Tuesday Apr 21, 2009

The importance of Open Source

John Pugh MP opened the conference, with a review of the state of software procurement in the UK public sector. He suggested that ubiquity should be the trigger point at which charging for right to use becomes undesirable. I see no justification in this, although the behaviour of the drugs companies and their monopsony buyers is an interesting example of what might happen. I think his own references to Kant, and testing it as a natural law shows that its can't be done. When does something become so ubiquitous that it should be free to use. He also looked at a new tripartite demand for software, the civil servant, the consultant and the provider and wondered how open source providers and their ecosystem could get to the table. He also pointed out the lack of domain expertise often held by the civil servants, which is what causes the need for consultants. It reminds me of projects I have been on when assessing bid/no-bid decisions as to whether we had the expertise to manage the project's profitability. The project managers are easy to find, its people who understand what's going on that are harder.

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Tube across europe

Crossing London on the Tube, to get to Kable's "Open Source in the Public Sector" conference reminds me of the weekend in Barcelona, both the prices and experience were better in Spain, although I didn't travel on the Metro during a rush hour.

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Monday Apr 20, 2009

And a surprise on my arrival home

Travelling home today; the hotel had one internet terminal in the lounge so I have been out of contact during the weekend. We visited the sites and some of my pictures, including this one are uploaded into my barcelona set at flickr.

Sagrada Familia

I was in the air as the press releases about Oracle and Sun were circulating. I got a text message when I landed. Twitter had turned itself off while I was abroad and this is probably a good thing, but it was old fashioned SMS that let me know and now like you, I just have to wait and see what happens.

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Wednesday Apr 15, 2009

Nice People at Heathrow

So off to Barcelona for long weekend via the marvellous Heathrow airport. I have never been so close to missing a plane...

I have actually, I have had people on the jump seat pulled off on a journey to Spain before now, but I must thank all those people who helped us through our journey across the airport.

Tuesday Apr 07, 2009

Thank goodness for docs.sun.com

Where's my screwdriver? I got a bit close to the 'tin' today. I have been trying to boot a lab machine, an x4600, that clearly hasn't been used for a while.

Its previous user had kindly documented the tcp/ip addresses used, but we couldn't ping either of them, so http'ing onto the ILOM server was right out. We plugged in a console into the VGA port and tried to boot from an Open Solaris live CD, this failed with the error messages zooming of the top of the console. So we tried S10 and the same thing happened. This meant we had to actually read some documentation. This is at docs.sun.com, and has a bunch of docs on the x4600. Having equipped ourselves with some knowldege,

  1. We attatched a real serial terminal to the serial console port. This involved checking the serial comms port paramters. Its a very long time since I've had to do that. We then checked the tcp/ip settings, once we realised these were correctly set,
  2. We checked the ethernet cable to ensure it was correctly connected and seated.
  3. This enabled us to log into the ILOM using the browser interface. Everything seemed OK so
  4. We used ssh to login into the ILOM service and started the console
  5. We power cycled the machine using the browser

This allowed us to capture the errors as the Live CD image of S10 failed to boot.

The lessons of this story are

  1. sometimes one should read the documentation earlier rather than later
  2. check your cabling
  3. the docs.sun.com x4600 documentation is good
  4. sometimes systems do have hardware faults

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Thursday Apr 02, 2009

A second look at Second Brain

I have revisited secondbrain recently and decided I need to get to grips with its libraries and collections. I am not sure of the differences and whether I should be create broad large collections such as travel or software, or even something narrower but broad such as database, or use it for more project orientated collections such as specific journies or personal engineering tasks, a bit like what it takes to justify a new snipsnap page on my bliki. I quite like the fact they give me a domain name, and that I got their early enough to get "davelevy".

It now takes a much broader range of feeds, which was the criticism I made last time I reviewed it, and creates an aggregated tag cloud. This is neat, but I hadn't realised how many tags my picture collection generates. The tag cloud is dominated by the places tag and the geographic qualifiers. When you add the bookmarks created while planning the travel, it dominates the tag cloud, which I am not sure is what I want. (I wonder if they could or should permit us to weight the tags by feed.) Usability is also inhibited here because like most people, I don't tag a feed as belonging to itself, so my bookmarks aren't tagged as bookmarks. Also several of my feeds are not tagged at all. All-in-all, this is a feature I like, so I'd really like a tag cloud widget.

I was looking at second brain to see if I could make it my home page and consolidate the various sites I am using into one place, it could well be possible. I'd loose control of my look and feel, and I'd need to consider how to host original textual content but a blog might work for that if I have SB's collections and libraries. Perhaps I'll try and migrate one of my travel pages to SB and see what it looks like, and how useful I find it.

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More news and where to find me

Despite not writing here, I have been busy, you can follow me, if you really want at, my friend feed or slightly less completly at my secondbrain. You can see both there and here, that I am finding the tendancy to microblogging too strong, although twitter's discipline of 140 characters is often a challange.

There is more, but not much

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[Read More]

News

I have been busy writting a presentation on 'Why Software should be free?', it looks like it'll need an essay/paper as well. The economic theory doesn't lend it self well to a presentation. So that'll be fun.

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Open Solaris, the laptop OS

Oops, a couple of weeks since I last blogged, but just wanted to point you at Jim Grisiano's puff for Toshiba's Open Solaris Laptops, I really have no excuse left. Do I?

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Thursday Mar 19, 2009

Installing the Amber Road simulator on a Laptop

Sun's Open Storage software comes as an appliance from http://www.sun.com. Currently available as a VMware image, and I now have it running on my trusty laptop.

Unified Storage Simulator screen shot

The management panel in in the browser, the appliance console is the black window, I have started the CIFS service, mounted a file system using SMB onto my host image (the windows folder) and I have opend a file using notepad. It was easier to do than attach my Vista systems to my legacy home windows network.

I had to install VMware Player first and when the VM starts for the first time, you are offered a text menu to install the network identity and point to the network gateways. I was nervous about VMware because I wasn't sure about what VMware does to implement the network interface. This wiki page has been created by the FISHworks team to help you, which discusses how you configure each of the four netowrk interfaces and I advise you to think hard about the node name and domain name as I havn't yet worked out how to change it. The wiki's advice on the network gateways didn't work for me so I used 192.168.1.1 dor both the default gateway and DNS server. Anyway the boot screen looks like this,

unified storage simulator first time screen

I am off to install it on my home server and maybe I'll try the Virtual Box version and use the appliance to manage my home network storage, I think its legal, but in order to get the performance advantage at scale, you'll need to buy the hardware.

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Wednesday Mar 18, 2009

Convergence

There is a conversation on google groups, cloud computing [XML] about CISCO's plans to enter the server market, kicked off by this article at Business Week.

The dimension, only just, missed in that conversation is the opportunity to get design synergies on the hardware between networking and systems. Why do large scale users have to buy switches and servers as seperate procurements? Perhaps the next stage is to migrate the network functionality to a software appliance, so one buys a box and then decides what to do with it. (I know that a switch needs a lot of ports where a non-switch system only needs two, but modern blade systems are modularising this design area as well.)

The interesting questions then left are whether the data centre, or network can consolidate to one cabling standard and perfromance. When will the need for seperate networking (or interconnect) technologies between CPUs and Systems decline? (If ever?)

I know some computer scientists thinking about tomorrow's problems are interested in this sort of thinking.

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Monday Mar 16, 2009

Gambling with Finance

CIO Connect, in their winter 2008 magazine, have published an interview with Robin Osmond, Betfair's CEO about his plans to utilise their software platform as a vehicle for trading financial products. They claim to be starting with spread betting, which seems available at http://www.tradefair.com/ but are looking to offer FX trading at some time in the future.

Spreadbetting for financial products has been around for a while and has already played the regulatory arbitrage by being considered as gambling and treated that way by HMRC. Betfair innovated the ambkling world by building a betting exchange, and removing the risk of running a book from their business model. Their software, and more importantly their information systems architectural skills might well apply to financial products exchanges but can they build the trust that'll bring consumers to their site, and solve the problem that the real money is in trading.

I expect that meeting a new group of regulators who in the UK at least have a reputation problem of their own will keep them busy. While it seems a simple diversification to many, I wonder if the difference in customer base, and regulatory environment will make this harder than it would seem.

Tradefair's CTO, Martin Thompson, was also interviewed and talked about building an integrated system, from business logic to silicon. It'll be interesting to see what they've done, if they ever make it public.

I have linked to CIO Connect, above, but they have a wayward re-direct rule set that issues some stupidly long URLs presumably to track activitty and they like to keep their stuff behind their firewall to protect their subscription revenue.

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Saturday Mar 14, 2009

If you're travelling to Bristol

The 'Hackathon' is at the University of Bristol, on Woodstock Rd., which charges for parking on Saturday, but is free on Sunday. We should have been cuter on that, and I got lost last night on the way in. Better research would have helped. I wonder if Google Earth would have helped, I doubt it'd have helped plan my car parking, but it might have helped me avoid getting lost.

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Friday Mar 13, 2009

Open Source, the price is right

I shall be speaking tomorrow on "Open Source, Free the right price!" and shall be posting my slides here. I have been busy reading up my undergraduate economics to remind me of what I learned then and check that it hasn't changed. I borrowed Beggs, Fischer and Dornbusch's "Economics", since I got rid of my text books years ago and this seems to be the modern equivilent. I have also tagged it in my living social booklist.

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Off to Bristol

Off to Bristol, for the University of Bristol OSUM 'Hackathon'. I am staying at the Hotel Mercure Brigstow in the city centre. The area seems lively with a large choice of restaurants and pubs, but I was tired so ate in the restaurant. The one in Grenoble which I stayed in last year was, unsurprisingly, better, but tonight's meal filled me up. None of the city centre hotels in my and Sun's price list have car parks, so NCP win out again.

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