Monday Jul 11, 2005

Cylons using Sun Ray technology?

Craig asked a bunch of questions yesterday as he was trying to catch up on the new Battlestar Galactica. I posted a comment with some answers, but I realized this evening while making dinner that I missed a point that would really appeal to Craig - the Cylons are, like Sun Rays, ultra-thin clients. If the hardware is damaged beyond repair, the memories and consciousness (as much as a cybernetic being can be said to have one) is instantly transferred to a replacement hardware client. You don't even need to plug in a smartcard to the new Cylon body - it's automatic session migration.

Of course the problem with this is, it puts Sun on the wrong side of this galactic battle - for in the universe of the modern BSG, the network isn't just the computer, it's the very fabric of the Cylon civilization. Our ragtag team of survivors trying to escape genocide at the hands of the Cylons, however, is led by a ship designed to be completely non-networked, with all systems as isolated as possible to reduce the damage that can be done by a network attack. Oh well, you can't win them all (though the highly networked Cylons seem to be winning a lot of them so far).

(So who is going to make a back-and-forth red LED display add-on for the Sun Ray 170 so we can all have our own personal Cylons? It could even be functional - make the speed vary with the amount of bandwidth being used by the Sun Ray or the packet loss rate for remote deployments.)

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Sunday Jul 10, 2005

Tasty bookmarks from del.icio.us and Yahoo

Many of the Sun bloggers have also discovered the social bookmarking site del.icio.us and a bunch have written about it (see for instance blog posts by Claire Giordano, Claire again, Danny Malks, and Bryan Donovan - amazingly, none of them mentioned that the del.icio.us database server is running on a set of Sun dual-opteron machines). I've been using it for a while both to store and share links, and by subscribing to RSS feeds for a couple tags, to discover new links. Having a common place to store links that's available from my laptop, my home computer, my Sun desktops, and any other computers I'm near is very convenient. So when I read about http://de.lirio.us, a del.icio.us clone that was built using the open source Rubric software, I thought it would be great to use it to build a social bookmarking site inside Sun's firewall, to help people organize and share links to the thousands of web sites and pages inside Sun's firewall. It took a couple of months to find enough spare time to do it, but I finally got it all ready last month and sent out e-mail to our internal bloggers e-mail list. (It turns out quite a few people had the same idea, but I was simply the first to get it all put together and tell others about it.)

When I sent out mail about the internal rubric site, one of the responses asked if sites like del.icio.us and de.lirio.us helped when searching for things. At the time I said that it didn't really - it helped me more in discovering sites, saving links for later use from multiple locations/compuers, and sharing links with others. Now though, Yahoo has added an interesting twist which may make social bookmarking more interesting in it's My Web 2.0 Beta, which takes a del.icio.us style tagged/social bookmark service and adds communities of people who share bookmarks, so you can search through the sites bookmarked by the people in your community. Right now it looks like it's limited to a single community per user, your contacts, but if this could be extended to have multiple named communities, such as an OpenSolaris or X.Org community, it could get really interesting.

(BTW, you can find my shared bookmarks on del.icio.us as alanc and on Yahoo My Web 2.0 as adcoopersmith. And the link currently bookmarked more than any other on our internal social bookmarking site? Why, BlastWave of course.)

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[Now playing: The 4400 ]

Sunday Jun 12, 2005

Acceptance speech

I've had this post sitting in my draft folder for a little over a month now, trying to figure out what to say, so I guess I might as well finish it up or delete it.

A few weeks ago, I was surprised to be called up on stage by John Loiacono in front of a room full of the leaders of Sun's Software division and presented me with the quarterly award for Collaboration for the January-March quarter. That's the quarter Solaris 10 shipped, and I was recognized for work that went into that release, primarily the integration of the Xorg server into Solaris. All I got to say at the time was "Thanks", which is probably best, since as an award for collaboration, I couldn't have earned it without help from my many collaborators, and it would have taken a long time to thank all of them. I'm going to try here, but even still will probably forget someone, and if so I apologize in advance.

The Xorg server project never could have been done without the hard work of the entire X engineering team, our colleagues in the x86 Platform team in LA, the Desktop and x86 Video QA teams in Beijing, and our tireless program manager Ray. And of course, without all the groundwork laid by the contributors to the original X Consortium, the XFree86 Project, and the X.Org Foundation to create the software, we'd have nothing to integrate.

Besides the Xorg server project, the announcement called out several other projects for Solaris: Implementing Solaris Service Management Facility (SMF) support for the xserver, PAM authentication and auditing in xlock, other security support in X, and updating and modernizing the Solaris xserver keyboard and mouse code. The internal Greenline community provided valuable help and suggestions in designing and implementing our SMF services. The xlock work couldn't have been done without the help and advice from Gary and Darren - especially the auditing support which Gary wrote for us. Casper's work on getpeerucred() made the localuser and localgroup X authentication methods possible on Solaris. As for the keyboard and mouse drivers, in large part they built on work done by the USB & PS/2 driver teams to add support for wheel mice, mice that report absolute coordinates, and the "virtual" mouse/keyboard project that's coming soon to handle multiple mice and keyboards seamlessly.

The award itself is an interesting bit of work, described as "Scrapyard Art", which was created by San Jose artist Noreen Rubay. I've posted a photo of it on flickr.

So given all this, what's next? Different types of collaborations, with different groups. I'm one of about a dozen people working on X.Org's Modularization Project. I'm working with the OpenSolaris team to set up the X Window System community on opensolaris.org for the upcoming launch. And in my spare time (yeah, right, like I have any), I've even been working on setting up a clone of del.icio.us inside Sun's firewall, to allow people to share their links to all the useful sites inside the Sun network. But it's getting late, and we've got new episodes of The 4400, The Dead Zone, and McBride on our TiVo, so I'll save the details on those until later.


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Sunday May 01, 2005

Amusing new google game...

Guess the Google - the game pulls images from a Google image search, and gives you 20 seconds to guess what search term pulled them all. My best score so far is 308 - still quite a bit short of the high score list, and probably helped a bit by a couple repeats of image sets I'd previously guessed correctly.

What would you look like in South Park?

Me in South Park?

Most website uses of Flash annoy me. I had Flash disabled for a while because it was making Mozilla crash, and didn't really miss the ads and annoying splash screens. Once in a while though, there's a website that puts flash to good use, and I found one today thanks to a pointer in a blog entry from Chris Lee that I read off Planet FreeDesktop. South Park Studio is a flash program that lets you mix and match parts to make your own South Park character. It's from a German South Park fan site/blog [warning - contains South Park style graphic imagery and German text that I have no idea what it says]. You can make up your own, or try to make one that looks like you or someone you know. You can see here my effort to imagine what I might look like, thanks to this site and a small bit of touch-up work in the GIMP.

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Thursday Mar 31, 2005

Maybe they're not so different from us...

It's all too easy to think of Microsoft as a faceless, inhuman "Evil Empire" when reading sites like Slashdot and Groklaw or even listening to some of the comments made in the past by people in Sun from the executives down to the rank-and-file. And even though I know how often we in Sun are amused by some of the wacky theories out there about what Sun is up to ("It's impossible to have a conspiracy of 30,000 people" is a response I've heard quoted a few times), it's not always easy to remember that Microsoft is in the same boat. So while a lot of people recently were pointing to the story of Sun Opteron servers being installed in Microsoft's Enterprise Engineering Center as "proof they're not all bad", I've found that hasn't changed my opinion of Microsoft as much as their increasing openness via blogs and other forums.

Of course, the most visible of these and the person I'd say is most responsible for putting a human face to Microsoft is Robert Scoble, whose blog output I can barely keep up with reading, much less trying to match in writing (I'm lucky to get a few entries a month out - he almost always has several per day). But it's also being able to see conversations between a MS Word developer and an Abiword developer, or seeing a former member of Microsoft's Shared Source team explain their challenges in a way that resounds with the experiences Sun's OpenSolaris team are having facing many of the same challenges, that show maybe the walls between Microsoft and the rest of the world are starting to come down. And when you read stories like John Porcaro's of the difference in how Microsoft treats it's employees vs. some other companies more deserving of the "evil" moniker, it's hard not to think that we're more like Microsoft than we realized. I've known several Sun employees who have unfortunately been in similar situations, and the response from their managers has always been along the lines of "I hope your [son|daughter|father|mother|etc.] will be okay - go be with them and let me know if there's anything we can do to help." Perhaps it's our business - as developers there's rarely anything so pressing that only one person can do, so things can be reassigned or postponed a few days when emergencies come up, and letting the engineers be with their families when they need them benefits everyone in the end - the engineer is less stressed and while Sun may lose a few days of work up front (though probably at much lower productivity since the employee will be distracted and trying to keep in touch with their family), they end up with better morale overall, and an employee more likely to be willing to put in the long hours when really needed in return.

That's not to say they're not still the competition, or that either Sun or I agrees with many of the things they do. On the other hand, HP, Novell/SuSE, and Red Hat are also clearly competitors (and partners, given the wonderfully tangled webs often woven in the technology industry), but I have excellent, friendly, productive working relationships with my counterparts from those companies when we work together in X.Org to the benefit of all our companies and the community in general. We have to be careful about respecting the boundaries in place - not sharing corporate secrets or discussing any business matters that would make anti-trust lawyers upset - but that doesn't stop us from going out together, having dinner and a beer, or from getting the work done we need to. While I doubt we'll see Microsoft in X.Org any time soon, I wouldn't be surprised to see people from other parts of our companies establishing similar relationships to the benefit of everyone involved.

(And since I've probably gotten the attention here of "he who pubsubs" [1], and who also loves extolling the virtues of the Tablet PC, I had a recent thought - perhaps it's just coincidence, but as a TiVo addict I've noticed over the years many mentions of TiVo's being included in things such as gift packages for Oscar presenters and other entertainment industry insider giveaways, and that while other competitors such as ReplayTV and even Microsoft's own UltimateTV have come and gone, it's always TiVo you hear mentions of or see in the background on TV shows. I would think that if you wanted to spread the Tablet PC word, perhaps seeding some to a few people in the right places would do a world of good - for instance, if the writers for a show like Law & Order were sitting around their conference table pitching story ideas with a tablet PC in front of them, but not blocking their view of the other people at the table, how long before one ends up in front of the camera - after all, a courtroom would seem an ideal place for the tablet form factor - laying flat it won't block the lawyers view of the courtroom, nor will it expose their notes as easily to the spectators sitting behind them. And if only a few of the millions of viewers pick up on it, maybe you won't have to wait quite as long before you can post another note about selling a million Tablet PC's. Of course, if anyone else is still reading, I would point out that just because it's a tablet, doesn't mean you have to run Windows on it - for instance, there's tips on running Linux on a Fujitsu Stylistic ST5010 tablet here and I've gotten e-mail from a Solaris x86 user who used some of the same tips to load Solaris 10 on his - using the Wacom driver we provide with Xorg in Solaris for the stylus for instance.)

[1] Bonus points to any readers who recognized the obscure ancient Usenet cultural reference to he who greps

Monday Mar 07, 2005

X.Org booth photo in The Inquirer

Catching up on RSS feeds on bloglines, I followed a link from amdzone.com to The Inquirer's LinuxWorld Boston photos, and was surprised to see a very familiar face staring back at me from a photo of the X.Org booth! I don't think this many people have been tortured by images of me since I appeared in the background of some clips used a couple of years ago in the KGO news feature piece on Isamu Shimegori, a Sun engineer with cerebal palsy. (They filmed parts of the piece in our old lab in San Jose while we were doing testing of the Solaris accessibility support with Isamu and Earl Johnson from Sun's Accessibility office.) X.Org booth at LinuxWorld Expo Boston 2005

Monday Jan 24, 2005

Yet another cool new Google search engine

Google now offers video search, including searching for what was said on recent TV shows. Now if I could just search it from my TiVo and download the video on demand it would be incredibly cool. Okay, maybe not useful (at least I can't think of a good use off hand), but really cool...

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Tuesday Jan 04, 2005

Catching up

After being gone for a week and a half, I've been digging out from under a deep pile of e-mail and RSS feeds...there's a bunch of good stuff in there though. Highlights:

Wednesday Dec 15, 2004

Free TiVo Friday!

I can't compete with MaryMary's never ending supply of free "swag" Friday giveaways, but I can pass on a tidbit of news of a giveaway that may be even more cool...TiVo is giving away Free TiVo boxes on Friday December 17 at it's SF Bay Area headquarters (just off highway 237, not far from the Sun campus in San Jose that I used to work at). Of course, the offer's good to new TiVo customers only, so I won't be there, as we're about a month away from our fifth anniversary of becoming happy TiVo owners. It's an interesting marketing strategy, poking fun at the recent troubles Comcast has had rolling out it's competing DVR in the Bay Area and making it clear that it was there first and isn't going to make customers wait for weeks like Comcast is reported to be doing.

Of course, the giveaway doesn't include the subscription to their TV listings and other services (one of the best features, letting it keep track of when shows are on and whatever silly changes the networks make to their schedules), which makes it seem like the business models we're seeing become more common - give away the product (hardware or software) and then make money on the services you sell to use with it. In fact, I seem to remember hearing something about that just last month at a party I was at in the San Jose Tech Musuem...but I'm sure you've already read about that in the other blogs from Sun people and all the coverage of the Sun Solaris 10 announcement.

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Monday Sep 13, 2004

Downtime

Had relatives in town this weekend, so we went to places that, even though they're a short drive, we only get around to visiting when visitors come - The Tech Museum of San Jose, San Francisco's House of Prime Rib, and Oakland's classic Fenton's ice cream parlor. It was a nice break from the usual routine and hectic pace at work.

Of course, I wasn't completely idle this weekend - I worked all weekend long, or rather got work done. We're moving to a new lab and consolidating our servers to a new machine, so while we were out and about, I had file system transfers running between the old machine and new, thanks to the magic of VPN. I started them in the morning before leaving and moved on to the next round when we got home. Managed to reduce the server downtime for this to just a couple of days, most of which no one was working anyway. (We could have done better if we needed to, but this worked out as about the right balance between the effort we were willing to put in to reduce the amount of time and the pain we were willing to suffer from the downtime.)

Thursday Aug 19, 2004

Toogle

This looks cool - enter a term into this search engine and not only does it find a picture, it converts on the fly to ascii art, such as these: [Accessibility warning - you don't want to follow these links in a screen reader unless you like hearing meaningless repetitive text for a long time.]

[I had tried copying and pasting the html, but that seemed to be too much to handle for the Roller weblog server on blogs.sun.com]

It works better with images with lots of contrast and big details - for others sometimes you have to go to Google Image Search to figure out what the picture was before transformation (such as this picture found for "Darth Vader" - the text version is hard to figure out until you see the gorgeous original picture).

Tuesday Aug 10, 2004

If it's Wednesday, it must be JDS ConCall day...

As noted last week, I've not been posting much as I've been very busy on various projects reaching critical stages, including helping with the X.Org Foundation X11R6.8 release and X window system work for Solaris 10 and the upcoming Java Desktop System releases for Solaris. The days blur together a bit, with the various weekly conference calls serving to tell them apart (hence the title). Therefore, I'm going to cheat, and repost some things I've written elsewhere today...

I haven't seen anyone from the audience report on their impressions of our X.Org forum at LinuxWorld Expo SF (see last week's post), though I would be interested to see what people thought. From the front platform the session seemed to go well, with about 30-40 people attended and we showed some demos of the new extensions in X11R6.8 (some of which will also be in S10) and talked both about how the new X.Org Foundation is working and where we see X going in the future. We talked about trying to balance new development and stability, and I even plugged our favorite projects, which drive Sun's interest in the new extensions - Project Looking Glass and the GNOME Accessibility Project.

BTW, for those who don't know, X11R6.8 is in beta testing now. We're working on it at Sun to make sure it works as well as we can make it on Solaris x86 (unfortunately, there are no working Xorg drivers for modern hardware on the SPARC side of Solaris right now), but anyone with interest and spare cycles who wants to build & test is invited to do so. For more info on the release plans, new features, and how to help, see the Release Plan & Status web pages and the xorg and release-wranglers mailing lists.

Elsewhere I noted that the movement towards greater transparency and customer communications via efforts like blogs.sun.com are a bit strange at the moment since they are both pushing up from the bottom of the org chart, with many engineers and other "individual contributors" participating, and pushing down from the top, with people like Jonathan Schwartz and John Fowler participating, but hasn't met in the middle yet, with the layers of middle management still out of the picture - where many of the decisions people want to know about are made and best explained. (For instance, you can find my blog here, and that of the VP I work for, Glenn Weinberg, but you won't find the manager I report to, the senior manager he reports to, or the director he reports to (who in turn reports to Glenn).) Perhaps it will just take time and growing numbers above and below to squeeze them out of the conference rooms and out here with the rest of us...

Tuesday Jul 06, 2004

It's a small world...

I grew up in Ely, a small town in eastern Nevada of around 5,000 people (among several other places). Since leaving in 1990, I don't often hear much about it - I occasionally check the website of the local paper to see what's up, but otherwise rarely hear much about it or see it in the news or on other web sites.

So you can imagine my surprise when I was reading Rich Burridge's blog right here on Sun's blog site and found out that the Millenium Clock project plans to build their clock near there. I had heard of the project before, but not that they'd chosen a location so near my hometown - it took a coworker who came from the other side of the planet to let me know about that.

Of course, Rich is a bit more than just a random co-worker - even as Rich moves from group to group inside Sun it seems he's always nearby. We are both members of one of Sun's architectural review committees, and have both put in many hours the last few months working on projects for Solaris desktop support on the upcoming, semi-announced Opteron workstations.

And since we've both joined the Sun blog craze, I've learned Rich wrote one of my favorite programs when I was first using Unix — faces. It provides a icon for each user in your inbox or logged into the machine. It used to be quite popular on the main Unix machine of the CS undergrad group at Berkeley. Users provided their own icons, and you can see here what I came up with given my lack of scanner and artistic talent to serve as mine.

Quite a few of us used it as an early form of "buddy list" to see who was logged in - we used the standard Unix "write" and "wall" commands on that machine to communicate with each other (and eventually a customized version of write called nwrite which we found more suited to heavy use as a chat facility). This was of course long before all the current instant messenger protocols now in use, though IRC was starting to get popular at that time - but even today there's still people on that machine using the old tools.

Tuesday Jun 29, 2004

Packing up the office...

It's amazing how much junk piles up in three years - I feel like I'm shoveling it out by the ton as I pack up my office. I'm still not done, and the movers are showing up tomorrow afternoon to pick it all up to move to what will be my third office in a little over 5 years at Sun.

I started working at Sun at a small satellite campus in Menlo Park that was home to Sun's workstation business, including the "Power Client Desktop Software" group (CDE, X, & OpenWindows) that hired me. After two years there, a reorg moved the X group into an organization that went through many names, of which "User Experience Engineering" was probably most appropriate for the work we did (it also included Accessibility, Internationalization, Localization, Usability, and Documentation). As part of that we moved to the new building that was opened for the group at the new "Lincoln Tech Center" campus near the San Jose Airport. Unfortunately, while that campus seemed like a good idea when the tech boom was at full steam and Sun was hiring thousands of employees per year, by the time it was ready the bubble had burst, and only two of the four buildings were ever permanently occupied. A "For Sublease" sign appeared out front a little over a year ago, and came down recently when they announced the campus was closing and Sun would be moved out by the end of summer.

This came on the heels of yet another reorg, which moved the X group into the Operating Platforms Group with much of the core Solaris development groups, so our group is moving in with them on Sun's big Menlo Park campus, near the end of the Dumbarton Bridge. (The campus is occasionally lovingly known as "Sun Quentin" due to the similar placement and style of San Quentin near the end of the Richmond-San Rafael bridge at the other end of the bay.)

(Just for completeness, I suppose I should mention I also spent 8 months in 1995 working at SunService doing frontline Tech Support in a cube farm at Sun's original campus in Mountain View, which has long since closed down as Sun moved to the newer campuses in Menlo Park, Newark, and Santa Clara. I left when my contract expired to go back to Berkeley to finish my degree and then work for the University before returning to Sun 3 years later.)

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Engineer working on Oracle Solaris and with the X.Org open source community.

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The views expressed on this blog are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Oracle, the X.Org Foundation, or anyone else.

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