Monday Nov 24, 2008

Good news about a bank

We often teased the shyest member of my family by reminding her of the bad joke about the kid who didn't speak a word until he was eating breakfast on his 7th birthday when he said, "My porridge is cold!" When asked why he never spoke before, he said, "Up until now everything has been alright." This is how I felt about the silence which followed my work on a project which installed and provided support for over 7000 opensource JDS desktops at a bank.1 We called the customer occasionally to see if everything was O.K. We helped them through one upgrade which was necessary because the Linux kernel needed to be upgraded to support modern hardware but didn't have a stable ABI so the entire application stack also had to be upgraded. After the upgrade, one of our customers gave us some upgrades/minute statistics that were well beyond what is possible given network bandwidth limitations so I'll just say that the upgrade went well.

Shortly after the upgrade, we helped solve a peculiar focus bug whose root causes were spread across gtk, Java, Firefox and Star/OpenOffice. But overall things were very quiet. Sun was also quiet about this deployment, first of all because we hadn't yet finalized the disclosure agreement and later because Sun decided to drop our Linux-based desktop product and focus on OpenSolaris. So between our "are you still there?" pings to the customer's 2 person technical support staff, I was left wondering if no news is good news?

Then when I gave my presentation at the Irish Opensource Technology Conference, I noticed that two knowledgeable IT managers from this bank were giving presentations on their opensource desktop (a.k.a. JDS) roll out. I finally had the opportunity to be the "fly on the wall" and hear how things really went. I don't have links to their presentations, but these gentlemen said that the project was a success, that the deployment saved money and IT support costs compared to traditional Microsoft Windows based desktop solutions. They said the project completed ahead of schedule and under budget and that they were telling other banks the secrets of their success. I don't know if the other banks were paying attention to the potential savings in deploying opensource alternatives back when easy money was still flowing, but I would think they should take a hard look at such cost-effective alternatives now. In any case, it seems likely that the number of successful cost-saving "invisible" opensource deployments is understated.

"The art and science of interface design depends largely on making the transaction with the computer as transparent as possible in order to minimize the burden on the user" -- S. Joy Mountford

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic!"
-- Arthur C. Clarke.


1 The deployment was of Sun's linux based "Java Desktop System." If we were to do it now, the obvious choices in Sun's product portfolio would be Solaris 10 or OpenSolaris. Since the customer's network is now fast enough to support Sun Ray over WAN, we could potentially save them another $500,000 in annual electricity costs by deploying their desktop via Sun Ray clients instead of X86 PCs.

Thursday Apr 03, 2008

Published OpenSolaris desktop FAQ

I gathered questions and answers from the OpenSolaris desktop mailing list, other forums and other places and people and published the first version of an OpenSolaris Nevada Desktop FAQ here:

http://www.genunix.org/wiki/index.php/Desktop_FAQ_for_Solaris_Nevada_(JDS)

This FAQ is focused on the GNOME and other desktop components which are available in recent Solaris Nevada distributions. Though it should be noted that "Indiana" shares most of these components. I would appreciate any help in keeping the document accurate, up to date and complete. Once the default desktops on other distributions become as well defined and well used, I plan to publish additional FAQs. I also hope to move the document onto an opensolaris hosted twiki once such a twiki goes online. Thanks to everyone who contributed questions and answers!

Monday Mar 19, 2007

About those SunLive07 Tech Days London public access terminals

For anyone who attended the SunLive07 Tech Days conference in London and attended talks and demos of Looking Glass, Wonderland and other cool new technology, you might have been disappointed in the look and feel and performance of the public access terminals upstairs. I can only say that the kiosk mode CDE running on what appeared to be an old version of Solaris with an old version of Sun Ray server does not look or perform nearly as well as anything beyond Solaris 10 with SRSS 3.0+. Here in Ireland I get about 1 Megabit broadband only when there is a tailwind. Yet the GNOME based JDS desktop in Solaris 10 or any recent Nevada build looks and works fine on a Sun Ray at my home. Some long time Solaris advocates perfer CDE on Solaris 8, but I'd put it in the same category as orange T-shirts. It would be really cool to have trusted JDS running on the public terminals. It's one of those technologies (like dtrace, ZFS...) that doesn't make for a flashy passive demo but once you've used it, you get it!
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