Nexenta 0.6 sort of installed under parallels and bitched about not finding uarts, but did run. Belinix would start under parallels, bitch about uarts, load the live cd and hang once it had done about 80% of its install. Just for fun I tried Nexenta on an old compaq we had in the lab and it installed although it wouldn't start X. Trying the same trick with Belininx produced a scad of atapi cdrom drive errors, suggesting that it's finicky about hardware and doesn't play nice on 4 or five year old compaqs.
So Open Solaris. Tried it on the old compaq. Just as bad as Belinix. Tried it on parallels on my Mac. Bitched about uarts, produced several screens of error messages and tried to enter single user maintenance mode. I suppose I could have read the documentation about installing it under parallels, but I was reckoning that if I could install debian, ubuntu, xp or server 2003 without reading the manuals the same ease of use should apply to open solaris, and to be fair I should probably have done a comparative install test on the old compaq with ubuntu. XP did install on the Compaq.
So I tried the Innotek virtual box virtualisation application. Innotek is now owned by Sun so I reckoned there was a chance there. First time around using the default memory settings of 128MB didn't work. The live cd image just hung. Upping the memory to 512Mb and restarting the live cd loaded and installed. Took an age, but it installed and came up again and booted into OpenSolaris.
The interface looked slick but for some unfathomable reason there was no Open Office installed. In fact there was a fairly normal set of applications like you would get in any linux distro other than Open Office. Why?
However, this would have been a golden opportunity to test the package installation tool - except, despite upgrading VirtualBox to 1.6 I couldn't get the networking to work (and yes this time I did read the instructions). All I can say is that the user interface is no better and no worse than synaptic.
The desktop interface is gnome, and works well, comes with a set of sensible seeming applications apart from office.
So would I use it in place of ubuntu?
Well I probably wouldn't cry if it was forced on me, but like Suse I can't find a reason to make the switch. It seems to be a competent operating system, as is ubuntu, as is debian. And the thing that makes ubuntu and debian popular is the software base, the range of packages available. And here my inability to test the package manager leaves me shrugging my shoulders and going "might". That and the pickiness about hardware an memory, ubuntu is definitely more tolerant of hardware variations.
Really the only way to tell would be to buy an old ex government optiplex and build it on that to see how it went. And while it's nice, I'm not that overwhelmed that I want to spend a hundred bucks to run it as a test operating system