Be careful what you ask for...

Earlier, I lamented the fact that a press roundtable on three key technology areas in Solaris 10 (DTrace, Zones and ZFS) had yielded only stories about open source -- a topic which we explicitly didn't talk about. Fortunately, there is now a new story by one of attendees of the roundtable that focuses on the three technology areas.

And even better, the larger points about DTrace are certainly correct, e.g.:
DTrace, which uses more than 30,000 data monitoring points in the kernel alone, lets administrators see their entire system in a new way, revealing systemic problems that were previously invisible and fixing performance issues that used to go unresolved.
And the example that the article is trying to cite has an absolute basis in fact -- it's discussed in depth in Section 9 of our upcoming USENIX paper. But that said, the details of the specific example are incredibly wrong. (So wrong, in fact, that they're just odd; what does "a wild-card desktop applet that had somehow gotten channeled into the central system" even mean?) Perhaps the terms used are so opaque that readers will come away confused, but with the right overall impression -- but given that readers at LWN.net went so far as to accuse me of being a pointy-haired boss based on the C++ misquote, I can only imagine what I'll be accused of being now...
Comments:

That article was so off base that I hope the author is sorry he wrote it so soon. Its clear that 30 minutes prior to writting the article he had no knowlage of Solaris10. Of all the hillarity in that article, I thought the Zones description took the cake: "sysadmins can partition disks so precisely that each user [yoink] appears to have his or her own operating system on the desktop." So Zoning is really a disk partitioning act? And wtf does it have to do with the desktop (directly)? I'm hoping that with Zones the whole comparision to Jails jsut goes away completely since it's pretty misleading. Thankfully DTrace doesn't have an open source brother be compared with endlessly.

Posted by benr on June 18, 2004 at 06:35 PM PDT #

On the one hand, I'm sympathetic -- it must be very difficult for essentially non-technical people to write about these deeply technical subjects. On the other hand, what ever happened to fact-checking? The line that you quote is indeed pretty amusing/depressing -- I'm sure someone somewhere is now dismissing Zones as a "glorified VTOC." Sigh...

Posted by Bryan Cantrill on June 19, 2004 at 03:41 AM PDT #

Yes, but have you ever kissed a girl?

Posted by Anonymous on June 19, 2004 at 02:02 PM PDT #

I find the question rather pertinent. Oh, and your own mother and aunts don't count as "girls".

Posted by Anonymous on June 19, 2004 at 02:04 PM PDT #

Bryan: I rechecked my notes, and I may have misinterpreted some of what you told us, but I distinctly heard you describe a desktop applet that was creating and destroying Pixmaps, and thus getting into the system and slowing it down. I have recast that paragraph, using as a base the description of the problem in the whitepaper -- which I didn't have when I wrote the first version of the story.

I apologize for the miscommunication; however, you must admit: You do speak quickly, and that can be tough for people like me trying to take good notes.

;-)

/cp

Posted by Chris Preimesberger, OSDN on June 19, 2004 at 03:07 PM PDT #

Bryan: I rechecked my notes, and I may have misinterpreted some of what you told us, but I distinctly heard you describe a desktop applet that was creating and destroying Pixmaps, and thus getting into the system and slowing it down. I have recast that paragraph, using as a base the description of the problem in the whitepaper -- which I didn't have when I wrote the first version of the story.

I apologize for the miscommunication; however, you must admit: You do speak quickly, and that can be tough for people like me trying to take good notes.

;-)

/cp

Posted by Chris Preimesberger, OSDN on June 19, 2004 at 03:16 PM PDT #

Oh, and benr, I don't remember you being in the room at the time of the interview. The article is not off base. True, I am not a Solaris programmer. But I know how to gather information and present it. If some of the message is not getting delivered properly to media professionals, then let's look at the source of the information first. Sun has had this problem for a long time; this is nothing new.

Posted by Chris Preimesberger on June 19, 2004 at 03:21 PM PDT #

I didn't expect the author to poke in, thats kool that your following up. I don't mean to insult you Chris, but I find the topic of Zones particularly important to convey properly because (as we've seen on OSNews, /., etc) Linux/BSD folk immedately dismiss it as being a Jails/UML/VServers/Xen/VMWare(gulp!) clone which couldn't be further from the mark. It's difficult for many Free Software persons (of which I am myself) to accept true invovation from a "stuffy" corp. However, I will completely and totally disagree with you on Sun's lack of communication. While I think Sun leaves some important technical details out (eg: controller initialization order) the are really pretty good at getting the goods out there, and they are getting much much better all the time (ie: Zones/DTrace/PSH forums and papers pre-release). Solaris Express is itself a form of communiation, you don't just get a paper about features pre-release, you actually get them to use! And the manauls aren't being written by some TechPubs writter who doesn't use the technology, it's being written BY the develoeprs themselves. Read the DTrace manual, it's technically engaging and furthermore a fun read. But I will freely admit, Chris, as a writter (amateur, as my spelling suggests) myself I've made my share of technical oversights and mis-statements, which has seriously slapped me in the ass, so I have absolutely no room to judge. And yes, Brian does talk quickly, which I love because he's generally so excited about his baby, which translates into excitement in the userbase. It's awsome. :)

Posted by benr on June 19, 2004 at 05:26 PM PDT #

Chris, Hope you didn't take any offense -- your article was largely correct, after all. I do speak absurdly quickly (this has always been a problem), and I can only sympathize with anyone attempting to hold on for the ride. ;) That said, you surely understand my position: when technical details get misrepresented, readers (naturally) assume the technology is a crock. Thanks very much for correcting the story; I'll add a new blog entry to point that out to others who might not read the comments...

Posted by Bryan Cantrill on June 20, 2004 at 04:27 AM PDT #

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