SUMMARY: Solaris x86 on Laptop

From: Robert Glover (
Date: Tue Apr 06 1999 - 21:50:45 CDT

Original question follows summary.

Many thanks for replies from:
Darryl Price
David Evans
Asim Zuberi
Bobby Huynh
Carlos Carranza
for particularly comprehensive responses from:-
Kevin Davidson
John Sullivan

I have included the complete replies from Kevin and John below.

Kevin wrote:-
 There are plenty of laptops that will run Solaris. Toshibas are a
 good bet (Sun engineers apparently use these). There are a number of
 things to bear in mind.

 1) Sun have dropped laptops from the x86 HCL; they say they cannot
    keep up with the changes so they're not supporting laptops
    anymore. I think that's a mistake - and they may change their
    minds. The alternative (Tadpole ) is expensive.
 2) Solaris 7 has limited support for new graphics chipsets and even
    less for laptop graphics. But that doesn't matter - you can buy Xi
    Graphics Accelerated X and it will support pretty much any chipset
    and do a better job than Sun's (eg more colours), but with no DPS.
    Xfree86 will build under Solaris as well, but it can be slow and
    may not support newer laptop chipsets properly.
 3) PCMCIA support - Sun only support 16bit `pcic' mode controllers
    and cards. It absolutely will not work with a cardbus only
    controller (eg as in a Dell Inspiron 3000). All Toshibas can be
    switched from cardbus to pcic mode in the BIOS.
 4) Internal modems. Winmodems do not work in any version of UNIX. If
    the laptop's got a lucent internal modem you'll want a pcmcia one
    instead. Apparently the newer Toshibas use these - the Tecra
    740CDT I have works fine, though.
 5) Sound. Sun's driver only supports close clones of the Soundblaster
    and only at 8 (or is it 16) bits. If sound is important to you,
    you may want to buy 4Front Technologies' sound driver. It is Sun
    audio and Linux/OSS compatible.
 6) Solaris has no APMS support so expect battery life to be limited
    unless you can control power saving through the BIOS (you usually
    can). You should be able to suspend/resume OK if that is also
    managed by the BIOS.

  Maybe that sounded negative, but my experience (I've been setting up
  laptops here for product demonstrations and on-the-road development)
  has been good. Solaris has been rock solid.

  I've seen reports of successful Solaris installations on Toshiba
  Tecra 740CDT, Tecra 550, some Thinkpads (you may need a replacement
  pcic driver if you have >64Mb memory), various Fujitsu laptops.
  Fujitsu apparently sell (or are about to sell) Solaris laptops,
  but maybe only in Japan. Xi Graphics have worked on pcmcia drivers
  for some hardware vendors (including Fujitsu).
 You should visit these web sites: X server Audio drivers Report of installation on Tecra 550 General Solaris x86 General Solaris x86 (Bob Palowoda
                                        works for Sun and is a stong
                                        advocate of Solaris on Intel).
John wrote:-
Sun's laptop support is fairly minimal - in fact they have dropped
development on new laptop features. The only ethernet card that is
currently supported is 3Com's 3C589D - there is no CardBus support at
all. And for best results, you probably want to go with a third
party X (Xi Graphics' is very nice, - and not too
expensive at USD $125; XFree86 works well too, but is much lower
performance. In general, Sun's X servers are much faster than
XFree86, and Xi Graphics' servers are much faster than Sun's.)

That said, I've had luck running Solaris on both Toshiba and IBM
machines, but Toshibas have been easiest to get working. IBM's
BIOS (such as it is) is a separate program that must be run from a
DOS partition; also, you can run into all kinds of hassles if you're
trying to dual-boot Win9x and Solaris, since Win sets the PCMCIA
chipset settings to something that Solaris doesn't like at all.
I've had lots fewer problems with NT and Solaris on the same machine.

Generic Solaris x86 sites:

Solaris on Toshiba Tecra 550CDT, but has lots of generic
"Solaris on laptop" types of tips:

Hi Sun Managers,
I need to purchase a laptop/notebook to run Solaris 2.7 x86 and would
appreciate comments from anybody already doing this as to which
hardware they are using and whether any problems were experienced
loading the O.S.
The only information I could find on the web regarding Solaris on
notebooks suggested it would run on an IBM Thinkpad but there is very
little information around.
My experience is all with the SPARC version.
Rob Glover
Unix System Administrator
Western Australian Police Service
Phone +61 8 9222 1733
Fax +61 8 9222 1698

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.2 : Fri Sep 28 2001 - 23:13:17 CDT