGA Ultra video card.

Here are some autoresponders that keep up-to-date info on available drivers and supported hardware:


AUTORESPONSE ALIAS LIST _____________________________________________________________________________

For fast retrieval of the most current information on SunSoft's products, use the established autoresponse email alias. Just send mail addressed to any of the following addresses, and the corresponding report will be returned to you.


x86-supported-drivers@ A complete list of all drivers supported by Solaris 2.1 x86 to date, including FCS release, monthly driver-update, and unsupported drivers Systems and peripherals supported by Solaris 2 for x86 Third-party products for the INTERACTIVE UNIX System Systems and peripherals supported by INTERACTIVE UNIX Operating System Third-party products for Solaris 2 for x86 SunSoft Press (retail) book catalog of currently available and forthcoming titles. Includes order information. _____________________________________________________________________________

I have also installed it on an Integraph TD3 Pentium 90. Works great on this as well.

My Gateway has 40MB RAM and the TD3 has 32MB. This seems to make a big difference in performance. I like being able to us Solaris at home to become more familiar with its features. My Gateway has served well as a multi-OS system. I currently have DOS 6.22/Win311, WinNT 3.5, Solaris x86, and Linux running. I am even going to take a peek at OS/2 Warp!

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