Tuesday May 06, 2008

Community One

This week I am in San Francisco attending the JavaOne developers conference. The day before JavaOne I attended Sun's Open Source software conference - CommunityOne. The big announcement was the availability of the binary distribution of Open Solaris. The is the first main release of what was known in development as project Indiana. It includes a new package management system (IPS) similar to the Debian system with online package repositories. I have been using the developer previews of Indiana and have been extremely impressed and I can't wait to try the new Open Solaris release. Another new interesting feature for developers is D-Light using Sun Studio 12. Open Solaris is the first OS release to use ZFS as it's default filesystem. The demo of ZFS at the keynote makes watching the webcast worth while involving disk drives, an anvil, a sledgehammer and a power drill. The rest I leave to your imagination or watch the recording. Great for releasing aggression.

Another announcement was the new release of Virtual Box (version 1.6). This  brings support for MAC OS and Open Solaris out of beta and into the full product. Another cool feature that was demoed was the ability to have virtual applications on your native desktop. What does this mean? Well typically when using a type II V12N technology you have a Native window in which the VM is running and you see the complete virtual desktop with all the virtualised applications running as sub windows within the virtualised desktop. Now you can have individual virtualised applications running as separate windows on your native desktop without the need to have a separate virtual desktop window. Each virtualised application then appears much more like a native application. Another interesting feature is the ability to read and boot from VMDK files. At the moment it can't create VMDK files but it can run and edit them.

 Another interesting session that I attended was project Social Site. I need to look into this further.

A final note was it was interesting to note that at this developer event the large number of MAC users there were. A quick count at the sessions that I attended they made up 50% of the laptops visible.

Wednesday Feb 13, 2008

Indiana Developer Preview II

The latest developer preview for Project Indiana is now available for download. I have just installed it on my Toshiba M5 and I am seriously considering canceling my recent order for a MacBook. Wow!!! It is great. It is being presented next week at the London Open Solaris User Group. Give it a spin you won't regret it.

Sunday Feb 10, 2008

No planes but trains and automobiles

Many people live under the impression that to travel for business is some how romantic and pleasurable. These are typically people who rarely travel and when they do it is for vacation. The times when it was romantic to travel (for business or pleasure) are long passed as I hope this example will show.

 I recently travelled to Paris with a couple of other people to talk to a group of developers about the latest and greatest technology from Sun. We left mid afternoon from St. Pancras on the EuroStar (I have long since stopped flying to Paris due to the delays, cancellations and general discomfort). Our plan was to arrive in Paris in time to check into the hotel and have some dinner. When we arrived at the hotel and tried to check in we were greeted  by the concierge who explained that the hotel was over booked (due to a large party extending their stay) and that they were in the process of transferring us to another hotel near by. Thankfully the guys that I was with were pretty chilled and so when he offered a free drink at the bar while we waited for arrangements to be made they agreed immediately. A short while later we were loaded into a taxi courtesy of the hotel to head for our new hotel. At this point the taxi driver started demanding that we direct him to where we wanted to go. We had no idea. We had been told by the first hotel that they would arrnage and pay for the taxi and tell him where to go. The taxi driver started to get very upset when we told him that we had no idea. Luckily we had the phone number of the first hotel and so a quick call to them cleared up the confusion and tald the taxi driver that he was going in the wrong direction which got him more upset. Then we remebered that we had another colleague due in on a much later train. A quick call back to the hotel to find out if he was also going to be moved, yes, and a quick call and SMS to give him details of the change and all was back on track - we thought.

 The following morning we were up and into a taxi heading for the clients site. We were complaining bitterly at the incompetance of our travel agent who appeared to have booked us in a hotel on the opposite side of Paris from the client's site. After an hour in a taxi we arrived at the street name that we had been given but there was no sign of the clients building. A quick couple of phone calls and we managed to find out that the street name that we had was correct but the client was based in a suburb of Paris. A quick look at google maps and we reolised that this was back across town near to our hotel. The travel agents logic now becoming clearer ;-). So back in a taxi and we finally arrived at the clients site about 1 hour late. On leaving the clients site we decided to hail a taxi in the street. After 45 minutes of trying we have up and went into a bar to plan the next steps. After a beer I managed to get the courage and confidence in my French (which is very poor) to go and ask the bar man to call us a taxi. Now the comedy started. The bar did not have a telephone but the bar man did have the number of a taxi company. No problem we all had GSM mobiles. Ah but my French is weak face to face over a poor GSM connection it was never going to work. At this point one of the locals in the bar took pity on us and offered to help. I explained that we needed a taxi to take 4 people or 2 taxis and where our hotel was and he arranged the cab. There was a brief argument between him and the taxi firm because they were not happy to take a booking from a mobile phone and wanted us to call from a fixed line. He explained that there was no fixed line in the place and that we were foreigners who were lost and needed a taxi and they then agreed to take the booking. That evening after a 2 mile walk, due to misunderstanding the directs from the hotel, we found a very pleasant restaurant and enjoyed an excellent meal. Things were looking up.

The following morning we checked out of the hotel and asked them to arrange a taxi to take us back to the client. We told that they could not because the taxi drivers were on strike today. Dam. What now. A quick look at a public transport map revealed that there was a tram service that went nearly door to door. If only we had known that the night before. Our only minor problem was that the ticket machines had been vandalised so we had to board the tram without a ticket but sincer no ticket inspector arrived this was a non issue. Once we came to leave the client we went back to the tram station and decided to take the tram one stop and then change to the RER or the metro. We were able to purchase tickets this time on the platform and off we went. I was pleased to see that the tram ticket also covered us for the RER and the Metro. I validated my ticket on the tram but in the crush did not realise that the other 3 had not. When we tried to enter the RER we then ran into ptoblems. The barriers did not open properly for me but I was able to barge my way through as did one of my collegues. The other 2 could not. We decided that this was because they had not validated their tickets so they went back to validate their tickets. When they finally returned their tickets still did not work but by now we were running out of time so they climbed over the barrier and off we went. We had valid tickets - or so we thought - so what could we be doing wrong. When we came to change trains on teh RER we were now at the peak rush hour. The platform was about 6 people deep when we arrived and it was 15 minutes before a train arrived. We had to make this train so we put the slimmer guy in front and two ex rugby forwards drove then hard at the open train doors. We were on. At the Gare Du Nord when we came to leave three of us managed ot exit no problem but one guy was stuck behind the barriers. This time it was 10ft high sliding glass doors so there was no way of climbing over. Finally we through him one of our tickets and he came out OK. At this point we reolised that he had never validated his ticket on entering the system. We made it to the EuroStar with about 10 minutes to spare. On route we further examined our subway tickets and the guide map we had been given at the hotel and reolised our error. The tickets that we had were valid for the RER  but only within the limits of Paris (not the suburbs). We had boarded the RER at La Defense which is a suburb and so our tickets were not valid. Good job we did not encounter any ticket inspectors. The EuroStar gave us a chance to relax and reflect on the excitement of our trip.

Unfortunately for me it was not over yet. We all parted company at St. Pancras and headed off in our own directions. I arrived at Paddington at around 9pm and which I bought my ticket mused on the fact that the station was rather busy for this time of night. Then a glance up at the board for the next traing to Reading and what did I see - Cancelled, Delayed, Delayed, Delayed, Cancelled, Delayed, Delayed. Then I began to notice that none of the trains platforms where warming up their engines and that the lack of the usual roar of deisel engines ment that you could hear the hum of voices from the crowd on the concourse. Shartly afterwards there was an announcement explaining that the line was closed near Slough due to a fatality on the line and so no trains were going into or out of the station at the moment except those going to Heathrow. So 3 choices. Sit it out, try going down to Waterloo and ramming onto the milk train from Waterloo to Reading or take the train to Heathrow and the coach on from there. I opted for the former and went and curled up in the vestibule of a 1st class carraige of a 125 safe in the knowledge that it would leave at some time and that it's first stop would be Reading. Eventually I made it to Reading but too late for a connection onwards so I went with everyone else to join the long queue and 45 minute wait for a taxi.

When I finally got home very late I was able to reflect on the joys, pleasure and romance of modern travel and wonder if it might be time for a change in career.

Saturday Feb 02, 2008

Back in a Kayak

I promised in a previous post  that I would update you on my return to white water kayaking. It was MAGIC!!! It was the first weekend in December when I found my self loading my gear and boat into a mini bus and trailer in a car park in Pangbourne on a VERY cold wet and windy Friday night ready for a long drive to North Wales. The following morning the gales and rain were added to by sleet and snow as I found my self somewhat nervously waiting to get onto the water. River levels everywhere were extremely high and the Tryweryn was on full release. I have often heard the expression "... it's just like riding a bike...." and yet when I purchased a new mountain bike a few years ago after a 15-20 year gap it took me several attempts before I was able to look and feel as if I was not going fall over any second. The kayaking however was completely different. Excuse the pun but it just all came flooding back to me. It felt great.


Since then I have been on the weir at Hurley. I am planning to post further articles on kayaking to my personal blog.

Friday Feb 01, 2008


I have just installed the snapshot technology in my blog. I think it looks quite funky. Although I needed some help from Dave Levy to finally get it to work. As well as the instructions provided my the SnapShots install guide to add the following code to the blog template just above the </body> tag:-

<script type="text/javascript" src="http://shots.snap.com/ss/{SnapShots UID}/snap_shots.js"></script>

I also need to add the following between the <head> and </head> tags.

<script defer="defer" id="snap_preview_anywhere"
        src="http://spa.snap.com/snap_preview_anywhere.js?ap=1&amp; <join>
        key={SnapShots UID}&amp;sb=1&amp;domain={blog URL}">

Tuesday Dec 04, 2007

My New Toy

I have recently got back into kayaking, something that I spent a considerable amount of time and money on in my teens and twenties before this was overtaken by other expensive and time consuming "hobbies" such as a house, a wife and kids. The kids however have reached an age where they wanted to have a go and so we are all going. Surprisingly it seems to have all come flooding (excuse the pun) back to me and I am having great fun.

As part of this I have treated myself to a brand new waver rider kayak for surfing and whitewater. 

So far I have only had it out on flat water on the Thames at Pangbourne but I am planning to head off with Adventure Dolphin to North Wales to canoe on the Tryweryn near Bala. It is a considerable number of years since I last canoed there so I will let you know how I get on.

Tuesday Nov 13, 2007


I have recently returned from a trip to Bangkok. Despite the rather painful journey, over 12 hours each way both ways as an overnight flight (in economy) and loosing a weekend on each end of a week, I always enjoy the time that I spend there. Why? Well apart from the fantastic food (I love Thai food) and the weather (there is nothing better than leaving a cold damp London to arrive in temperatures that seem to warm you to the very core) it is because of the people. The Thai people seem to always be so polite, so friendly, so cheerful, colourful and always have a positive outlook on life. This is further enhanced by the fact that the development team that I work with in Bangkok have an average age of 27 and so seem to have limitless enthusiasm and energy with a "anything is possible" attitude. It takes me back to the early part of my career when I worked at INMOS, a development team with an average age of 27 who were going to take on Silicon Valley from Bristol in the UK and win!

This got me thinking about a course that did a few years ago entitled "Managing Across Cultures". As with many of these soft skills courses we given a number of tools to help our understanding and in common with many of these tools they need to be used with caution and in the right context (and not at the exclusion of other techniques including common sense - be warned) however one of the tools on this course can provide some interesting insights and some fun. The particular tool in question was to help answer the question - "How does an individual from another cultural background view me and the culture from which I come from?". You start by listing the way you view their culture and national traits. This needs to be expressed in a positive way - eg. The Italians are very relaxed about time keeping rather than Italians are bad time keepers. Having written your list of cultural and national traits as seen from your viewpoint you now take all the statements and reverse them to give a description of how their culture views yours, again try to keep away from negative statements - eg. From an Italian perspective precise time keeping is important to the English.

So how do the Thai's view me - Oh No - I am rude, unhelpful, miserable, grey with a pessimistic view on the world. I do hope this tool is broken!!! ;-)

Thursday Nov 08, 2007

Developer Resources

I was asked recently to compile a list of resources and information that was available on line globally (and the implication of the question was free of charge) that were available for developers using Sun technology to assist with learning, education and support. I though that the information might be of interest to others so I have posted it here. Anyone interested in this should also consider Sun Learning Services who provide a wide range of high quality training and certification course online and instructor lead around the world.


Information and Learning Resources

for Solaris and Java Developers


Sun Developer Network

For all users of Sun Products and Technologies this is a rich source of information. Sections cover all forms of Java Development (eg. Enterprise, Desktop, Consumer, Wireless, SmartCard) as well as Developers and System Administrators for Solaris. It is designed to provide information to all levels of expertise from begineers to seasoned experts.

The two NEW centres provide introductory training  for both  Java developers and for Solaris Developers.

Some of the information is completely open and some requires the developer to register with the developer network. Registration for the developer network is free. The type of resources availabel includes on line training, FAQs, HowTos, early access code, free download of tools and software and examples. There are also a number of communities and discssion groups on specific products and technologies from which help can be obtained.

JavaOne Conference Materials

As the premier global developers conference for Java Developers and all other users of Java the event generates a considerable amount of content that is available on line. There are video recordings of all of the keynote sessions and also copies of all the presentations from the technical sessions. There are also multimedia versions of many of the technical sessions available to registered users of Sun Developer Network.


A community of Solaris users, adminstrators and developers it has a wealth of information about Solaris from both Sun and the wider community of users.


The feedroom provides a wide variety of video sessions from Sun.

Also available are a number of podcasts.
Also a search on YouTube and Google Videos for Sun Microsystems yields a number of videos about Sun technology and products.


Sun actively encourages it's employees to blog. Many of these blogs are produced by individuals or groups from the engineering and technical community. As well as providing a rich source of information direct from Sun's technical community it also provides the opportunity to have informal interactions with the authors view the comments section. I have highlight a small collection of blogs below.

User Groups

Open Source & Communities

Many of the open source collaboration sites offer documentation, community forums, FAQs and How-tos which can be invaluable sources of information and learning. There is a full list of Sun's Open Source projects on Sun's Website and some of the most popular sites for developers are listed below.
  • CoolTools - A set of tools optimised for the Open SPARC platform that is using in the T1000/T2000 family of CoolThreads Servers.
  • CoolStack - An optimised version of the Open Source web stack of Apache, MySQL, Perl, PHP, Squid and TomCat tuned for the OpenSPARC and coolthreads platforms.
  • Java.net - Collaboration site for the Java Community
  • Open Solaris
  • Open Office
  • Open JDK - Home of the Open Source Java Standard Edition community.
  • Glassfish - The Java Enterprise Edition and Application Server community
  • Open DS - The Open Directory Server Project
  • NetBeans - The open source developer tools
  • Sun Grid
  • Mobile and Embedded community - The open source project and cummunity for Java in consumer, mobile and embedded applications.
  • OpenSPARC - The OpenSource of the T-series of SPARC microprocessors
  • Open ESB - The Open Enterprise Service Bus project is an open source implementation of the JBI specification.
  • Open Media Commons - Includiing Project DReaM this is an open source project to develop uncumbered solutions for digital media including digital rights management.
  • Open SSO - An open source implementation of single sign on, access control, authentication and distributed idenity management.

Monday Oct 15, 2007

SunRay at Home

I arrived back from the CEC in Las Vegas to find a package on the door step containing my new SunRay at home package. This is the way that computing should be. In less than 5 minutes I was up and running - no installation or configuration except to enter a 4 digit pin. I simply connected the SunRay 2 base unit to my KVM, power and the ethernet router. The VPN software is now installed in the SunRay firmware so no need for an additional VPN router. Now my desktop compute session can not only migrate around the planet from one Sun office to another as I travel but can now also migrate from home to work and visa versa simply following my smart ID card.

Friday Oct 05, 2007

The Computer Swallowed Grandma

I found the following poem in the magazine of the Reading University of the Third Age and I thought that it deserved a wider audience.

The computer swallowed Grandma
Yes, honestly it’s true
She pressed ‘control’ and ‘enter’
And disappeared from view

It devoured her completely,
The thought just makes me squirm
She must have caught a virus
Or been eaten by a worm.

I’ve searched through the recycle  bin
And files of every kind
I’ve even used the Internet
But nothing did I find

In desperation, I asked Jeeves
My searches to refine
The reply from him was negative
Not a thing was found ‘online’.

So, if inside your ‘Inbox’
My Grandma you should see
Please ‘Copy’, ‘Scan’ and ‘Paste’ her
And send her back to me!

Monday Oct 01, 2007


On a recent trip to Silicon Valley I was able to get my hands on an iPhone at the Apple Store in East Palo Alto. I have heard so much spoken about the device from podcasts, colleagues and friends that I guess finally seeing one in the flesh (so to speak) was doomed to be a let down. Certainly the device design (mechanical and GUI) is pretty - it is designed by Apple after all - but I did not find the UI particularly intuitive and it was only after some coaching (admittedly brief) from one of the shop assistants was I able to navigate the device at all. I never was able to discover the short cut to lock the screen, something which is critical for a device with such a large touch screen. I am reliably informed by my friends and colleagues that as a non Mac user I have put myself at a disadvantage when it comes to using the UI and that I would pick it up relatively quickly.

So to the applications. Well I did not see anything on the device that I do not have today on my Palm/Phone combo - email, web, video player, audio player, contacts, calendar, google maps, etc - in fact it was lacking some key applications for me - Mobile Documents, UK Streetmaps, Sudoko. In fact I think one of the devices major limitations is the decision to not open it up to 3rd party content. Don't get me wrong I am not an Apple basher. I love their products and my iPod is one of my favourite gadgets that goes everywhere with me.

 So why would I not buy an iPhone. Four main reasons really.

  1. The lack of 3rd Party applications.
  2. Being forced onto one network operator.
  3. The small size of the storage and the in-ability to expand it.
  4. No 3G data service.

As all my friends keep telling me this is the iPhone 1.0 and I am sure that these things will be addressed in future variants.

What happened next was actually more interesting to me than the device itself. My wife is a complete technophobia and the more I get into technology the more she seems to lose patience and interest in it. She had been waiting outside the store in the sunshine and finally came in to drag me out. By now I had moved in from the iPhone and was looking at some iPod docks. Out of sheer boredom she picked up one of the iPhone demo devices and started to play with it. Within seconds and without any assistance she had worked out how to use it and was getting increasingly animated as she started to discover what it would do. At this point I realised my mistake. I was not the target market for the iPhone. I am more than happy to spend time crawling the net for 3rd party applications and then installing and configuring them to get the functionality I want. What Apple have built is a smart phone for the far larger market place which are those people who either do not want to or can't do their own systems integration - Just like the MAC - Just like iTunes/iPod.

So my only remaining question is at the current price point are they really going to be able to hit their target market. While I am  not convinced of this I am also convinced that over time they will reduce the price to the point to where it needs to be.

Tuesday Jul 31, 2007

Brain Teaser

There are two interconnecting rooms. In the first room that you are currently in there are three light switches. In the second room there is a light bulb. One of the three switches is connected to the light bulb and the other two are not connected to anything. You may pass from the first to the second room just once. When you arrive in the second room you must state accurately which switch controls the light bulb. It is possible to be 100% accurate. There is no way to be able to see into both rooms at the same time and there no way to operate the switches while looking at the light bulb. There is also no windows in either room (either in the walls or in the roof).

Thursday Jul 26, 2007

Web 2.0, the Media and Floods

Last week I was watching Jonathan Schwartz speaking at a conference of CEOs from the media industry. Based on the feedback from the audience his comments on where he felt the media industry was going seemed pretty controversial.

 For anyone that has been following the UK news in the last week will be aware of the wide spread flooding that there has been in the UK since the major storms last friday. Although I live between three of the rivers that have flooded - The Pang, The Thames, The Bourne and The Kennet, thankfully, my own home has been unaffected, however in order to move around locally it has been important to keep up to date with the latest status of the flooding.

I would like to add at this point that my heart goes out to those people who have been affected by flooding. To have your home and personal possessions completely ruined as well as having to cope for several days without heat, power and fresh running water is something that I would not wish upon my worst enemy.  

It has been interesting to observe how much all of the media - TV, Radio, Print and Internet - has been making use of content provided by ordinary people who have been affected. This has included photographs, videos, interviews and update information. This I think has been partly due to the fact that the torrential rain on Friday, even in those areas not affected ultimately by the flooding, cause transport chaos that made all forms of travel close to impossible. This in turn meant the the news agencies were hampered in getting their people "on the ground". This is highlighted by the inability of the environment agency to get the flood defences to Upton on Severn in time because they were held up in a traffic jam. All of this being said these factors have accelerated a trend rather than caused the change.

Imagine my joy though when I happened along the following mashup using google maps integrated with data from the environment agency, news reports, consumer reports, consumer photos and videos to provide a complete picture of the up to date state of affairs which you can navigate yourself to your personal areas of interest. To anyone that doubted the is a change under way in the way news content is generated this must surely be the final proof.


Friday Jul 13, 2007

Interview with DTrace Team

Robert Scoble has posted an interesting interview with the creators of DTrace at Sun as part of his ScobleShow series of video podcasts. For anyone wanting to get started with DTrace the DTraceToolkit is a great place to start.

Wednesday Jul 04, 2007

An Interesting Maths Problem

I encountered the following problem a number of months ago and spent a couple of days mulling over it before I managed to get the answer. I thought I would post it here so other could enjoy stretching some of the lesser used parts of the brain, Have fun.

Three gentlemen go to a restaurant for Lunch. At the end of the meal the waiter tells them that the bill is £30 so they each give him £10. The waiter takes this to the cashier who says "No, no, no, you have got it wrong the bill was only £25 here is £5 to take back to the gentlemen". On the walk back to the table the waiter thinks a) £5 does no divide well by 3, b) The gentlemen do not know that they have been over charged and were happy to pay the bill that they were given and c) they may or may not leave a tip but I can't be sure. So he pockets £2 and gives each of the men £1 each explaining that there was a mistake in the bill (but not telling them them by how much).

Q1) Now each gentleman paid £10 to start and got £1 back so how much did they spend on lunch?

A) £9

Q2) So how much did they spend in total?

A) £27

Q3) Plus the £2 in the waiters pocket makes a total of?

A) £29

So where is the additional £1?




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