Thursday Mar 20, 2008

Spring Operating System


What's the first thing that comes to mind?

For some, it is the promise of a new season of flowers, gardening, grass, lawn mowing, mud, hay fever, and more.   For some, it may remind them of an integral part of an assembly they build at work.   For some, it may transport their spirit to a beautiful mountain location where crystal clear water bubbles out of the rocks.

As I look out my office winter at yet another new layer of snow and grey skies, the fact that today is the first day of Spring is rather lost on me.

But I recall a promise of Spring from many years ago...   A technical promise.   In the 1990's, people were talking about the next OS.   Something smaller, smarter, faster.   Modular.   Clever.   Something very exciting.   Rumours were flying.   Every tale told got better, as they sometimes do.

In the field, we didn't get to hear too much about it.   But we had heard the name.   It was a new OS called Spring.

While never an OS offering, many excellent technologies literally Sprang from Spring over time.   Technologies, concepts, and new methodologies now used in lots of Sun products.   And that in itself is very cool.

And typical of Sun.

Great engineers.   Great ideas.   Great products.   Disruptive technologies.

Wikipedia has a brief tale of the Spring Operating System and links to several papers by Sun Fellow & VP Jim Mitchell about Spring.   If you're not yet into the flower scene side of Spring, maybe reading & reminiscing about the Spring OS sounds like fun.

Meanwhile, winter continues to drag on in New Hampshire.   Happy Spring!

Thursday Sep 27, 2007

Happy Birthday, Google!

Where does time go?   9 years ago, Google was born.   Back in 1998, who would have thought that today millions around the world would be using not only the website but also the word "google" as a common everyday verb?

Happy Birthday Google!   :-D

Saturday Sep 22, 2007

Wifi in Airports

4 airports in 6 days.   4 completely different laptop user experiences.   Manchester NH wins my vote for most user friendly airport.   O'Hare comes last.

What makes Manchester my favourite?   Two simple things.

    1) Free wireless
    2) Electrical outlets

Charging users for webtone strikes me as a new form highway robbery, whether access is charged by the hour & minute or by the month.   But not even providing electrical outlets...   THAT is just down right CRUEL.

Sitting in Dulles in Washington DC, there are some electrical outlets around.   Not many, but some.   But the wireless is not free.

So, from this business traveller, full marks to the Manchester airport in "Live Free or Die" New Hampshire!

Friday Sep 21, 2007

Email & Password Security

As a well known "Late Adopter" of all things technical, someone who still thinks assembly language is where one finds truth & speed on computers (look it up if you don't know what assembly language is, you young 'uns), thinks blue tooth is a lousy but popular excuse to happily develop poor driving skills (why are cyborgs allowed to drive on the freeways?), and e-tickets and less human interaction is NOT the way to fly the friendly skies, I truly hate it when the latest "good for me" technological advances ruin a perfectly good week.

And it was.... a perfectly good week, as good as business trips 3000 miles away from home can be.   Fabulous SW Leadership Summit.   Great sessions with the GPD team.   Fun team get together outside of working hours.   Good meetings overall while at Sun headquarters.   All was great....   Until...

...Security.   Hopefully, like many companies, we exercise PRUDENCE, INTELLIGENCE, CAUTION, when dealing with company security.   This includes the security of employee passwords.   And, at Sun, this mean rigourous and regular changing of employee passwords.

I am 75% behind the concept.   75% with the idea of enforcing the changing of passwords, regularly.   When I was a field engineer, I even encouraged customers to enforce such rules.   But 25% hating it.   Or to be quite specific, 25% hating the time delay as various systems come to recognise the NEW password.

Sitting in a hotel, 3000 miles from home, I am suddenly without email during that small window of time in which my password is "in flux".   And, oh my goodness, what hell is this!?   Viewing email whenever I want, I am fine... and dare I say, even oblivious of the option.   Oblivious of the feature, the functionality, the connection that Sun provides to me to the company, my family, and my world.   Take away that option, even if only for a couple of hours, and it's like losing power while sleeping.   Strange really.   It's not like I really NEED email 24 hours a day.   But I don't like losing the OPTION of having it.   In fact, I think I hate losing it.

So, damn.   Am I becoming more dependent on email?   Am I becoming more dependent on technology, to the point of true dependency?   Is it possibly true that resistance is futile?

Wednesday Apr 25, 2007

Back on the Bleeding Edge

The past few days have been another massive leap onto the bleeding edge for me.   Once again working at our Broomfield Colorado campus, I'm attending meetings about and working technical issues on Sun's Big IT Project.   At the same time.   With everyone's kind understanding, I might add.

Due to various technical restrictions and requirements, here I sit, using my lightweight UltraSPARC NatureTech 737S laptop, running Nevada Build 55 (or as uname reports, "SunOS 5.11 snv_55b"), Firefox, Thunderbird, and IBIS.

Until Sunday, I was running Solaris 8 on this system.   Even on my desktop in my office, I consider running Solaris 10 and Gnome to be...   well...   rather progressive for me.

But now, thanks to efforts of my local sysadmin Georg, I have moved to the open source community version of Solaris, I've gone from Mozilla 1.7 to Firefox 2.0, shifted from Mozilla mail to Thunderbird mail, from Staroffice 7 to StarOffice 8, said goodbye to OpenWindows one last time, and learned to really work (not just play around) with a laptop.   As some have been so very kind to point out, it appears I have finally joined my peers in the 21st century.

So far, I have to admit, this little system has never been as stable and happy as it is right now.   Maybe the bleeding edge really is the leading edge after all...

Monday Mar 26, 2007

B2 Stealth Bomber

Back in 1988, as a field support engineer for Gould Computer Systems Division, I was one of the lucky engineers who just happened to be visiting Northrup during the unveiling of the B2 Stealth Bomber.   Seeing the folks cheering their work, sensing their obvious pride, witnessing the hugging and handshaking and toasting and tears of joy...   it never left me.   I had never personally been involved in a project of that size and was impressed at the celebration and comraderie.   It was a moving experience.

I was thinking about this the other day as I was trying to describe how some of my current work feels....

I'm now heavily engaged in Sun's big IT project which was recently discussed on ZDNet Asia website.   In fact, I'm on several teams...

And here is how it feels....   I am on one team that is focussing on seating & upholstery.   I'm on another team that is working on the navigation system.   Another team I'm helping is responsible for tyres & brakes.   And another team I am on is working on the sound & communication system.

Meanwhile, I've not seen the big plans of what the final product will look like.   Oh sure, I have some ideas...   And I've heard the vision speeches.   And I fully appreciate how important the project is to SMI overally.   Yup, I know it's coming and it's gonna be HUGE!

But for now, I'm just a small cog in a big project.   Like everyone else, I'm waiting for the unveiling and maybe even a tee-shirt.

Friday Mar 09, 2007


Another trip.   Another expense request to file.   Another search for air fares, just to get the expense request $$$ amount close to accurate   Get approved.   Call Sun's travel agency.   Get the airflight tickets.

To get an idea on the airfares, I've used a number of different travel websites.   But recently, someone pointed me to one that I really like.   Kayak.Com.

The Kayak website feels easy to use.   It is easy to enter my desired flight information.   Then search.   Kayak provides lots of status info while it's searching.   I like that.

But best of all, when it is done searching, it comes back to tell me that there are no perfectly direct flights from my home airport to my destination....   And instead of having to start a new search, I can toggle on things like airlines, number of stops, and airports, to view some of the more complete information Kayak found during the first search pass.   No additional queries.   No additional waiting.   The information is already there.

Cool interface!   But maybe the best part is the name.   It's so easy to remember (which of course means I'll be more likely to use them again).   I need to get from here to there and back again.   K (here) -A-Y (to there) -A-K (and back again).   (And of course, Kayak is a form of transportation.)   Very clever name!     :-)

Monday Dec 18, 2006

Web 2.0 & Bad Drivers

Car drivers, that is, not SW programs that manipulate HW.

On the news last night, a fairly new Web 2.0 style website called Plate Wire was talked about.   On this website, road sharers can "report" bad drivers, praise good drivers, or send winks to cute drivers.

What will we see next on the web?   Lists of rude shoppers spotted at the malls?   Fashion policing of neighbours and office colleagues?   Lists of truly pointy haired managers?

Tuesday Dec 05, 2006

A Good User Interface is Critical

Travelling from Sun office to Sun office, the only things really important to me as a user are that I can:

o   Read and send emails
o   Access & update my calendar
o   Work on my StarOffice files
o   Get access to a browser

As a user, I want this without pain, without time delays, and with full system reliability.   In fact, as a user I should have no worries about any of these things at all.

With Solaris, I know and trust the OS.   It's quality is a given.   It works.   And with the Sun hardware we have in our offices, reliability is never something to worry about.

However, travelling, as I am doing right now, I have learned one aspect of the system is more important than I have ever appreciated before:   The user interface!

In my home office, I run Solaris 10 on a mighty fast little Sun SPARC desktop system.   When I upgraded, I (kicking and screaming at the time) decided to go with Gnome as my user interface.   And, after a short time, I realised I really liked it!   Go figure!

Prior to this, I was very happily living with OpenWindows on the same box with an older OS.   I skipped CDE all together, a user interface some people love.   I tried it for one day, hated it, and raced back to OpenWin.

Today, I arrived at our Menlo Park California office and was kindly offered use of the office (and system) of a colleague who is also travelling.   The system offered is running an older OS and CDE is the only user interface available.   Ugh.

Trying to drive a user interface I simply never understood has turned out to be more painful than I had expected.   So what?   Who cares?   It's just a user interface!   Get over it!   Right?   WRONG!

When all else is great...   When the hardware is fast and reliable and the operating system is providing everything that is needed, the importance of the user interface moves up the stack of what is important to this user.   I never really got that...   Until this week.

The cool part is that I know lots of others at Sun get it, too.   The user interface, from installation to everyday use, is critical.

Tuesday Nov 14, 2006

Web 2.0 and Beyond

The joy of working at Sun in the Software Business Unit is that we sometimes get wind of what's coming...   New whiz bang features, dream products being implemented by our imagineering gurus, roadmaps that simple boggle the mind.

Quite recently, not long after seeing Sun's website cover about Web 2.0, I was given the opportunity to sit in on a Web x.y Product Planning Meeting.

While I thought I knew the key points about the Web product line, I was surprised at how much I learned at this meeting!   It was clearly evident that everyone accepts Web 1.0 was absolutely stunning and out performed all expectations.   Half a generation ago, no one could have predicted the stunning effect Web 1.0 would have on the world, on lifestyles, on the way we do business, on the way we play, on how we interact with others around the globe.   It was like the world became smaller overnight.   And, as you know, now Web 2.0 is getting a lot of airtime, growing in acceptance and increased use every day, every minute, everywhere.   Fabulous!

But what's coming next?   That was the topic of the Web x.y PPM.

So far, we have only had 46 escalations against Web 2.0, and from those, only a few patches resulted.   As product quality goes, those are impressive stats for a product that's been out there for as long as Web 2.0 has been!   However, the current RFE count (Requests For Enhancements), which is over 1750, has surprised everyone.   So much so, that it stirred our Marketing team into action, resulting in an aggressive and exciting roadmap for the Web x.y product line.

The Web x.y Product Approval Committee (PAC) this week voted 28 to 3 in favour of moving forward with Marketing's Roadmap.   Web 2.1, 2.2, and 2.3 will quietly sneak out to the marketplace over the next several months (assuming we keep to the aggressive release cycle proposed).   But when Web 3.0 comes, watch out world!   But that's still a ways off.

Problem is, this is NOT how this Web 2.0 thing really works!

So, here's the problem.   Web 2.0 is NOT a product.   I don't mind admitting that until a week ago, I thought it was!   But after listening to my husband's explanation, now I think I get it!   So, for those still trying to figure it out, let me see if I can help a little....   Just remember, I'm a novice here....

Web 1.0.   The Network Is The Computer.   The Internet is born.   Information is provided on the web.   People go to the web.   They read web pages.   Successful web businesses make their revenue targets by selling products & services on the web to the brave new users of The Internet.   Warehouses and employees stand behind many websites.

Web 2.0.   The Network Is The Computer + It's The Participation Age.   Website users create content.   Structures are provided, but it's the users that make websites successful.   Imagine the popular auction websites and "for sale" websites without the users!   Of course, they would fail.   So, how do these websites stay in business?   Well, for starters, vendors and businesses make money by selling advertising "airtime" instead of just products.   For the chance that the user might see their advert and be tempted to learn more, companies pay for advertising space.   Warehouses become optional.   Users provide "the product".   And in come cases, such as in chatrooms, I guess the users themselves are (in some strange Web 2.0 kind of way) the product.

Web 3.0...?   So, in reality, what is the Next Level for the Internet?   I have no clue.   But then I'm still learning to live in a world with Web 2.0.   In the meantime, my patient husband Georg just wandered up to bed, mumbling about losing his wife to Web 2.0....   Chat rooms, auctions, blogs...   I am adding content to the web without having to write HTML code.   I participate.   I interact.   I am helping to fill disks all over the world!

I am Web 2.0.

PS - Click here to learn more about Web 2.0 in a easy to read, enlightening work by Andy Budd.

Sunday Nov 12, 2006

Four Seconds

Four seconds.   That is how long we, the users of the Internet, are apparently willing to be happy to wait for a website.   This BBC article did not surprise me, but did make me wonder....   after all, four seconds is really NOT a long time.   Have users become overly demanding?

Anyway, I know at Sun, performance is a key focus area.   I guess this is one of the reasons....

Thursday Nov 02, 2006

Technology Overload

In the past week, I have:

  • Moved to an older Nokia mobile phone (after killing my old phone) and have had to learn a new user interface and feature set
  • Moved off dtmail to Mozilla mail
  • Moved to EdgeMail
  • Decided to keep my mail folders...   elsewhere.   Not in my home directory.
  • Participated in a global ChatRoom

Of all of these, the move to Mozilla mail has been the most challenging by far.

I suddenly understand why I have been getting tons of emails with nothing but HTML attachments.   Double click, bring up a browser, yet again!   I hated those kinds of emails!

Now, I also can see why so many emails I used to get with dtmail with "inline comments" were hard to read.   In Mozilla mail, the inline comments are simply easier to identify.   Colors can be used.   Font styles and sizes can be played with.   Great if you use a browser, but those of us still on old text mailers work extra hard to try to sift through those emails.

In Mozilla email, images don't have to be opened separately via imagetools.   And Address Books (versus a .mailrc file) actually look pretty easy to use...   so far.

But the best part....   Moving to the Edge.   I can now read emails at the dinner table, when visiting friends and family, at Internet cafes, in the car, on my mobile....   This is, I am told, The Future.   Modern Lifestyles.   Progress.   Oh joy.

So.   New mobile phone, new email, chatting on the web.   What next?

For a "Late Adopter", this has been a brain wracking week.   But, I'm still alive.   :-)

Friday Aug 11, 2006

Reviving the Ferrari

So far this summer, we've had quite a few thunderstorms rumble through New Hampshire.   And with them, a lot of unplanned power outages which have played havoc with our computers!   Unfortunately, one of those power outages may have been the root cause of my Ferrari 3400 giving up the ghost.

Today, we finally got around to trying to get a replacement Ferrari.   However, instead, the Acer support specialist had us try a little test....   which brought it back to life!

Simply, the steps were:

    o     Unplug AC power
    o     Remove the battery
    o     Press on ON / OFF switch for more than 20 seconds
    o     Plug the AC power back in
    o     Turn on the laptop

Voila!   A Ferrari is revived from a deep, Deep, DEEP hibernation!

Tuesday Jul 11, 2006

Question Pro

Every now and then, one comes across a good website offering a useful tool.   Today, I was lucky and did just that.

Looking for a easy and useful survey tool, I wandered around inside Sun's extensive internal web.   After not being tempted by any internal tools, I Google'd.   And, lo and behold, I "found" Question Pro at

In less than 1 hour, I composed a survey (most of that time was spent trying to figure out what questions to ask!), got my boss to take a look at it (Thumb's up!), and sent out invitations to my audience (my fellow manglers) to take the survey out for a spin!

Nice, easy tool.   I'm very impressed!

Wednesday Jun 07, 2006

StarOffice Tip

One of my colleagues, KNR, keeps saying I should write up a little user tip about mailing StarOffice presentations to people....   A tip aimed mostly at internal Sun presenters who wonder why when people open their documents during concalls, they seem to be viewing the middle or end of the presentation instead of starting on page 1.

So, here's the tip.

Before mailing your StarOffice document to someone, be sure to move to the cover page first.   One feature of StarOffice is that it remembers where you were working within your document and opens up to that place the next time the document is opened.   This is a good feature.

However, unless you actually want people to open your presentation at page 17, for example, go to the cover page, close the document, then mail it off.

I hope this is useful...




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