Monday Dec 10, 2007

dial in or dial out

Being in a Geographically diverse team conference calls are a necessary evil to keep some connection with the rest of the team. Of the many1 irritations of the conference call the one that seems hardest to solve is people turning up late. However I'm now wondering whether we could not handle them better by calling the participants rather than having them call in. At least that way there would be a chance of the calls starting on time. Since our current conference call provider has a nice gui that allows this ( I will give this a try to see if it improves things.

1The many would include but not be limited to: Not having an agenda, having managers trying to solve engineering problems, having to attend to give the same update that was in your email when this is a hot problem and while you are on the call you are not solving it, not having an end time, not having an IM back channel, people not concentrating on the call (doing email), people on the call when they need not be, not using the mute button (again the nice gui can solve this) not being able to warp time such that it is not a ridiculous time of day for someone. Apart from that they are great.

Monday Nov 19, 2007

Sun internal uk-solaris meeting

On Wednesday we will have the first of what I hope will be quarterly UK Solaris meetings. Years ago these meetings were held on a semi-regular basis and allowed engineers in Sun who were in the UK to talk Solaris and hear the likes of Phil Harman with titles like:

64 reasons to upgrade (to Solaris 7)

Recall that 10 years ago Solaris 7 was the first release of Solaris to be 64 bit so it made the geeks laugh, well if not laugh, smile.

This month we have talks on:

OpenSolaris Security, Etude Usage, ZFS Under the Hood, SPARC new boot and much more. For those inside Sun see:

Then after the (internal to Sun) meeting we can decamp to the November London OpenSolaris User Group meeting.

Wednesday Nov 14, 2007

scp, sftp, rsync to supportfiles?

As I cycled to work today I was reflecting on how easy it was to upload my webrev onto and contrasting that with uploading and downloading files to

For those not familiar with when you register one you have the option to upload upto 3 ssh authorised key to the site. If you are already familiar with ssh this is a simple cut'n'paste job. Eg:

ssh-rsa AAAAB3NzaC1yc2EAAAABIwAAAIEAv8aRUVQTgIqhXDJ/VAHzDEGCd3slBlAUtqjw0FytjkPeLkqPUJAQ2RBS5mN9g8IXO9uzDIZ/no0HW87J1kZhGdy/gKc/7E/z6moVG0ZWzKotfQ+AYGvH5E1WXpIpCuWPqNTEo0RMIvoGR3AwJeznKU1omQwItvQ6j+zU7cGHLZc= cg13442@estale

Then I can use scp(1), sftp(1) or rsync(1) to upload files to

Now how cool would it be if that was the case for supportfiles? When our customers register they can upload the Authorised keys and then just use scp et al to manage any files they need to upload. No messing with passwords, web pages or curl. I can't help thinking system admins, who are exactly the people who upload to supportfiles, would like this.

Tuesday Nov 06, 2007

17" Wide screen Sun Ray Photo Frame

I've briefly mentioned before that we have had the builders in recently and at last we are reaching the final few steps. This includes an LCD TV for the kitchen mounted on the wall. I'm sure you all know, modern LCD TV's all have an input for a computer. So I must be the last of millions to turn my LCD TV into a 17” photo frame powered by a Sun Ray 1 and some ethernet over mains plugs.

With SRSS 4.0 I can, although so far have not, have kiosk mode running just on this one Sun Ray although since everyone in the house has a smart card there is not really any need.

The “photo frame” software is no more than a proof of concept. A script that finds all my photos (about 3000) and uses display(1) to display them. Still need to confirm I have turned off he screen saver, no point in waiting for keyboard or mouse input as the Sun Ray has none and is quite well hidden. Also ideally it needs to have better transitions for the pictures and a way of controlling it. I can see a USB infra red receiver and remote control so that I can select that bike porn channel on demand.

The upgrade of the SRSS software would have been so much simpler if I had:

  1. Read the manual first.

  2. Rebooted when the documentation told me to. I hate rebooting, it is just so Windows but it really did seem to be required.

  3. Read the manual first.

There are however one issue. Kiosk mode does not seem to work with JDS on build 76, which I think is a know bug.

Given that a Sun Ray 1 on ebay is £25, this has to be a really cheap photo frame and this is a 17” wide screen photo frame. In fact the ethernet plug was more than the Sun Ray.

Thursday Oct 25, 2007

So Long Matt

Yesterday the first person that I mentored at Sun left. 18 years ago Matthew Finch joined the OS group in the UK answer centre and Sun became a much better place to be. I'm sure our customers noticed it and still notice it. His dogged determination to solve the problem, find the answer, make sure the problem does not reoccur for that customer or any customer set Matthew apart. Then his knowledge of how systems work, how they are built, how they should be built if you want to diagnose them. I will miss his ability to persuade development that “yes we do need the ability JTAG scan of the system when it hangs” and I suspect so will development.

To anyone who employs Matt: Don't give Matt a problem you don't want solved.

And to Matt: Good luck in what ever you choose to do, I hope that choice includes returning to Sun.

Wednesday Oct 10, 2007

Vegas round up

This will be the last entry for CEC2007. It's been great, better than last year, I look forward to seeing the feedback from the talk Clive and I gave. It think it went well. At least I enjoyed it.

The closing day we had All hands for all the teams so I was in the one for GCS (Global Customer Services) and was even briefly on stage, sporting the yellow Tour de France Tee shirt. Then the Q&A of the executives which I think went well. I will be getting the rest of the questions that were asked and not answered due to time and posting them on cepedia somewhere so that we can get the answers.

My final thoughts on things that could make CEC2008 even better:

  • More deep technical presentations for those of us who are that way inclined.

  • We should have had a meeting for all the different TSC orgs so that we could all be in one room and put names to faces. Next year perhaps.

  • It would be good if the content builder did not give times for the presentations. Simply allows users to choose the top 20 presentations that they wish to attend numbering them 1 to 20. Then get the computer to work out the room allocations such that we get the best allocation of slots.

  • Use Sun Ray 2s with the vpn firmware installed so that they can be punched into Sun.

  • Put the Sun Rays into a FOG so that if a Sun Ray server goes down the individual Sun Rays are still usable.

  • Have some Sun Rays in Paris near the main conference room.

  • Have the party somewhere that can easily cope with the numbers rather than somewhere that can't.

Wednesday Oct 03, 2007

On my way to CEC

I'm currently in California at a meeting prior to flying out to Las Vagas for the Customer Engineering Conference 2007. I've never been to Vagas and I'm looking forward to it. I would not choose to go to Vagas but it should be interesting.

While I'm there I'll be the warm up act for Clive King who is giving a presentation called "Full Contact Debugging with the Solaris Dynamic Linker" which gives all the tricks and tips you can use to debug problems using the dynamic linker. Not really new but very useful.

If you are going to be there go to the Deep Dive sessions that are running this year. They should be very interesting two way conversations.

Thursday Aug 23, 2007

Changing names

Since name changes are the order of the day and I can't change mine to be that of one of my children (it would be confusing and how would I choose?). I've made the change I've been meaning to for some time.

My ebay id is no longer "chriscycling" but is now "triplettravel" matching my well known (cough) internet persona. I expect the bidders will now flock to my new identity.

Tuesday Jun 12, 2007

Good Morning Build 66

Here is a change. The lab folks have added a third system to the group of Sun Ray servers we use and it is an AMD based system. So now the rolling upgrades will be every six weeks and I get to spend four weeks on SPARC and two weeks on AMD. Should flush out any problems with moving a home directory between architectures pretty quickly:

: FSS 1 $; uname -a
SunOS eagain 5.11 snv_66 i86pc i386 i86pc
: FSS 2 $; 

Tuesday May 22, 2007

Sun Ray firmware version

Peter gives an undocumented way to find out the firmware version of your Sun Ray. I have three problems with this.

  1. It uses an undocumented interface which therefore is likely to change

  2. It does not work for me.

  3. It involved Cut'n'Paste when we have nawk out there.

Here is how I would do the same. I look forward to someone from thinkthin1 to tell me the correct way:

/opt/SUNWut/bin/utwho -c | nawk '$3 == ENVIRON["LOGNAME"] { 
        system(sprintf("/opt/SUNWut/sbin/utquery %s\\n", $4)) 

Should I worry that I can type this kind of thing into the command line?

1I know I am down as a thinkthin author. It is a vanity thing. I was invited to be an author and accepted the invitation before thinking it through. I use Sun Ray. I love Sun Ray but what I do day to day, or try to do day to day is write about things I am expert in, therefore following 50% of the advice I was given when I started blogging. The thing is I don't claim to be expert on Sun Ray. I know enough to be dangerous so have never felt the urge to post a “Sun Ray” specific expert article.

Tuesday May 15, 2007

One Sun Ray for home and work

At last I can talk. With the release of Sun Ray Software 4 Update 2 Open Beta I can at last tell you about the very best (well perhaps not the best but it is pretty cool) feature that you get with a Sun Ray 2 at home.

It is not that you no longer have to have some extra box that gives a VPN to the your internal network though that is very cool as that box used to generate a lot of heat. You don't as the new firmware has VPN built in, but that is not the cool part.

No the cool part is that when you set up the VPN you get to tell the Sun Ray all the details of the VPN servers, keys, login details etc. You also get to list the Sun Ray servers that you “land” on all not very exciting. However if you have a Sun Ray server at home and you add that to the list when you have the VPN up your home server clearly is not available so it connects to the internal servers. When the VPN is off the internal to Sun servers are now unavailable but my home server is so it happily connects to that.

This means I can use same Sun Ray for both servers. Very cool.

Wednesday May 09, 2007

Good Morning Build 63

Build 63 has hit our Sun Ray server, and my Sun Ray server at home:

: FSS 1 $; uname -a
SunOS estale 5.11 snv_63 sun4u sparc SUNW,Sun-Fire
: FSS 2 $; 

All is well, except the main menu now has a “shutdown” button on it:

Which is a bit off putting as this is a Sun Ray used by lots of other people. (It did not stop me trying though. Since it calls gnome-sys-suspend which then checks /etc/default/sys-suspend to see if you are allowed to shut the system down there is no harm apart from the wasted real estate on the screen).

More worryingly the upgrade has undone the edit of /etc/default/sys-suspend that the Sun Ray software does so that the user on the console can't shutdown the system.

Friday Jan 12, 2007

Nokia phone meets Sun Ray @ home

This just should not work but it does.

Since I now have the USB cable for the phone my Sun Ray at home as been begging me to plug it in and see if it will work:

: FSS 9 $; utdiskadm -l
Device          Partition       Mount Path
------          ---------       ----------
disk1           disk1s2         /tmp/SUNWut/mnt/cg13442/mmc
: FSS 10 $; ls -l    /tmp/SUNWut/mnt/cg13442/mmc
total 1158
-r-xr-xr-x 1 cg13442 staff      7 May  6  2004 ID0630896.dat
-rwxrwxrwx 1 cg13442 staff 505448 Nov 26 10:14 Image001.jpg
-rwxrwxrwx 1 cg13442 staff 440997 Dec 17 11:53 Image002.jpg
-rwxrwxrwx 1 cg13442 staff 237175 Sep 28 21:02 Video000.3gp
drwxrwxrwx 1 cg13442 staff    512 Oct 12 00:10 music
: FSS 11 $; 

It did. I can even view the pictures using eog. Of course this should not amaze me as much as it does.


Wednesday Oct 04, 2006

Windows Crash Dump Analysis

For a lot of people this was the shock talk of the CEC and not because people think Windows systems don't crash but why would Sun Engineers what to know how to diagnose those. Well we get to support systems running Windows so it is useful to be able at least do a first pass analysis of the crash so that you know who to call next. Is it Windows, a driver or the hardware?

Dimitri De Wild and Feri Chua did an excellent, if a bit rushed, job of presenting the topic. This was not their fault with only forty minutes it was always going to be a rush even for just an introduction into this topic. I think I would have changed the title of the talk to “Windows Crash Dump Analysis for Solaris Kernel Engineers” though as it seemed to make some (reasonable) assumptions about the audience in some places.

Another really good talk which while I suspect I will not directly use the information it is very useful to know what Windows can do if you configure it to collect the crash dump.


Friday Jun 02, 2006

Sun Ray Keyboard problem solved.

Proper keyboards have the escape key next to the 1, the control key next to the 'A', shift next to the 'Z' and caps lock under the shift that is next to the 'A'. Unfortunately not everyone realises this so they have keyboards that result in much swearing if I hot desk to an incorrect keyboard.

The solution is so blindingly obvious that I am ashamed not to have worked it out before.

Take your keyboard with you. Sun Ray copes perfectly with having two keyboards and on the newer Sun Rays the USB port is on the front or near the front making it easy to plug in.

Plus if you are really clever you can use both keyboards at the same time!



This is the old blog of Chris Gerhard. It has mostly moved to


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