back to article OpenSolaris still has some Linux copying to do

Sun has made good on its promise to deliver OpenSolaris, the company's Unix-based answer to Linux, with a company-supported, commercial update arriving in mid-May. Although far from a complete product, the latest OpenSolaris is impressive and in the long run could prove a viable alternative to Linux. Part of OpenSolaris' …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    like apt-get?

    "A new packaging system, like apt-get"?

    IPS is quite a fair bit different from apt-get, in many ways.

    "pkg-get", on the other hand, is VERY like apt-get... and has been freely available for solaris for many years now. Yet no mention of it?

  2. Vaughan Trevor Jones

    Hope so

    I still signed up for a free Opensolaries live CD a few weeks ago. Well after playing with it for a while, I could not get my Audigy and Network drivers to work. No matter what I did.

    Sun is going to have to do a hell of a lot if they want it to compete with already well established versions of linux.

    Until then, I shall be using my Vista and Ubuntu

  3. Mick Russom

    2008.05 - the wrong direction.

    SXDE 1/08 was a lot better than this.

    Solaris admins the world over are scratching their heads at this one. Developers are great, but steering Solaris in this direction will ultimately anger admins.

    Why no DVD? Why bother with the pkg crap when you can stuff a DVD? Annoying.

    Installer sucks, you get no options. Its easy because it offers little/no choice.

    The long bootup is not true, both Solaris 10 and 11 boot nearly instantly, must be a hardware issue.

    ZFS is great, but is 90% baked. There are still issues when ZFS is under heavy load from SunVTS + other disk thrashing tests. Almost there, but not quite.

    I was at JavaONE and they more or less misrepresented this release as supportable, you can buy support, but this release can't go anywhere fast.

    Taking on Ubuntu, Mandrive, openSuSE, Fedora and CentOS with this will be fatal to Sun if it doesnt knock it off. Sun lost the workstation market. Its gone forever, sorry Sun, I miss my Ultra 80 in the days when the Ultra 80 was bad-ass, but its over.

    Lots of legacy applications dont run on openSolaris, and there is a heavy bias towards GNU/Crap - why does sun constantly not co-package studio with releases? Thats retarded. GCC is there, studio cc isnt? What the hell?

    Frankly, Ian Murdoch is a lucky-idiot. Im not being mean, but here is the deal. Ian did the right thing at the right time and the right people got involved.

    Sun hiring him and thinking he is a hero to save the day is sad. Its sad. He was lucky. And now he is leading Solaris down a deadly road to perdition.

    After loadtesting with opensolaris 2008.05, and inventorying what breaks in legacy terms, I quickly long for SXDE 1/08 in terms of development releases and I have no plans to replace solaris 10 ANYTIME soon, despite Sun constantly checking fixes to opensolaris before solaris 10. I really, really hate that Solaris 10 is backported to, and opensolaris is top of the tree. I think that all checkins for fixes and new drivers and enhancements that are minor enough not to disrupt solaris 10 should be checked in at the same time, none of this indiana/nevada first mentality, its wrong, and the admins know its going within sun.

    The average age of the sun engineer is scary low these days, and it shows. Lots of asian-style jingoism.

    Lets hope the big account managers can talk the young-engineers that are trying to make solaris into the next ubuntu inform them where the money comes from.

  4. Andrew John Hughes

    Taking On The Wrong Market

    Why is Sun Studio not packaged? Because it's still proprietary. SXDE is littered with proprietary packages like this, Flash and RealPlayer. I hope OS 2005.08 has ditched this for GCC as it's the right way to go. A better supported and Free compiler will allow them to build more packages.

    I like to comment on OS 2005.08 itself, but I tried the Developer Preview and couldn't even get it to pick up the network card. It's a long way off current GNU/Linux desktops and Sun are aiming at the wrong market by offering this as an Ubuntu replacement.

    They should push it first to those who'd appreciate a well-designed kernel with new innovative features rather than the monolithic blob that is Linux. But the higher-level apps aren't ported well enough to support the level of experience common with an Ubuntu user.

  5. Chavdar Ivanov


    Disclaimer. I've been using Sun operating systems since SunOS 3.x or something, that goes some time back... unfortunately. Linux - since some 1993 for some times, now just following the development, but not using it at all - another matter entirely.

    - I think it is a mistake to consider OpenSolaris answer to Linux - it is just a "productized" (sorry for the ugly word) snapshot of project Indiana . OpenSolaris is first and foremost Solaris - version 11. You still can use drivers on it as far back as Solaris 8 - they "just work". Show me other OS which can do this. The binary i/f are really stable.

    - You can take a SXCR or released Solaris 10 DVD and add packages into an OpenSolaris installation generally without any problems. Again, they "just work".

    - "Viable alternative" it ain't. It ain't alternative at all. It is an extremely good OS and a base to do whatever one expects from an OS - on it's own. You use it on it's own merits.

    - The fact that it contains subset of the Solaris source code is irrelevant to the normal user (As opposed to OS developper). The bits not opensourced are mostly NDA-encumbered drivers which Sun is not able to release, as it simply does not own. The binary bits work with OpenSolaris, though.

    - The point on application availability is valid on the surface - most of the open-source developpers work - and test - on Linux; sometimes it can be difficult to port these to any other Unix system. However, this can hardly be considered that big a hindrance - the important ones are working just as well.

    - ZFS is, well, "the best thing since sliced bread", as they say here in Blighty. As you all know, it is now in Snow Leopard, FreeBSD, projects for other BSDs are in the pipeline as far as I know it.

    - I haven't used DTrace a lot myself, just some supplied scripts, but again, good luck to Linux developpers in bringing something as good as it in the frame.

    - I wouldn't recomment OpenSolaris to the casual user either - although it is easier than one could expect. One still needs to know what one is doing, unfortunately. But then, isn't this true for any OS? My personal experience with OpenSolaris 05/2008 could not have been better - on an HP nx6310 laptop the live CD booted fine, most of the hardware was recognized (no sound or wired Broadcom LAN at this stage, but see later), a few clicks and the OS was installed on a 4GB USB stick... I even cared to submit the results of the Device Driver utility to Sun and a few days later I got a reply that it has been accepted to the HCL and a pointers to the missing drivers (which I already had hunted myself).

    - Long boot - give me a break. Solaris' is one of the fastest boots. Only the first one takes longer - the services get registered. Only my NetBSD installation boots faster.

    - If you are after a decent development environment based on Solaris with DTrace and the rest, you better install SXDE or SXCR. You get everything, including the Ruby goodies - NetBeans 6.0 for PHP application has Rails aplication development on. In my view, this is the easiest way of getting the whole lot going. I haven't used Django, but "svn co..." and "python install" both executed without any errors.

    - ZFS is not a developper tool, of course. It's just an excellent filesystem. OpenSolaris is the first wich actually installs itself in a ZFS root. SXCR still can't do this as of B90.

    - Administration - the file locations are indeed different to Linux (and other Unixen as well - but we all know that). More important is to know that Solaris administration is somewhat different now - especially with the SMF. My switch from the wired office network to the wireless home one is a single line script - "svcadm disable network/physical:default && svcadm enable network/physical:nwam"... And vice-versa.

    - BTW sound is from , free but the license is for six months - you have to reinstall then.

    This got a bit out of hand, but with a bit of luck may be useful to someone. Written on SXCR B90 running on the abovementioned nx6310, posted using the released Opera 9.50.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    why wait ....

    for solaris to become as good as linux for your desktop ?

    unix based desktop is there now, osX if you want to pay, or RH, SuSe or ubuntu or <....your fav..>

    Absolutely no need to wait for solaris to grow up.

    I don't see what sun thinks to achieve with this. It will always be second to linux.

    After all, they lost a lot of business to that same linux, they are trying to copy now...

    Meanwhile, the server end (sparc) gets neglected.

    Where's my coat.......


  7. The Badger

    Re: 2008.05 - the wrong direction.

    "Taking on Ubuntu, Mandrive, openSuSE, Fedora and CentOS with this will be fatal to Sun if it doesnt knock it off."


    "Lots of legacy applications dont run on openSolaris, and there is a heavy bias towards GNU/Crap"

    How about joining the dots? Using the archaic Solaris tools got tiresome at some point in the 1990s, and what started to define the Unix experience? Irony of ironies: the GNU stuff that you obviously love. GNU's not Unix, indeed!

    "Frankly, Ian Murdoch is a lucky-idiot."

    You're right about this being fatal to Sun if they can't take on the Linux distributions because those distributions are eating Sun's lunch. And a lot of the credit belongs to Murdoch and friends. Yes, welcome to the 21st century!

  8. Pei Thale
    Thumb Up

    VirtualBox vs. VMware?

    Why on earth are you running VMware - pig slow, expensive, no self-respecting dev run it any more. VirtualBox, man, save yourself some bling (and cut down the boot cycle on guest OS's by factors). Me, I'm loving OpenSolaris - ZFS rocks, and I'm tired of the religious wars, I just want a stable OS that screams and scales.

  9. EnigmaForce
    Thumb Up

    @ Pei Thale

    In short - damn straight.

    Also, Reg - time for a Sun/Java/Jonathan Schwartz/Solaris/Opensolaris/Duke icon methinks.

  10. Turbojerry

    Solaris drivers

    Drivers are a huge problem especially for disks and that includes with GRUB the bootloader. I have tried to install OpenSolaris and Solaris 10 on my main machine and it refuses to recognise the SATA/PATA drives in GRUB after the install so it doesnt even load Solaris, so I bought an old IDE card and put one of my old drives on it, I now get to stage2 in GRUB and then it restarts the machine, so my alternatives are run it on an old P3 box which it does install on, but is slow (I'm cross-compiling several hundred thousand lines of my own C++ code) or run it in a VM, which makes it about as slow as my old machine, unless anyone here could recommend a PATA or SATA interface card that is compatible with both GRUB and Solaris?

  11. David

    Looks like the 90s are back

    A lot of these comments are exactly like what happened in the 90s with Sun's on-again, off-again support fro Solaris x86. I've tried it and ripped it out and Sun can stick this up their clacker.

    Not bad for second class BSD or Linux server and a fifth class desktop. But I'm damned if I'm trying to help Sun anymore on my time after my previous experiences.

  12. Matt McLeod

    Forget the desktop

    The desktop-y bits in OpenSolaris are a bit of a diversion. The interesting things from the perspective of a Solaris admin are IPS and bootable ZFS. All that desktop crud is typically first against the wall when looking for clusters to explicitly rip out in the Jumpstart config.

    Solaris is still a first-class server OS and that really is where the money is. Drivers for J. Random Laptop NIC ought to be a pretty low priority.

  13. Uwe Dippel

    Wait a moment ...

    We have different perspectives here in the comment as well as the article.

    1. Boot. Scott has booted only once. Caught you. The loooong boot is for registering the services, and it happens once only.

    2. Scott's article is okay for the rest; he ought to have pointed out more clearly that we talk about three different items offered by SUN: the venerable Solaris 10, the development branch for Solaris 11 called Nevada, and the Indiana-branch that he discusses most.

    Nevada is now at version 90 ('nv90'), and my currently preferred installer-DVD. Because it is easiest. Neither any Microsoft nor Ubuntu nor anything else are that easy: Nevada simply installs simply work, if they work. Because everything is contained, Realplayer, Flash, StarOffice, binary blobs for Nvidia, Java and whatnot. To me it is 'install and use', without any extra efforts. The problem is the non-distributable nature of the latter goodies. Free Software it is not. So they ripped out all the non-distributable goodies to make OpenSolaris 2008.05 fully 'free'; including redistribution.

    3. @Chavdar: Nevada is SXCE, not SXCR. Minor. nv90 installs ZFS as root, though! You need the text installer for the time being.

    4. Binary compatibility is awesome. It doesn't show now to the users. It will only show later. My Debian needs an update of the nvidia-driver when the kernel is updated; while my Solaris doesn't. Ask the poor Windows schmucks how things moved along when migrating to Vista. My SXCE still runs Solaris-8 binaries. Start crying!

    5. My own whining goes with the SMF; not the locations of the files. I find it almost impossible to make configuration changes, because one never knows which svcadm command and option I could type. No, the options are not standardised.

    6. Oh, yes, and the usage of RAM tries hard to outdo Vista. The mixer-applet reserves 135 MB, and it is not the only one. Overall, below 2 GB of RAM is not much fun; and even then the hard disk starts thrashing at times, just with Firefox, Thunderbird and some terminals (111M 21M).

    7. @EnigmaForce: Yes, please!

  14. Sriram Narayanan
    Thumb Up

    Thanks for the pragmatic review

    Thanks for the pragmatic perspective on the distro called opensolaris 2008.5. I quite like the balanced view you have taken throughout the article.

    As is the case with most opensolaris 2008.5 reviews, though, there is scant mention of any of the next generation features that opensolaris provides to software developers, desktop users and system administrators. This is not surprising given that we in the opensolaris community are still working on highlighting the various features and depend upon comments in blogs for publicizing such features.

    Solaris and the OpenSolaris Code base have a vast number of innovations and features that are unfortunately not being highlighted. A simple case in point would be the innovative use of the much talked about DTrace. We in the Belenix team used DTrace to optimize the LiveCD boot up process and this innovation is now part of the distro contructor project at Belenix and OpenSolaris 2008.5 today benefit from this facility.

    Belenix is an opensolaris based derivate and is the origin for a large number of innovations that have gone into the making of opensolaris 2008.5 which you have just reviewed. This is sadly not at all discussed anywhere, but perhaps 80 % of the opensolaris 2008.5 foundations are based on Belenix. More details on these

    We in the Belenix community believe in making sure that everyday Unix enthusiasts are able to realize the benefits of OpenSolaris technologies, and our way of achieving this is to get a fully functional KDE based desktop environment to the end user. The intent is to provide the same KDE environment that most Linux/Unix enthusiasts are used to, so that one can then start exploring opensolaris technologies and put them to use.

    There would definitely be some work involved in creating documentation (tutorials, howtos, etc). We hope to make time and work with the larger opensolaris community to make this happen.

    BTW, I think we should all stop thinking that OpenSolaris is "copying" Linux. After all other Unixes too have KDE/Gnome environments. Check out the various BSD distros which also provide KDE/Gnome/XFCE environments to end users. All of these (including Solaris itself) have had Gnome based environments just as Linux distros have.

    After all, even the average Linux based distribution is largely a tested compilation of GNU userland and a desktop environment. Each distro differentiates itself from others by desktop integration and the tools and applications bundled.

    Thus, most Linux distro users don't really use the kernel itself - they only use the GNU userland and the Desktop environment.

    -- Sriram

  15. Michael Reed

    Good article

    Nice article. I'd been looking for something that explains what a typical Linux user could expect to find when they have a go with Solaris. Thanks.

  16. Mick Russom

    reply to Chavdar Ivanov

    "You're right about this being fatal to Sun if they can't take on the Linux distributions because those distributions are eating Sun's lunch. And a lot of the credit belongs to Murdoch and friends. Yes, welcome to the 21st century!:"

    Ian cant save Sun. Nothing can save Sun at this point unless is focuses on Solaris 10 and make a Solaris 11 that is an incremental improvement of Solaris 10 without this radical crap designed to chase things it can never be. It is a 5th class 'desktop,'

    Studio might be proprietary, but last I checked it was required to make kernel drivers. Also, GCC is not the right way to go per se, but now that gcc-extensions have infected everything, its the only way to compile certain stuff now. The gcc-antistandard causes standard compilers to choke.

    "the best thing since sliced bread"

    I can break it. And UFS stands up to the tests that break ZFS. I'm glad you didn't test it, but I did.

    Sun is in sunset. I thought Schwartz, Bechtolsim and the portion of the engineers that are first rate can save the company.

    They cant. I give it 4 years.

  17. jedd
    Paris Hilton

    What's wrong with this picture

    Quoting :

    " ... it contains a subset of the source code for the Solaris Operating System, but with an open source license."


    "... [DTrace and ZFS] are likely to make it to Linux due to licensing and personality conflicts."

    Interpreting this, I conclude that "It contains a a set of software - some is open source, some is not (and you're on your own trying to work out which is which, and how they can call the whole thing 'OpenSolaris' when the whole thing clearly isn't open)".

    As another reader pointed out, this is reminiscent of Sun's wranglings over x86 versions a decade or so ago, or even their flip-flopping about WABI (anyone else old enough to remember this debacle?). This whole 'too little, too late' trend is a bit sad as I used to be a big advocate of Sun kit.

  18. peter

    @Chavdar - sxce => zfs root

    Chavdar wrote:

    > - ZFS is not a developer tool, of course. It's just an excellent filesystem. OpenSolaris is the first wich actually installs itself in a ZFS root. SXCR still can't do this as of B90.

    yes it can, you just have to do a text-based install rather than GUI.

    $ uname -a

    SunOS crucible 5.11 snv_90 i86pc i386 i86pc

    $ zfs list


    rpool 7.35G 7.54G 36K /rpool

    rpool/ROOT 5.35G 7.54G 18K legacy

    rpool/ROOT/snv_90 5.35G 7.54G 5.18G / <-----

    rpool/ROOT/snv_90/var 166M 7.54G 166M /var

    as for ThinkPad T61 wireless problems: works fine for me, make sure you have the iwk driver (shock horror! just like in linux, not all the drivers are bundled!)

  19. tony trolle

    ok maybe

    but what games does it come with?

    arrr found it

    new hard drive time methinks. have to test these things.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Just Like Linux - No Drivers

    Ubuntu Linux is hopeless on my Dell laptop (except in Vmware). Oh lovely, another Unix/Linux/BSD distro. Just what we needed. Can someone just make ONE alternative to Windows (and I don't mean MacOS - too tightly controlled) that runs on a standard box that does not hurt my brain to install OR require me to boot to Windows to get help/drivers etc.

    And don't give me a cock-and-bull story about Linux being easy. Have you tried to explain a Linux HOWTO with apt-get to a novice?

    Cue response from Linux/Unix/BSD zealots................

  21. Anonymous Coward


    It puzzles me why all the mention of how Solaris/OpenSolaris doesn't cut it as a desktop OS. I've always seen Solaris as a back end OS - its got one of the fastest and most robust SMP kernel available.

    To me, the marriage of this kernel with a GNU toolset - is the way to go. Its all down to whether or not SUN has become too stifled it its own marketing bullsh*t to be able to pull it off. Do they have enough of the original innovative spirit left to survive?

    Note to SUN: I like your products, and would be a lot more inclined to use them if it were not for the crippling price tags, the obstructive 'support' schemes, and worst of all the relentless stream of up-your-own-arse marketing garbage.

  22. E

    Why try it

    I'd like to fool around with Solaris's alternative to BSD sockets, called 'doors' IIRC (I know, it was ported to Linux too, but I haven't actually seen doors in the kernel configuration, and I haven't received my Ubuntu serial number tattoo yet). Also ZFS in Solaris is a fully fledged bit of the OS in contrast to ZFS on Linux, still in beta (?). I think Solaris has good support for application partitioning and some kind of clustering. So there are some nifty things in Solaris that are worth a look. Problem is the Solaris installer chokes on me if I try to install in anything other than a VirtualBox virtual machine!

    I set aside 16 GB of disk in a machine I built yesterday for Solaris, tagged the partition type Solaris (also left it type 83, tried a few random ones too) and kept it before the Linux swap partition, and so on. But Solaris would not install, complained about disklabel error! So, yeah, LOL, back to the drawing board!

  23. Jesse

    A short and sweet review but

    I normally like to read a review so that I don't need to actually have the software.

    I don't use linux, so some questions that come to mind are:

    Does Linux use a Services Repository approach to processes? As Uwe points out, it's (SMF) awkward to get used to, but as a sysadmin I have come to love the organized approach, especially when it comes to troubleshooting.

    ZFS is bunk. We don't even use it although Sun packages it. That said, no mention whatsoever of Solaris Volume Manager. Does linux have a free volume manager?

    No mention of Solaris Containers and Zones.

    Is Linux as well documented as Solaris?

  24. Jesse
    Thumb Down

    RE: Just Like Linux - No Drivers

    "Can someone just make ONE alternative to Windows "

    Uhm, you are suggesting that to stop being pigeonholed into windows, we should be pigeonholed to only one alternative? Lack of competition is what got us here in the first place.

    The problems lie elsewhere but largely revolve around poor [human] communication.

  25. E


    Linux has LVM (Logical Volume Manager). I don't know Solaris Volume Manager, but LVM reminds me of OSF/1 volume manager.

    Containers and Zones - those are the things I referred to as app partitioning and I think they should be very useful indeed.

  26. Anonymous Coward


    Nexenta is your Open Solaris that's found its way to Linux. Except "Linux" is precisely what it is not: rather than GNU/Linux, Nexenta is GNU/Open Solaris. I'm just going to give it a whirl.

  27. Mo


    For what it's worth, Twitter *were* running on OpenSolaris, when they were hosted at Joyent. I don't know if they still are.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    that is all that has to be done time and time again.

    The GPL works well for Linux here. But, if Sun have to rewrite all the hardware drivers it is going to take them a bit of time.

    I think they are hoping that everyone will suddenly pitch in, but I somewhat doubt it.

    Linux has got most of the driver writers, who will do it for nothing, and most just want to do it once for free there, and get paid elsewhere.

    Even the BSDs can find it hard to use Linux driver code, so it has gone to emulation at times. I don't know how much longer opensource will remain strong, I think the corner stones will always be there, but most devs are wising up. Most are just hoping commercial and consumer moves to a unix platform, then it should really get interesting.

    Consumers need a company that markets to them, instead of doing opensolaris, I would have charged $200 per version with a variety of manuals, kept the source code open, and stopped redistribution right, unless it was to someone who had the paid for version.

    Used those projected earnings to up development into drivers, and to run a marketing campaign that both persuades the consumer to buy the operating system and the hardware manufacturers to write their own drivers

    Made a kick arse game, that was only available on that platform for 3 months after launch. And used that game to release a gaming library for unix, that was open.

    That model with a bit tweaking would probably work.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    With a closed source (or limited closed source) model, it's much easier for hardware companies to keep their driver code secret.

    The main problem with Linux drivers is that it forces you to open the source. Look at the heavily bodged nVidia & ATI driver packages to see the effects of that.

  30. J-Wick

    @AC - Ubuntu on Dell Laptops

    I'm running Ubuntu on my Dell Inspiron 8100. It was a real pain to install, because the hardware is on its last legs (bad sectors on the HD, flaky CDROM that wouldn't always boot), & I had to buy a new wireless card to get WPA working, but it's enjoyable to use. Worth it for older hardware, but it does require a little effort, and of course it's not perfect, but it's an improvement over Windows!

  31. Chavdar Ivanov

    SXCE on ZFS root...

    Thanks to all who advised me that the text installer in SXCE B90 now supports ZFS as a root filesyste, choice (BTW jumpstart and liveupgrade as well). I had it reinstalled within the next two hours. It seems to work reasonably well on an external USB2 disk, so I can now revert my second internal partition back to NetBSD-current...

  32. v3ss

    Just give me solaris distro which focus on server management / networking / gateway routers

    I dont interest in using OpenSolaris for any kind of desktop work. I can choose 500+ other *nix distro for it. Its main focus should be on server market which they already excel at.

    I am not trying opensolaris distro which do not have focus on server management / networking / gateway routers . Do OpenSolaris have those features in details ? I do no see any reviews on them . If those management tool avalible with command line tools , i will use it right now.

    Please refer me a distro which have them .

  33. John R Jensen
    Jobs Horns

    SuSE11 verses Solaris 10

    Solaris like most O/S has its place. I have Solaris 11(Next) on my desktop and to be honest it sucks. It is not even close in maturity to SuSE SLED10. OpenSuSE11 is even better than SLED 10.

    Solaris 10 with Oracle RAC on a large environment is hard to beat. However if your app is single threaded and running on a small to medium size server, you would be better off running on HP DL580-G5 with SuSE SLES 10 or OpenSuSE 11. I can tell you at a large bank in NYC, Solaris 10 got smoked 8:1 against SuSE 10 Realtime Linux.

    So please end the banter, if your going Sun, go on on Big Iron. If your app is multi-threaded (most are not) go to the T5240 with Solaris 10. The rest call HP and get a DL 580-G5 with SuSE 10 or 11.

  34. Martin Nicholls
    Gates Halo

    Easy answer...

    Ever heard of Nexenta? GNU userland marinated in an OpenSolaris kernel, with a side order of Ubuntu repos.

    Might be the answer that people are looking for. We're seriously considering testing it with a view to rolling it out on at least a percentage of our boxen.

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