Tuesday Apr 29, 2014

Solaris 11.2 Deployment - Many Steps Forward

Solaris 11.2 Deployment - Many Steps Forward

Solaris 11.2 has seen a lot of new additions in the deployment area, I'm sure that you'll see much more details about each of these over the coming days, but I figured it would be good to list them all out in one place, to whet your appetite.

In no particular order, some of the biggest changes that can be seen are:
  • Unified Archives

    Unified Archives, in summary, allow the cloning and redeployment of existing installations with ease.

    New commands, and enhancements to existing commands, have been provided to take snapshots of installed systems, bundle these up in to what we're calling Unified Archives (UA for short) and to re-deploy these images to other systems.

    This is part of the Solaris 11.2 operating system, not an add-on, and supported by the same people that develop the operating system.

    A lot of work has gone into ensuring that only what needs to be archived is archived, and that on deployment the system can be reconfigured either the same as the original system (a clone for easy recovery), or similar to the original system (redeployment to another host in parallel to original system).

    This can be used to move S11 based systems between physical and virtual deployments (P2V) and vice versa, virtual to physical (V2P). This will better enable customers to manage their deployments over time.

    A lot more about Unified Archives can be found in the documentation at the following:
  • Automated Installer (AI) Manifest Wizard

    A common annoyance of Solaris 11 Automated Installer was that people were required to write XML files to define the structure of their systems to be installed.

    The AI Manifest Wizard is web-based, in that you can use your favourite browser to create your first AI XML file using a wizard-style interface, similar to the Live CD Installer. It will guide you along the most common tasks to be performed on installation with AI - the selection of disks and packages to install, the definition of the ZFS pools, etc.

    To help you learn about the structure of the AI Manifest's XML, you can play with things, adding/removing elements, and view the generated XML to see how it varies with these changes.

    The generated XML can then be saved for later use in a real deployment.

    While this won't totally eliminate having to learn XML, it goes a long way to helping you to understand what can be done, and how it is all tied together, especially when first starting out.

    When your install server is updated to Solaris 11.2, the best way to get started with it is of course to use it.

    If connecting to the AI server via ssh with X forwarding (ssh -X) or connecting to a desktop session on the AI server, you may also connect using the following command to launch it:
      # /usr/bin/ai-wizard
    Alternatively you can browse directly to a URL like:
      http://<AI Server IP>:<AI Server Port>/
    For example:
    Select the service you wish to create an AI manifest for, and from there it is pretty simple to use.

    All going well, you should see something like:

    For more on the ai-wizard launcher, you can take a look at the ai-wizard(1M) manpage.

  • Secure Automated Installer for SPARC

    In Solaris 11 and 11.1, installation with AI on SPARC uses WANboot and HTTP for transport of data between the AI server and the AI SPARC client.

    With Solaris 11.2, it will now be possible to configure the AI server to communicate with the SPARC AI client using Secure HTTP (HTTPS) as the transport, with the initial boot image provided via Secure WANboot.

    With Solaris 11.2, it will be possible to configure the AI service so that that the security level of the installation can vary between optional, encrypt only, server signature verified and/or client signature verified - thus allowing things to be tailored to a site's requirements.

    This will provide a secure end-to-end transport for the SPARC AI client. Something that is important to many customers.

    More on configuring your AI Server's security credentials can be found in the Installing Oracle Solaris 11.2 Systems documentation at one of:
  • Installadm Improvements

    The 'installadm' CLI now provides the primary interface for configuring an Automated Installer (AI) server.

    In the past, to configure some elements of an AI server, it was necessary to directly push values in to SMF - it is now possible to configure these values using the installadm CLI and its set-server sub-command. For example, to set the HTTP and HTTPS port to be used for the AI server:
      # installadm set-server --port 15555 --secure-port 15556
    The installadm CLI's list sub-command output has been modified to provide more relevant information by default, but also to provide significantly more details if desired - for example:
      # installadm list -av
    will output very verbose information about the whole AI server.

    It is now possible to specify the user of secure package repositories when creating or updating an AI service image, for example:
      # installadm create-service -p solaris=http://pkg.mycompany.com/ --key /tmp/key.pem --cert /tmp/cert.pm
    The installadm CLI is now more consistent in its use of sub-commands and options. It is possible to get help on individual sub-commands, for example:
      # installadm update-service --help
    Lots of examples, and usage about the installadm CLI can be found in the Installing Oracle Solaris 11.2 Systems documentation at any of:
  • System Configuration Enhancements

    The sysconfig CLI has been enhanced to provide support for groupings, in that it is now possible to specifically configure (or un-configure) specific individual groups of configuration - such as (system) identity, users, keyboard, location, naming service, etc.

    This further feeds into the ability to generate such a configuration profile for delivery by the Automated Installer (AI) service to a client, allowing you to more easily maintain separate configuration profiles for various groupings - e.g. one for network, one for the users, etc.

    Lots of examples, and usage about the sysconfig CLI can be found in the Installing Oracle Solaris 11.2 Systems documentation under:
  • Configuration Management with Puppet 3

    While not directly used by the installers, the configuration and maintenance of that configuration over time is something that is important in an enterprise.

    With the addition of Puppet 3 into Solaris 11.2, along with the addition of some Solaris specific providers it will now be easier to ensure that a machine's configuration is as expected, and this can be managed from a central source.

  • Kernel Zones

    Solaris 11 Zones are lightweight containers that allow for easy division of resources for various uses.

    In regular zones, to make them so lightweight, they have a shared kernel, requiring that the kernel version running inside the Non-Global Zone (NGZ) has to be the same as that in the Global Zone (GZ), thus requiring all Zones (global or not) to have to be kept in step during upgrades.

    With the introduction of Kernel Zones (KZ) in Solaris 11.2, it will now be possible to deploy different patch-level versions of Solaris 11.2 in to each Non-Global Zone. Kernel Zones are so-called because each Zone may have a different version of the Solaris Kernel (the heart of an operating system) running inside the NGZ.

    Kernel Zones are still lightweight and maintain all the benefits of existing Solaris Zones including operating with minimal performance overhead, allowing for some over-subscription (more virtual hardware than physical hardware) and easy management.

  • Additionally, these new enhancements to existing tools will be important for some users:

    • Bootable Solaris 11.2 USB media for SPARC

      With Solaris 11.2 it is now possible to boot SPARC systems off of USB, not just DVD/CD-ROM, hard-disk or network.

    • 'dd'-able media

      Prior to Solaris 11.2, installation media required the use of a 'usbcopy' script to write media to a device to be later used for installation. For some people this created a chicken-and-egg scenario since to run 'usbcopy' you first had to have a Solaris installation.

      With Solaris 11.2, it is now possible to create media from the install images (.iso or .usb) by simply writing the raw-data to the device, using a unix tool like 'dd' or some Windows equivalent.

    • 'aimanifest' CLI Updates

      This 'aimanifest' CLI has been enhanced to make scripting around it easier with the ability to get multiple matching entries in the XML, enable the setting of several elements at once, and finally adding the ability to delete nodes.

      More information about this can be found in the aimanifest(1M) manpage.

    • Automated Installer (AI) Configuration Profile Support for Kerberos

      With Solaris 11.2, it will now be possible to deploy a Kerberos configuration at install time, which will then be configured on first-boot.

    • Automated Installer (AI) Configuration Profile Template Variables

      The AI Configuration Profiles have had some new variables added to enable easier sharing of network configuration profiles over multiple clients.

      The variables introduced here are: AI_NETLINK_DEVICE, AI_NETLINK_VANITY, AI_IPV4_PREFIXLEN, AI_ROUTER.

    • Automated Installer (AI) Manifest slice tag use_existing action

      With Solaris 11.2, it is possible to specify a use_existing action on slices to re-use the same dimensions (start_sector and size) from the existing slice on the disk.

      More information on this can be found in the ai_manifest(4) manpage

    As I said at the start of this post, this is only skimming the details, there will be sure to be more details coming out around this.

    Friday Dec 04, 2009

    Bash Completion on OpenSolaris

    Bash Completion Initial Configuration

    Bash completion has finally arrived on OpenSolaris - as of snv_126!

    Unfortunately, for some reason it's not enabled by default - but it's not that difficult to enable it, the simple steps are:
    1. Create /etc/bash/bash_completion:

      # cp /etc/bash/bash_completion.example /etc/bash/bash_completion

    2. Edit ${HOME}/.bashrc and add lines like:

      if [ -f /etc/bash/bash_completion ]; then
          . /etc/bash/bash_completion
    That's about it - if you then either source /etc/bash/bash_completion in your current shell, or start a new terminal, you should then be able to do things like:
    • ssh <TAB><TAB>
      <list of known hosts>
    • su - <TAB><TAB>
      <list of users in /etc/password>
    • evince <TAB><TAB>
      <list of dirs, ps and pdf files in current directory>
    and so on...

    Adding other completions

    Of course these are only the default completions, it's possible to add many more! The simplest way to do this is to place a file in /etc/bash/bash_configuration.d and these files will be sourced automatically if you added the lines mentioned above to your .bashrc file.

    A useful one for those of us using Mercurial is the version you get in /usr/demo/mercurial - this can be copied in and hey presto you have completion of the mercurial commands:
    • # cp /usr/demo/mercurial/bash_completion /etc/bash/bash_completion.d/
    So if you again source /etc/bash/bash_completion, you will then pick this up and get:
    • $ hg <TAB><TAB>
      active       bisect       cddlchk      copyright    hdrchk       init         mv           permchk      reparent     showconfig   update
      add          blame        checkout     cp           heads        jstyle       nits         pull         resolve      st           verify

    It's possible to add more completion for various commands, for example you could create one for zfs, zpool, pkg, etc. - the possibilities are to numerous to mention, but here are a few I found:

    Enjoy :)

    Friday Aug 03, 2007

    Network Auto-Magic UI Preview (0.1)

    In recent times I've been working on a UI for Network Auto-Magic (NWAM) Phase 1.

    As you probably know by now, NWAM Phase 0 went into SXDE 2, and is only enabled by default when you install by selecting the "Solaris Developer Express" option in the boot menu on the install DVD.

    When the NWAM service is running, we have the ability to be able to switch between a wired and wireless network with minimal effort, simply by plugging/unplugging the network cable, but this is only a small part of what NWAM is attempting to achieve, and I said, only Phase 0!

    The NWAM team are now focused on Phase 1, more details of which can be found out at the NWAM pages at opensolaris.org.

    As part of NWAM Phase 1, there is the introduction of a UI to manage the NWAM configuration. At the moment NWAM Phase 1 itself isn't ready for general use, but in the meantime, we've been trying to still make progress on the UI front using stubs (as opposed to the new APIs that NWAM will provide), and focus on the UI elements as outlined in the current UI Spec (1.4).

    We think that we've mad some good progress here, but as you can guess, there is still quite a way to go - but we would love to hear your feedback with what we've done so far - the best place for this is on the  nwam-discuss at opensolaris dot org alias.

    So down to business, you can download a tarball with both SPARC and x86 binaries in it at:
    You will need to be running a system with at least GNOME 2.18 in it, which should be the case from Solaris Nevada build 67 onwards. If in doubt, you can check this by running:
    • /usr/bin/gnome-about --version
    To run the demo (preview?) we should start by extracting the tarball as follows:
    • gzip -cd nwamui_preview_2007_08_03.tgz | tar xvf -
    This will create a directory called nwamui_preview_2007_08_03, so you need to then change directory into that, and run the run_demo.sh script as follows:
    • cd ./nwamui_preview_2007_08_03
    • ./run_demo.sh
    This should present you with a new "globe" entry in the notification tray on your GNOME Panel, try right-clicking on it to get a menu:

    Or simply clicking on it will launch the "Network Preferences". You can edit the wider network configuration by selecting the "Network Preferences" from the pop-up menu.

    Please take some time to try things out, but also please remember that this is all done using stubs, so nothing is saved, and there will be inconsistency between the panel presence and the preferences dialogs, not to mention that there are quite likely  bugs in there... 

    Enjoy ;)

    Wednesday Nov 29, 2006

    Finally managed to finish the update to the Solaris Desktop Gaps document.

    It's taken longer than expected, mainly due to other tasks taking up my time, but I've managed to update the Solaris Desktop Gaps document.at OpenSolaris.org.

    I would be very interested in your feedback, be it good or bad. Also if there are areas not mentioned, or you disagree with the recommendations, please let me know and I'll see what I can do to address your concerns.

    I hope you agree that Solaris/OpenSolaris has come a long way in the last year - and I can guarantee that there's better to come!


    P.S. - I'd like to thank the many people that provided me with input, without you the document would never have been done.

    Friday Oct 27, 2006

    Update to the Solaris / Linux Gaps document - ideas welcome..

    I'm working on an update to the Solaris Desktop Gaps Analysis document that I wrote this time last year, and it dawned on me that I should really be asking people outside of Sun what areas they would like to see specifically addressed.

    I hope to have a draft available next week, but in the meantime if there's something that you'd really like me to look into, please feel free to e-mail me at:
    • darren <dot> kenny <at> sun <dot> com
    I look forward to hearing from you...

    Thursday Sep 28, 2006

    EuroOSCON 2006...

    Recently I had the pleasure of attending the recent O'Reilly Euro OSCON in Brussels, Belgium. I though that I might share some of this with the masses...

    As you may, or may not, know I work in the JDS group, so have a particular focus on the desktop, so I apologise in advance for my comments being directed as such.

    To Summarise:

    Overall the conference was good. While the conference itself did appear to have a Web 2.0 focus, the OpenSolaris.org booth got a lot of visitors mainly asking about things like ZFS, SMF, Zones, DTrace. Others were curious about the difference between Solaris and Open Solaris, and when informed were then interested in looking at the Live CDs we had - we managed to give away over 60 of the DVD Starter Kits with the Live DVD (several distros) and the Install DVD for Solaris, Nexenta as well as the Open Solaris sources and the compilers. Actually would have been good to have more information about the PPC port for all those MacOS/X users...

    From a desktop point of view, there wasn't too much interest without some sizzle to demonstrate - as far as people are concerned it's still just GNOME which is on every other Linux distro. The majority of laptops I saw were Apple's, the others varied, but many were running Ubuntu with h/w acceleration enabled. So it's a tough audience from this respect. I'm looking forward to when DRI is available so we can show we are at least as good as others, and then have the opportunity to better it!

    The speaker quality varied, but on the whole were quite good. There were many good talks, the details are below, and although many were Web 2.0 focused, I think a lot of what they said still applies to the desktop.

    Interestingly Open Data was a hot topic - i.e. the person who owns the data can essentially force some lock-in - hence there is a call for more data to be released under more open/free licenses. This is an area people seem to expect a large amount of growth - as well as uses of this data in "Mash-ups" (i.e. the bringing together of various data sources to give a new view on things).

    Louis Suarez-Potts (Collab.Net - hosts of OpenOffice.org) gave an interesting talk about his experiences with the OpenOffice.org open source community which I think we could learn a few things from w.r.t. Open Solaris.

    Other interesting points were Usability, Xgl (Open GL desktop), Jabber (IM, XML streaming), Ajax (improved user experience on the web) and Gnash (an open source Flash implementation).

    Day 1 (Monday)

    Managed to attend two tutorial sessions today, one on Jabber and one on Ajax.  I found both to be very interesting:


    For those that don't know, Jabber is another name for RFC 3920, 3921, and others. It's main use today is for Instant Messaging, but there is the possibility of so much more.

    It's essentially Real-Time messaging, that routes XML from Point A to B.  It uses federated addressing (similar to e-mail), has built-in presence, strong security and, to date, no spam. It also uses UTF-8 encoding for all it's text, SSL/TLS for channel encryption and SASL for authentication (allowing use of certificates, Kerberos, etc.).

    As mentioned, it currently is mainly for IM applications, but has other possible uses like - Content Syndication, White-boarding (using SVG), Work-flow processing, etc. - basically it can be used for sending snippets of XML. It is part of the architecture of the FreeDesktop.org Telepathy project where it is used to maintain presence information and in the connection management. 

    It can even be found in some Wireless APs where it is used for the handing over of connections, etc. There are other similar uses in the management of h/w.
    Jabber is at the heart of Google Talk, which has been the source of several enhancements to the protocol. Enhancements for the Jabber (XMPP) protocol - are all managed via the Jabber Foundations "Jabber Enhancement Proposal" (JEP) process.

    While Jabber is not meant for streaming large data volumes (e.g. Video / VoIP) it is used in the negotiation phase of setting up such connections.  Such a project is called Jingle, which is JEP-0166.

    Some suggested uses, which might be useful for us to look at, are in the collaboration space - such as Inkscape (for the SVG white boarding) and Thunderbird integration (presence information is monitored and Thunderbird can "see" that the sender of an e-mail, or people listed on a thread, are currently on-line and could initiate a chat. We certainly should take a look at Telepathy too.

    There are lots of clients for Jabber, GAIM is one we have in JDS. There is also a client which supports only Jabber, and was used for the demos, called Gajim. Gajim appears to have more complete support for the Jabber spec than GAIM - this is an area which it might be worth looking into improving.

    Ajax is defined as the use of XHR+CSS+JavaScript+DOM to "unblock" the user experience in a web application.

    Contrary to popular use of the term, Ajax is not meant to be about the technologies involved in it's actually meant to be about the presentation of the data to the user and the interaction with the user, essentially the user's perception of the UI. Ajax is an approach to interaction that eschews the need for full-page refreshes.

    I found that although this talk wasn't specifically targeted at the GUI/Desktop platform, much of what was being said was relevant to the complete user experience.

    Traditional web applications tend to present the user with a poor user experience. As things like Google Mail have shown to the masses, it is possible for the user experience to be greatly improved.

    Unfortunately many old (bad) ideas are being sold under the moniker of Ajax - CSS doing "roll-over" (changing the image for instance) is not Ajax.

    The presenter kept speaking about the fact that coders should not be the people to design the interface ("Friends don't let Friends Design [UI] and Develop"). The main reason being that the UI designer needs to be thinking from the perspective of the user and not that of the system. At a minimum, if a coder needs to design the UI they should do nothing else that day except focus on the user's perspective.

    Interaction design can be seen as a "Strategy" - it communicates what the system _is_ and _does_. Interaction designers are paid to care about the users and they should negotiate with developers.  Ajax can be then seen as a "Tactic" which would allow you to reach Interaction Design goals better and faster than before, without goals tactics are trivial. There is a constant battle between the System Model and the User Model - the users, and their expectations _are_ the system until they hit a wall.

    Some Interaction Design Principles "borrowed" from Jeff Veen are [and I think we should remember this in our work on JDS]:
    • Discoverability : The user should be able to discover the boundaries by feeling around.

    • Recoverability : We should strive to make errors by the user "cheap", in that they are not seriously penalised by a mistake [e.g. closing a tab in gnome-terminal by mistake - it should be possible to say "oops, shouldn't have done that" and let the user learn/recover].
    • Context : Provide information that is relative to the user's current "location" in a process. Contextual information can increase the utility of the interfaces.
    • Feedback : Provide visual stimuli so that the user knows what's happening. Data transitions like Fading, Grow/Shrink, Wipe-in/out can enforce the fact that something has changed to the user - an example provided by the presenter was replacing one piece of text with another, the use of a transition rather than a simple immediate replacement made it more obvious to the eye that something had changed. Similarly, the use of "in-progress" indications can greatly improve perception.
    A good reference provided was the book called "Don't make me think", by Steve Krug.
    The presenter was insistent that Ajax didn't solve all problems - and that it should only be used if nothing else would do the job.

    There are a lot of technical issues with Ajax - mainly to do with the wildly varying APIs supported by browsers. For this reason it was suggested that when implementing Ajax for a web application people should use one of the main "libraries" - there are lots out there, but not all of them are good. 4 good open source libraries are: Dojo, Yahoo UI, MochiKit and script.aculi.us/prototype - it's also important to note that the choice may be affected by the affinity of the library to the server.

    There was a lot of information about things that worked and didn't work, the pros and cons of many of the technical aspects - for this information the slides should be referred to.

    Some Ajax UI Design Patters can be found at:
    • Yahoo Design Patters library

    • Ajaxpatterns.org
    Unlike the GNOME HIG, there doesn't appear to be any equivalent Ajax HIG published yet.

    Day 2 (Tuesday)

    Open Source 2.0.
    Tim O'Reilly Keynote

    This was mainly focused on Web 2.0 ideas.

    The new face of Open Source is in "Mash-ups" (web services that being data together from different sources), Frameworks (e.g. Ruby on Rails, Django, dabbledb, Ning), the movement of proprietary apps/APIs to open source.

    Closed Data can be seen as a form of lock-in.
    There is the open question of how do we re-invent the values of open source when the value is in the data rather than just the s/w used.

    An example of how even small companies can be successful on the internal, he showed a list of the top 10 sites on the internet (2005) and showed the one called "craigslist" as being ranked as no. 7 with only 18 employees, which others were all 5000+ employees.

    An example of a mash-up is in www.housingmaps.com - where Google Maps and craigslist are brought together. The legality of such mash-ups have yet to be determined.

    The real message is that we don't know yet ...
    • ... what the platform of the future will look like

    • ... what new business opportunities are created by self-improving systems

    • ... what are the sources of the lock-in and where the competitive advantage will be.

    • ... what it means for something to be "Open".

    Attention, Please! Who Are We?
    Tor Nørretranders

    Interesting speaker - mainly concerned with "Why do people develop Open Source?".

    Most people believe that we are self-interested in economics. This doesn't appear to be the case...

    It seems to be mainly down to 3 things: Glow / Show / Flow
    • Glow : We need other people. When you do nice things it makes you feel very happy - Oxytocin rises.

    • Show : If you take a picture of a peacock, it is still possible to recognise, even with all the colour taken away. Darwin speculated that "live is about survival" - so why does a peacock advertise? Surely it makes it more likely to be eaten by predators? Attention might give you sex, but it is also dangerous.

              "To prove that one has vast resources they waste them, take risks."

              Altruism - take risks, be generous, give comfort.

              Dare, Care & Share  - do things that other people see as risky, show you have so much that you can share.
    • Flow : 1.5 Tonne of matter goes through a human body each year (air, food, etc.). 98% of our atoms are replaced in a year. We appear to be in a permanent state of re-incarnation, except we never lose the information.

              Modern food is alien to us - meat / veg / fruit are staple.  Grain, etc. are all new to us (relative to whole existence)

              "Stone Agers in the Fast-Lane".

    Web 2.0 : [Although I think it applies more widely].

    We are moving towards a "Pre-agricultural food, gift economy, sociology".

    We are about to become hunter-gatherers again.

    Industrial-Strength Email and Calendaring with the Freedom and Flexibility of Open Source
    Florian von Kurnatowski, Director of Open Source Programs, Scalix Corporation

    Scalix was not open source until recently. They provide an Exchange alternative and have a strong user community (no developer yet since open-sourcing is recent).

    E-mail is still the "killer app" for most people - the most used office tool - more important that phone to many.

    Users identify E-mail using the client (e.g. Outlook) and tend to be very unaware of the server. Mobile e-mail is still very low penetration into the market.

    Administrators find e-mail configuration painful, complex and full of viruses, etc.

    CIOs consider e-mail an high-price operation, but business can lose money if it's not there.

    Outlook is very integrated with the rest of the desktop, and without a solution to replace Outlook ...
    • ... you can't replace Office with OOo
    • ... you can't replace Windows with Linux
    • ... you can't replace Exchange with XXXXX
    • ... you can't replace AD with LDAP
    The biggest problem with OpenOffice.org is that there is no e-mail.

    This can be the source of a lot of lock-in - 90% of email admins have never done an e-mail migration - the remaining 20% will never do it again.  [Intentional mistake]
    Open Source is moving up the stack - it started with the infrastructure (Kernel, etc.), middle-ware and now is at applications.

    Partnerships using Opens Source allow for "Best of Breed" partnerships.  Open source removes the need for NDA and a lot of legal process. The limitations of monolithic s/w development are becoming obvious.

    The creation of a full stack of enterprise-class open source apps is one of the most important new agenda items.

    CalDav appears to be the direction that people are going for the Open Calendaring Format - Vista and the next MacOS/X release are supposed to support this.

    Project Hosting on Google Code
    Greg Stein, Uber Tech Lead/Manager, Google

    [This presentation was marked as TBD on the schedule, so no one was really sure what was going to be discussed]

    Google have set up a project hosting server at code.google.com. It isn't meant to content with the likes of sourceforge.net [but I think it does].  The aim is to have a simple interface. It makes use of the GMail mechanisms such as tagging, etc. to provide the tracking interface.  A new backend was implemented for SVN using the BigTable database that Google use throughout the organisation - this was done to enable it to be fast and scalable, but also makes it fit nicely into the existing infrastructure used for the web searching.

    New features, coming soon, will include the ability to down load files and issue change notifications.

    Any one is able to set up a project, but it's likely to be removed quickly if found to be bogus. Space is limited at first to approx 200 Mb, but there is no problem about getting extra space, if you are a real project.
    The interface looks quite simple to use, and is extensible/configurable due to the use of tags/labels to provide the priorities, etc. (e.g. tag Priority-High,Priority-Med, etc. are represented in the UI as simply a column with High/Med/Low) but it's all configurable to suit the projects needs. The main reason it's so flexible is that it's all done using searches.

    Each project, when started picks a license (which can be changed later).  They picked a limited set of Licenses since this is the direction that even the OSI are going - though the set isn't as complete as the 9 that the OSI have listed recently due to Google doing theirs first. [I understand from others that the CDDL is one that the OSI have picked, which AFAIK was announced at OSCON 2006 (in the US)].

    The bug entry screen is very simple, avoiding a lot of the detail that really only developers can decided (such as priority, etc.).

    [A question was asked about interfacing with other bug systems, but the answer was simply that feeds will be provided to allow other bug systems to read data, but from what I understood the question was meant to be the other way around - i.e. google aggregating other bug systems.]

    Open Data AWOL
    Steve Coast

    I found this to be an interesting perspective on the direction of the Open Source business model.

    The title of the talk was changed to be "Free Data AWOL" (as opposed to Open, which is being over used). Some examples of free data are:
    • DNA.org
    • OpenStreetMap.org
    Open Data comes from several sources:
    • Government (US, mostly static)
    • Academia (tends to be closing off so they can charge for the research)
    • You (this is the fastest growing source).
    Coase's Penguin (a.k.a. Linux and the Nature of the Firm) refers to Commons Based Peer Production. For this to work the process of generating the data needs to be Fun, Quick and Easy.

    The speaker asserts that "Open Systems are a done deal" (e.g. Ubuntu) but that Open Data is NOT - it's a pure necessity mainly because there is little of it.

    We are reaching the limits of what we can do with software.

    Open Data isn't as cumulative as Open Systems - many people think that they need 100% data before it us useful, this isn't the case.

    Journalism versus Computer Programming
    Adrian Holovaty (Washington Post)

    The speaker asserts that "Journalism, in it's current form, is broken".  What is means is the way that a reporter takes "clean" data (such as what, where, when, etc.) and converts this in to human readable form (verbose) which is not processable by machines.

    There are great frameworks out there that are desperate for data (GoogleBase, craigslist) while Newspapers are the opposite, with lots of data and no framework.

    We should be able to tell a story with an application, not words. Examples are then given such as the chicagocrime.org and others. [All of which I believe the speaker has produced, or been involved in]. The main point is that the raw data is being taken and presented in a different way.

    We need to be smart about data.  Open source, makes the code available, Journalism via code makes the data available. 

    Encourages understanding via transparency, also encourages derivative works.

    Open Usability
    Jan Muehlig

    "Usability is the result of a process"

    Two mantras:
    • Know your user
    • You are not your user!
    The Open Usability project began life as the "Linux Usability Study". It created a high awareness of usability in the community. There were some very quick reactions to the "accusations" made about s/w usability and fixes were quick to appear from the communities. Next came an invitation to the KDE Work Summit. There was a mixed interest in Usability there.

    There are two steps needed : Understanding (Know more and understand factors) and a Framework (to collaborate).

    So to build the infrastructure, it was found that existing channels were not fitting enough where they were designed primarily for developers.

    The basic idea is that a project must register to show interests and commitment - "If you want someone, then we will find you someone".

    At the moment there is in excess of 160 projects registered.

    • Most developers think that usability is "trivial"
    • How can we convince developers to be interested at all.
    • There is a need for a painless workflow for both the Usability Engineer and the developers
    Open Source Software Factors:
    • Development is done for the community not the market.
    • Contributions are mainly via code.
    • No definition of the target users (everyone).
    • Feedback channels are for hackers
    • "Features" do not create user experience by themselves
    • Usability Engineers influence is strongly dependent on trust.
    So how do we get the Usability Engineer "inside"?

    There is not "one" User Engineering Process, it can vary largely depending on : Size (of the project), Impact (depends on way of introduction), Community Resources and Direct Communication.

    Making It Work: How to Build a Successful Open Source Project
    Louis Suarez-Potts (Collab.Net - hosts of OpenOffice.org)

    There are two types of Open Source Software:
    • Organic (Garage Project) : Linux, Drupal, Plone, Ruby On Rails, etc.
    • Sponsored : OpenOffice.org, Mozilla, Eclipse, OpenSolaris.org, etc.
    Organic projects start small, with a common initial goal. Decisions and processes are obvious at the start.

    Sponsored projects stem from corporate goals. The corporation is the primary contributor resulting in a "power imbalance". There tends to be a lot of legacy code with architecture decisions/knowledge that's lost over time. The biggest question about creating a community is "How?".

    What needs to be done?
    • Pick the right license : you can change a license if needed (OpenOffice.org changed it's license after going public).
    • Pick a neutral environment (people tend not to trust a corporation).
    • Have Transparent Governance : Submission process, clear Acceptance or Rejection criteria (who is reviewing the code - where is the power?).
    • Transparent Processes : it should be possible to know "where" code is in the process.
    • Public decisions process : need to have clear decision paths.
    • Good communication tools: (IM/IRC provide instant gratification).
    • Useful, easy, controllable infrastructure.
    • Instant gratification (e.g. Wikis) [shouldn't be underestimated].
    • Marketing
      • Conferences/Blogs/Representation
      • Documentation (Getting Started Guides)
      • Mentoring (Google SOC)
      • Focused but unstructured camps (e.g. Foo Camp)
      • Bug Hunting parties, coding days, etc.
      • "Guerilla Marketing" tactics - make things fun.
    • Information for users, examples.
    It should be possible to answer questions like:
    • Why join? (when compared to another project)
    • How to join?
    • Why use it?
    • why open source? (it's not a universal solution).
    What OpenOffice.org is doing now
    • Making it easy to contribute
    • Extensions like Firefox
    • Documentation
    • Mentoring
    • Regional Developers
    • Outreach : companies, schools, people, government (Make developers)
    • Goal:   To enable \*anyone\* to contribute to OpenOffice.org (art, translations, etc.)

    Day 3 (Wednesday)

    OpenSolaris Booth (.org day)

    Much of the day was spent between spending time on the booth and attending some sessions.

    We set up the book in the early morning - have to say that the organisers were very helpful in getting us things we needed.

    I certainly didn't expect a huge amount of interest given that much of the conference appeared to be focused towards Web 2.0, but I was pleasantly surprised to see so many people come up.

    Some people wanted to see some sizzle - but there wasn't a lot that we could show - at least nothing in the base Solaris - this is definitely an area that needs some work for any future conferences - it's hard to draw people eyes using a terminal!

    People familiar with OpenSolaris (or even Solaris) wanted to know more about how Solaris differed, and were very interested in the Starter Packs with the install DVDs and the live DVDs. In fact we managed to get over 60 of them handed out to people that seemed to have genuine interest. Given the number of people we saw with MacOS/X laptops I think a PPC live disc would have been of great benefit. Interestingly we also had requests for the DVDs for SPARC systems, again something we didn't have to hand.

    I had an interesting, and long, chat with Rob Savoye, a long-time GNU Hacker, and author of Gnash - a freeware Flash alternative. Gnash sounds really interesting, and many people are interested from the point of view of not having to pay Adobe/Macromedia crazy licensing fees. It's a clean-room implementation based on the Flash file specifications that Adobe/Macromedia published. He has also recently started a company with an ex-RedHat guy (can't remember name) to provide a Macromedia Streaming Server alternative, but using ogg/Theora and other free formats and conversions based on ffmpeg, etc.

    Currently Gnash is Flash v7 compatible, with ongoing work to make it v9 compatible. It appears to be gathering a lot of momentum and many business requests (especially in the embedded space) for it to be made available as an alternative to Embedded Java.

    Certainly one to watch.

    Gnash hasn't yet been compiled on Solaris - but I think we managed to get Rob interested in setting up a build server using Xen, so time will tell... It's also open source, so any one could give it a go! 

    OpenSolaris BoF

    Despite many promises of people attending the BoF turn out was pretty poor with only 2 people attending (3 if you include the person that came in for some water!).
    It's hard to know if this was OpenSolaris or the fact that it conflicted with a Make magazine makefest, and an Ubuntu BoF, and to top it off free drinks available, courtesy of Fotango... Could we have it timed any worse.

    For the people that did turn up, the main interests were in ZFS, SMF, zones and DTrace, for which some demos were done, such as moving zones between machines using a USB hard-disk and a demo of Visual Panels.

    Klone: An SDK for Embedded Web Applications

    Klone is a lightweight Embedded Web Server which is able to exist in 140Kb of ROM with approx 70Kb RAM. It supports TLS/SSL, HTTP 1.0, Standard Session Features (by storing session info on client).

    It's very portable with Dev Kits for Linux, Windows and MacOS/X.

    Generally the complete webserver, files and everything are compiled into a single object file, but it is possible to use different backends to enable access to filesystem storage.

    Web pages can have dynamic elements that are converted to native code at compile time, and executed when accessed.

    The webserver is configurable to match the host environment and desired uses.

    More information can be found at http://www.koanlogic.com/

    Day 4 (Thursday)

    Architecting Babel
    Robert "r0ml" Lefkowitz

    Robert's talk focused on the way we currently develop s/w from the perspective of spoken languages (hence the Tower of Babel reference).

    Currently the majority of source code is written in English - providing an immediate barrier to entry for perspective open source developers that don't know how to read/write English. This is a specific requirement by the Debian project before you can commit any code.

    If we were to use the most spoken language in the world to develop s/w then we would all be writing in Mandarin Chinese.

    Also, if a person takes the sources of a current project and translate all the variable names to another locale - is this considered a fork?

    So how can this be resolved - the answer is to localise the source files - not just the final application. Of course this provides it's own problems and not easy to resolve using the current tools.

    So do we Sub(title) or Dub? There's no obvious answer.

    Xgl and Compiz - New X11 Features and the OpenGL Accelerated Desktop
    Matthias Hopf, SuSE Linux R&D

     X is over 20 years old, and generally enhanced by extensions.

     The base X has changed with the additions of the Extensions : Render, Compose, Damage and Client-side Fonts. New Acceleration mechanisms have been added : EXA and Open GL.

     Development of the X.org server has changed in that the sources have been modularised and have moved to automake/conf projects. They have also made a move to using "git" as a replacement to CVS.

    The Render Extension provides new graphics primitives (transparency, polygons, filters, graduations, etc.). It makes use of "Porter & Duff" compositing (semi transparent primitives). Rendering is no longer "pixel exact". The primitives match a lot of what Cairo offers for vector graphics.

    H/W Acceleration is in transition. First there was the XAA mechanisms, which have been replaced with EXA which provides some just 2 primitives - SolidFillRect and CopyRect, but this is enough for most uses.

    Xgl is an X server implementation that uses OpenGL for all it's drawing.  It is NOT a new display mechanism, it's still X11, and it doesn't accelerate OpenGL or provide "Cool Transition Effects". It is a frontend to X.org (which it starts in the background) and uses the Glitz library as a mid-level abstraction of OpenGL. It has limits, it provides only indirect rendering for proper OpenGL applications and the off-screen memory has to share the same address space.

    AIGLX (Accelerated Indirect GLX) provides OpenGL tunnelling for normal OpenGL applications. This only works with DRI and the nVidia binary driver doesn't work.

    The Compositing Model provides off-screen rendering of windows. The composite manager then brings these rendered windows into view on-screen as required. This then enables you to provide window transformations, cross-window transparencies, etc. The Composite Manager application is a user-space process. It has some problems such as it not 100% matching the X model - window content is generally RGB but the window manager decorations tend to be RGBA - this means that it has to have very tight integration with the Window Manager.

    Compiz is the main implementation of a compositing manager - there also exists a fork of this Compiz-Quinn, which is a test bed for many of the leading-edge features, but is always kept in sync with the original Compiz implementation.

    This is certainly an area we need to take specific interest in from a desktop perspective.

    Tuesday Nov 08, 2005

    The Future Desktop on Solaris (...?)

    Over the last few months I've been tasked with looking at the desktop on Solaris and figuring out what it is that discourages people from using Solaris as a desktop instead of Linux (and in someways even MS Windows and MacOS/X) and to then look at how we could enable users to have a better experience on Solaris. As a result of this I have produced a document which has beem made public at the Desktop community at Open Solaris.org:

    Solaris Desktop Gaps Analysis

    Usability of Solaris, from the kernel to the desktop level is being heavily invested in at the moment. There is a lot happening right now, and from a desktop perspective there are quite a few gaps that need to filled.

    What I want to really do is to spark some discussion. So I ask that you read the document and I would love to hear your comments, but I do ask people to keep it constructive... ;)

    Thursday Jun 23, 2005

    What Source Control Managment s/w to use for Open Solaris?

    Open Solaris is currently getting a lot of attention, especially from developers.

    Contributing to Open Solaris is something I'm sure many of them would love to be able to do. For the moment, there is a process underway that enables this to occur on a limited scale, through the use of Sun internal "sponsors" - we've currently had several patches provided by external contributors and some already committed. While this will tide things over until we've got a suitable SCM in place, it doesn't scale well, so what do we do?

    Well now we get to the point of this entry, James Gosling has asked for your advice on the SCM to use so if you want to influence it please do comment... If you don't, please don't complain if it doesn't go your way... I've done my part, so go do yours.

    Open Solaris - the desktop?

    My own personal wish for OpenSolaris is that it will finally enable Sun to provide a desktop solution that will compete with Linux and Windows. Solaris is a good OS, but it's been highly server focused for some time now, which means that while it supports hotplugging of disks and CPU units, functionality that is really good for a server to stay up 24x7x365, it fails to provide the good enough support for things that really matter to the desktop (or laptop) user like PCMCIA, hotpluggable devices, wireless networking or even ACPI power saving.

    As someone said to me today, if you were to take OpenSolaris and put opensource tools and desktop on top of it (some porting will be required, but not for everything) then how would your average user tell the difference between, for example, a GNOME desktop running on SuSE Linux and OpenSolaris? In the end Linux is really just a kernel - everything else that surrounds it are libraries and applications - OpenSolaris, even in it's current form, is a kernel and the tools for the kernel, if you put the same libraries and applications on top of it you can have a desktop that can compete with Linux in the desktop market.

    SchilliX has made a head start on this already, with Open Solaris now in a form that you can boot from a Live CD. Jeorg has done some good work on this, and is making good headway at achieving what I've already described... I'm sure that there will be others, maybe even Sun could do this, afterall we do intend on posting the rest of the sources of Solaris in the near future, such as JDS so it will quickly be come a fairly complete OS sooner rather than later...

    Since when do void functions return values??

    I've been trying to compile GNOME 2.10 on Solaris using Forte for over  a week now, and I have to say I'm amazed at the number of times I've had to fix code that has a function that is declared to be "void" -  ie. doesn't return a value, but in the function implementation there is a line "return " - while this may compile with GCC - which surprises me in it self - it's just not correct C syntax and the Forte compiles don't tollerate it, which I think is perfectly fine.

    I suppose this also works otherways - GCC has the nice feature of __FUNCTION__ being a string that's available for printf type debugging to provide useful information as to the locality of an assertion or such, but again this doesn't work in all compilers - it would be a nice feature, if it did, but the reality of the situation is that it doesn't - so please only use it if you wrap it in a #ifdef _GNUC_ / #endif.

    So why is this happening, is GCC becoming like Visual Basic -- accepting things that are not strictly correct, but allow them to be used anyway? I certainly hope not. Or maybe it's just people are correctly making use of the -Wall and -Werror flags for gcc - it's certainly good practice, and if you really want to learn a language and write bug-free code it's the best way...

    Maybe this is where it would be a good idea for people working in the community to use other complers.. So guys, Forte is now available for free use in conjunction with Open Solaris - so maybe this is the time to do it...

    PS - I hope to get around to providing the necessary patches for the community soon to fix the one's I've come across so far...




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