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Solaris and Nix in a windows world.

Aside from VMware, Storage, and Network equipment, all infrastructures I have been involved at was all Microsoft, and that was great, as my area of expertise is in varios Windows roles and serverices, Microsoft domain infrastructures, and various Windows apps, I also admin and support VMware...These areas of focus has been the norm for me for years, the only thing changing is the hardware, software releases.. which I quickly learn..Since I already have a base understanding of the product... Unless they completely redo everything.

But recently I moved to a new infrastructure and they have various\several SUN\Solaris, unix, Linux, etc Oses....along with the normal windows domain vmware and etc.

I have been working my normal areas of expertise, as I always do. No concerns, well that's not true -- we always come across concerns.. but since you have experience and expertise in a subject, you can resolve , and diagnosis, or setup, implement a lot faster, and accurate.

But now, I have been tasked with administrating and supporting the SPARC Solaris, and Nix servers in the environment..
While this is an exciting opportunity to learn a new skill and technology, I am also scared as h3ll....I barely could spell SUN, let alone support it.
I really am completely green, and management and users will look to me as the expert for all their systems...
I recently had the honest upfront, no BS, conversation indicating that while I am up for the challenge and task, it isn't my bread and butter, so please understand that even simple things may take additional reasearch and time..

But their true expectations and understanding was finally received loud and clear....
..... Even though they know its not my skillset, I still have a duty and obligation to maintain system reliability, uptime and performance at all times.. I am to resolve any OS issue, and of course come up with proactive resolutions that mitigate against potential issues, utilizing powerful scripts, automatation, monitoring, reqular maintenance and health checks. Patch management, log review, anything to make the environment run more efficient, increasing performance, and utilizing resources appropriately. Reducing cost, increasing revenue, and pushing the company forward with relivant projects and ways of doing things.
you get the idea....
This task can be daunting and challenging even in your most perfered and expert subject.
You true expertise, as you come across new issues all the time, new products, new technology, new revisions, new automation and monitoring, but at least you have an understanding of the product, you have that baseline, its your go to move... your favorite basketball shot. shooting 95% from the free throw, a comfort zone.

So back to my question,  I am looking for suggestions on how to quickly learn these new OSes, commands used, functionality, setup, configuration, and normal best practices to get me along. (a fast as humanly possible)  I know I wont be an expert in one day... and Of course I know to use google, which helps.... I use it all day long for even stuff I do know.

But when you have no basis, or starting ground, nor even an idea of the OSes true power, all commands, etc, you don't exactly know what to search. other than Um Solaris Admin guide for OS v 10/13 or something, and I will read and look through the guides...

Just wondering if people have a go to site with all NIX\Solaris information, best practices, moving forward, maintenance, anything and everything that is a true engineers best friend.

If not a site, perhaps you have a favorite book, or video that advanced you to where you are today.. Looking for any recommendation of any kind. Anything to look out for, any no-nos-- So tricks, so advice or experiences. anything relating to, and focusing on solaris and nix.

Yea, they threw me to the wolves, and I will either sink or swim...
Im definitely excited of the opportunity, but if I am to swim, I need the experts advice and best approach. I want to learn as fast as possible, I don't mind doing heavy lifting ---

Another idea I have, and need input on practaclity, features, compatibility, and etc.
I was wondering if there is a NIX or Solaris OS version that can be installed on (lets say my laptop) that is currently running win 7 x64

This would allow me to play and learn, but I still need to do my main task of windows engineering, Exchange, Storage, Application, VMware and etc... with the newly added sun and nix support

Since VMware uses either vcenter client or powercli/putty and etc. I assume this wouldn't be a big change or would I have problems adding this app to my new nix OS that (you recommend)

Also as of right now,. Instead of logging into the DHCP server, or DNS, or ADS, and etc. I added all the remote management tools to my laptop, making administration easier and faster, without the need to RDP into every server for every little thing.
Matter of fact, I do this also for scom, exchange, and others...I also use powershell/vbscript or pstools, and ect.
I rarely RDP unless I truly have to.  or there are system issues a miss.

Can you do all these things with Nix or Solaris as your main and only OS..
Id prefer not to make a VM on laptop, cuz I prolly wont ever use it, I know I will use what I have at my disposal to quickly resolve the issue as fast as possible, with the least amount of impact and/or downtime to the user. Since my comfortzone is in windows, I am guessing I will just do it the way I always have for the sake of easy, and resolution.

But maybe this can all be done via NIX and Solaris too.... How? any special apps, versions, utilities, compatibities, concerns, howtos, precautions, cons,

I know I would like to be able to remotely administer through remote tools of all domain infrastrue if I can. Including mager server apps and services.
I still need the capability of VPN. / remote.  RDP, and the use of common windows apps. or compatiable.....
Some may include but not limited too, Working and editing Office products, PDFs, outlook (email), putty, pstools, and syssinternal suire, WinSCP, Filezilla, Java, Lync, VMware, Veritas\Netbackup, powershell,\powergui.. Notepad++

Anything else, any other thoughts, limitations, maybe an addin that runs windows apps on nix, I 'm looking for all thoughts and suggestions, and recommened learning material to get me to the next step.

Then now that I am supporting these new Solaris or nix back, can they be added to a management group or etc, so you can support them better?
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15 Solutions
You win de prize for longest question on EE :-)

1. learning about Solaris and Unix.

There's definitely a very steep learning curve. This is more than acquiring a few extra skills, it requires a different mindset. In Windows, options show themselves by clicking around. In Unix you need to know how things work and where to find them beforehand. No finding things out from a GUI, a lot of stuff is text based.
Also you need to know about a lot different of things in order to do any useful work.

So I would recommend that you follow a few (classroom or online) trainings about Unix in general en Solaris in particular. I don't think reading books or surfing on websites is going to be enough.

2. You can install Solaris on your laptop, but forget about installing any of the Windows server management tools. Also, using the Solaris desktop has little to do with managing Solaris servers anyway, so you don't pick up many admin skills this way. So I would recommend that you put solaris in a VM.
Duncan RoeSoftware DeveloperCommented:
When I started out with Linux, I found the xman command to be very helpful. This command browses the man(ual) pages, which are the primary source of documentation for commands, functions, file formats and really just about everything. I imagine it's also available under Solaris, but can't try that right now.
On your chosen system, get a command window from the X (GUI) interface. This will be called xterm, Terminal or something similar. In this window, type
xman &

Open in new window

The ampersand says to run the xman program in the background and keep accepting further commands. This is the default in CMD.EXE when starting a GUI program from the command line in Windows, but it's not the default in Linux / Unix.
Click on the big button and you get a gentle introduction to using the browser. Section 1 is user commands and section 8 is administrator commands. They're probably the 2 you want to start with. Good luck!
Essentially putty, and a local web browser is all you're likely to need to remotely administer the boxes, but per robocat's post, I'd suggest you ask your employer to fund a few weeks of Oracle training, as it will get you up and running far faster. Even with training don't expect to be anywhere near competent for a year or two, as there's much black magic to learn,  and you'll probably be unsafe to be left alone for 6 months.
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IndyrbAuthor Commented:
is xman in solaris... I am not seeing it ... perhaps cuz I am in a different spot...

I doubt I can get to go to physical training, but if you know of any really good vtc or cbt or etc. I could probably handle that,,,, any videos and etc...

I appreciate the feed back.... I am on my way...
Duncan RoeSoftware DeveloperCommented:
I would be disappointed not to find xman on Solaris, but I no longer know anyone who runs it so can't say
Loose the "x" e.g. Type:

man diff

Note: "xman" is the X11 (desktop) variant of the command.
Duncan RoeSoftware DeveloperCommented:
Xman is a browser that shows you all the titles in a page (e.g. all of the .1 man pages). Absent that, you could do an ls of the directory containing them (might be several directories in Solaris). man diff will work, but only tell you about the diff command - not what I had in mind.
xman is an X11 based manual page browser, so is reliant on the host having an X server running. Which is fine if you've got a Sparc / Solaris workstations sat in front of you, but in the corporate world you'll find the Sparc boxes are generally wardrobe sized cabinets sitting in a data centre, hosting the odd databases and Java container, and for various compliance reasons generally have all non essential services disabled / removed, which generally includes X :0)

If you can't get the company to pay to pay for training, then have fun with the manuals, see the Oracle Solaris 10 System Administrator Collection collection of: http://docs.oracle.com/cd/E19253-01/
I don't think you can learn to be a Solaris Admin from reading manual pages or the administrator manuals. Both of these can learn you how to do a specific task, but they don't give you the overview you really need to get started. Nor do they teach you basic unix shell commands or scripting.

So get started with the "unix and linux essentials" training at oracle (or google for similar trainings). Make sure that you're comfortable with those topics. Only then move on to the basic Solaris administrator courses.

Also think of this: it's really easy to completely screw up a system because unix has little or no fail safes. Unix will happily erase a complete system if you type a command with one space too many. No kidding, this happens!

So you really need training to be a bit safe in a production environment. Any less would be irresponsible of the company you work for.
IndyrbAuthor Commented:
So I assume all unix isn't the same..
Which would be good for a laptop in a windows world. Doing windows thinhs but have a nix interface..... I heard of so many slackware denian opensuse solaris ubuntu redhat centos. What is the difference and which is best
Duncan RoeSoftware DeveloperCommented:
There is Unix, and there is Linux. Solaris is Sun's (now Oracles) version of Unix. Other manufacturers have their own versions of Unix: HP-UX is HP's; IRIX is SGI's and Tru64 was DEC's but is now also HP's.
Linux is a Unix-like opertaing system. It used to try to keep up with most of what Solaris did but has grown so big that nowadays it pretty-much does its own thing. I think I heard that of the 13 largest supercomputers in the world, 12 ran Linux. You will also find Linux in very small embedded devices (much smaller than Android phones, say, which also run a version of Linux).
So you see it's a very scalable OS. Different Linux distributions cater to different requirements, or simply different individual tastes. Slackware, Debian, opensuse and Ubuntu are all Linux distributions. Don't ask which is best unless you want to start a flame war ;)
This diagram gives you an idea of how the distributions are related: of the 4 you mention, opensuse's ancestor S.u.S.E branched off from Slackware early 1994 while the others are not related at all. You can click on the nodes in the diagram to find out a bit about each distribution.
I would concentrate on whichever distribution your employer is using.
IndyrbAuthor Commented:
if I read that link right, there are tons of NIX versions... OMG....

Okay, So of course I do want to ask the forbidden question of which distro is best, but perhaps with a little flair.

Is it stable
Is it free.... is paid versions better?
is it easy to upgrade from one version to the next

Can you run server distros on Desktops or notebooks... Is there a benefit, or loss?
Can you do more?  

Which ones does patch updates and est...

Need one that Can be managed via GUI and Terminal

Easy to use and administer Windows environments.

Powerful OS, good for beginner, but I learn fast, so I don't want limited....

Can administer Solaris, SAN, VMware.

Has app support? meaning people write apps for the distro, that I can install as addin...

What are some must have apps to install on Linux?

I will probably place my first install on an old laptop -- 32bit.. just to get used to install and navigation...

The laptop is an old Dell D620

Any supported OS or compatibility issues?

Also what are good hack software to install that works for Linux.
IndyrbAuthor Commented:
along with above questions, what is your opinion on backtrack?

And which is better KDE or Gnome...
Duncan RoeSoftware DeveloperCommented:
I'd never heard of Backtrack before. Impressive website they have. Latest version is over a year old, but that should be all right on your old laptop.
Very polished download mechanism (I didn't actually start the download, but the selection process was simplicity itself). If security is what interests you, give it a try - all you're investing is a bit of your time.
Duncan RoeSoftware DeveloperCommented:
To answer at least some of your questions: all these distributions offer a system based on the Linux kernel. A kernel by itself is of little use to anyone, so the distributions offer supporting packages to make the kernel useful. The variety is in what they offer. As a consequence, how you administer the system also varies - a lot.
Stability: I can see you're used to Windows :) Yes, pretty much any of them will be stable. Linux systems will generally run literally for years if left powered up. Laptops are perhaps the poorest in this regard: keep it on the power pack and don't configure power-saving.
Free? Most of them are. A few only come with paid support, such as Red Hat Enterprise Linux. But you can get almost the same code without support from CentOS.
KDE / Gnome? I don't use either so have no opinion sorry. (I use fvwm, but Backtrack doesn't offer that).
Ease of upgrade? I only really know Slackware. It upgrades fairly easily - only weakness I've found is that when they change from one package to another with the same function then there's no automatic way to know to uninstall the old one. Most systems have a package manager of some kind. Some people keep their data directories and home  on a separate partition so they can blow away the current distribution and re-install.
To test multiple distributions, install them in VMs (virtual machines). You can only run one at a time (but you can grab software from others).
Have to go now
>Can administer Solaris, SAN, VMware
>Easy to use and administer Windows environments

You've asked this before, the answer remains the same. Don't expect any of the typical Windows or other management tools (like vcenter client) to run on Linux. Most software vendors make no Linux versions for Windows centered management tools.

You will need to do these kinds of task by remote desktop to Windows systems.

I do think you should take a step back and consider what you're trying to achieve with all of this. Administering Solaris en Linux are two completely different things. In fact, administering different Linux distros can be very different things.  

Set your goals first, next decide what you need to install on your laptop to achieve this goal.
IndyrbAuthor Commented:
you asked:
Think you should take a step back and consider what you're trying to achieve with all of this. Administering Solaris en Linux are two completely different things. In fact, administering different Linux distros can be very different things.  

Set your goals first, next decide what you need to install on your laptop to achieve this goal.

I am trying to learn LINUX/UNIX/SOLARIS

Recently I have been given solaris SUN Server SPARC boxes to support, and I am a complete newbie.  All my experience and expertise revolves around VMware, and Microsoft.
I will have to continue those duties. But now added is the NIX type systems.

So I was looking for a distro that would help me learn...
Ideally I would love one to also admin the other stuff, but based on your notes, you would have to stick to RDP or tsclient.

I am sure there are huge differences betwee n desktop and server OS...
But I need to dive in, and learn quick fast...

All the SUN OS are commanline, which I wouldn't want as a desktop, I would some sort of GUI. Then learn command/terminal....
Duncan RoeSoftware DeveloperCommented:
Since the SUN systems are command-line, you could certainly administer them from a central location using ssh or telnet (if your firewall is good). Later, you could automate some administrative tasks over multiple systems using expect.
But that's in the future. You have to learn to walk before you learn to run. I would strongly recommend attending a SUN system administration training course. SUN education is really good (or used to be).
IndyrbAuthor Commented:
Before I close out this request....

In some of the Linux distros, I see you can install "Wine" or its already packaged.

CAn anyone tell me exactly how wine works... it appears it can run windows programs.
But what if you completely wipe the drive and install all Linux partitions, so there is no dual boot. how do you get it to work... copy data from c:\programs\ from another computer with the program and place on Linux mount somewhere?
Wine is a kind of middleware that tries to emulate the Windows API, allowing windows software to run on Linux. Some software will work, other software simply won't.

Google for the Wine Wiki or WineHQ to learn how it works and how to install software to run in Wine.
Duncan RoeSoftware DeveloperCommented:
Wine Is Not an Emulator :) It will run those applications for which it has the DLLs. Since almost all applications include DLLs of their own, that pretty-much means it will run those apps that have been compiled in, or for which Wine DLLs are available.
I can't see why it shouldn't work on a system with only Linux partitions. It's on my list of things to try. That's not to say I'll manage it though - worth Googling.
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