My primary computer for my small business/home office is now running OpenSolaris.
I made the switch for several reasons. One is that I am a computer science professional and a person familiar with cyber security threats and I have lots of concerns over the state of security of traditional OSs . Another reason is cost. Another reason was an assessment of what I need in a computer . I have to admit, part of the reason was for fun and maybe some bragging rights, but please don’t let that stop you from reading on.
Here is a little more info on each of those areas:
Security: There is no such thing as the perfectly secure computer. Both hardware and software can be compromised. But history has shown the software defect rate of Windows is far higher than Open Source systems like Linux and OpenSolaris. I have Windows on some of my computers at home but I don’t keep things on them that are of value except for one computer that runs Quickbooks, and I take extra measures to protect that system (like keeping it constantly patched, unplugged when not in use, and of course backing up the data). I also use Macs. In practice they are more secure than Windows based systems but even they need to be constantly patched and the applications that run on Macs can also be vulnerable to exploits (Safari, for example). OpenSolaris will also require patching I’m sure (remember the mantra, there is no such thing as a perfectly secure system), but as a system with security designed in from the begining and a system with a formal open source review process its security is much much higher.
Cost: If you are a home user, OpenSolaris is free (enterprise users will want a support license). So is the full featured office automation suite OpenOffice. You still need hardware, but it runs on most hardware that has been made over the last five years or so (consult the OpenSolaris site for more details). I loaded it on my oldest PC. It was a Dell from four years ago. Doing that meant I was able to get a fully functioning, full featured system that does what I need and is secure and, it is FREE! If I would have gotten the iMac I was thinking about it would have cost me over $2100.00. That is a huge savings for any small office.
Functionality: The most important application I need on a system is Firefox, because I do so much stuff in the cloud. Of course you get that with OpenSolaris. I also run OpenOffice in case I need to do some offline office automation. I have a handful of other tools too, but those are the big ones I needed. So far the only functionality I think you can’t get on OpenSolaris that you can get on Windows or Mac is iTunes and Quickbooks. I might run those in windows in a virtual box on my OpenSolaris system. Or maybe I’ll just keep a Windows box around for that purpose.
Fun: Ok, this is where it is ok to say I’m nuts. But I like learning new things on and about computers and this is a great way to learn about a great OS. It is also a great way to learn about enterprise class open source storage systems (ZFS) and open source virtualization (especially VirtualBox). If you are ready to dive in and have some fun, you can order your CD of the OS for free at: http://opensolaris.org/os/
In the near term I’ll give some more installation tips if you are planning on taking this path for your small office or home office.