Monday Oct 13, 2008

2 PCs/day stolen in Racine schools, why not try Sun Ray?

Sad, school has only been in session a month and already 68 computers (enough for two or three classrooms) are gone... Educational PCs tend to be underutilized for a couple of years and just when teachers begin to understand how to integrate them into their curriculum, some local politician will push an agenda "IF only we used PC instead of Mac, Windows 98 instead of Windows 95, Apple IIe, Apple instead of Atari... then Johnny would be able to read!" I've heard of brand new computers sit in boxes for two years, becoming completely obsolete before they are ever used. It's possible that the excellent Apple audio/video capabilities which made these computers so attractive to thieves hadn't been used in the classroom yet. Some of these computers were purchased under a grant for the purposes of exam administration. I happen to know that the deployment/upgrade system was really well designed (by my brother ;-) and similar to a system I helped put together for an Irish bank. But Sun Rays might have been better for some of these purpose and would free up the Apples for the multimedia functions they excel at. Sun Rays have a much longer "shelf-life" than a typical P.C. or Mac. The first ones made in the late 1990s would be able to administer exams and display XP, Vista, Linux, Solaris applications just as well as the brand new ones. Upgrades would be system-wide and nearly instantaneous. Bad or stolen hardware could be swapped out by the teacher and ready to use in less than 5 minutes. The fact that Sun Rays are useless without a server should make them less likely to be stolen... [Read More]

Monday Aug 11, 2008

Angry about your personal data being "lost" to criminals? Tell someone about Sun Ray!

Another day, another laptop stolen, another 106,000 personal bank account details release to a criminal via theft of a laptop. Sigh. The first time a businessman offered to enter credit my card details into his laptop in the parking lot of his company, I cringed and my wife (who was then a loan officer) sternly reminded him of the dangers of identity theft. A few years later I learned that the blood clinic where I donated lost records on an unencrypted laptop, and now an Irish government laptop containing thousands of personal records went missing. I'm beginning to lose my patience about the lack over government and business stewardship of personal details. It's even more frustrating working for Sun and knowing that if the SunRay/Gobi laptop or any of the Sun Ray clients in our office were ever stolen, the criminal would get nothing, zip, zero, nada.

[Read More]

Wednesday Mar 19, 2008

Gobi Sun Ray client laptop and kids

At the moment, my daughter is quietly playing a playhouse Disney game on a (quiet, diskless and cool!) Accutech Gobi laptop.

Under Construction

This Gobi 7 is an early evaluation model and is not without its kinks. I've been trying to configure as an alternate Sun Ray client for work. After reading Dan Lacher's blog some documents and a few helpful emails, I still didn't have any luck getting the Gobi go connect via VPN through my router to Sun's servers. So I thought I'd try connecting to a Sun Ray server on a local network. As this is a holiday weekend and I didn't plan to go into work, I needed to configure a Sun Ray server at home.

Don't try this at home

O.K. do try this at home, but try to find a better computer. Alternative hobbies, the cost of everything in Ireland, kids and other priorities turned me into a late adopter of home technology. Our best home computer is still an 8-year old Apple G3 Powerbook which was a hand-me-down from my brother who is a video and 3D animation artist. Our only desktop PC is an EOL'd Dell GX110 with 512Mb of RAM. I had previously installed Solaris Nevada Build 50 on this in order to play with ZFS and provide temporary storage for some iMovies and photos. Also if anyone breaks into the house, the last thing they'll want to haul out is this heavy piece of scrap. I hadn't upgraded because the installer for S10U4 and many of the newer Nevada builds gave up at the pitiful amount of memory. Fortunately, SXDE 09/07 was slightly more compassionate, and I was able to run a text install. After the fresh install (being careful to preserve my video and photo slices), it was simply a matter of:

 zpool import bigdrive
 zpool import exporthome 

This imported and created permanent mounts for my iMovies and photos on /export/home and /bigdrive. Cool!

O.K. SXDE 09/07 installed, but can I put SRSS on this? I won't know if I don't try. I downloaded SRSS 4.0 for Solaris and ran

utinstall
. I had chosen the end user install cluster so it turned out I had to manually install some dhcp packages. Then:

/opt/SUNWut/sbin/utconfig  {answer a bunch of questions}  I defaulted everything except enabling a dhcp server and web admin.
/opt/SUNWut/sbin/utadm -c
/opt/SUNWut/sbin/utadm -A 192.168.1.0   (My LAN network address)
/opt/SUNWut/sbin/utadm -L on
/opt/SUNWut/sbin/utadm -n
/opt/SUNWut/sbin/utrestart

Next I enter my wifi parameters into the Gobi laptop, tell it to use DHCP and for some reason I don't understand, don't tell it the IP address of the Sun Ray server (it figures it out). There it is, the dtlogin prompt! I login, browse to Playhouse Disney to test the ability to run flash games. Hmm, it looks a bit jumpy as I would expect. A 600Mhz 512MB PC running SRSS 4 on an unsupported Nevada build delivered via a 54MBps Wifi connection to a thin-client laptop. Do you see what I mean by "don't try this at home?"

I go back to the Wired VPN Sun Ray terminal to try to read email suggestions about my Gobi VPN problem. When turn around my 4-year-old is playing flash games on the Gobi. She has no idea this isn't a real laptop nor does she care that the PC it is displaying is hopelessly underpowered. In case you haven't guessed, Nintendo/Playstation and other hot and powerful video game boxes haven't yet entered our humble home. That might have set her expectations a bit high. We do give her toys though. And not just sock puppets and cattail dolls. Now that we've proven there is nothing wrong with Gobi's local connectivity, I'll have to pry it away from her so I can figure out how to connect the Gobi via VPN. But that's a story for another day.

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