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.)

Saturday Jun 19, 2004

I partied with Nick Weaver

So we're watching a rerun of Law & Order: Criminal Intent tonight and I can't help but laugh when I hear when they describe the violent criminal exploits of a loan shark and mob boss named "Nick Weaver." I hear the name and think of someone I knew at Berkeley named Nick Weaver, and I can't imagine him breaking anyone's knees.

Of course, the association was probably reinforced by recently getting the June 2004 Usenix ;login: magazine featuring an article Nick wrote accompanied by a picture of him. Nick's earned his 15 minutes of fame by studying "Warhol worms" - worms that spread quickly across the internet and can be active worldwide in a matter of minutes. Unfortunately the worm authors seem to be getting better and the good guys have to fight to keep ahead of them. Good to see Nick is one of the good guys - sure seems to have come a long way since "I partied with Nick Weaver" was the in-joke catch phrase of the Berkeley Computer Science undergrad student group.

Friday Jun 04, 2004

A belated introduction

I suppose I should finally get around to explaining who I am for those who don't already know me.

Please allow me to introduce myself: I'm a man of wealth and taste... wait, scratch that. I've got neither of those. Let me try again.

Born on a mountaintop in, erm, well, Nevada. (Not literally on a mountaintop - in a nice little hospital in a valley between two mountain ranges about 6500 feet above sea level.) I grew up in various places in Nevada, Utah, and California, ranging from a small company mining town of about 1200 people to cities like Reno & Sacramento with hundreds of thousands of people.

I went to college at U.C. Berkeley where I studied Computer Science, learned to eat Chinese food, got hooked on Unix, and met the woman I'm now lucky to call my wife.

I worked at Sun as a contractor doing front-line tech support in SunService in 1995 for several months, then went back to school to finish my degree, before coming back to Sun full time in 1999. I started out as a tools developer in the Desktop Release Engineering group, working on various projects to improve the way we built products like X and CDE. After about a year I moved into the X Engineering group, where I've been ever since.

I work on a wide variety of things in X for Solaris - I've done a lot of work on Xinerama, the keyboard and mouse input modules, merging fixes between our trees and the open source releases, importing open source projects like XRender & fontconfig, performance tuning, and much more. Probably the most visible projects I've done are the IPv6 support (which was donated to X11R6.7 and XFree86 4.4) and the X server side of the wheel mouse support you can now find in Solaris Express and soon in Solaris 9 patches.

I also participate in many (probably too many) mailing lists, both inside and outside of Sun, answering many questions on some, asking the hard questions people don't want to answer on others (or telling them what I think the answers should be when I disagree).

At home I keep entertained with two TiVos (I can't imagine watching TV without them any more - there's rarely anything on I want to watch when I have time for TV, and rarely is anything I want to watch on at the time I can watch) and just about every game console since the N64 (except the Xbox). We also have far too many computers for two people (though the Mac IIsi, RS/6000 and Apollo DN3000 are away in the storage closet at least, so our computer room doesn't completely overflow) - but the ones that are plugged in all get used regularly, so I guess we're stuck with them. Of course, my wife will tell you I spend too much time at home in front of the Solaris machines with VPN running so I can work from home.

So in a nutshell, that's who I am (and yes, I guess that makes me a nut). Now I just have to wonder who all of you are who come here to read this boring page...all three of you.

Wednesday May 12, 2004

That's a sunrise, not a sunset...

At least that's what I'm going to claim the photo at the top of my blog is, since I chose this new theme simply because I liked the photo and the look of the blog skin, not because of any symbolism. (Though I suppose I could try to claim something like before every sunrise there is a sunset, so it's just part of the cycle, like the ebbs and tides of the economic cycles, but thats putting way too much thought into it.)

After playing with the themes, I've now realized it's been a well over a week since my last blog post - though it almost seems longer since it was such a long week - mostly spent doing mind numbing paperwork, writing project specs and design documents for our architectural review committee, answering the endless stream of e-mail, and even doing a little coding. (I guess I've really crossed over from Programmer to Engineer since it seems I spend less than a quarter of my time actually working on code these days, and more than that each week in various meetings and conference calls.)

I did get a chance to dig into the SolarisIA X extension a bit and even did a quick port to the Xorg server that seems to work and which helped me better understand what the code does by forcing me to track down and understand all the different parts of the server it has to interact with. I don't know if we'll offer that back to the open source release, since it depends heavily on the SVR4 priocntl API's and the Solaris kernel scheduler support for the IA (interactive) process class. It would be interesting to see if on today's much faster machines, it still makes a big difference by boosting the priority of the process that currently has focus and compare against the original test results presented at the 1993 Usenix conference, but alas, that's time I don't have right now. The Sun Ray performance people do seem to believe it still makes a positive impact on Sun Ray servers where many users are sharing the CPU, so there's still at least some need for it today.

Monday May 03, 2004

A life lived on Usenet?

A recent blog by Alec Muffet on his Usenet history inspired me (well, gave me an excuse to procrastinate, but close enough) to see what I could find of my own history - the oldest archived post Google Groups seems to be able to find for me is this post to comp.sys.mac.system on Nov. 7, 1990, which would have been my first semester at Berkeley. (Amazingly enough, one of the two e-mail addresses in my .sig will still reach me, though I don't check it very often, since it's almost all spam now. I ended up sysadmin'ing both of the machines in my sig and decommissioning them as well, though the names were recycled.)

I think I may have posted earlier to Berkeley-local groups that aren't in the google archives, but it wouldn't have been much before this I was brave enough to get past the Pnews dire warning that

This program posts news to thousands of machines throughout the entire civilized world. Your message will cost the net hundreds if not thousands of dollars to send everywhere.
Of course, I got over it, and must have cost the net billions by now (though probably a fraction of the costs of spam), as google easily finds over 8,000 posts since then, and I wouldn't be surprised to find out there have been many more.

You could probably find trends of my life via my posting history - my heavy comp.sys.mac.\* involvement in the early days, waning off as I got more into Unix, first in comp.sys.apollo as I joined the volunteer student staff running the Apollo workstations of Berkeley's Open Computing Facility, later comp.unix.solaris and the comp.sys.sun newsgroups as the OCF got sparcs and then I got a summer/fall job as a contractor in SunService. You might also see I was heavily involved in comp.infosystems.gopher for a while, as I both ran the OCF gopher server and then contributed to the UMN gopher server code. But eventually gopher waned and I followed the rest of the net into comp.infosystems.www.servers.unix, as I ran several NCSA httpd sites at Berkeley, then became an early adopter of Apache. As I converted to spending more time coding and less time webmastering, I slowly dropped out of those groups, and now my focus is so obvious, the google groups search for my name starts out with a "Related Groups: comp.unix.solaris" link.

I can only wonder what I'll find after 14 more years or if Usenet will have even survived that long...

Thursday Apr 29, 2004

Blogging beyond the firewall...

Here goes...my first post to the blog outside the Sun firewall. I've been blogging a little bit inside the Sun firewall but haven't really gotten into it that much - it's hard to think of many things that I think many other people would find interesting (at least that I can talk about publically), but it seems from talking to others there may be a few more than I think. We'll see how this goes. After 5 years of posting to Usenet from a non-Sun address to avoid any issues with people claiming I'm misrepresenting Sun it's nice to see the pendulum swinging the other way, with management realizing that a dialogue with customers and the community can be a good thing and actually encouraging it, despite the risks of engineers saying things that marketing and legal may wish we hadn't. The timing is actually nicely coincidental with my attendance at the X Developer's Conference so at least I'll have some interesting thoughts to get started with before returning to the daily grind next week...

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


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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