Thursday Jul 07, 2011

Sun Ray coolness ala iPad

    I've been a fan of Oracle's Sun Ray technology since I first saw it as a Sun Labs project 14 years ago. I've blogged on it many times, and while I am not as directly involved in the sales process for Sun Ray and other desktop virtualization technologies, I still try to stay on top of what is going on. I also try to get some hands on time as well, but that's not as easy as it used to be.

    What makes me excited enough about Sun Ray technology to again take to my blog? My iPad 2. I got an iPad 2 a few weeks ago, and I'm still working on getting the most from it, beyond just being a bigger version of my iPhone 4, which has it's merits for my aging eyes. I really love the Smart Cover, and the size has made it even easier for me to do stuff that I used to prefer doing on my MacBook, but in a lighter and quicker to access form factor. I like my iPad a lot, but my iPhone is still my ultimate 'portable' computer.

    I've played with a couple apps for getting remote access to a desktop machine, for accessing my kid's PC at home and my PC at work. Heck, I even have it set up to remotely access my MacBook, when my MacBook is left running somewhere. But none of them are as seamless and full featured as the Sun Ray at home I had when working for Sun. Wouldn't it be neat to have that kind of access, with the portability of an iPad? Yes it would, and it is now available. Oracle has just announced the Oracle Virtual Desktop Client App for iPad.

    For those that didn't just dash off to get it, here is the link to it on the Apple AppStore. And did I mention that it is free. Obviously you will need access to a Sun Ray server, but that's the point, isn't it. This takes the existing Oracle Virtual Desktop Client (OVDC), available on Windows, Oracle Linux and Oracle Solaris, to a new, more portable platform that has not only created a new market, but is extremely popular, and continuing to sell faster than they can stock them.

    I got the chance to try this iPad OVDC internally and I'm impressed. One thing I really love about it is the keyboard. By tapping with 3 fingers at once, it brings up the on-screen keyboard, which includes access along an additional row across the top to various additional capability. This includes a button to bring up all the function keys (F1-F12), another button to bring up cursor keys, as well as toggle-able Control, Alt, and Shift keys, and Esc, Tab and Del keys. Man, I wish there was a way to get that keyboard for many of my other iPad apps. :-) You can use the standard iPad gestures for zooming and moving around the screen. A quick 2-finger swipe to the right brings back the connection panel, allowing you to easily change connections or disconnect the current session. It also has a button for getting help on supported gestures.

    It's probably just the geek in me, but I'm loving this new client. If you have access to a Sun Ray environment and have an iPad, check it out. For years customers have wanted Sun Ray laptops and tablets. I can't think of a better option for filling that need. For those of you who try it out, please let me know in the comments your impressions. Mobile corporate computing just got more accessible. Congratulations to the Sun Ray engineering team for a great addition to the Sun Ray family.

Wednesday Apr 01, 2009

April Fools at Sun

    Yup, it's that time of year again, and the Internet is abuzz with April Fools Day jokes of various kinds, including Google's, YouTube's, and the first one I saw this morning at Expedia. Some are pretty funny, some well thought out, and others just kinda sad. I always find a laugh to be well worth the effort, particularly during difficult times.

    I'm sorry to say that I haven't seen one prank within Sun today. Over the long history of Sun, April Fools Day pranks have usually been creative, sometimes amazing, and always fun. There was one during the days when Scott McNealy was fond of the phrase "put all our wood behind 1 arrow", and sure enough, he ended up with a gigantic wooden arrow through his office. We have a web resource called Onestop, and many pranks were pulled through it's pages, including amazing new products from SunLabs, etc.

    OK, I'm getting old and can't seem to remember all the details, but one of Sun's execs found his fancy car in the middle of one of the ponds on campus, on a raft or other surface such that it was fine, but not easily accessible. And not long after Sun announce Project BlackBox, there was a video of OpenWork 3.0, built into a shipping container much like the Modular Datacenter. Ah, those were the days. Maybe I was snoozing today and missed it, but it sure would be nice to see some of that old 'Kick Butt and Have Fun' attitude around the Sun family again.

    At this point, the best I can do is try to bring some levity to the rest of my fellow employees at Sun Microsystems by digging up some of the fun old mock ads. Enjoy :-)

Anti-Microsoft Jacques Cousteau style ad

The IT Guy - Episode #1

The IT Guy - Episode #2

The IT Guy - Episode #3

The IT Guy - Episode #4

Wednesday Mar 11, 2009

New Reading Opportunities

    For those who are new to e-books, and for those regular e-book readers looking to try something new, we are well into Read an E-book Week, which is from March 8th through the 14th. There are several publishers and authors who are offering free e-books or reduced prices on e-books this week. For those of us using the e-book reader Stanza on their iPhones, check out the online libraries for the Read an E-book Week library with many free and reduced price books.

    I've been an e-book reader for many years, having started on various Palm OS based devices, a Windows-based PDA, laptops, and now my iPhone. I like them because they are convenient, but I am disappointed at the prices. I've blogged before about some of my sources, from Project Gutenburg, offering free access to classics and non-copyright material, to Fictionwise, whom by the way was just purchased by Barnes and Noble, and who has more flexible pricing to handle the purchase of single stories. So far I have found plenty of e-books of interest for free, and have even purchased or gotten some for my birthday, but I still think that the publishing industry should not follow the music industries lead, and should start building the market with prices that reflect the reduced cost to 'print' and distribute the content. Some publisher's, like Bain, are headed in the right direction, and I support them and cheer them on.

    Speaking of e-books, a close friend of mine has made the travel book for children he and his wife did available as a web e-book, as they have found it challenging to get it published in hard copy so far. I went with them on at least one 'photo shoot', and have been interested in the project from the start. The book is built around a stuffed koala named Kiki who loves to travel. It is a photo book, with Kiki visiting many tourist sites around Boston. I think they have done a wonderful job with the website, and the formatting of the web e-book. Some of the shots are really great, and I'm sure my kids would have loved the book when they were younger. Check it out at Kikibooks. I hope they get enough positive feedback to continue the series in other cities, although I know there is a lot of planning and logistics involved, particularly in the post-911 environment we live in these days.

    I encourage anyone who likes to read to take this opportunity to check out e-books for the first time, or to try something different in e-books. I've recently discovered the existence of cartoon/comic e-books myself, and am trying them out on both my iPhone and my laptop. :-)

Wednesday Sep 03, 2008

Catching up

    I've got several posts rolling about in my head, but have been stuck in a blog specific kind of rut. I'm not convinced blog posts are the right medium for quick 1 or 2 sentence blurbs or pointers to some other content. I may change my mind, but I think that a blog post should have some new content, if only to add my opinion or thoughts on a subject someone else has covered in detail. So I get stuck sometimes thinking I need quality time to put together a post, even though I have plenty of opinions and thoughts. :-)

    Since I've been feeling somewhat productive today, I said, what the f time for a post no matter what. Here it is. I'm listening to a Bruce Springsteen station on Pandora, while my youngest plays Chip's Challenge on the home computer, with the sound way up. Fortunately for me, I am using a setup that came to me at the recent ASM/IW09 event. When I travel, I often take the opportunity to catch up on movies via Pay-per-View, but this time I had a room mate to be sensitive to. I happened to have brought with me an inexpensive FM transmitter which connects to a headphone jack, and transmits the head phone output over a frequency you select via digital display. Works great for when I want to listen to tapes in my car, which only has a CD/radio.

    In this case I thought, gee I could use it as a 'wireless' headphone, connecting it to the TV's headphone jack, which there was one, and my head phones to the radio/clock next to the bed. As it turns out, the radio/clock was designed to take an iPod or other MP3 player, but had no head phone jack. Darn. I haven't carried an FM receiver in years, as my past experience with them has been weak at best. Suddenly, the cheap FM radio my boys got once with a hair cut doesn't seem so useless anymore. I wasn't able to try my 'wireless' head phones idea then, but that's what I'm using now. Being the cheapy I am, I was in a Dollar store the other day and found a reasonably small FM receiver for $1. It even has a little LED flashlight built in. I now have a small, easy to carry and use wireless head phone setup.

    Another thing that has impacted my blogging is my move. As I have posted before (My new home takes shape, An old fashioned neighborhood, Blog Action Day - Environment), my family and I are moving to this wonderful community at Sawyer Hill Ecovillage, and in particular the Mosaic Commons cohousing community. While the first units are being finished up, I should point out that we still have available market rate and 40b units available in most sizes, from 1 bedroom up to 4 bedroom. As Mister Rogers used to say, 'Won't you be my neighbor?'.

    With the current Real Estate market the way that it is, I was sure we had taken too long to put our house on the market in order to sell it before our new house was ready. Well, I may have been right that our house was unique enough that it wasn't as affected as other houses, and we had a great realtor, so in less than 3 weeks after putting our house on the market, we had 8 showings and 2 offers. It's kind of a blur, but at this point we have moved out of the house into a small 2 bedroom apartment, and thrown out a lot more stuff. We also made some Craig's List watchers very happy with the stuff we gave a way just to get rid of it in a re-used way. There is much more to get rid of, and we are still settling in to the apartment and finding where stuff we use often ended up, but we are a step closer to a new community and home. More on community in another post.

    I'll end this post with a quick note that the kids are back in school, and after 2 days for one and a week for the other, things are going well so far. Knock on wood. :-) Sandy and I are still juggling pick up and drop off schedules. Oh, and this apartment we have for a few months comes with heat....24/7 whether you want it or not. Makes for some testy folks with the warm weather not helping cool the place off. I am hoping that when the fall weather starts to kick in, it will be a little more tolerable.

Monday Jun 16, 2008

DOS Bootable USB flash drive - how I did it

    There are 2 things you need in order to make an USB flash drive boot into DOS. The first is a boot sector, and the second are the DOS boot files. Below are the steps I used to get these onto a USB flash drive, making it possible to boot into DOS from the USB flash drive.

    The following steps where all done in Microsoft Windows XP in a VMware virtual machine. They should work with most other versions of MS Windows. I successfully used these steps on an USB flash drive I got at Immersion Week 2008 for use in a ZFS demo (Identifies itself as CBM). YMMV depending on USB flash drive model and manufacturer. These steps are based off of the very useful information at BootDisk.com.

1) Getting a boot sector on the USB flash drive
    Start by gettng the mkbt DOS utility from here mkbt
    Unzip mkbt into a temporary directory
    OK, if you are like most people these days, you don't have a floppy drive in your laptop or desktop, and you may never have, although you should know what a floppy is if you have any interest in doing this. So, if you don't have a floppy drive in your machine, you can use vfd to create a virtual floppy, which is what I did. You can get vfd from here vfd, then follow the directions for creating a virtual drive in RAM, then save it as a file for future use. Use the Windows Explorer format menu item to format the virtual floppy and make sure you check off the box to make an MS-DOS start up disk.

    Once you have access to a DOS boot floppy, use the following command, from a command prompt, to save the boot sector, where a: is the drive letter of your DOS bootable floppy (virtual or physical)

mkbt -c a: bootsect.bin

    Now use the following command to write the boot sector to your USB flash drive, where n: should be replaced with the drive letter of you USB flash drive.

mkbt -x bootsect.bin n:

2) Getting the DOS boot files
    copy all the files from the boot floppy onto the USB flash drive.

    Now you should have a DOS bootable USB flash drive, for use with a system that supports booting from USB, including x64 products from Sun. Copy over whatever DOS utilities you need to use, including AFU for Adaptec RAID controller firmware updates, which is used in some of Sun's x64 products. Or use it for whatever need you may have. Even with a small USB flash drive, you will have a lot more room than a floppy ever dreamed of. Perhaps my next blog post should be on whether inanimate objects dream. :-)

Update : Per several comment poster's, I have fixed the command line for writing the boot sector onto the USB flash drive. It is now correct in the above post. Thanks to those who caught my mistake. :-)

Tuesday Apr 22, 2008

Dealing with uncommon image formats

    During my downsizing and de-cluttering, I came across a half dozen 3.5" floppies that held digitized pictures. These were from a time before I had a digital camera, and were done as part of the film processing service. They happened to be of my oldest son's birth, so they are important, and I wanted to be able to view them with ease and manage them the same way I do the pictures from my digital cameras.

    Ooops, they are in KGP format, Konica Camera File, so it must have been a Konica based service. My MackBook Pro, running OS X 10.5.x, didn't recognize the format as something any of the apps currently installed knew what to do with, so off to Google for help. There I find XnView, a free graphics viewer supporting mucho formats, and it's associated utility NConvert. As it turns out, the Mac OS X version of XnView is in transition from an older release to a new alpha of a universal binary re-write. I tried it and it seems to work OK, but I really wanted the files in a more usable format.

    So, I tried NConvert, which turns out to be a CLI-based utility. I wanted to do a bulk conversion from KGP to .jpg files, and after a quick review of the command line parameters, /Applications/NConvert/nconvert -help, I took a stab at doing my conversions, as follows :

/Applications/NConvert/nconvert -in kqp -o %.jpg -out jpeg -keepfiledate \*

    This worked great, in a quick, efficient manner. Keep in mind that the command examples I give are based on where I put the nconvert directory, and that this command line execution is done via the Mac OS X Terminal application, giving me access to the BSD under-pinnings of OS X. Am I done and ready to upload them to SmugMug yet? Not quite.

    Apparently, when one set of film was developed, either I had taken all the pictures upside down, or the developer processing them upside down. Either way, one whole floppy worth of pictures were upside down, and that diminished from their excellence, or at least from them being readily recognizable. Another quick review of command line parameters, and I tried this on that floppy's files:

/Applications/NConvert/nconvert -in jpeg -o %.jpg -out jpeg -keepfiledate -jpegtrans rot180 \*.jpg

    Et voila, c'est magnifique. All the pictures where then burnt onto CD for safe keeping, and uploaded to SmugMug for sharing, discretely, of course. Then yesterday, as I considered blogging with pictures of my bike riding family, I got to thinking that perhaps I could replace my old standby method for resizing my RAZR taken pics to something I consider more usable in a blog post. My habit had been to use The Gimp to load, resize and save each picture. Sure, there might be a way to automate that, but here I was already becoming an expert at nconvert. And, with the number of pictures I was considering to post, it was time for a bulk method, and here it is:

/Applications/NConvert/nconvert -in jpeg -o %b.jpg -out jpeg -keepfiledate -resize 30% 30% \*.jpg

    It's just that simple. Nconvert's help listing is really long, so I won't post it here, but I highly recommend nconvert for your image manipulation needs, as long as you can deal with command line utilities. Oh, I should mention that both XnView and NConvert are cross platform apps, available on Solaris, Linux, Windows, and obviously Mac OS X. Thanks Pierre Gougelet.
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A place where Perley Mears sounds off on topics relevant to his work at Oracle.

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