Tuesday Mar 24, 2009

OpenSolaris Governing Board, Acrobatics

The results are in; the OpenSolaris community has a new Governing Board. However, the proposed new constitution failed to gain sufficient support for approval.

Have to say I was slightly surprised (and, to be honest, a little disappointed) to see that only two non-Sun folks were voted in this time around (especially as one of those is a former Sun folk), but I have no doubt they'll do a fine job... starting, I expect, by revisiting that constitution issue.

In other news, the long hiatus between releases of Adobe Reader for [Open]Solaris x86 is over... grab Reader 9.1 now on Adobe's download page. Very fine though Evince is at handling the majority of PDF-reading tasks, some jobs still just require the proprietary Real Thing...and however one might feel about that, it's great that Solaris and OpenSolaris are now sufficiently (re-)established on x86 that Adobe are offering that option once again.

Monday Feb 23, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mum

Hope you're enjoying a wee advocaat and lemonade with your mum and dad :)

Tuesday Feb 03, 2009

Twitter Bowl

Some nice Twitter visualisation from the NY Times. (Although the score doesn't seem to update as it ought to, in Firefox at least.)

Tuesday Jan 20, 2009

Star Wars retold...

This is better than at least four of the actual movies...

Monday Jan 12, 2009

Different day, same Places

A couple of years ago, I bemoaned the inconsistency of our presentation of bookmarks and places.

Last week I had cause to revisit the issue (for much the same reason as before—updating the OpenSolaris UI spec), hoping that things would have improved and I wouldn't have to suggest too many tweaks to the OpenSolaris layout to keep things nice and consistent.

Unfortunately, it doesn't look like much has changed though, really, which is kind of disappointing. (Especially as seeing this bug marked as resolved had built up my hopes a little...)

Caveat: as in my original post, the latest release of Ubuntu (8.10, GNOME 2.24.1) was the closest I had to a community build when I was doing the comparison. So things may really be a little better or worse than they appear here, or may have been fixed in 2.25/2.26.

So I hacked up a quick diagram showing all the menus and sidebars where bookmarks and places appear, and aligned them on the "Home Folder" entry since that was about the only one that was consistently placed. Here's what I came up with:

Side-by-side comparison of bookmarks/places in Ubuntu 8.10

The plusses:

  • The two Places menus on the panel (one in the menubar applet, one in the main menu applet) are now identical, at least in Ubuntu. This is good to see, although most users won't see both at the same time anyway.
  • The Go and Places menus in Nautilus (browser mode and spatial mode respectively) are pretty consistent with each other too.

The minuses:

  • Inconsistent appearance/placement of mounted media, Computer, Desktop, Templates, File System, and CD/DVD Creator between sidebars and menus.

Of course, it would be wrong to complain without offering any proposals, and I'll get to that—just haven't got time today. The current draft of the OpenSolaris 2009.04 UI spec does include my first quick attempt, but that's currently based more on "least amount of work to fix" rather than "what might be most useful"... and we all know that's not really the way to do it, right kids? :)

Wednesday Dec 17, 2008

VirtualBox 2.1.0

Sun released VirtualBox 2.1.0 today. In addition to bugfixes, new features include:

  • Support for hardware virtualization (VT-x and AMD-V) on Mac OS X hosts
  • Support for 64-bit guests on 32-bit host operating systems (experimental; see user manual, chapter 1.6, 64-bit guests, page 16)
  • Added support for Intel Nehalem virtualization enhancements (EPT and VPID; see user manual, chapter 1.2, Software vs. hardware virtualization (VT-x and AMD-V), page 10))
  • Experimental 3D acceleration via OpenGL (see user manual, chapter 4.8, Hardware 3D acceleration (OpenGL), page 66)
  • Experimental LsiLogic and BusLogic SCSI controllers (see user manual, chapter 5.1, Hard disk controllers: IDE, SATA (AHCI), SCSI, page 70)
  • Full VMDK/VHD support including snapshots (see user manual, chapter 5.2, Disk image files (VDI, VMDK, VHD), page 72)
  • New NAT engine with significantly better performance, reliability and ICMP echo (ping) support (bugs #1046, #2438, #2223, #1247)
  • New Host Interface Networking implementations for Windows and Linux hosts with easier setup (replaces TUN/TAP on Linux and manual bridging on Windows)

Downloads for Solaris, OpenSolaris, Linux, OS X and Windows are available here.

Monday Dec 15, 2008


Every day on my drive into work, I arrive at this junction near the office, and sit in the filter lane at the lights, needing to turn right.

The sequence of the lights varies depending on the time of day, but there's generally a cycle where the straight-ahead filter is green, and the right-turn filter is red. (Sometimes, when the right-turn filter is red, the pedestrian light is also green, but only if a pedestrian pressed the button.)

At least once a week, when the straight-ahead filter is green, but the right-turn filter is red, some cretin (usually a lorry driver) will honk his horn at me if there's a gap in the oncoming traffic, until the right-turn filter comes on and I move off. (Today it was a lorry driver and a Nissan Micra full of Dublin's finest.)

If I'm particularly lucky, they'll then follow me down that road to the lights at the Business Park, where I need to make a left turn. At those lights, there's a similar sort of setup with a straight-ahead filter and a left-filter. But there's no dedicated filter lane at this one, so the left lane is for both left-turning and straight ahead traffic. Of course, when the straight-ahead filter is green, and the left-turn filter is red, that gives them another chance to honk their horns, if they were too thick to realise that I was indicating to turn left and they probably ought to have moved out into the right lane as we approached the lights so they wouldn't have to wait.

It does my head in. That is all.

Wednesday Dec 10, 2008

OpenSolaris 2008.11

Sun are officially launching OpenSolaris 2008.11 today... although as the name suggests, it was pretty much ready to go at the end of last month, and those in the know have been able to download it from both the community website and the distro website since then :) Join us at 1700 UTC today for a web chat with some of the people involved.

Glynn has written up a good summary of new features, which include GNOME 2.24, ZFS Time Slider, accessible install, and big improvements to plug'n'play printer support, automatic network configuration, and laptop suspend/resume. The number of additional packages available in the repositories has greatly improved since the 2008.05 release, and we now have various repos and a new process that will make contributing packages easier than ever.

Roman Strobl has produced a 12 minute screencast to show off some of the new bits, and Erwann Chénedé has a shorter one that focuses exclusively on Time Slider, which seems to have been generating a lot of interest.

Of course, 2008.11 still has all the usual Solaris goodness like ZFS, Zones and Dtrace built-in, with the Solaris Trusted Extensions now just a click away too, giving you access to one of the most secure desktops on the planet\*.

So why not give the LiveCD a spin? You can grab it via BitTorrent, or download the ISO directly from Sun (or alternatively, from the genunix mirror, or via FTP from LTH in Sweden).

\* Probably :) (OpenSolaris Trusted Extensions hasn't received Common Criteria Certfication yet, but the Solaris 10 version was most recently certified at EAL 4+. More information here.)

Sunday Nov 30, 2008


...to everyone who chipped in to the retiring offering at my mum's thanksgiving service. Turns out we raised £750 for the Beatson Oncology Centre in Glasgow, which I know will be put to good use.

Meanwhile, I'm back to work tomorrow. I promise I'll try to catch up as quickly as I can... probably just about in time to fall behind again over my Christmas break :)

Tuesday Nov 25, 2008


As some of you may know, my mum, Janice, sadly died on November 13th. This is one of the last pictures of us together (along with my dad!), from Christmas Day 2007, which my parents spent with Julie and me here in Dublin.

Mum had been battling cancer since 2003, and although we knew it wasn't curable, her regular chemotherapy cycles (at the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre in Glasgow, who were fantastic) seemed to be keeping things more or less in check. So to lose her just a couple of hours after being admitted to hospital suffering from what seemed to be non-critical abdominal pain came as quite a shock to us all. At the same time, we're all relieved that she slipped away quickly and relatively painlessly—one of her only fears in life was that her health might decline to the point where she could do little more but lie around in agony, a fate that osteoporosis had inflicted upon her own mother some years earlier. (Her other fear was somewhat less morbid—a lifelong phobia of birds!)

Although she had been comparatively poorly for the past few weeks, Mum's consultant expected her next cycle of chemo to clear up the main cause of her discomfort, and she remained pretty active right up to the end. Just after I last visited her and Dad back home in Scotland last month, they were off to Gran Canaria for a holiday (ironically, her 96-year-old aunt died equally-suddenly while they were away, and the first thing they had to do when they came home was arrange her funeral). And when I last spoke to Mum the weekend before she died, she had me looking up some hotel in Edinburgh on the internet for a wedding she thought she might be invited to next year!

Positive though she was, though, Mum was nothing if not ultra-organised, and she was well-prepared for the inevitable. She left us copies of directions to the cemetery to send to people who might want to come, and sheet music for the hymns she wanted sung at her funeral in case we didn't have the right books... but best of all—and this was Mum in a nutshell—she left Dad a notebook listing all the household chores that he ought to do on a daily, weekly, monthly, annual, bi-annual and occasional basis after she was gone, right down to specifying the correct washing machine cycles for the bedclothes, and the appropriate shades of paint to use on the outside of the house!

On Thursday, we laid Mum to rest in Dunblane cemetery, near her parents and several other generations of her family, and on Saturday we had a thanksgiving service at Hillhouse Parish Church in Hamilton, where she'd been a member for the past 40 years. The turnout at both was pretty humbling.

Of course we'll all miss Mum very much, none more so than my dad, to whom she would have been married for 47 years last Tuesday. But I certainly don't feel sad when I think about her, so don't feel sad for me either. Just keep your fingers crossed that she hasn't hidden one of those household chore books away for me somewhere as well :)

Friday Oct 10, 2008

Whither OpenOffice.org

Michael Meeks from Novell ponders the future of the project.

Thursday Sep 04, 2008

Virtual Box 2.0

Sun xVM VirtualBox 2.0.0 was released today, and is available for download from virtualbox.org. New features include 64-bit guest support, host interface networking on Solaris and OS X hosts, support for nested paging on modern AMD CPUs, and a native front end for the OS X client (and a move to Qt 4 for the others).

More detailed changelog here.

Monday Aug 18, 2008

Six Degrees of Richard Herring

The "Nationally Known Comedian" Richard Herring unleashed a thrilling new craze on the world during this week's Collings and Herrin (sic) podcast... it goes like this1:

The aim of the game is to get between two specific Wikipedia entries using only the highlighted blue links. The player who navigates between the two pages within the fewest clicks, or uses the cleverest path is the winner. For example, to get from the Wikipedia page for American actress Argentina Brunetti to French anti-communist party La Cagoule, one could go via the following clicks:

  1. The Lone Ranger
  2. Chocolate
  3. Nestlé
  4. L'Oréal
  5. Eugène Schueller
  6. La Cagoule

(Argentina played a supporting role in the Lone Ranger in 1955, The Lone Ranger starred in a chocolate advertisment in the mid ninties advertising Rolos, Nestlé are a chocolate manufacturer, Nestlé are shareholders in L'Oréal, L'Oréal was founded by Eugène Schueller and Eugène Schueller provided financial support and held meetings for La Cagoule.)

Have fun.

1Description lifted from this RH forum to save me making up my own...

Saturday Jul 05, 2008

T-1 Day

Like many of you, I'm sorting myself out tonight to fly to what will be my seventh GUADEC in Istanbul tomorrow. (I'll actually be there for two weeks, as my wife is flying out after the conference to join me for a week's vacation.)

Pleased that there's a very healthy crowd of Sun desktop folks attending this year (18 at last count), and rumour has it we'll have some OpenSolaris 2008.05 LiveCDs to be giving away, so you can play along live with John Rice's talk :) Hopefully I'll also find a few interesting things to snap with the Lomo Fisheye camera I got for my birthday last month...

Friday Jun 13, 2008

Things to do on your day off #13671

Fun with Pixelblocks

Update: Here's a QuickTime version for those of you who can't handle .oggs yet...


I am a Principal UX Engineer in the Systems Experience Design team, working at Oracle (via Sun Microsystems) since the turn of the century. I currently work on sysadmin user experience projects for Solaris. Formerly I worked on open source Solaris desktop projects such as GNOME, NWAM and IPS.


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