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I like trying different OSs, but I have yet to try a Illumos-based OS. Can I run all or most Linux Software, just by building from source?

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You should be able to built most Linux software by hand (except very linux-kernel specific software), but as there are Illumos-based distributions which include package manager, it should be way more easy to use them and install pre-built software packages from the corresponding repositories. Using distributions with GNU userspace enhances also the compatibility with Linux/GNU system.

Building packages by hand can take very long and could require high system resources - if you are only trying some OSs, you normally do not want to do this.

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    I briefly played with DilOS recently. It seems to work reasonably well. It uses the Debian apt-get package system. The main worry I have with any of these forks is longevity. Which are flashes in the pan, and which will prevail, if any? – Warren Young Jun 26 '15 at 13:22
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    For instance, the pkgsrc team statistics for their most recent release in April 2015 showed they successfully built 13092 out of 15246 packages in their collection for the SmartOS distro of illumos. – alanc Jun 27 '15 at 21:21
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    @alanc Do those statistics provide any indication of how much time and effort went into building each package on SmartOS? In my experience, building Linux-developed packages on a Solaris-based OS often requires considerable effort. – Andrew Henle Jun 28 '15 at 18:01
  • @AndrewHenle - no they don't. Making these packages build is part of Jonathan's job, and he's been increasing the number every quarter, so I would not be surprised if there's been many hours of effort to get that far. I personally find that many of the more common & well maintained packages build out of the box, thanks to autoconf & similar tools, but I also maintain upstream software at X.Org and know it takes effort there to keep that working cross-platform. – alanc Jun 29 '15 at 3:21
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No; you can try to build the software, but it doesn't mean it'll be a success without source modifications. For example; building PHP 5.5 on OmniOS will fail at socket compatibility requiring patches to be a success; you can see my modifications here to make it work.

Also, Linux based OS's are GNU; Illumos based ones are CDDL (the leaders of illumos-gate based projects prefer CDDL over GNU); they do come with GNU software but it's not the default. You'll find that grep -F or certain find functionality doesn't work on Illumos OS's unless you use the /usr/gnu/bin version of the software.

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