Sunday Mar 25, 2007

Wireless Activate on Boot

Last night I finally found the time to upgrade my laptop from a "too much patched" Solaris 10 5/03 to a latest-greatest "Solaris eXpress Developer Edition". Before we dig into wireless, I've to do a little plug for SXDE. I think it's a great idea. Many users want on their desktop or laptop something that is up-to-date, must have a decent stability, but doesn't have to be as rock-solid as a normal Solaris release. Problem with using standard S10 on a laptop is that drivers can be "way behind". Which is then normally already fixed in Nevada, but running that on the system that my email is depending on is not my piece of cake. Nevada is great, but please on my second system.

SXDE is the sweet spot in-between: Once every 3 months a snapshot is taken of the Nevada code (the bi-weekly release of that is now also called Solaris eXpress, Community Edition, SXCE), which gets then a couple of "fixes only, no new features" debug cycles, is then bundled with Studio 11 and released to us, the Solaris end-users and developer crowd. I think this is great, it's more stable than S11 Nevada, which is really beta code, and still you get all the latest bug-fixes and drivers.

So, I moved over, and everything went very, very smooth. I also rebooted a couple of times, started to customize the system, configured NTP, noticed that SXDE knows about my Artheros WiFi chipset, configured that, and all was great. One of the biggest features for me was that it decided NOT to overwrite my MBR. So, even while my system is running RH and XP in parallel to Solaris, I didn't have to do any of that 'grub' stuff to reinstall the Master Boot Record. Cool.....

For whatever reason, I did a reboot and my system hang with an absolutely black screen. I rebooted in FailSafe mode, but couldn't see anything wrong. So I reinstalled from scratch. And again the first half hour all was OK, but then it would hang like hell. I couldn't even ping the box. I guess that in total I reinstalled 4 times over the weekend, got quite a routine for it :-), but finally I figured out what went wrong.

As usual it was a combination of a mistake by me, and a system that's not foolproof enough. In this case, my mistake was that when I configured Wireless I told it to "Activate on Boot". Made sense. But I don't have an access point, and was simply testing on what my neighbours provided on the 2.4 GHz band. :-) What is the problem, is that if you click "Activate on Boot" and then, when booting, you don't have a proper access point, the system is not properly timing out. At least that is my theory. It simply waits and waits and waits. With the result that the system simply hangs and you have to reinstall from DVD.

I guess that alternatively you can figure out how to reverse that "Active on Boot", while in FailSafe mode. I kept life more simple and from then on didn't touch that checkbox anymore. Which, so far, works pretty fine.