Tuesday Mar 13, 2007

T1000/T2000 Firmware well worth getting...

I've been using Sun's T1000 and T2000 systems frequently, as they are ideal candidates for the kinds of server consolidation tasks our customers are busy performing using zones. One thing that has been irritating about these systems is that the console is very slow-- a fact not lost on several of our users (here, here, and in other places). Recently I've been updating a few of our T1000 systems to the latest firmware revision (for T1000 and for T2000), and the console text output seems to be much faster-- probably still not fast, but nicely usable. It is now not so slow that I wouldn't use the console for minor maintenance work.

The firmware update is pretty painless: just place the firmware image on an FTP server, and follow the instructions.

Thursday Jan 18, 2007

Building a Tidy Home Server with OpenSolaris and ZFS

I've seen a number of mailing list posts recently of the form "I want to build a server for my house which uses ZFS.  What should I buy?"  Step one is to list your requirements.  Here are mine:

  • Modest CPU and RAM (= low cost, low power, low heat, low noise)
  • About 150GB of net usuable storage (ZFS makes it easy to grow your storage over time, so I figured I could take advantage of the low cost of "older" drives)
  • Small form factor
  • Quiet
  • Low cost

So this weekend I set out to build such a machine, encouraged by Tom Haynes' success building a box from scratch.  However, I'm lazy, so I wanted to balance do-it-yourself with do-it-easily.  After a visit to my local (very good) computer shop, Central Computers in the bay area, I settled on the following component list.  I could have gone with a machine from Shuttle, but to accommodate more than two drives would have been expensive.  I settled instead on a bare-bones kit (which means case, power supply and motherboard pre-assembled) from Asus.  Here is the required parts list:

So here's the build process, in pictures.  If you want to see any of the pictures up close, just visit the my smugmug gallery page.

The components, as purchased.

Unpack of the barebones box.

I opened the case to find a tangle of black ribbon cables, which I promptly removed.

I left the one ribbon cable I would need for the DVD drive (why aren't these things SATA, also?) and plugged in the supplied SATA cable.

After removing the back side of the case, I was better able to route the IDE ribbon cable; this also provided needed access for screws which hold the drives in place.  I also added in the drives at this point, although for some reason I forgot to take pictures.

I also connected the DVD drive.  At this point I noticed an important warning on the case back...

Adding in the single 1GB DIMM was straightforward, although more pressure than I am accustomed to was required:

Coffee Break!

Time to add the CPU:

And to examine the heatsink provided by AMD.  The fuzzy grey stuff is the thermal paste.  I made sure to look carefully at both the heatsink and the attachment point on the motherboard to be sure that I got things to contact properly.

All components in place!

Because the kit included only one SATA cable, at this point I had to make a quick run to my local electronics retailer, and I picked up some nice goodies to add to the case.  First, I wired up the second drive, and replaced the ATA ribbon cable with a nicer rounded cable.  In my experience, these are just easier to work with.  I also secured the SATA cables out of the way using a velcro cable tie (you can buy big rolls of hundreds of these at Home Depot for a few dollars).  I also used cable ties to secure unused power connectors and generally improve the organization of the wiring:

I also found these amusing "slot caps" from Vantec, which I had fun installing.  In theory, they keep the dust out of unused slots.  In practice, they just look neat.

The caps were sized for PCI slots, so I had to do some surgery to get them to fit on the PCI-Express slots in the case:

The kit also included DIMM slot caps:

Hopefully the airflow through the case will be good enough.  I think the biggest concern is whether the drives will be cool enough.

The new box, looking tiny compared to the 2001-vintage machine which it replaced:

Solaris booted smoothly and with no problems:

I kicked off the installer and watched some TiVo.

Here's the case, suspended from my home desk via a neat metal arm which came with the desk.

Once I get all of my services configured, I'll post some notes about the software side of things.  While no PC is perfect, this little box looks like a winner for a small home server.  Assuming cooling and power budgets will allow, I should be able to expand to four drives with little effort.

Tuesday Jan 16, 2007

I2O should go...

I've spent the past two weeks in Costa Rica, which was a really great trip.  Pictures are forthcoming.

To get myself back in working shape, I've spent some time today working on a pet project, the removal of the Solaris I2O framework.  I2O is long defunct and this particular piece of code weighs in at some 22,000 lines.  In the past when I've looked at this, I've spent time researching the state of I2O (including authoring the I2O Wikipedia article).  Today I started in on the code changes, which took only a little time.

If you can think of a reason I2O support should remain, or know of someone actively using I2O, please drop me a line...

Wednesday Dec 20, 2006

Webrev revised

I recently putback a bunch of work on webrev, a tool which produces HTML-based code reviews.  webrev is much older than web-2.0 generation tools like Google's Mondrian and other commercial code review tools I have seen, but it has done a good job for us for many years.   That said, webrev has built up a long "wish list" of improvements that folks would like to see, evidenced by the dozen or so RFEs about webrev I found in our bug database.  Another problem is that a lot of folks at Sun have been using hacked up versions of webrev for many years, leading to a proliferation of different versions.  As I started working my way through these, I set the goals of my project as follows:

  • Improve the functionality to encompass common wish-list items
  • Clean up the implementation in preparation for Subversion and Mercurial support (which other folks have been prototyping)
  • Redo the command line interface so that simply invoking 'webrev' from the command line attempts to do something useful; rework the options processing to be more extensible and add new options.

Once I talked things over on tools-discuss@opensolaris.org and got some additional suggestions I finished the implementation and putback the fixes. You can see the results here: [old webrev] [new webrev]. Here is the heads up message I sent out about the work, and a quick rundown of the changes I made:

  • You can now run 'webrev' standalone and expect it to "just work." If you have 'wx' initialized, it will use that. If not, it'll use Teamware (and soon, Mercurial and Subversion).
  • Webrev now emits a GNU-patch compatible patch of the changes and a PDF version of the codereview.
  • An "OpenSolaris" mode is now present: use it via 'wx webrev -O' or 'webrev -O'.
  • As might be obvious from the above point, wx now passes arguments to 'wx webrev' on through to webrev.
  • The command line output has changed. Here is a sample:
    $ webrev
    SCM detected: teamware
    File list from: 'wx list -w' ... done
    Workspace: /builds/dp/webrev-fixes
    Compare against: /ws/onnv-clone
    Including: /builds/dp/webrev-fixes/webrev-info
    Output to: /builds/dp/webrev-fixes/webrev
    Output Files:
    patch cdiffs udiffs wdiffs sdiffs frames ps old new
    patch cdiffs udiffs wdiffs sdiffs frames ps old new
    Generating PDF: Done.
    index.html: Done.
  • Teamware-only operation (i.e. when wx is not present) is improved. For example, you can now easily compare the gate against the clone:
         CODEMGR_WS=/ws/onnv-gate webrev -p /ws/onnv-clone -o ~/gatechanges
I also made these improvements:
  • Improved man page
  • Implemented a common color scheme and visual design
  • Delta comments are now shown at the top of each file
  • Printing support via media=print stylesheets
  • Support for generating webrev against previous webrev
  • Overhauled command line parsing including new options:
    • -o <outputdir>
    • -i <include-file>
    • -p <compare-against>
    • -w <wx-file>
    • -O [OpenSolaris mode]
    • -l <options to putback>
  • Cleaned up and improved index.html page.
  • XHTML compliance (or close)
I'm optimistic that folks beyond Sun will find the new webrev useful, particularly once we get Subversion and Mercurial support dropped in.

Thursday Nov 16, 2006

Cool Desktop Backgrounds

Jim wrote me to tell me that this photo of my laptop:

Cool Desktop Background 

is the most popular in his flickr photos from Korea Tech Days, and that he was getting requests for copies of the desktop backgrounds.  Good News!  You too can have them-- they appear in the Solaris Express Community Release starting with (I think) Build 51.  You'll find them in the "Desktop Background" preferences along with about two dozen other cool backgrounds.  Enjoy!

Monday Nov 13, 2006

Departing Incheon

Well, it's been a hectic and exciting week in Seoul; I'm currently sitting in Incheon International Airport, connected to the free wifi service which seems to be available.  Steve and I did two customer visits (both with top-5 Korean companies) and participated in Tech Days as speakers on the OpenSolaris day.  I also got a chance to see Seoul, a little, and the DMZ, a lot.  My pictures are over here-- although this represents just a rough cut.  I need to go through and categorize and caption each one, and I have some more which I need to upload.

In the spirit of Steve's blog entry, here are some things I observed about South Korea:

  • Things are very clean.  The dirtiest places I found were the flea market, and McDonalds.
  • Our Hotel, the COEX Inter Continental, was very nice.  The breakfast buffet (which for us was included in the room charge) was outstanding.
  • Service is everywhere, and things I am used to doing for myself as an American are often done for you-- doors are held, bags carried, things are cleaned a lot.
  • The metro system is pretty easy for a foreigner to use, with everything signed in Korean and in English.  Unfortunately the ticket machines are not signed in English.  The metro is cheap, but the high frequency of stops means that a trip across town could take two transfers and 40 minutes.
  • People are well dressed and (especially the women) very fashionable.
  • Shopping is an intense and exhausting experience, especially on the weekend when everything is jam packed
  • Traffic is incredibly awful, and there is no rail service to Incheon airport.  Supposedly one is being built, but why would you open a brand new airport without having the trains ready?

This internet connection is going up and down.  Here's one photo for now, of the Joint Security Area in the DMZ.  Across the halfway point of the light blue buildings lies North Korea, and their big "visitor's center."  I'll post more photos later. 

The Joint Security Area, DMZ, South Korea 


    [Update: for some reason the post didn't work, but I was able to actually post it when I got home...  More pictures soon]

    Thursday Nov 02, 2006

    Off to Korea for Tech Days

    Well, I've been too long in not blogging. I'll try to do better.

    I'm excited to be heading to Korea with Steve Lau and others for Tech Days next week. It'll be nice to get to hang out with Jim, too.  See you there! I'll post some photos to my blog as the trip progresses.

    Monday Jul 24, 2006

    Fun with Bread

    Following a power outage in our building, the routers are a bit screwy. This gives me a few free minutes to write about a hobby I've recently taken up: Bread. I've never baked my own bread before a few weeks ago (in fact I have never used yeast before). While there are a lot of great references out there, I decided to follow Julia Child's french bread recipe in The Way to Cook, at least in part because I trust this book, and in part because Julia advises the cook to use a food processor (which I have) rather than a stand mixer (which I don't have). After mixing, resting, hand kneading, first rise (40 minutes) and second rise (two hours) I got to shape the dough, and this is the most interesting part. The technique needed to create the long thin baguettes seemed a little complex for my taste, so I elected to divide the dough in half and create two round loaves. The trick here is to create a "gluten cloak"-- a tightly pulled web of long gluten strands-- on the smooth side of the round (this will ultimately be the top of the round). Then the dough rises again in its shaped form; the last step before baking in a 450° oven on a stone is "slashing" the dough with a razor blade-- this allows some of steam to escape and looks nice in the final product. Here's one loaf from my first batch:

    I also made Julia Child's recipe for hamburger buns, which is a lot of work (sadly, no pictures). The results were very nice, however, and they looked especially great painted with some egg wash and dusted with sesame seeds. A few weeks later I made another batch of french loaves:

    Most recently I tried the America's Test Kitchen sandwich bread recipe. This is a nice quick recipe: if you are well organized you could execute it start to finish in just over two hours. The bread includes milk, butter, and honey, which makes for a soft, slightly sweet, slightly yellow bread which I found to be better than anything available at the supermarket:

    Once the hot weather breaks I hope to do some more experiments: I think the french bread could be better-- it's a little dense and the little air pockets in the bread are a bit too fine and too uniform, I think...

    Monday Jun 26, 2006

    Solaris 10 6/06 Released (now with ZFS!)

    Update: Downloads should be fine again

    Update: we're having a software configuration issue on the SDLC and so the downloads may not be available at the moment. They should be working soon.

    Today Solaris 10 6/06 shipped, marking the first supported release to include ZFS, Sun's new filesystem.

    For a engineers like Jeff, Bill, Matt (and many more) who have spent years perfecting ZFS, today marks a big milestone on a long road. Congratulations to Jeff and the whole team!

    A What's New guide is available and downloads of S10U2 are available immediately. A brief summary of some of the new features:

    • ZFS, Sun's revolutionary new filesystem
    • Predictive Self Healing for x64 systems
    • Predictive Self-Healing SNMP trap support
    • Postgres bundled
    • vold service conversion to SMF
    • IPv6 for IPFilter
    • More UDP and TCP/IP performance improvements
    • In-kernel SSL proxy for SSL performance
    • PCI Express support on x86 systems including hotplug
    • Native SATA framework
    • gnome-pilot support for PDA synchronization
    • Xorg 6.9
    • Realplayer

    Wednesday Jun 14, 2006

    OpenSolaris Birthday Festivities

    We mobilized our community to throw OpenSolaris a blog party. For a rundown of what's going on today, check out Jim's Announcement.

    Here is a collection of blog entries thus far. Note that I expect to update this entry a number of times today, so please check back. Of particular note in my mind are the entries from the people who have contributed code to the project:

    Sun's OpenSolaris team (the team busy changing the way we do things in order to make things like the website, SCMs, etc. possible) has also started to post their thoughts (I've included OpenSolaris Marketing here, too): We're also lucky to have some celebrity bloggers checking in: And we wouldn't really be anywhere without dedicated community members: Note: if you're not included here, don't worry-- I'll be adding you later in the day!

    Technorati Tag:

    The Butterfly Effect Revisited

    What a difference a year makes. A year ago this evening, I was up until about 3am helping others to put the finishing touches on the launch of OpenSolaris.org. Life was different... OpenSolaris advocates were beseiged by charges of vaporware. Critics used phrases like "Put up or Shut up," "There is no OpenSolaris," and "You Sun people are pathetic." It was an ugly time which I documented in a blog entry entitled: Beyond My Wildest Expectations: The Butterfly Effect.

    Most of us know the butterfly effect: "Small variations of the initial condition of a dynamical system may produce large variations in the long term behavior of the system. ... Had the butterfly not flapped its wings, the trajectory of the system might have been vastly different." [Source: Wikipedia] I often think of this effect when I consider why something surprising happened.

    Then at about 8am on June 14th, 2005, we opened opensolaris.org and invited the world in for a look, and to join us in developing a world class operating system. At the time I felt like part of a volcano of activity-- today it seems like another flap of the butterfly's wings.

    So today I'm contemplating the butterfly effect of our actions last June 14. Who could have predicted a year ago what today would be like? How will this year's accomplishments be amplified in years to come? Just today we've reached 100 contributions-- I wonder if that milestone number serve to attract new developers? We've seen new faces and new perspectives emerge in the community. Several active distributions with different and interesting missions have arrived. User groups have sprouted up-- and attending SVOSUG meetings has been one of my favorite activities this year.

    That's not to say we're done. There's a long list of things yet to be accomplished-- mostly summarized on the roadmap. But we've delivered a lot, and I hope that counts for something. As for me: In the next year I hope to sponsor more fixes, and help out with some redesign of the website look and feel (I helped to author today's redress of the home page, mostly assembled over the last 48 hours). The butterfly effect leaves me optimistic-- and fairly sure that the next year will bring new surprises...

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    Monday Jun 12, 2006

    Reminder: Blog Party & IRC Chat Party Tomorrow (Weds June 14)

    Don't forget: We're throwing OpenSolaris a blog birthday party and an IRC party tomorrow, June 14.

    To check out the chat party, check out our new java based chat, here: #opensolaris@freenode.net.

    And please, support the blog party by writing a blog entry and posting it at around 9am PDT (16:00 UTC) on June 14th. See you then!

    Wednesday Jun 07, 2006

    Blog Birthday Party 2006

    We're planning a Blog Birthday Party for OpenSolaris! The event will be on June 14th, 2006, to mark the one year anniversary of our launch. Looking back, it's amazing how much we wrote as part of the launch. See Bryan and Liane's chronicles of that event here, here, here, here, and here. I think that Tim Bray put it best:
    They told me they were going to try to get lots of people to blog about the launch, but this is remarkable: this morning they knew about 132 bloggers and 215,000 words, and there’s another dozen pieces every time I turn on my aggregator. The communications and culture shift happening here is maybe just as interesting as OpenSolaris itself. Herewith observations, and pointers to some particularly sharp-edged samples. A new thing is in the world.

    So in short, I'm trying to harness that same energy to celebrate the birthday of OpenSolaris. If you are reading, you are invited too: Join us by blogging or just reading on June 14th!

    PS: I'm also hoping that we can celebrate with a 24-hour party in the #opensolaris IRC channel on irc.freenode.net. Come for a chat!

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    Friday May 19, 2006

    JavaOne Pictures

    Here are some pictures I took at JavaOne 2006. Click the image for more.

    Sunday May 14, 2006

    Off to JavaOne

    I'll be at JavaOne Monday and Tuesday of this week. On Monday, I'm going to try to attend Netbeans Day SF, and on Tuesday I'll be manning the OpenSolaris booth on the exhibition floor and watching the fun at the DTrace Challenge. Tuesday night I'm expecting to go to whatever SVOSUG meeting materializes. I hope to see you there!

    Kernel Gardening.


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