Friday Apr 16, 2010

A Boatload of New Scripts

In America it's almost a national pastime to make fun of Rednecks.

But I love 'em.

On some days I swear I'm becoming one.

Shoot, one of my best friends is named JimBob.

Craig Morgan has a song called The Redneck Yacht Club.

I was listening to it this morning while sitting in my sweats, sneakers, and Ferrari cap behind the school bus. It was stopped, lights-a-blinkin', waiting for the kids to climb on. Once they all got in and sat down I would be able to drop off my daughter at the Country Market, where she meets her ride to school, another 20 minutes up the road.

I got to thinking that there ought to be rules about some things.

Like what you wear outside of the house, for instance.

I know, I know, when you get right down to it, there's really not a lot of difference between a cheap tuxedo and a pair of overalls. They are, after all, both made of cotton.

Except that there is.

And dropping off your little girl at the bus in pajama bottoms and bedroom slippers, a Marlboro hanging off your bottom lip, is simply not acceptable attire for any Momma. Redneck or not.

Even if the pajamas are a fashionable cerulian blue with tastefully spaced red and yellow 'possum prints that set off the faux fur on your bedroom slippers to best advantage.

After the bus left, she shuffled across the railroad tracks, waved at her friend standing in the window behind the rusty pontoon boat that's been parked in the front yard since 1982, bigger than the damn house, and headed home.

She lives next door to the RV storage and consignment lot. Each morning, she steps over the broken picket fence gate and goes back inside to finish her daily chores. Or last night's bottle of Jim Beam. Who knows. When you wear your pajama bottoms to the bus stop, anything is possible.

Even a proud people who value their freedom need standards.

For you, today, BigAdmin has a fine set of scripts by Prashant Pilankar.

Scripts to Manage Oracle ZFS and UFS Filesystems

This tech tip by Prashant Pilankar's includes a main script and several subscripts that automate the administration of ZFS and UFS filesystems in Oracle Solaris 10. Contents:

  • Creating an Oracle Solaris ZFS storage pool
  • Adding a device to a storage pool
  • Creating a filesystem in a storage pool
  • Setting quota on an Oracle Solaris ZFS filesystem
  • Creating a mirrored storage pool
  • Adding devices to a mirrored storage pool
  • Creating a RAID-Z (Enhanced RAID5) storage pool
  • Adding devices to a RAID-Z storage pool
  • Destroying a storage pool
  • Determining if problems exist in a storage pool
  • Creating a UFS filesystem and mounting it

This is just the first of several scripts by Prashant. There is more on the way.

- Rick

Monday Mar 29, 2010

LDOMS is Now Called....

(drumroll photo courtesy of E-How).

...Oracle VM Server for SPARC

BigAdmin will be publishing new content on Oracle VM Server for SPARC (LDOMS) soon, including an update of our Virtualization Hub.

In the meantime, if you want to use some cool graphics tools to analyze the performance of Zones, Containers, and Oracle VM Server for SPARC (LDOMS), check out....

Halcyon's Neuron Agent

What We've Been Working On

That's a picture of my boxer, Penny, after she finished raising Buster, my other boxer.

Buster, pictured below, is much younger.

After last week I felt more like Penny than like Buster.

Lots of work going on inside Oracle to design the section of the Oracle Technology Network that our BigAdmin content will migrate to.

In fact, content from these three sites will be combined into one section on OTN:

That way developers, students, and admins can find general content about Solaris and related technologies in one place, plus how-to articles and resources specific to their roles.

I'm also sifting through BigAdmin's 3500+ content resources (not counting the HCL, which has over 10,000 entries) to see what migrates to the Oracle Technology Network and what doesn't. I'm making that decision both by the popularity of the content and the relevance to Oracle's technology offerings. Naturally most of our Solaris 10-related content will migrate, but most of our Solaris 9 and Solaris 8 content will migrate, as well.

Wicked sorry that I'm not keeping the MOTD as updated as Robert used to, or the MOTD Archive populated. Things will settle down a bit once we complete the migration to the Oracle Technology Network.

- Rick

Friday Mar 12, 2010

Spring Forward?

It's that time again when the working and schooling population of the northern half of the planet begins a mass migration toward the rising sun.

Daylight Savings Time.

The time of year when schoolchildren fall asleep on their marmalade, office workers fall asleep on their desks, and stay at home Moms mutter "make your own damn breakfast" from under the covers.

But it's also the time of year when you still have a personal life after you get home from work. When there's enough daylight and, in some places, heat, to work in the yard or putter in the garage before going inside to answer phone calls from unfriendly people who want to know why you haven't paid them this month.

Spring Forward and Fall Back

It's also the time when about 80% of the American population feels like an idiot.

"Do I get up ealier or later?"

"'Spring forrrrrr....ward.' Right."

"So does that mean I move the clock forward? Or do I move forward against the clock?"

"Does moving the clock forward mean advancing it?"

"But if I advance the clock, doesn't that make me get up later? Shouldn't it be 'Fall Back?'"

"Ahh, 'Fall' refers to, like, October. Leaves turning and all that. Got it."

"Right. November. That's what I meant."

"So what do they do, like, on the other side of the world? You know, like in Peru? Do they, like, 'Fall Forward?'"

"Oh, so it's different because they speak Spanish. Yeah. That makes sense. I guess."

"But I still don't understand how getting up any earlier saves any actual daylight."

Here's how I keep it straight. When Daylight Savings Time begins, I get to leave work an hour earlier. I don't change my watch because it's one of those super complicated electronic ones with an altimeter, barometer, compass, GPS, and calculator. Only my daughter can figure it out.

If that doesn't work for you, try this:

On Sunday morning, when your watch says 8:00 am, change it so it says 9:00 am. Then go back to bed. And stay out of Arizona for the next 8 months.

BigAdmin's Daylight Savings Time Hub

If you want to find out which countries start DST at which time of year and how that affects your systems and software, get the latest news in our DST hub. I didn't realize Mongolia had any interest in DST. The way I figured it, if you live in Mongolia, you get up with the dawn and go to bed with the moon, and if somebody shoves a watch in your face, you cut them in half. My kinda place.

Bill Petro's Blog

Bill Petro's blog, always entertaining, provides some background info about DST. And other cultural topics. If you're the curious type, you'll get a kick out of it.

Good luck.

- Rick

Tuesday Mar 09, 2010

Take THAT, Tom Cruise!

It's about time sysadmins got their due:

Devotion to Duty

(Thank you, Josh Simons.)

- Rick

Monday Mar 08, 2010

ACE Program for Admins and Solaris Developers

No, not that kind of ace.


But the plane, piloted by Sean Tucker, is wicked cool.

The boat is pretty cool, too.

You know how all the ACE programs are always for Java developers? Java. Java. Java. Well, I spoke to Victoria Lira, who runs the Oracle ACE program for the Oracle Technology Network, and she is welcoming admins and Solaris developers with open arms.

(By the way, Oracle shortens "sysadmin" to "admin," and uses it to encompass application management, database, system, network, and storage administrators.)

Don't have an autographed poster of James Gosling on your wall? I don't, either. If you know your Solaris (or Linux), your development environments, your systems management tools, your Oracle Sun hardware, or your storage, step up and nominate yourself. Or tell a buddy you'll nominate her if she nominates you. Buy somebody a cheap lunch. Whatever works.

How to Get Nominated

Getting nominated is kinda like asking out Sandra Bullock. It doesn't guarantee results. To be accepted, you have to be strong in a few of these areas:

  • Technical proficiency
  • Oracle-related blog
  • Oracle discussion forum activity
  • Published white paper(s) and/or article(s)
  • Presentation experience
  • Beta program participant
  • Oracle user group member
  • Oracle certification

If you have published any content on BigAdmin or SDN, be sure to mention it. If you want to publish any content on BigAdmin or the Solaris Developer Hub of SDN, use this link:

How to Publish Content on BigAdmin or SDN (Solaris Developer)

We're still running a little slow, but we'll get to it.

Why Would An Oracle Admin Want to Become an Oracle ACE?

Because you get special treatment from Oracle. For instance, check out this list of presentations at Oracle events made by Oracle Aces:

Presentations made by Oracle ACES

And if you become an Oracle ACE Director, the relationship gets a lot more interesting. If you're interested, be sure to read the entire FAQ

Bonus for BigAdmin Fans

I explained to Victoria that the Solaris community has some pretty diverse talents, so I got special dispensation for you. If you can shake your tail feathers to Ray Charles like this bird (clearly a BigAdmin fan) can, you'll get bonus points:

(Thank you, Rich Brown)

If the embedded video doesn't work for you, you can find it on YouTube.

- Rick

Thursday Feb 18, 2010

High Availability for Virtualized Environments

Used to be availability was a big deal.

The product formerly known as Solaris Cluster (then called Sun cluster and now called Solaris Cluster again) was the answer to many a midnight prayer because it did such a great job of keeping your Solaris operating environment available even across geographical boundaries.

(BigAdmin's resource center for Sun Cluster administrators is in serious need of updating, but you can still find some useful links about Solaris Cluster there.)

Over the last few years virtualization eclipsed availability. Everyone's focus was on hardware consolidation. Solaris server? Linux server? Windows server? Who cares. We can run all the software we want on whichever server we like the most. And hardware salesmen can pound sand.

Well, guess what? If in the past you were running Need for Speed on one server and that server went down, you only lost one business critical application. But with Need for Speed running on Windows, Quake 4 running on Linux, and DOOM hosted on Solaris (with voodoo and black magic the way Sun engineers at Rocky Mountain Technology Center used to do it after hours), all part of a virtualized environment created on a Sun Oracle Database Machine without the IT manager's knowledge, you're talking serious unrest in the corner office if anything goes wrong.

So availability is a big deal again. In fact, an even bigger deal than it used to be.

We're working on an update to BigAdmin's virtualization resources for admins that will point you to resources that will help you figure out not only the best virtualization solution, but the best way to make that solution highly available.

In the meantime, you can take a look at how to solve one small part of the availability puzzle by reading this BigAdmin Feature Article by J. Randriam:

Configuring Sun Cluster Software With Oracle RAC/CRS and Sun Storage 7000 Unified Storage Systems

It describes how to configure a 3-node Solaris Cluster to run Oracle Real Application Clusters (RAC) / Cluster Ready Services (CRS) on a Sun Storage 7210 Unified Storage System. What you get with that is high availability for the database, the OS, and the storage system. Main sections include:

  • How to configure an NFS filesystem from the Storage System GUI.
  • How to mount the new filesystem from the cluster nodes.
  • How to create an iSCSI LUN for each node.
  • How to connect each node to its LUN.
  • How to disable fencing.
  • How to create a quorum device.
  • How to configure the Oracle RAC/CRS device to run on the storage system while taking advantage of the high availability services provided by Sun Cluster.

BigAdmin has some basic publication support, now, so we'll start to publish more content in the next few days.

Thanks for hanging in there with us.

- Rick

Tuesday Feb 02, 2010

Heaven for Do-It-Yourselfers (DIY's)

While listening to National Public Radio (my favorite Bolshevik station), I heard a story that most sysadmins of Solaris and Oracle Sun hardware would probably enjoy.

Right after Haikus of Das Kapital and before Knitting Tips from Madamme Defarge," All Things Considered ran a cool story about The Geek Group.

That's kinda what BigAdmin has been all about: helping Do-It-Yourselfers (DIY's) get the job done. (You'd make your life easier if you took the damn Solaris Sysadmin Training Courses already, but I understand. It's been a while for me, too.)

And that's right in line with what Justin Kestelyn, author of the Oracle Technology Network (OTN) blog, is doing with the OTN. Make sure to read his post about the future of BigAdmin (and SDN).

We're going to have a hiccup or two during the transition to Oracle, but please stay with us; in the long run, Oracle's resources will help us get more and better content to you, and provide more interesting ways for us to talk to each other.

Here's what Bob Rhubart, of The Arch Beat blog had to say:

"The combination of the Sun Developer Network (including, BigAdmin, and the Oracle Technology Network will result in the largest, and most diverse, community of Developers, Database Administrators, SysAdmins, and Architects. The richness and diversity of these communities will truly be remarkable."

Where To Find Us

So, just to be clear, here's what's still working and where to find it:

Also be sure to look for BigAdmin under the Communities heading in the left nav bar of the OTN.

Farewell to Close Friends

If you have submitted content to BigAdmin in the past, you have probably spoken to Constance McKenzie. When the advent of online communities brought into question the need for quality standards in technical content, Constance had the unenviable job of keeping BigAdmin's content useful while preserving the voice of the authors, many of whom spoke English as a second or third language. Despite being handicapped by one or more graduate degrees, Constance jumped headlong into all the latest Web 2.0 mediums and promoted BigAdmin's content religously. Constance was also the keeper of our editorial, web, and legal standards. Which means she kept us out of trouble. If you got your BigAdmin goodies, you have Constance to thank. She was the author of the BigAdmin Newsletter, most of our MOTD's (message of the day), and our Twitter Channel, among other things. You can continue to twitter with Constance at the CMacWasHere channel

If you read The History of BigAdmin, Part I, you know that Robert Weeks was one of the founders of BigAdmin. You may also know that he really digs his Mustang Bullit (and that I want to steal it). What you may not know is that he was the driving force behind BigAdmin since its inception. He's the guy who cared the most about treating Sun's sysadmins right, about protecting BigAdmin as a free and open resource. He had a day job as a Sun engineer that took up most of his time, but he never failed to put in the extra hours to post content, test scripts, design new interfaces, update the HCL, and handle so many other things I couldn't begin to list them here. The back-end content management tools he created for us helped a skeleton team work through a large volume of content. Without that, we would have been lined up against a wall and shot long ago. It's because of the dedication of Robert Weeks that BigAdmin and, more importantly, its charter to serve the needs of sysadmins with free and open content and community, was embraced by Oracle.

- Rick

Monday Jan 25, 2010

Jesse James Does Not Care About BigAdmin's Upgrade Hub

When I dialed up Jesse James with the news that BigAdmin's Upgrade Resources for System Administrators hub had just been upgraded, he said...

"Whatever, man. Quit calling me."

Well, whatareyagonnado? Not everybody can be a cheerful sysadmin, ya know?

But Ginny Henningsen can! She took what Karen Perkins started with, added some of her own experience and that of her friends, nipped a little here, cut a little there, tossed in a super graphic, and came up with a very nice version of the hub.

Solaris 10 Upgrade Resources for Sysadmins

The new hub has six sections, just like the single-action revolver used by Jesse's outlaw namesake:

We think our new hub is purtier than Sandra Bullock. Check it out and tell us what you think. Then call Jesse.

- Rick

Thursday Jan 07, 2010

BigAdmin Navigation: Categories vs Collections

This is a perfect wave. If you surf, you'll appreciate how the offshore wind first ruffles the surface of the approaching swells and then sculpts the face of the tube into perfection.

I can almost feel the cold wind on my back.

Photo courtesy of 43 Things.

This is not a perfect wave. I can't tell you what this feels like because even looking at a wave this size scares me half out of my mind.

Photo courtesy of Sean Davey at Surf Photo Art.

The waves are kinda like our use of categories and collections. The perfect wave? That's what we'd like to do. The not so perfect wave? That fits us better on this one. For now.

If you recall, the Sections and Categories blog entry of a few weeks ago explained how sections work. Sections are the main types of content BigAdmin provides, such as Articles, XPerts, Wikis, etc. Categories are simply the way to filter a section by the type of content. In other words, if you want to see all the Articles about Performance, you can go to the Articles section and select the Performance category from the pull-down menu. For example:

In a perfect world, we would also give you the capability to see all the sections for a particular category. In other words, if you were interested in all the content about Performance, whether it was a blog, a wiki, a video, or whatever, you would select the category and from the results, filter the results by blog, wiki, or whatever.

We kinda sorta do that, but in an imperfect way. We use collections. If you want to find all the content that BigAdmin publishes about databases, go to the database collection. It will list all the articles, blogs, wikis, interviews, videos, whatever.

Here are a few other differences between categories and collections:

  • You can see a list of all collections on one page, but you can only see a list of all categories from the pull-down menu of each section.
  • A resource can belong to multiple collections, but to only one category. This is a bit easier to see in the content submission page.
  • There are many more categories than there are collections.

Ideally, categories and collections would be the same thing. For now, they continue to be separate things. Would we like to fix that? Yes. Can we? Not yet. So for now, please bear with us, and:

  • Use categories to filter the content in a section.
  • Use collections to see a list of all content, regardless of section, for a particular topic.

If you'd like to see more excellent surf photography, including a picture of the biggest wave I've ever seen (Outside Sunset, Hawaii), go to

- Rick

Monday Jan 04, 2010

Dare To Be Remarkable

The beginning of a new year rocks because it gives me an excuse to ignore that list of things I have to get done, the other list of things I should do, and that crumpled, worn out, stale, and guilt-ridden list of things I know that I'm never going to get done. Instead, I can start a new list with all the things I want to do.

Like make an F-15 (see comments) do this.

Or sneak into Robert's garage and take his AWESOME Mustang Bullit for a joy ride.

If you have teenagers, you probably know that being a teenager today can suck the BigZucchini. No matter what you do, you're WRONG. To keep her sanity, my teenage daughter tacked this quote onto her bedroom wall:

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, who are we to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous.

Your playing small does not serve the world.

There is nothing enlightening about shrinking so that other people won’t feel small around you. We were born to manifest the glory that is within us. It is not just in some of us, it is in everyone. And when we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

You may recognize it from the movie Coach Carter spoken by the character Timo Cruz.

But according to the website Date to Be Remarkable, it was written by Marianne Williamson and used by Nelson Mandela in his inaugural speech as president of South Africa.

I didn't know that.

I still owe you an explanation of BigAdmin's collections, and that will come this week. But I wanted to begin the new year with a wish that in 2010 you, BigAdmin, and the kick-butt, take-names technologies we play with will dare to be remarkable.

- Rick

Friday Dec 04, 2009

BigAdmin Navigation: Sections and Categories

To continue with an explanation of BigAdmin's structure in response to questions raised at LISA Baltimore....

All of BigAdmin's content is grouped into sections, which the home page calls out as "Resources and Sections":

Each section lists all the content of a particular type, such as:

(This is only a partial list. Here is the complete list of all sections).

In other words, if you wanted to browse all of BigAdmin's Feature Articles, you would select 5. Articles and FAQ's:

Here is what you would see:

By default, BigAdmin's most recently published and updated feature articles are displayed in that list, most recent on top. However, you could filter all the Feature Articles by category:

You can see all the categories in a section by "pulling down" the category menu:

When you select a particular category, the list is updated to display only the feature articles in that category.

Next blog: collections.

- Rick

Tuesday Nov 24, 2009

LISA Feedback: The Tower of Babel

Some of the comments we received at LISA 09 pointed out that BigAdmin's content was difficult to navigate.

I agree.

Particularly for new users.

BigAdmin started as a way to provide information you couldn't find anywhere else, was built from the ground up, has evolved to meet the changing needs of sysadmins, and has gotten a bit messy.

Kinda like your own desk. It looks like hell, but you know exactly where everything is.

But pity the poor bastard who has to fill in for you.

One day soon, we hope, BigAdmin will get a chance to clean up the clutter.

Because for now you have to work with what we've got, I'll use the next few blogs to explain how the content is organized, how to find things, and what is in which pile.

But first I want to talk about the problem that BigAdmin is trying to help you deal with. Because only by understanding that problem will you understand the logic behind BigAdmin.

If you are not interested in this brief history lesson, go straight to What Is BigAdmin and How Do I Use It?

A Brief History of Content

From the moment God said, "Let there be light" until a few years ago, a means of commerce came into being that was so effective it spread across virtually all cultures of the globe: You gave somebody a pile of cash and they gave you a product and its documentation. The simplicity of that transaction was breathtaking.

The documentation was particularly cool if it came in a big ol' 3-ring binder. Why? Because you could open it up and lay it flat right beside the product. There has never been a better delivery vehicle for documentation than the 3-ring binder. Not even stone tablets.

But then high-tech became cool. And Cool dictates that 3-ring binders are Not. The result? The information that used to live in that 3-ring binder is now distributed across online documentation sites, magazine articles, books for sale at Amazon, wikis that may or may not be up to date, blogs that may or may not know what the hell they're talking about, forum discussions that may or may not be answered, websites with content of questionable credibility, the product interface, and maybe even labels on the product.

More than once I have fantasized about getting my buddies together, putting it all in a big pile, lighting it on fire, and dancing around it with spears and painted faces until we were all back to the simplicity of the Stone Age.

So What Are We Doing About It?

BigAdmin wants to be your three ring binder.

We can't reverse the course of history, but we want you to come to BigAdmin first and let us take you to where the content is. We are continuously searching for the resources to help you do your job and organizing them so you know where they are. That means docs, support, training classes, blogs, wikis, discussions, articles, videos, books. Sometimes we publish the content ourselves, sometimes we point to other places where it has been published. Whatever, wherever.

How are we doing? When you consider what information a sysadmin needs to adopt, deploy, and integrate Sun technologies into a heterogeneous environment, we have a long way to go. We simply don't cover enough of Sun's technologies in enough real-world scenarios. There is so much we are not aware of. Our interface is not nearly dynamic enough. Our information architecture is a bit sloppy. And as you have pointed out, our navigation is confusing.

But we're running as fast as we can to catch up. So far, we have:

  • Over 3500 resources, both original content and links to content.
  • Almost 10,000 entries in the HCL.
  • A list of more than 11,000 applications that run on Solaris 10.
  • Thirty landing pages for sysadmin topics that first give you an overview of a topic and then link you to all the resources we know about. Some of them, such as the Patches Hub are pretty good. We're working on more.

How to Send Us Suggestions

There's a lot more to do, but we can't do it alone. As Robert Weeks explained in The History of Bigadmin Part I, BigAdmin was patterned after the community bulletin boards of yore. It's all about sharing what you know. How can you help?

  • Tell us about any content you find useful.
  • When you have a specific improvement or find an error on a particular page, use the Feedback mechanism at the bottom right of the page (look for the little plus sign). Just remember that a lot of the pages we link to do not have the little plus sign.
  • Use our Suggestion Box. It's also available from the blue menu on the right of every BigAdmin page.

Next blog: sections, collections, and topic hubs.

- Rick

Tuesday Aug 18, 2009

500 BigAdmin Fans on Facebook

When I was entering the work force we had to endure the unimaginable hardship of showing up to work at a preset time. Like 8:00 am or something. We didn't get to choose that time, either. The company chose. They didn't even conduct a poll! It was barbaric.

Things have changed a bit since then. Because we're judged by our results instead of our work habits, it's no wonder that some of us have come to blend our personal interests with our professional interests. In the past we were only allowed to do that while standing around a contraption called a "water cooler." We used to have to draw our water from those things before somebody figured out how to mold plastic into a container shaped like a water bottle.

For those of you who take a stroll or two in the direction of Facebook during the workday, BigAdmin has created a Facebook page. If you become a fan, as over 500 of you already have, BigAdmin content can come to you. Either as individual postings or as RSS feeds. Just enter "BigAdmin" in the Search box at the top right of your Facebook page, and it'll take you to the right place. You can also get there by clicking on the small "F" icon just to the left of the BigAdmin search box.

While you're there, you'll notice a Twitter "t." BigAdmin is also on Twitter, but you have to skip the second "i," like this: BigAdmn.

I don't remember where I heard it, but I heard Facebook referred to as "social not-working." Don't worry, those are the same people who used to rush by the water cooler looking all busy-body with the racing form attached to their clipboard.

- Rick

Tuesday Jul 28, 2009

Not Getting Any

You may be familiar with the sedate but classic example used to demonstrate the critical importance of punctuation....

A woman has been nursing her husband from a lingering disease, but leaves to visit her mother. He gets worse and sends her a telegram. Unfortunately, the telegraph operator misplaces the period (indicated with the term STOP), and she receives this telegram:


At BigAdmin we've been keeping a wary eye on the increased popularity of machine translation. We would be mortified if one of our articles gave a Portuguese sysadmin these instructions:

Um beijo whiskery
Pela um adorar maio
Você não fazê-la louca
Mas o rosto dela será ferida
Birmânia Barbear

A whiskery kiss
For the one
You adore
May not make her mad
But her face will be sore
Burma Shave

To make sure these cultural faux pas don't creep into our multilingual content, we've come up with a way to let you compare the translated document to the original. Here's how:

  1. Go to the multilingual hub.
  2. Select a language.
  3. If necessary, select the Content sub-tab.
  4. Click on your favorite article.
  5. At the top right of the article, beneath the symbols for the different languages, click on the text that says "Compare Translations" in the native language.

A window will pop up displaying the original and the translation, side by side.

Try this example.

If you'd like to correct something in the translated version, use the Submit Content or Link to BigAdmin link.

Let us know what you think.


Thursday Jun 25, 2009

The History of BigAdmin - Part 1


The History of BigAdmin dates back to the development of a new type of installer for Solaris that would begin with the release of Solaris 8. This blog explains how BigAdmin first started. Future blogs will provide additional history and background.

Before I started working for Sun, I had been working for a company called Knight-Ridder - which was the parent company for many newspapers around the country (United States), including the San Jose Mercury News, Miami Herald, and many more.

I had also been working with Netscape and doing development with a project called 'NetCaster' at the time, which was Netscape's step into the "push" paradigm of web applications.

NetCaster utilized the proprietary dynamic HTML for Netscape 4, which was based on layers (before the current standards of divs and modern dhtml) and javascript to update the page dynamically.

At the time Netscape 4 was beautiful because it was starting to be used as a development platform - not just a browser - much like Google's Chrome us now (more on that later - Chrome is exciting stuff).

So, with Netscape 4 and NetCaster, developers could create "WebTops" - full screen pages that could be anchored to users' desktops and behave like a live desktop. They could "push" information based on the setup of the WebTop. Very cool technology at the time.

While all this work that was happening in this space, Sun was trying to modernize their installation of Solaris to be more graphic-based and more dynamic.

This eventually turned into a project called 'CD0' - a project to create a standalone installer CD that was not tied directly to the OS it was installing. The installer was based on Web Start Wizards - the Java-based installation that was developed by the Solaris Installation Team in the late 90's (1997-1999 timeframe). The team was led by Eric Nielsen and included a bunch of really talented engineers (Matt Williamson, James Falkner, Sue Sohn, John Perry, Gary Gere - just to name a few).

Solaris 8 Kiosk

Figure 1: The Solaris 8 Installation Kiosk

As part of the CD0 project and the wizard-based installation, we also built a customized kiosk - based partly on the NetCaster technology mentioned above - that would load during the installation and give the system administrator access to the web and other resources if the network was available, or local content if it was not.

We created this kiosk using Netscape 4 in chromeless mode - with multiple chromeless windows communicating with each other, and a Java applet that was the brain that would communicate with the browser using LiveConnect (the ability for a java applet to communicate directly with javascript), and update the interface dynamically. This gave the kiosk the appearance of a full application instead of a web-based application. This is similar to how "ajax" is done today - minus the applet "brain" that ran the kiosk.

This kiosk and installer was a lot of fun to work on. I loved being able to dig deep into this kind of development. Projects like this one paved the way for future web-based apps that utilized dynamic updates and communication to other resources to feed the GUI - creating a more app-like environment.

Figure 1 shows the Solaris 8 Installation Kiosk that appeared on the screen when the administrator loaded up CD0 to start the installation. Note the wizard panel on the lower right, the applet "brain" to the left (the menu itself housed the KioskControl - or the "brain") which gave all the installation notes and resources for the administrator, and the location bar at the top, which let the administrator reach external sources on the web.

Also note the small purple button below the location bar at the top of the screen. This button was the original way to reach BigAdmin - the 'bigADMIN' bar (lower case 'b' intended - as it was called originally).

As development of the installer and the kiosk progressed, we saw a need to have a central place within for the administrator to place the kiosk on if it had network access.

Based on this idea, the applet "brain" ran a test of the network to see if the user was able to ping, and if so, redirected the content window of the kiosk to point to BigAdmin.

At the time, BigAdmin had hooks into the kiosk, which allowed it to determine which version of the OS was being installed. Based on the installed OS, BigAdmin provided custom messaging and news about the latest release notes, resources, and information about that OS.

Figure 2 shows a shot of the Solaris 8 Installation Kiosk that has been landed on the original BigAdmin.

Figure 2: Solaris 8 Installation Kiosk with BigAdmin

BigAdmin was released to the public along with the Solaris 8 OS FCS - in February, 2000.

BigAdmin was inspired by the Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) of the 1980's - which is where the title 'SysOp' comes from in the MOTD (Message of the Day) component at the top of today's BigAdmin homepage.

Much like the BBS systems did, BigAdmin encourages system administrators to submit their scripts and resources, as well as links to any useful content they found outside of BigAdmin. That wasy, the next sys admin looking for that sort of information would be able to find it. BigAdmin was to be a central repository for all sysadmins.

We introduced the BigAdmin Bucks program around 2001-2002, to reward users for their submissions with points that can be traded in for BigAdmin logo shirts, mugs, hats and more. This is still in effect today at the BigAdmin Bucks Page.

Soon after the initial release, BigAdmin started to become not only the landing place for the Solaris installer, but for System Administration information as a whole for Sun and Solaris users.

The Solaris Installation process that housed the Installation Kiosk as well as BigAdmin remained intact throughout the life of Solaris 8 as well as Solaris 9, but was removed with the new installation processes that were introduced with the release of Solaris 10.

A key part of BigAdmin - the Hardware Compatibility List for Solaris and OpenSolaris has continuously grown, and will soon include listings for Virtualization platforms as well. People who install Solaris and OpenSolaris can now automatically submit system information to the BigAdmin HCL, and add to the amount of systems that can run Solaris.

As BigAdmin continued to grow, more information became housed directly on the site, as opposed to only being links to other resources outside of our domain such as Feature Articles, guest writers, XPert sessions, partnerships with Solaris Documentation, and more.

BigAdmin has now grown to include the BigAdmin Newsletter, the BigAdmin Blog, the BigAdmin Wiki, as well as the BigAdmin Twitter page and the BigAdmin Facebook Fan page.

Robert B. Weeks - June 2009

Tuesday May 26, 2009

Um Pouco de Português em BigAdmin

According to family lore, my great-great-great-great maternal grandfather was Floriano Peixoto. Since my maternal grandmother, Zoila da Souza Peixoto, came to Peru via Iquitos, I suppose it's within the realm of possibility.

I think the dude kinda looks like me, too.

I would really like to verify that claim some day, but the best I can do for now is publish some Portuguese content on BigAdmin:

This tech tip was published by Nuno Rocha on the BigAdmin wiki. It's on the BigAdmin wiki because we haven't yet put up a Portuguese tab on our multilingual hub. It only has seven tabs so far:

As soon as we have a Portuguese tab, we'll link to Nuno Rocha's content, plus any other content in Portuguese you let us know about. Vou te contar sobre isso when it happens.


BigAdmin is your site. We'll publish any good content from Sun that we can get our hands on, but we also love to publish content that you write yourself or link to content that you find somewhere else.


- Rick

Thursday Apr 23, 2009

Who's Your Daddy, Now?

It's going to be interesting to combine a company that knows how to make great products with a company that knows how to make a great deal of money.

While that's going on, the BigAdmin Crew wants you to know that we're going to keep publishing and aggregating great content and resources. We are convinced that the great products coming out of the hands and minds of our feisty engineers are just as important to you as they ever were.

In fact, they may be even more important. If you search BigAdmin today for Oracle content, you'll get 204 hits (carefully go around Angelina's elbow):

Oracle Content On BigAdmin

Once inside the search results page, use the pull-down menu in the light blue box to sort the results into these categories:

To find out what content we'll be adding in the future, subscribe to...

The BigAdmin Newsletter!

It's loaded with how-to content and resources.

Starting in May we're switching to a text-only version to save money. We're trying to get a feel for how that whole profit-loss thing works.

If you prefer to use your RSS reader, check out...

BigAdmin's RSS Feeds!

Tuesday Apr 14, 2009

I Know You Are, But What Am I?

One of the features we've wanted on BigAdmin for a long time is the ability to comment directly on BigAdmin content. Infrastructure limitations, cost, or overhead made it difficult. This drove us half nuts because an awful lot of other sites allowed readers to post comments.

Since an awful lot of the comments were of this nature...

Pee-Wee Herman's Big Adventure
...we weren't too terribly upset.

That didn't stop us from wanting the capability to post comments, though. When Sun launched its wiki, we were able to hack together a comments page there. You could read an article on the BigAdmin hub, and post comments about it on the BigAdmin wiki. But it was kinda like spray painting "Francis is a Big Jerk" on the other side of town.

(No, this is not a picture of Rush Limbaugh as a young man.
I swear!

Well, Robert finally figured out how to hack together a better solution. When you post a comment, it still lives on the wiki, but now it's fed back into the article so that it's visible for everyone to see. For example (scroll to bottom of article):

Patching a Miniroot Image on the Solaris 10 OS for x86 or SPARC Platforms, by Enda O'Connor

Check it out and tell us what you think.

- Rick

Friday Apr 10, 2009

Using Zmanda With Sun Gear?

Thomas Hanvey (Sun Microsystems) and Paddy Sreenivasan (Zmanda) show how to quickly configure and deploy Zmanda Recovery Manager for MySQL, using the Sun Storage J4400 array for disk storage.

The article also explains how to configure a zpool and the ZFS file system. In this scenario, ZRM is running on a Sun Fire X4200 M2 server with the Solaris 10 8/07 OS.

For more tips on using Sun gear with Zmanda products, see these BigAdmin articles by by Thomas Hanvey (Sun Microsystems) and Dmitri Joukovski and Ken Crandall (Zmanda):

- Using Sun Fire X4540 Server With Zmanda Recovery Manager 2.2 for MySQL Database, October 2008
- Sun Storage J4400 Array as Disk Storage for Zmanda's Amanda Enterprise 2.6 Software, October 2008
- Sun Fire X4540 Server as Backup Server for Zmanda's Amanda Enterprise 2.6 Software, September 2008

And don't forget the 2009 MySQL Conference & Expo in Santa Clara, CA (April 20-23, 2009), see

Thursday Apr 02, 2009

How to Greet An Englishman

I do email in Mozilla Thunderbird . Its spellchecker (version is wicked smaht. When I type "BigAdmin" it suggests "goldmine." And we didn't even have to pay for the privilege!

Truth is, it's getting that way. In fact, BigAdmin has so many resources for sysadmins that we've got a bit of a navigation problem.

To help find what you're looking for, we created different "entry points" to the content on BigAdmin. You can get to them from the tabs beside the Message of the Day tab:

They are:

Each tab gives you an easier entry point into its respective content on BigAdmin. It's not a complete solution, but it's a start. Check it out and let me know what you think.

By the way, if you use both Linux and Sun, remember that you can submit your favorite Linux-related links and content to BigAdmin right here:

Submit Link or Content to BigAdmin\\

Just tag it with the right selection and category, then check the "Linux" collection. Our Linux collection is right here:

BigAdmin Linux collection

About the Englishman....I was looking for a cartoon of an Englishman saying "We have a bit of a navigation problem," but I found this picture, instead (from

You gotta love soccer fans.


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