Monday Jun 15, 2009

OpenSolaris meets Mac OS X in Munich

Last Wednesday, Wolfgang and I had the honor to present at "Mac Treff München", Munich's local Mac User Group. There are quite a few touching points between OpenSolaris and Mac OS X, such as ZFS, DTrace and VirtualBox, we thought it would be a good idea to contact them out of our Munich OpenSolaris User Group and talk a little bit about OpenSolaris.

Breaking the Ice

We were a little bit nervous about what would happen. Do Mac people care about the innards of a different, seemingls non-GUIsh OS? Are they just fanboys or are they open to other people's technologies? Will talking about redundancy, BFU, probes and virtualization bore them to death?

Fortunately, the 30-40 people that attended the event proved to be a very nice, open and tolerant group. They let us talk about OpenSolaris in General including some of the nitty-grittyness of the development process, before we started talking about the features that are more interesting to Mac users. We then talked about ZFS, DTrace and VirtualBox:

ZFS for Mac OS X (or not (yet)?)

Explaining the principles behind ZFS to people who are only used to draging'n'dropping icons, shooting photos or video and using computers to get work done, without having to care about what happens inside, is not easy. We concentrated on getting the basics of the tree structure, copy-on-write, check-summing and using redundancy to self-heal while using real world examples and metaphors to illustrate the principles. Here's the deal: If you have lots of important data (photos, recording, videos, anyone?) and care about it (content creators...), then you need to be concerned about data availability and integrity. ZFS solves that, it's that simple. A little animation in the slides were quite helpful in explaining that, too :).

The bad news is that ZFS seems to have vanished from all of Apple's communication about the upcoming Mac OS X Snow Leopard release. That's really bad, because many developers and end-users were looking forward to take advantage of it.

The good news is that there are still ways to take advantage of ZFS as a Mac User: Run an OpenSolaris file server for archiving your data or using it as a TimeMachine store, or even run a small OpenSolaris ZFS Server inside your Mac through VirtualBox.

DTrace: A Mac Developer/Admin's Heaven, Albeit in Jails

Next, we dove a little bit into DTrace and how it makes the OS really transparent for admins, developers and users. In addition to the dtrace(1) command, Apple created a nice GUI called "Instruments" as part of their XCode development environment that leverages the DTrace infrastructure to collect useful data about your application in realtime.

Alas, as with ZFS, there's another downer, and this time it's more subtle: While you can enjoy the power of DTrace in Mac OS X now, it's still kinda crippled, as Adam Leventhal pointed out: Processes can escape the eyes of DTrace at will, which counters the absolute observability idea of DTrace quite massively. Yes, there are valid reasons for both sides of the debate, but IMHO, legal things should be enforced using legal means, and software should be treated as software, meaning it is not a reliable way of enforcing any license contracts - with or without powerful tools such as DTrace.

OpenSolaris for all: VirtualBox

Finally, a free present to the Mac OS X community: VirtualBox. I still get emails asking me to spend 80+ dollars on some virtualization software for my Mac. There are at least two choices in that price range: VMware Workstation and Parallels. Well, the good news is that you can save your 80 bucks and use VirtualBox instead.

This may not be new to you, since as a reader of my blog you've likely heard of VirtualBox before, but it's always amazing for me to see how slowly these things spread. So, after reading this article, do your Mac friends a favour and tell them they can save precious money buy just downloading VirtualBox instead of spending money on other virtualization solutions for the Mac. It's really that simple.

Indeed, this was the part where the attendees took most of their notes, and asked a lot of questions about (ZFS being a close first in terms of discussion/questions).


After our presentations, a lot of users came up and asked questions about how to install OpenSolaris on their hardware and on VirtualBox. Some even asked where to buy professional services for installing them an OpenSolaris ZFS fileserver in their company. The capabilities of ZFS clearly struck some chords inside the Mac OS X community, which is no wonder: If you have lots of Audio/Video/Photo data and care about quality and availability, then there's no way around FS.

I used this event as an excuse to try out keynote, which worked quite well for me, especially because it helped me create some easy to understand animations about the mechanics of ZFS. I also liked the automatic guides a lot which help you position elements on your slides very easily and seem to guess very well what your layout intentions were. I'd love the OpenOffice folks to check out Keynote's guides and see if they can come up with something similar. So, here's a Keynote version of my "OpenSolaris for Mac Users" slides as well as a PDF version (both in German) for you to check out and re-use if you like.

Update: Wolfgang's introductory slides are now available for download as well and Klaus, the organizer of the event, posted a review in the Mac Treff München Blog with some pictures, too.

Friday Feb 27, 2009

Munich OpenSolaris User Group Install Fest

mucosug logoYesterday we had the first Munich OpenSolaris User Group (MUCOSUG) install fest at Munich Technical University's Mathematics and Computer Science Building in the Garching Campus. Many thanks go to Martin Uhl for organizing coffee, meeting room and overall help!

The building is very cool, featuring two giant parabolic slides that go all the way from 3rd floor to the ground floor. Check out some construction pictures here.

Home server in the basementWe began the meeting with a short presentation on OpenSolaris as a home server (here are the slides, let me know if you want the source). It covers some thoughts on why you need a home server (hints: Photos, multimedia clients, backups, first-hand Solaris experience), where to get some extra software, first steps in ZFS, CIFS server and iSCSI and some useful blogs to follow up with for more good home-server specific content.

Most of the people had OpenSolaris installed already, either on their laptops or inside VirtualBox. So most of the conversation was centered around tips for setting up home server hardware, how to install the VirtualBox guest additions and why, or what the best ways are to integrate VirtualBox networking and exchange files between host and guest.

I learned that sharing the host interface with the Virtual Box guest has become as painless as using NAT with the added benefit of making your guest be a first-class citizen on your network, so that's what I'll try out next. Also, the cost of 32 GB USB sticks has come way down at acceptable speed rates, so I'll try one of them to host my OpenSolaris work environment and free my local harddisk a bit.

All in all, such geek gatherings are always a nice excuse to sit together and chat about the newest in technology, find new ideas and have a beer or two afterwards, so how about organizing your own OpenSolaris Installfest in your neighbourhood now?

Update: The way how to set up CIFS in OpenSolaris turned out to be slightly more complicated. Please check the above slides for an updated list of commands on how to set this up. I forgot to include how to expand /etc/pam.conf and assumed this was automatic. Sorry, must be because I set this up at home a while ago...

Tuesday Jan 13, 2009

First Munich OpenSolaris User Group Meeting

OpenSolaris and other Unix enthusiasts drinking beerJust as announced, we yesterday had our first Munich OpenSolaris User Group (MUCOSUG) meeting at the local Sun office, which is in Heimstetten near Munich.

We organized this meeting in cooperation with the local German Unix User Group's (GUUG) (thanks, Wolfgang!) SAGE monthly meeting. Normally, about 30 people would come to such meetings, so we were especially pleased to see over 40 people come to this event.

Photos of the meeting are available here. If you took some photos of your own, then just upload them to Flickr and tag them with "MUCOSUG". Yes, this somehow sounds like a nasal medicine, but hey, it's winter anyway and most people suffer from the cold, and besides, "MUC" is the official airline code for Munich, which is why the name was chosen.

In this meeting, we discussed OpenSolaris 2008.11 and due to popular demand, we also talked about VirtualBox. We also got to tour the Sun Solution Center which showcases Sun's hard- and software.

The presentation slides for OpenSolaris 2008.11 in German are provided here in ODP and PDF format, so are the ones from VirtualBox (PDF). Feel free to use them for your own purposes in case you want to do your own local OpenSolaris 2008.11 update. Thanks to Glynn for some of the slides!

Here is also Brendan's excellent video where he shouts at some disks, for your viewing pleasure. All made possible through the magic of OpenSolaris, DTrace and the Fishworks team who brought us the Sun Storage 7000 systems:

Our next task is to find a week of the month and day of the week for a regular meeting. We'll run a poll through the mailinglist soon, so make sure to sign up by sending mail to "ug-mucosug-subscribe at opensolaris dot org" if you want to attend our next meetings.

Tuesday Dec 16, 2008

New OpenSolaris Munich User Group

The Munich OpenSolaris User Group (MUCOSUG) LogoMunich is one of the IT centers of Germany. Some would say, the IT center in Germany. Most popular IT and media companies are based here, including Sun Germany, and of course Bavaria has the reputation of being an important technology powerhouse for Germany, between Laptops and Lederhosen.

It was about time that a Munich OpenSolaris User Group be created, which Wolfgang and I just did.

So, if you love OpenSolaris and happen to be near Munich, welcome to the Munich Open Solaris User Group (MUCOSUG). Feel free to visit our project page, subscribe to the mailing list, watch our announcements or participate in our events.

As you can see above, we already have a logo. It shows a silhouette of the Frauenkirche church, which is a signature landmark of downtown Munich, with the Olympiaturm tower in the background. This is meant to symbolize the old and new features of Solaris, but let's not get too sentimental here... Let us know if you like it, or provide your own proposal for a better logo, this is not set in stone yet.

Our first meeting will be on January 12th, 2009, 7-11 PM (19:00-23:00) at the Sun Munich office near Munich, Germany. Check out some more information about this event, we're looking forward to meeting you!




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