Monday Jun 07, 2010

Solaris 10 System Administration Essentials

Find out more at The OTN Garage Blog

- Rick

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

Wednesday Apr 07, 2010

Where'd the Solaris 10 Applications Library Go?

BigAdmin's Solaris 10 Applications Library, which used to let you search through Sun's partner database to find the applications that ran on Solaris 10, will not make the transition to the Oracle Technology Network. As of today, April 7, it is no longer available.

From today forward, to find out which applications run on Solaris 10, use Oracle's Partner Solutions Catalog:

Oracle Partner Network Solutions Catalog

It works a bit differently than BigAdmin's Library, but you can rely on it to be available for a very long time.

To find out more about the artist who drew our charming librarian, go to the Strangers In Paradise Website

- Rick

Tuesday Mar 30, 2010

How to Optimize Oracle Solaris Applications for Intel Platforms

Back in the day Sun was all about SunOS on SPARC.


The OS was optimized for the hardware and the hardware was designed to take advantage of the OS. If you wanted something else, you went somewhere else.

After a stuttering start, things changed, and the partnership between Intel and Solaris has been riding the updrafts for several years, now.

Here's the latest...

How to Optimize Oracle Solaris Applications for Intel Platforms

by Mike Mulkey

A technical guide for developers and sysadmins that explains how to use the capabilities of Solaris to optimize the scalability, performance, reliability, security, power efficiency, and virtualization of applications running on Intel's Xeon processor family (5600 and 7500 series).

A lot of work went into this paper, and it shows. It takes each major Solaris capability and describes how it has been optimized. For example ...

  • How Solaris enhances Intel multicore processor capabilities—up to 8 processor sockets, each with up to 8 cores and 2 threads per core—as well as Intel Hyper-Threading, QuickPath, and Turbo Boost technologies.
  • How Solaris Fault Management Architecture (FMA) integrates with the Intel Machine Check Architecture (MCA) Recovery features, enabling systems to automatically monitor, report, and recover from hardware errors to maintain data integrity and keep missioncritical applications and services online.
  • How Solaris takes advantage of the dynamic power management capabilities of the Intel processors.
  • How Solaris takes advantage of the latest Intel Virtualization Technology (Intel VT) features and enables the highest consolidation ratios.


  1. Introduction
    • The Oracle Solaris Ecosystem
    • Intel Xeon Processor 5600 and 7500 series
    • Oracle Integration
  2. Intelligent Performance
    • Memory Placement Optimization (MPO)
    • Intel Turbo Boost
  3. Automated Energy Efficiency
    • Power Aware Dispatcher
    • PowerTOP
    • Power Budgets and Power Capping
    • Always Running APIC Timer
  4. Reliability
    • Oracle Solaris FMA for Intel Xeon Processors
  5. Security
  6. Oracle Virtualization
    • Intel Virtualization Technology (Intel VT)
    • Oracle Solaris Virtualization Capabilities
    • Oracle VM VirtualBox
  7. Developer Tools Optimizations
  8. Oracle Solaris Studio
  9. Conclusion
  10. Resources
  11. Appendices

It's a great read.

- 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

Wednesday Mar 17, 2010

A Gentle Note to Annoying Spammers

First, something useful...we have published two new tech tips submitted by the community (affectionately known as "Commie Tech Tips"):

Tech Tip #1: Upgrading NetApp DFM to Run on Solaris 10

If you're running NetApp's DataFabric Manager (DFM) 3.2R1, you probably know that in spite of having a version number almost as cool as a Porsche's, it does not run on Solaris 10.

If you'd like to run NetApp's DFM on Solaris 10, you'll need version 3.7.1. (Not as cool as a Porsche.) This article by Balasubramanian C explains how to upgrade from version 3.2R1 to 3.71, using Live Upgrade.

Photo courtesy of

(That's the Porsche 918 Spyder Concept, by the way.)

Tech Tip #2: How to Avoid Patch Problems When Moving a Local Zone

This tech tip by Victor Feng describes how to avoid problems with incompatible patch levels when moving a local zone from one host to another.

More info about Solaris zones and containers in BigAdmin's Zones and Containers hub.

A Gentle Note to Annoying Spammers

You know who you are.

Do you really think that BigAdmin is interested in posting your ads for cheap drugs, the latest gossip about Tiger Woods, and steroids to grow different parts of my anatomy?

Do your homework, you marketing genius, you.

If you're too lazy to do your homework, then go ahead and continue to fill in those BigAdmin forms with all your drivel. You know how many mouse clicks it takes me to delete all that stuff you just filled in? Two: one to delete, and one to confirm.

And I enjoy it. I actually look forward to that moment in my day when I can stop what I'm doing, turn on Tchaikovski's 1812 Overture, and enjoy the music. I put my feet up, close my eyes, and when that glorious finale arrives, I happily plink away at the Delete button.

You? You just suck.

- Rick

Thursday Mar 11, 2010

Master Your Sysadmin One-Liners

For those too young to remember him, Bob Hope was America's favorite comic during the more innocent time in America's history when you couldn't include profanity in the jokes you delivered over the airwaves.

He was particularly popular with US troops stationed overseas or in remote bases.

upon being introduced to a group of amputees...
"Please don't stand up on my account."

At least he could still be politically incorrect.

Thanks to Maxime Corbeau, who sent us the link below, you can be master of your own one-liners.

Photo courtesy of

One-Line Sysadmin Commands at

From their website:

"Welcome to, the one-liner specialist.

You will find here plenty of one-liner commands that we hope will be useful to you. We currently have one-liners for various utilities such as openssl, grep, sed, tcpdump, ssldump and more. We'll try to add more in the future. The website has been designed to make reading one-liners easier for you."

Thanks, Maxime, for sharing the link with us.

BigAdmin's ShellMe Section

You can also find a large repository of both Solaris and Linux sysadmin commands in BigAdmin's ShellMe Section. It includes both collections of commands and individual command sequences for topics such as:

  • Debugging
  • Disk Commands
  • Driver Parameters
  • Filesystems
  • Hardware
  • Networking
  • Process management
  • Search
  • and much more...

Submit Your Command (or Link) to BigAdmin!

If you have a favorite command sequence, tell us about it and we'll add it to the list.

If you'd like to read more of Bob Hope's innocent one-liners, you can find them at I got a special kick out of this one:

"A bank is a place that will lend you money if you can prove that you don't need it."
Bob Hope's one-liners won't give you the gut-busting laughs that some of today's comics will give you, but they'll take you back to another time.

- 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

Monday Feb 22, 2010

What's New In Oracle Solaris Development Tools

Why don't YOU tell US?.

Tell us what capabilities you'd like our future code analysis tools to have in the areas of:

  • Implementation
  • Integration
  • Testing and Debugging
  • Maintenance
  • Predicting the stock market

In particular, we would like to know your preferences for static and dynamic code analysis capabilities, plus user interface features.

Take the Survey

This survey is actually pretty specific. If you're an Oracle Solaris developer or you set up the development environments for Solaris developers, it should take you 5 minutes to complete.

If you spend most of your time BASE jumping into bottomless pits, it might take you longer.

For more information about Oracle Solaris Studio and Sun's C, C++, and Fortran development tools, go to:

Solaris Studio Page

- 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

Wednesday Jan 27, 2010

The Nation of Burundi Approves Oracle-Sun Deal

The people of Burundi have overwhelmingly approved the Oracle-Sun deal.

"We approved the deal because we think BigAdmin's Device Detection Tool is very nice. We use it always."

"And also because the name Solaris is very pretty. In the Batwa language it means 'capacious jug.'"

The men of Burundi agreed.

"We invite all the people of the nation of Oracle to come and play the Burundi drum!"

"They make Version 2.3 of the Device Detection Tool excellent! It now supports new platforms including SPARC Solaris, Windows 7, Windows Server 2008, and FreeBSD 6.0, 6.4, 7., 7.1 and 7.2. And it collects more system configuration information!"

"This gives us more time to beat the Burundi drum."

"And drink Burundi beer!"

When asked if they knew how to find the improved Device Detection Tool they said "Who doesn't! It's part of the BigAdmin HCL!"

To commemorate the event, the nation of Burundi has declared a national holiday.

"For our great friends, the people of Oracle and Sun!"

- Rick

Thursday Jan 14, 2010

My New Video Game Racing Seat

This blog is about a new Sun BluePrint, Best Practices For Moving to the Solaris 10 Operating System. If you want to be that way, you can skip straight to the BluePrint.

And not read the part about the wicked cool video game racing seat.

And the Ferraris.

(Read a review of this racing seat at

OK, so the racing chair is not mine yet, but I have my eye on it.

I need it so I can beat my 17-year old daughter at Need for Speed.

When we first started playing, we were using this kind of controller:

She kicked my ass.

So I bought this steering wheel:

It came with brake and throttle pedals. I also bought a TV dinner table (remember those?) and mounted the wheel on it. Now we're pretty much even.

But the TV-table/steering wheel combo still wobbles, and Need for Speed requires precise steering. Or you go off the road at 150 mph. Or smack into a pile of tires because some dirty bastard coming up from behind spun you. Stuck inside a pile of tires and road debris, you get to listen to the spectators jeer while you while you try to find Reverse with the stupid paddle shifters.

Unfortunately, the only steering wheel I could afford comes with paddle shifters. I hate paddle shifters. Paddle shifters are for posers. Unless you actually race your Ferrari. If you don't race your Ferrari and it has a paddle shifter, guess what? You're a poser.

That's right, a Poser.

Poser, poser, poser.

OK, if you eat a lot of smelly cheese, the correct term is poseur. If you'd like a real definition of poseur, go to this site, but be advised that its content may be considered offensive by people who take offense at things:

Urban Dictionary's definition of "poseur".

Poseur, poseur, poseur.

I'd much rather continue talking about video games and the fascinating definitions in Urban Dictionary, but I have a job to do. So I'm gonna tell you about this new BluePrint written by the fine folks in Sun's BluePrints organization. It's called...

Best Practices For Moving to the Solaris 10 Operating System

Sun wants you to read the BluePrint in case you are:

  1. Thinking about upgrading to Solaris 10, but
  2. Aren't exactly sure what's involved in the upgrade process

The BluePrint covers....

  • Why upgrading to Solaris 10 makes fiscal sense in this economy (it's not about the cool features)
  • How to plan your upgrade so you get the benefits you want
  • How to implement your plan so you get the results you intended
  • The tangible benefits you get from Solaris 10 (resource utilization, performance, availability, etc.)

What makes Sun BluePrints so good is that they're written by experts in the field under the guidance of Kemer Thomson, who has been running Sun's BluePrint program since back in 01. That's almost in the other millennium. (I bet I can kick his ass in Need for Speed.)

Check it out. (While you're at it, also see the Solaris 10 Upgrade Resources for System Administrators.)

And tell me where to find that racing seat for cheap. I want enough money left over to buy the helmet. Swear to God I'll wear it around the house.

- Rick

(Photo courtesy of

Thursday Oct 29, 2009

Don't Wind Up Looking Like This

It really sucks when you screw up in a public way. Private screwups? No big deal. Public screwups? Thanks to IM, cell phone cameras, texting, Facebook, and other marvels of modern communication, those who screw up in public get skewered in public.

Frustrate the sadist bastards with a little education:

Attend the 2009 LISA Conference in Baltimore Next Week

While you're there, check out the Solaris Security Summit. It might keep you from making an unfortunate decision or two.

The good folks from Solaris Marketing put together this Solaris LISA page to highlight the Solaris-related activities at LISA.

Don't forget to drop by the Solaris booth. We'll have live demos of cool Solaris technologies plus BigAdmin on its very own computer. If you have any questions about where the juciest Solaris 10 content is on BigAdmin, drop by and ask me. Or drop by the BoF on Tuesday night (details on the Solaris LISA page).

If you're really, really, really not sure whether you should spend the money to go to LISA in this economy, mull it over while you watch The Hula Dance from The Lion King in a bunch of different languages.

- Rick

Tuesday Oct 20, 2009

Are you bored with the BigAdmin HCL?

Are you bored with the HCL? No longer impressed with the 1277 systems (as in servers, desktops, laptops, and motherboards from Sun and OEM vendors) and nearly 1700 components that run Solaris 10?

Can you barely muster the enthusiasm to raise an eyebrow at the more than 6000 systems and components that run OpenSolaris?

Never fear. We've just added about a hundred (that's 097 for you guys in the camo fatigues) entries for virtualization platforms that run Solaris 10 or OpenSolaris:

Virtualization Platforms That Run Solaris

The virtualization HCL has tabs for:

You can sort the contents of every tab by:

Pretty cool, huh? Now you can go back to being your regular old exuberant sysadmin self.

- Rick

Tuesday Sep 29, 2009

What Have Sun and Intel Been Up To?


Intel has been developing hardware that takes advantage of the capabilities of Solaris, and Solaris has been optimizing its features to run on Intel platforms. Specifically, on the next-generation Intel Xeon processor.

Why should a sysadmin care? Because the capabilities that resulted from this collaboration will let you do get more work out of fewer resources while increasing reliability and saving energy.


  • Performance: the combination of Intel's Hyper-Threading Technology and the Solaris multi-threading capabilities work together to increase the performance of multi-threaded workloads while reducing power consumption.
  • Reliability: Intel's Machine Architecture Recovery feature works with the Solaris Fault Manager to detect memory and cache errors and correct them before they cause a fault.
  • Power Efficiency: Intel's Intelligent Power Technology allows system administrators to set policies for the optimal mix of processing power and energy use, or Solaris to optimize it automatically.
  • Flexible Virtualization: the OpenSolaris xVM hypervisor supports the virtualization capabilities of Intel's next generation Xeon processor, including network virtualization.

Details here:

- Rick

Thursday Sep 17, 2009

Did Elvis Write Solaris?

I saw this picture and it set me to wondering....

Now, I'm not gullible enough to believe every picture I find on the web. After all, there are plenty of artists sufficiently skilled in Photoshop to fool even the most discerning skeptic. I would need independent verification, I decided. So I went to my usual sources. The best I know.

image courtesy of

First, I went looking for a Minnesotan. I found Paul Kasper. Paul writes the Information Center for the SunRay Software. I'm pretty sure he's a Minnesotan, though he may be from WisCOLDsin, instead. I get the two confused. In any case, I can always rely on his common sense.

Rick: Did Elvis Write Solaris?
Paul: Wasn't he supposed to be dead?

Since that conversation didn't yield any useful results, I went to my second source, my 16-year old daughter. I can always rely on her sincerity.

Rick: Did Elvis write Solaris?
Beth: Well, if she was his girlfriend, then I certainly hope so. Because boys never write girls any more. It would be very sweet to receive a letter from a boy. As long as I liked him. But not if I didn't like him. Because that would be awkward.

I thanked her for sharing her opinion with me and walked outside, where I was met by my trusted advisor, my hyperactive boxer Buster. Since Buster doesn't actually speak English, I had to get forehead-to-forehead with him and use Canine Telepathy.

Rick: Did Elvis Write Solaris?

It was clear that I needed to expand my search. So I started digging around. Everywhere. And guess what I found? I found out that despite the best efforts of the name police, Solaris is often referred to by its unofficial names. For example:

Solaris 10 10/08 is often referred to as Solaris 10 update 7
Solaris 9 9/02 is often referred to as Solaris 9 update 1

That can make it pretty tough to communicate, ya know? In fact, John Petersen, a BigAdmin reader, asked us if we could do something to help. Well, thanks again to Bruce Hill, we have a little cheat sheet for you.

BigAdmin's Guide to Unofficial Solaris Names

It lists all the official names of Solaris and the vernacular by which they are sometimes referred to (tsk tsk). If you're not feeling moved to click on the big letters up above, you can get to it by clicking on the little letters below:

BigAdmin's Guide to Unofficial Solaris Names

Wella wella wella, as for signs of Elvis, like a lot of other people, I'm still looking. While you're waiting, you can listen to some of his music on

- Rick

Friday Sep 11, 2009

Stacks and Stacks of Software Stacks

Do you have to climb Las Torres Del Paine in oven mitts and Florsheim dress shoes with the shoelaces missing just so you can find out which version of which firmware goes with which version of Solaris on whichever dang version of the SPARC server your boss wants to buy?

Photo courtesy of Live for the Outdoors

Not any more!

Bruce Hill and Robert Weeks have teamed up to bring you the BigAdmin Software Stacks Page. It's a list of Sun's SPARC systems and the software stacks supported on each one. We've just started the list, so there will be updates to it every week until we have them all.

Let Us Know What You Think!

It's been a bit tricky to summarize this info without making it too complicated or too simplistic or too difficult to keep current, so please, please, POR FAVOR! let us know what you think and what we can do to make the content more useful to you.

Notice how Torres del Paine contains the word pain? Those Chilenos, my paisanos, are clever dudes.

- Rick (Ricardo)

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

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!

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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