Wednesday Apr 04, 2007

Gnome on Nevada

I thought you might like to see my Desktop. Its Opensolaris, Nevada, build 59, with Gnome 2.14.


My Desktop 



Tuesday Apr 03, 2007

Opensolaris in London

OpenSolaris: Innovation Matters The next meeting of the London Open Solaris User Group (losug) is due to be held  in two weeks time on Wednesday, April 18th at Sun's Customer Briefing Centre, Regis House on Lower King William St.


Sunday Apr 01, 2007

Service Management Facility in S10

I promised I'd arrange for Jarod Nash'es slides on SMF, presented to the January meeting of the "London Solaris User Group"  to be posted in Sun's .com domain.

I have just posted them, finally, to the media caster. They are in .pdf. [ Jarod's SMF Slides... ]

This article was edited on the 5th April when I uploaded the version without a privacy marking.


Friday Mar 30, 2007

Sun's Connected Customers

Steve Wilson led a presentation about the changing nature of Sun's connected customer response and where the provisioning and image maintenance tools now sit. This means that he's responsible for network support, subscription services and what's left of our N1 management suite.

At the centre of the proposed customer solution is the N1SM satellite server. (I say at the centre, arguably the centre is in Sun's Data Centres, at the centre of the customer deployment.) The next release due over the summer re-architects this. It has become multi-process, with a central core with proxy agents. This permits its deployment and operation within complex network topologies and so it can support complex data centre networks architectures. i.e. This introduces firewall support. Communication between the satellite and its proxies is over https/RSS. In my mind this is mega! Together, which Richard McDougall's insights, about host and guest properties (which I have not yet published) of the operating system there is an opportunity to continue to innovate the Solaris code lines to deliver huge benefit, to the discomfort of other os developers.

The remote connection will have discovery capability and will permit data centre managers to control their engagement with their support vendors. These are designed to upload limited information to Sun's Asset Portal. Today and tomorrow, the customer located technology will remain available as a technology i.e. it can be bought, and the last word in customer privacy will remain with the customer. The hope is that Sun's support will be more effective as we know more about the customer's supported assets and some ways, the conversational relationship is the same as explorer.

The third product talked about in detail was Sun MC, the management centre, this now includes container manager which is the "simple" GUI interface into the virtualisation technology. Its a technology Sun's had for a long time, and some long due maintenance is being undertaken. Version 4.0 will be released some over the long summer, and will include replacing Oracle with Postgres, and the expansion of the platforms supported to reflect the development of Sun's product line. This will therefore include the X86/x64 systems.


Wednesday Mar 28, 2007

The economics of open source in the world of storage.

Brian Wong, one of Sun's Distinguished Engineers spoke this morning and stated categorically that the "Storage [Market] is right to be disrupted".

He argued that the general purpose OS (such as Solaris) offers massive developer economies of scale, by which we mean operating system develepor economics. He quoted an example of one of our disk controller operating systems which we have 31 developers and no community, where as for Solaris, Sun employs 1200 people with an extended community of tens of thousands. Even if fixing bugs was the only work that developers need to do, 31 is not a lot of people, but storage devices and hence their OS need to evolve to remain useful.

He claimed that there are a number of myths about the nature of a storage device operating system, the most prevalent of which is that it needs to be real time. Despite the fact that Solaris has a real time scheduler, Brian argued that storage doesn't need real time.

Furthermore, Solaris is well positioned because as large drives and larger drives come onto the market, Sun's portfolio of storage operating systems functionality which now includes ZFS, Solaris Cluster, the fault management architecture & SMF, together with the highly functional SAM-FS/QFS and Sun availability suit delivers storage functionality to storage administrators and architects. It may also act as very attractive platform for new entrants to the market as opensolaris is available under the Community Development and Distribution License which means that they do not inherit a duty to publish their innovations.

What with the industry leading science in tape devices, we have some interesting times ahead.


Monday Mar 26, 2007

The Future of Solaris, by the man that makes it happen

Jeff Jackson, VP of Solaris opened our conference. He's now been in the job for a while and is beginning to stamp his own ideas on the future of Sun's implementation of OpenSolaris. He characterised his view as moving from function to velocity; velocity has a direction. He wants Solaris releases to meet a customer constituency rather than become the result of a race between his developers.

Another key direction, in meeting our "best on Solaris" goal, his different teams are being asked/told to align with each other, commit to and utilise each others products to ensure our most committed customers get synergy from our developers and development budget.

He announced that Sun is going to place more of its system software into open source, including both Sun Ray & Cluster and that this should be happening soon.

He spoke about the need to strategise around open source. I'm not a fan of the word strategy, it tends to be overused and is often very obviously about knowing what you want and measuring your actions against it. However it also means understanding your choices and their consequences; we need to know what are we looking for, how do the communities govern themselves, how do co-developers join in, how do we empower our customers and collaborators & how do we monetise the open source.

Jeff spoke to us about the consequences of the Sun/Intel agreements. Intel are going to OEM Solaris and they endorse it as the operating system of choice for mission critical applications. This would be less important if Intel weren't the source of the infamous white boxes. Its obvious that their competitors will need to respond and we should watch this space.

It's clear to me that Rich Green, who is interviewed here on is beginning to make a difference, we're finally fixing our arrogance, a fact re-inforced by Ian Murdock, who recently joined Sun, you can't have missed it and also spoke this a.m. He emphasised that he's hoping to help Sun learn from the Linux community because people still choose it and there remain some good reasons to do so. It worked for me; on reflecting what he said, I came to the conclusion we need to do better. Its about substance not presentation.


Friday Mar 16, 2007

My Laptop Marathon, installing Open Solaris & liveupdate

After mixing it in a conversation about what Solaris needs to make me use it as my Laptop operating system of choice I was persuaded to trash my Linux build (Fedora 3.5) which was broken and unusable anyway, mainly because the update manager was completely shagged. (I'm in good company, see Eric Raymond's goodbye to Red Hat). I then can use the new space to create an up to date opensolaris build with liveupgrade, so I won't ever fall so far behind again. My Solaris build was Nevada 35 which has served me well as a Solaris platform for development and demonstration, but I had left it where it was because I am working on two projects which I wanted to finish before I caught up, however my colleagues have persuaded me to bite the bullet now.

My laptop is a Toshiba Tecra M2, with 1,6Ghz Intel Pentium M CPU, and 1Gb of RAM and 60 Gb of Disk. I planned to combine my Linux & Solaris partitions to give me 25 Gb for Solaris. I need two slices for Liveupdate and propose to place /export/home on a ZFS file system on a third slice. The lu slices are about 7Gb and the common data slice is about 11 Gb.

Firstly, I backed up my home user on the SNV 35 build, then I checked the disk partition table to create a new partition map on paper. I have two windows partitions, I can't remember why now, but I might have documented this in my Laptop Diaries articles and it probably relates to the windows skills available to me at the time. This isn't work I do often and so I generally ask for help. I also bookmarked on the wallpapers I had taken from, I'm particularly fond of “Neon Night”.

Next I borrowed a snv 58 bootable image from Chris. I booted the system using the bootable image and up came the solaris installer with its good old CDE look and feel. Sadly it didn't do very well with recognising the graphics chip set but we got the install done. Defining the partition table with the installer was a bit exciting because of the poor visibility and sharpness. This is not a mind-share winning experience; the install is all. Anyway at this point we have a bootable image on the first slice of the disk with Nevada 58. This took about 45 minutes.

We ran lu to make the bootable image part of live update and create a second boot environment.

Now I needed to reconfigure Solaris to be updated using liveupdate. There is a curses based program called lu that runs from an xterm, but not a gnome-terminal. This is menu based so that seemed to work OK. Now I turn my attention to the third file system which will be a ZFS file system.

I issued a “zpool create” command which failed. This is because while we unmounted the disk slice from its mount point in the live image, the zpool command was aware that the disk was mountable from the second bootable image. The BE was deleted using luremove/ludelete.

zpool create ${devicename}
zfs create ${poolname}/export
zfs set mountpoint=/export $poolname/export

I then repeated this for /export/home, /export/home/${USER}, /export/home/${USER}/Documents & /export/home/${USER}/Desktop

This gives me separate file systems and hence snap shot for each user, their documents and desktop.

I next installed three essential utilities, frkit for power management, inetmenu to manage the NICs and punchin to access the companies applications behind the firewall.

I now need to force Gnome as the default login manager, in a root

svcs disable cde
svcs enable gdm

Now the line "SystemMenu=true" needs to be inserted in the [greeter] section of /etc/X11/gdm/custom.conf. Gdm now handles RBAC authority. Previous versions i.e. At about nv 35, this had to be fixed using usermod.

Lastly, I prepare for the nv59 upgrade

lucreate -n nv59 -m /:${devicename}:ufs

this creates the boot environment and prepares the file system for a bootable image. I then find there's a pretty shitty bug in zfs in nv58 so I need to move forwards to build 59. Here's how I did that. I copied the new bootable image to ${ZFS_POOLNAME}/os/nv which I declared as zfs file system, then,

isofile=$(lofiadm -a ${ZFS_POOLNAME}/os/nv/${ISOfilename})
mount -F hsfs ${isofile} /mnt

then update the liveupdate packages

yes | pkgrm SUNWluu SUNWlur
yes | pkgadd /mnt/Solaris11/Product SUNWluu SUNWlur

then perform the liveupdate itself

liveupgrade -u -s /mnt -n nv59

and release the resources.

umount /mnt
lofiadm -d ${ZFS_POOLNAME}/os/nv/${ISOfilename})

then activate the update. I used lustatus before and after the activiate and rebooted using init 6. The command to reboot is important init 6 and shutdown work, while reboot is not to be used.

luactivate -n nv59
init 6

This didn't work for some reason, basically the boot archive wouldn't work and the system came up on the previously installed disk. I checked the menu.lst at /etc/lu/, came to the conclusion that the menu.lst had been changed an then,

#$ bootadm update-archive

this required no parameters because the first partition was the current boot partition. NB the first partition is the lower of the two slices used as live update partitions.

Reboot the system, and I am offered my five old entries plus four new ones created by the liveupdate process; select nv59 and up it comes, actually with snv59. xwindows dumps core the first time and the zfs file systems fail to mount because the live update process has created the directories and zfs mount points. This is fixed as follows:-

cd /export/home
rmdir \*
rmdir \*

and copy thegdm customisation

#$ zfs mount nv58 /a
#$ customfile=/etc/X11/gdm/custom.conf
#$ diff /a/${customfile} $customfile
< SystemMenu=true
#$ cp /a/${customfile} $customfile
#$ diff /a/${customfile} $customfile

Reboot and we're there!

Read Chris Gerard's blog article on automating zfs snapshots (every minute?), or you can check everything he's written about snapshots by going to his blog and using the search box with the search argument snapshot. I installed his scripts in my user area and set up a cron job to snapshot every hour.

I then created a top of desk panel, created the inetmenu and punchin buttons and assigned some other frequently used applications to the top panel. I pulled down some wallpapers from my static content site, and my list.


Tuesday Mar 13, 2007

Acrobat 7 on Solaris

Getting a modern version of Adobe Acrobat running on a Solaris Laptop has always been difficult. Running it in a Linux Zone is now possible as shown  to me during the lunch break by Richard Jenner.


Acrobat 7.0 on Solaris


 He and Kieth Glancey were demonstrating Solaris 10, and the Brandz demonstration was just part of what they demo'd. [Screenshot 1400x1050]. Richard used Centos as his Linux implementation.


Wednesday Feb 21, 2007

Yesterday & Tomorrow at the London Open Solaris User Group

Innovate on Open SolarisSo, I popped out last night after work to hear Jarod Nash, talk to the London Open Solaris User Group (losug) about SMF (the service management framework). An excellent and comprehensive pitch, and I shall post (or get Jarod to post) his slides somewhere and let you know where they are.

The next meeting is at Sun LIVE on March 13th, at Central Hall Westminster, where Simon Phipps is planned to talk to the group. Previous agenda have covered, Fault Management Architecture and virtualisation.

Otherwise the meetings are planned for the third wednesday of each month, except August, to the end of the year, to be held in Sun's City Customer Briefing Centre. (Apr 18th, May 16, Jun 20, Jul 18, Sep 19, Oct 17, Nov 21, Dec 19.) I wonder, if we can bring the discussion held internally about features required for a laptop desktop into the public. It was certainly lively enough, and given that its now opensolaris, non Sun people need to join in.

I have tagged this both within roller and at technorati, I am considering placing reminders in the brought forward feature for the next meetings (with technorati tags) to allow anyone to set up a technorati watch list on these tags and thus receive the reminder's through their favourite RSS reader.

Let me know if you'd find this useful. 


Monday Feb 12, 2007

Designing both sides of the coin!

At Sun' we've just returned to profitability with our third quarter of revenue growth in a row and as some very famous economist said, three data points are a trend. One of the insights underpinning our strategy is that Sun innovates and monetises intellectual property. We are also one of the last technology companies to own the design and engineering of both CPU and operating system.

Solaris/SPARC is and will remain a key driver of innovation and competitive advantage in the data centre, because we can design both sides of the coin! To us it is obvious...., but what do others think?

Sun sponsored IDC to write a White Paper, Sun's Solaris 10 for x86: A platform for Enterprise Applications, which is hosted on This is a very good and short statement about the techical capabilities of Solaris and the attractions it has for applications developers and ISVs. In the summary panel, they state that applications enablement is key and that Solaris and Windows have the advantage over Linux; they both have more applications available.

Another IDC paper is hosted by Fujitsu, entitled Linux & Solaris : A marriage in the Data Centre states i.e. predicts that UNIX ( from which they exclude Linux) will consolidate and that Solaris will be a survivor. This paper is dated March 2003, but it also undertakes a functional comparison and comes to the conclusion that Solaris is functionally superior to Linux as a server operating system.

However, one of the best pro-Solaris endorsements occurred last month with the announcement of the Sun Intel alliance. The Intel Web Site has a series of resources, including a press release, in which Paul Otellini, president and CEO of Intel says

"We're thrilled to be working with Sun to make Solaris on Intel Xeon processors a great solution for our enterprise customers worldwide," said Paul Otellini, president and CEO, Intel. "Bringing together the best technologies from both Sun and Intel will result in innovative products for years to come."

While Paul is not an analyst, his views of the market's developments should be respected. Additioanlly Intel have endorsed Solaris as their mission critical operating system of choice and agreed to become a Solaris OEM. The ROI calculations for an organisation like Intel are not calculated over a 12 month period. However, we can hear more from Paul as Intel have posted Jonathan and Paul's press conference as a podcast [html page]. This is really interesting and  is just short of 40 minutes long, at about 11:15, Paul Otellini, states

"Solaris is evolving as a mainstream operating system."

He continues

[ is to be ] the mission critical UNIX for Xeon....feature sets people, buyers are focused on, availability, reliability, demand based switching and virtualisation .... can be [only] unleashed from the microprocesser through the operating system.

He also makes the point that Sun designs the OS and system and that this is of value to customers and to Intel.

Jonathan also makes the point that only if an operating system exposes the functionality of a CPU can it be utilised and its clear that for some of Intel's ideas of the future, they expect Solaris to do this best.

I'm curious that one of his last statements is that

"We'd love to have Solaris on Itanium"

I wonder if that'll happen? 


Wednesday Nov 15, 2006

Open Solaris User Group in London

Innovate on OpenSolaris Gavin Maltby, presented on Solaris' Fault Management Architecture. It is so hard to really get home how some of the very low level features of Solaris are unique and compelling competitive advantage. We all know hardware fails, but systems don't always have to do so. FMA allows Solaris to fail through some faults that bring other UNIX (or UNIX like) systems down and to recover rapidly from others. The engineering team have revisited the UNIX panic thing and improved Solaris' behaviours and diagnostics. This is an availability technology and as those of us who have worked on Consolidation Economics know, downtime costs money. In fact, the wrong (or too long) downtime causes business to fail. (Ask me about my local video shop some time?)

I am not sure that this meeting was the best for me to attend since most of my time and thinking is much closer to systems users as opposed to the hardware and this software is very close to the hardware design. The hardware designers should now be designing for it. Its one of the technologies that stems from Greg Papadopolous 5th eigenvector. "Best on Solaris". It's because we design the CPU, system and OS, we can create this technology and deliver the improved uptime benefit.

It was good to meet the other attendee and I shall be back for the January meeting. You might like to join me since there's free booze. (There's a December meeting but its on the 20th and I don't think I'll make it.)


Tuesday Nov 14, 2006

Open Solaris User Group in London

The London open solaris user group is meeting in Sun's Customer Briefing Centre (Regis House) tonight (18:00) in the City. I'm just about to set off to it.


Thursday Oct 26, 2006

The road to SMF

Just checking out SMF and found these resources at &

Now I just have to read them.


Monday Oct 23, 2006

Laptop Diaries, tripleboot & GRUB

The time has come the Walrus said to think of many upgrading my Laptop operating systems. Frankly I'm not using the Linux partition which I never got red-carpet to work on and is still languishing at a pretty incomplete Fedora 3. My Solaris partition is running at Nevada 35, and 50 is now availalbe, and as I wrote here..., Solaris is getting better and I need to move on. I am planning to replace the Linux partition with Nexenta and have a triple boot laptop, with Windows, Nexenta and Solaris. Sadly the Solaris upgrade path is destructive so I have to safeguard my SMF for Sybase (more coming soon) and a sekrit TCL project.

The prework required is based on the fact that the MBR points to the Linux grub menu, which needs to be changed; I propose to change the Linux partition for Nexenta. An additional problem is that the Solaris GRUB instance does not point at the Linux partition at all. With help from Big Admin, Derek Crudington & Mike Ramchand, I can now document the following facts.

The Linux grub menu /boot/grub/menu.lst is accurate. Take the Linux lines and copy them to the Solaris copy of menu.lst, which is in the same place. (The exact syntactal compatability between Solaris' GRUB and the Linux GRAB implementations took me several hours to discover). My missing Linux lines were

Title Fedora Core (2.6.13-1.1532_FC4)
    root (hd0,4)
    kernel /vmlinuz-2.6.13-1.1532_FC4 ro root=/dev/VolGroup00/LogVol00 rhgb quiet
    initrd /initrd-2.6.13-1.1532_FC4.img

appending the word 'single' to the kernel line gives us a single user boot option, obviously, best change the title. The accuracy of the partition definition can be confirmed using the linux command fdisk -l. (The solaris programs prtvtoc & format perform this function, don't use fdisk on Solaris; the fdisk flags are different.)

So having a good Solaris GRUB menu, I need to change the MBR to point at the Solaris partition. Here's where BigAdmin although some material their is a bit long in the tooth, and Derek come in, his blog has a GRUB category and you can find an article called Solaris 11 GRUB, which documents the required syntax below.

    b# installgrub -m /boot/grub/stage1 /boot/grub/stage2 /dev/rdsk/c0d0s0

Before running the command I checked the disk (i.e. the final argument ) using df -k.

I now have a triple boot system, S11 Nevada 35, Red Hat Linux Fedora 3½, and Windows XP.


Wednesday Oct 04, 2006

What Laptop OS?

Dinner with some friends and the conversation turned to the operating system of choice on a laptop. I have a laptop with triple build Solaris 11, Linux and Windows, but I generally use windows for my personal productivity applications, firefox, thunderbird and star office. During the conference, I was unable to use windows; the damn thing crashed every time I invoked the wifi connection, but only in the Moscone Centre, so I used Solaris to get my connection when at last sufficient connections addressess became available. Most of my friends are either confirmed Solaris users or Mac users so I got very little sympathy.

Bruce Porter, a long time champion of Solaris on x86 (and now x64) based systems suggested that I might explore Nexenta, an Open Solaris project which combines the Ubuntu utilities with a Solaris UNIX implementation. That should look really great, combining the best of both worlds.

It's getting harder to defend, although backing up the phone now I use a Sony should be a bit tricky. Power management (suspend/resume), applications availiability and Plug & Play have always been my reasons, that and the fact that the last time I tried to use a UNIX desktop it was Linux which wouldn't run on my Fuji and then crashed twice destroying the file system in a six month period on my Dell. The other windows application that I find too useful to stop using is Hot Metal. However, this is getting a bit long in the tooth and BlueFish (an acceptable alternative) is now part for the opensolaris companion project.

I think I'll look at Nexenta.





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