Dubbed 'SchilliX' after its principal developer, veteran German open source programmer Jorg Schilling, the operating system has been in development for four months with the approval of Sun Microsystems.
SchilliX allows users to try out OpenSolaris for themselves without installing it to their hard disk, as it can be run directly from a CD-ROM. However, it can also be installed onto a hard disk or a sizeable USB storage device.
Announcing the initial release of his project on his blog, Schilling said he had supplemented the OpenSolaris code with additional material to achieve a workable system. While the programmer drew most of the extra software from open source projects like FreeBSD, he had developed some himself.
"The main goal was to implement as much source/binary compatibility to Sun Solaris as possible," he said, noting this was a tough task.
Schilling said the aim of developing SchilliX was to help people discover OpenSolaris. "When installed on a hard drive, it also allows developers to develop and compile code in a pure OpenSolaris environment," he said.
The project's Web site makes it clear SchilliX is not only intended for the technically-minded.
"OpenSolaris, and in this case, the SchilliX distribution are projects which will improve the use of Solaris on the typical desktop PC," it states. "These projects will show non-technical people that there is an operating system which is very useful for their work".
The distribution includes common open source software like the popular gcc compiler, and even Schilling's own CD burning program cdrecord. It has been licensed under Sun's own Common Development and Distribution Licence (CDDL).
SchilliX is currently available in English and German, and requires at least 256MB of memory to run. It is designed to run on common 32 and 64-bit x86-based platforms from Intel and AMD, although it does not currently boot on the AMD64 chipset. Installing the distribution on a hard disk requires at least 1 gigabyte of space.