Wednesday May 25, 2011

Some things change... blue to red...

My Sun blog has now been migrated (and added chronologically - more or less completely) to my Oracle blog.

And I'm happy to note that the blog software used is now roller, the Apache blogging platform that we used in the Sun days. I find that sweet.

You probably want to update your RSS feeds, though, the old one remains active, it seems...

Welcome to the new world!

Wednesday Jan 27, 2010

Selecting your processor : SPARC or Intel?

Usually I don't directly point to an article somewhere without having significant things to say about it... but this time will be an exception because my colleague Karim Berrah definitely hit the nail with this one.

Have a look at his blog entry on this subject and ponder your next choice more wisely now that you have many more elements to base your decision on.

Saturday Sep 26, 2009

Content aggreagators... without our permission...


You may be reading this article from a site called ekschi(.com) ... If this is the case, note, and be aware that they are copying content directly from without my explicit (or even implicit, as far as I know) permission. We encourage you to read the original article directly on our blogs where they were written. Point your browser to for the original content you found on ekschi...

Tuesday Sep 22, 2009

AutoCAD Map 3D on Sun Ray - Geospatial in an ultra secure environment

I've been working with my colleagues at Autodesk, and we've come up with a very interesting way to run AutoCAD Map 3D (their geospatial solution) on our Sun Ray terminals. AutoCAD Map 3D is the only AutoCAD version that is certified on Citrix. This means that it's used both by people who need the geospatial features, but also the vanilla CAD features of the standard AutoCAD product.

What we've done is simply set up AutoCAD Map 3D and Citrix XenApp server on a Windows 2003 machine (running on really fancy Sun x86 hardware, of course). Install according to Autodesk's installation guide.

Then we set up a Sun Ray server (you know, Sun hardware - sizing guide here, Sun Ray Server Software) on which we installed the free Citrix native Solaris client. Install using Sun's installation guide. And then got a few Sun Rays.

Voila. Worked. Out of the box.

Now  the result is a very secure environment. The Sun Ray terminals have no hard disk, no local state... nothing of value to steal should an employee decide to walk away with one. By default, the USB port on the device isn't configured to enable USB attached storage to work, so impossible to copy data or insert viruses either. This is perfect for very sensitive environments.

But going beyond that, you can configure the system a-la SNAP, by turning on Solaris' Trusted Extensions, to boost up the security to military grade (EAL4+ certified), with segregation of hardware, network, data, processes... even your windows on the terminal have different security levels and it's not possible to copy from a high security level window (say your geospatial application) to a low security level (say a web browser on the internet) without approval by, e.g. a security officer.

Want to make it even more scalable, move the database store (MySQL - which includes geospatial extensions natively - or Oracle) to one of our Thumper-class machines... CPU and disks all in one box...

This is probably the most convenient, and lowest cost-to-manage solution for running AutoCAD Map 3D today. And you get all these benefits thrown in as well! :)

Wednesday Mar 11, 2009

15 minutes vs 90 minutes?


Today we're not comparing lover performances around the globe... and certainly not from a Frenchman's perspective.

90 minutes is the average time spent per day by a smoker during an 8H work shift (as presented here).

15 minutes is the average time spent per day by a Facebook user. (Just heard this today listening to France Info, the French information radio, while driving to work.)

Now the strange thing is that some companies (definitely anchored in the long gone 20th century) block access to some social networking sites... but still let people take a walk out of the office to smoke a cig. Now while I don't smoke, I'm not suggesting companies stop letting their employees take a lung-destructive break... I'm more looking at it the other way.

Social networks (like Facebook) are becoming a part of life. Heck, they're becoming a part of work too! Here at Sun, we encourage our employees to use Facebook. We even use it professionally to communicate with our developer communities, and our customer communities.

What the retrograde companies are failing to see is that a whole bunch of brilliant students are coming out of university. And they've been used to stay in touch with their colleagues and peer bright minds through these networks. They won't give up that link easily. They will look for companies that let them stay in touch with their fellow alumni. Employers who fail to realize that will be missing out on the brightest minds, and their competitiveness will be lessened.

It's time to shift to the 21st century, people! Social networks are a fact! Your employees use them. They will spend some time on them. And it will make them more connected, more productive, more efficient. Don't fight it. Embrace it. In the end, digging your heels in the ground won't help. It will slow you down... your competition isn't slowing down.

Wednesday Feb 25, 2009

Sun and appGATE in Government Webminar on March 12th!

We're going to be doing a webminar with our partner appGATE!

If you are interested in securing remote accesses to applications and data in government, read below... and plan to attend!

The world is changing and so is how we work. Technology has provided great opportunities to take traditional desk jobs into the field to be more efficient and effective. The challenge lies in how to develop a secure, unified approach to managing an IT infrastructure with so many access points.

Today's Government agencies need to provide secure communication between different regions. Information of all government agencies, civilian, intelligence and defense, must be absolutely protected. But implementing it may be harder than it seems.

Join industry leaders from The 451 Group, Sun Microsystems, and AppGate Network Security for this informative web event and you will learn:

The driving factors behind a growing mobile workforce in government
The benefits - and pitfalls - of solutions on the market today
Successful methods of protecting government services from unauthorized access, regardless of device

Live web event
March 12 at 8:00am PT

If you have any questions or feedback, please send a message to

Monday Dec 08, 2008

Rockbandism... is it for Sun?

My friend Henriette Weber Andersen (she runs Toothless Tiger - if you're looking for a different kind of marketing, she's just what your company might need) just started a new idea. It's called Rockbandism (she puts an apostrophe in there - I prefer without). A new way to look at your company.

In these extremely hectic times ( the Chinese would say "interesting times" ) ... it's no more business as usual. It's time for changing the cards, turning the company around... 405 degrees. (the first 360 to confuse the competition, the next 45 so that you stay aligned with your corporate goals, but are ready to get there by taking angles).

Have a look at her blog entry on 10 steps to move your company towards Rockband status.

You know what... maybe Sun should do more of that. Get today's startups hooked on OpenSolaris, JavaFX, OpenStorage, MySQL (OK, they're already hooked on that one), Glassfish... using means of communication that they relate to (like blogging - oh wait, we already do that) and turning them in ways that really appeals to them (i.e. not using blogs like institutional PR tools - ah, yeah... we seem to do that a lot these days).

Read Henriette's eBook at Toothless Tiger Press and make your own idea... and tell me what you think. Does that lady rock?

Monday Feb 18, 2008

Web 2.0... anything more than just a marketing term?


I've heard so many people talk about the Web 2.0... or write about it... just as if it were an actual physical reality, a fact of life. I've already commented about this... about a year ago. Yet I keep hearing this. I keep seeing new definitions of Web 2.0... as if there was a desperate need to find a way to define this inexistant reality to give it some kind of legitimity.

The latest attempt to date compares the ease of creating web sites pre-web-2.0 and post.

I still don't buy it. 

Before, building a web site required knowledge of HTML, and a proper
HTML editor (vi for some of us, something more fancy for others). If
you had to install the stuff to run it on a machine, you basically
installed Linux (or Solaris, or Windows, or \*BSD) and then slapped
Apache on top. Pretty simple... and direct.

Nowadays, you have to install Apache, PHP, Ruby, who knows what other
toolkit, and configure all of these building blocks to talk to
each-other. Anybody here know what ap-php is? Well, that's the
additional piece of code needed to tell Apache to know about PHP... and
so on. Then you have to learn HTML, PHP, Python, Ruby, AJAX, and who
knows what else.

What is easier, these days, with the so called "web 2.0" (which I still
consider a fancy marketing term, with no actual measurable difference
from, say, web 1.1, web 1.2, web 1.3...) is that there are a bunch of
portals that people have taken GREAT PAINS to build, which allow
unknowledgeable users to actually publis stuff. But these "publishers"
don't know how to create a web site anymore than they did before. They
just are given the tools to put stuff in placeholders. They still, for
most of the "facebook" users, have no clue as to what gears are turning
behind the blue and white screen they are putting their stuff in. Heck,
they probably even don't understand (or care about) the privacy issues
related to puting on line what they are publishing.

Now back to web 2.0... why 2.0? I wasn't really aware that the web had
reached a 1.0. As far as I'm concerned, since I first saw the Mozaic"
web browser appear around 1994, the web has slowly, but surely, been
evolving. It's not reached, yet, the "itchi dan", the first degree that
will show some maturity.

It's gone from static, non moving, pages, with links (Tim Berner Lee's
original web - would THAT be 1.0? or is it web pre-release-0.1?)

To static pages with moving things (thanks to our Java, then Flash,
then ActiveX)

To being an insecure space (thanks to ActiveX - ok, maybe in some cases
to Flash, and even to a lesser extent, in some rare cases, Java)

To being a searchable web (Yahoo)

To being a commercial web

To being an advertizement powered web

To hosting the bubble burst

To being an even more searchable web (Google)

To starting again to be a commercial web (maybe it never stopped that,
but just slowed down)

To begin a collaborative web (wikipedia)

To being a res-publica, a web of it's own denisens (facebook, myspace,
and other sites where the user creates the content)

What will be the next steps? Which one of the previous steps marks Web
1.0? Any one could... but then the next ones would be 2.0, 3.0, 4.0...

I prefer to think that the web has no version number. It's a constantly
evolving entity, and there will never be clearly defined thresholds
that we will reasonably be able to label as 1.0, 2.0, 3.0.

Proof? Getting back to "2.0" ... nobody really agrees on a common

It's because there IS no 2.0... just as there WAS no 1.0... And there
WON'T BE a 3.0...

If it was a discreet progression (1.0, 2.0, 3.0), it might stop at any
of these values.

It's all an analog progression through the digital space. That's why it
will always continue to evolve.

Thursday Jan 31, 2008

25 Years Online, And More To Come

Today I just realized that it's been over 25 years that I've been online.

25 years...


Things have changed! I feel the need to write down some of the highlights of my online life.

25 years... More or less the same age as Sun Microsystems. “The Network Is The Computer”. I was trying to get that to work back then, without TCP/IP.

My first real computer was a TRS 80 Model I. I bought the beast around 1981 / 1982. My parents helped me buy it (though all of my pocket money that I had earned working during vacation – I was 17 at the time – went into it).

At this time, I was heavily into CB radios. A friend of mine (actually, neighbor, living across the road, called Frank Salomé – hi Frank!) had a TRS 80 Model III and we wanted to exchange information. These machines had audio cassette I/O... so we got that to work, plugging the cassette-out to the microphone IN of our Thomson ERA 2000T (22 channels FM 2 Watt CB radio) and the cassette-in to the microphone OUT of same transceiver. That worked... though not the actual bidirectional networking we would have wanted.

Some time later, a schoolmate of mine brought me a fully populated computer board that his dad had brought back from his office (Alcatel, if I remember well). Wow! What luck. The board had, soldered onto it, all the expensive chips I needed to build the expansion interface of my TRS 80... it had 2 banks of 4116 RAM chips (very fragile CMOS that I unsoldered by blowing high pressure air using my dad's compressor – in the process, pulverizing droplets of soldering lead all over the wall of his workbench – my dad was really pissed off – all that without destroying a single chip). It also had a had floppy disk controller (the famous – at the time – WD 1771 chip).

With my expansion interface came a modem. 300 baud. Unfortunately, it was Bell standard, and in France, we needed CCITT. I hacked the 600 ohm transformer and R/C bridge and I was more or less in business (though not perfect). Didn't use that one much.

Some time later, I got my first PC compatible. An Amstrad. After just a few minutes of having it at home, I realized my mistake. This machine wasn't build to be opened by the user. It was extremely hard to hack into it. I sold it, and got myself a real PC compatible for which I chose the motherboard, the graphics controller, the IDE controller, and... got a big (I think Alcatel, again) modem. 1200 baud. What a luxury compared to my 300 baud on the TRS 80.

With that weapon in hand, I started playing around with BBSes. Found a toll free number that was connected to a research X.25 network, wich was, very conveniently interconnected to Transpac (the French commercial X.25 network). Through that, I would log on to servers around Europe. Mostly in the UK. So many things to download. At that time, I was also a student in university. Got my first official e-mail address. I was 1988.

In school, I was a hacker. Broke quite a few of the systems... sometimes voluntarily, sometimes less. Until the system administrator came to me and said “Gilles, instead of breaking machines, why not help get them to run. We have received a batch of machines from a company called Sun. We have no idea how to set them up, but please come help, I'm sure you'll like it.” I did. That mostly turned me away from the dark side. Though, I remember once bringing down a whole class of students trying to learn LISP by writing a recursive virus that spawned processes on the server until it was saturated. At the time, SunOS didn't limit the number of processes per user in a way that would have prevented it. Took a few hours to bring it back up (fscks, you know) and I had a few system admins and teachers somewhat unhappy at me. Oh well. Live and learn. No more recursive spawns for me.

But I was not completely done trying things online. I had a fun idea. What would happen if I sent a mail to “\*@\*.\*” I tried. At the time, the university was interconnected to USENET through the French node INRIA. And I got a very upset e-mail from the system administrator of INRIA to the effect of “Don't EVER do that again.” No idea if it really got the network down, over there... but certainly attracted attention.

Time passes. I'm still connected with my 1200 baud modem to the rest of the world, in my appartment in Sceaux, near Paris. I'm now working at Uniplex. My e-mail at work is UUCP... bang bang! I'm just about to do my first online purchase. A chap in the UK called Adam Black published the Munitions Shirt. A shirt that has a bar code encoded version of the RSA encryption algorithm. As such, it is machine readable and considered a munition in many countries, including my own, France. Since there is no such thing as the commercial web, and HTTPS / SSL, the only way to place a secure order is to send a PGP encrypted mail. I take the source code of PGP 2.3 and port it to the MIPS RC/3230 of my company since it's not available on this machine and I need it. I place my first order. I still have the shirt (though, as my friends will confirm, it LOOKS its age).

Back to my home, December 1993. id Software is about to release Doom. The game of the century. Everybody is expecting it. The buzz is incredible. At 1200 baud, it's going to take hours to download. My apartment is small. The bedroom and living room are one. The computer is in the same room I sleep. The download starts during the day... and my communication software PROCOM (anybody still remember these guys) wakes me up beeping after the Z-MODEM transfer has completed (and to think that I still use Z-MODEM every now and then today – my last use of Z-MODEM was summer 2007 to transfer a copy of Linux onto an iPAQ 3600 PDA). At 2 in the morning, I wake up. Doom is transferred to my computer. Time to re-assemble the archive, decompress it, and install the game. I play for about an hour. Jumping every time a pumpkin or an imp attacks... and after that, so pumped up with adrenalin, I am incapable of finding sleep... but I loved it all the way. My friend Jessie Collet shares the same experience.

Uniplex moves to internet style e-mail and I become Welcome to a modern world. Except that when I need to receive or send an urgent mail, I still have to manually trigger the Telebit Trailblazer model to dial and uucp all the messages in the queue... Oh well. After the PGP port, I contribute to another piece of open source, hp2xx by writing the RGIP converter, with my management's approval, and publish it back.

October 1994 I join Sun. It's the start of the commercial internet. Mosaic is the browser of choice. Netscape? Microsoft still has no (public) idea of what Internet is all about. Sun has been shipping systems with TCP/IP for already a decade. One of my colleagues comes and shows me something called LiveOak. A web browser, looking furiously like Mosaic, but with animated things in the web page... supposedly written in a special language called Oak. I send him off telling him that web pages are documents, and as such should be static, not animated. Of course, my first feat of arms as a visionary isn't very successful... in particular as this was soon to be renamed HotJava (the browser) and Java (the platform and language). I've done better since...

It's now been over 13 years that I've been having a blast here at Sun. I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attacking worms off the borders of corporate networks... I watched C compilers go from free to commercial and back to free. I watched the Internet, go from a research network to a full blown commercial environment where billions of dollars are exchanged in transactions every day.

So where are we going from now on? Let's see if I can make some predictions... and they'll come back to haunt me in another 20 years or so...

  • COBOL will still be there for the foreseeable future. (OK, this one was easy, but I had to do it.)

  • There will be a need for more than 5 supercomputers in the world. (Ditto)

  • Internet access will be flat fee, unlimited volumes, high bandwidth, regardless of the medium. This means that, yes, you will get flat fee wireless internet access on your phone. It will take some time, but cell phone operators will all have to get to there. We've been telling them that at Sun for ages. It's going to happen. No other way possible.

  • Security will always be an issue. And not just because the guys in Redmond don't know how to architect a secure OS from the bottom up, but because the more interconnected systems, the more value, so the more interest in taking an (illegitimate) chunk of that value. Viruses, worms, hacks will take a more and more commercial nature, people exploiting holes for benefit, rather than for glory. Everybody, the bad guys, but also the good guys will be using malicious techniques to do their thing. Good guys to protect legitimate interests, bad guys to attack you.

  • Open source, collaborative development will become the dominant mode of software (and, to some extent, hardware) project development. Open source will be used as the main source of mission critical software.

  • However much I would like to NOT see that happen, advertisement will be more and more present in our every day life, online or offline. Lucky technology savvy people will block it with technology tools. Others will get the full blast. This will have the advantage of making more and more services appear free (the actual, hidden, cost being “add-time in your brain”).

  • People will be spending more time online then in front of their TV. As such, conventional TV will slowly decrease in audience and advertisement revenue, favoring community media sites where users publish their own contents.

  • DRM will die. Heck, it's almost dead today. It won't be used to control on which player, in which context, how many times you play your media. It will, more likely, be used (through techniques like watermarking) for traceability purposes.

  • My friend and colleague Alec Muffett predicted the 1TB iPod. I concur. We will be carrying massive amounts of storage and processing power in handheld (or worn) devices that will participate in our daily activities. Playing media, communicating with distant as well as close people and entities. We will use technology to favor interpersonal exchanges. Your phone/PDA/media-player/link-to-the-net will tell you somebody whom you might want to meet, or avoid, is near you.

So now that I've layed these out, I'm sure to be proven wrong on a few... but by how much? And when?

You tell me if you think different!

Wednesday Feb 28, 2007

Whatever 2.0 : Are we there yet?

Buzz words 2.0.


Today everything is 2.0 (well, appart from my wife which is 1.0 and I'm happy with that). I keep hearing about Web 2.0 (which, if you look at it closely is still based on adequate formatting of good old IP packets, as far as I'm concerned), Security 2.0, Privacy 2.0, Marketing 2.0, Life 2.0 (oops, did I really write that one down?).


Everybody is colling everything and its opposite "2.0". Why? Because it sounds good. Period. There is no real reason (sorry marketing folks) to call any of the things that today we hear called "2.0" but for purely marketing reasons.


Don't get me wrong. The world we are in is evolving... but to be able to say we went through a quantum leap from a 1.0 to a 2.0... come on! We weren't even at 1.0 with the web. From its inception at the CERN, the web has always been work in progress. Will it even reach 1.0 one day? Is there such as thing as a 1.0 for the web? If there was, and we could identify it, it would be sad. It would mean "Here. Now we've reached a milestone. Let's stop a bit and enjoy things the way they are while others work on a new release for the future."


There is no such process with the Internet and the web. Yes... people are working on Internet 2 (note that those who invented this didn't include marketing people, so they didn't call it Internet 2.0 ... just internet 2, which clearly implies that they are working on something else, something different enough to justify being distinguished from the original)... But the web where we are today didn't appear like that after a long session of night work.


It's been a natural, progressive, evolution, with new technology tidbits appearing here, then there, then being plugged together... then unplugged when they didn't lead to goodness... then plugged to other things. And over time, progressively, we've seen the landscape of the Internet, and, its subset, the Web, evolve to assimilate into the continuum that it is all these technologies and tools. Not in incremental steps, but in progressive flow of innovation and user adoption.


So let's stop calling things "2.0". I'm happy with Web 0.x+µ where µ is an infinitesimal value.


Let's get back to making the web grow and evolve... and stop calling it names.


Wednesday Nov 08, 2006

Eigen Vectors and buzz words

Recently, a new word has appeared in the speeches of various executives here at Sun. It is eigen vector.
They seem to use it to describe some entity that, when acted upon, will
automagically drive the company to ultimate success. Of course, nobody
will ever go so low as to explain what an eigen vector is, in the
context of their speeches. But, it is used in conversations as if it
were some kind of lever that one can act upon to provoque great changes
and effects.

Actually, an eigen vector is a characteristic of an
object (such as a matrix) which will not changed when transformations
are applied to the matrix. As such, if E(M) is the eigen vector of a
matrix M, and T(M) a transformation of M, then E(T(M))=E(M). So
actually, rather than being a lever, an eigen vector is a constant that
doesn't change. Significant difference there!

Other companies suffer from the eigen vector mania as well, but let's look here at what is happening.

word mania at its best (or worse?). Every now and then, an executive
(or maybe a marketeer) will come up with a new expression, which
suddently, all the people who work around that person decide to use. It
immediately becomes a buzz word.
If you don't find ways to slip this buzz word in every other sentence
you pronounce, you are considered to be out of the trend. If you don't,
by one way or an other, figure out exactly what others mean by that
specific locution, you are also considered, out of the pack.

Does anybody remember "paradigm shift"?

I know this is something extremely common inside Corporate America.
You could almost say that it is one of the eigen vectors of Corporate
America. How ever you turn Corporate America, you will always find this
reliance on buzz words. In fact, from a sociological point of view,
this is just humanity's gregarian behavior showing very clearly that it
hasn't been completely wiped from our genes and behavioral paterns. It
brings comfort in thinking that you are doing what everybody else is
doing or talking about, so you can't really be wrong and faulted.

it also means that people hide themselves behind these buzz words in
order to maskerade their lack of adequation to the situation. Since
they know the buzz word, and use it in more or less the same context of
others... they must be as competent. So the trick is to distinguish the
user of a buzz word who knows what he is really talking about (even if
the buzz word is used incorrectly - in the case of our eigen vectors)
from the user of a buzz word who has no idea of what he is talking
about, but pretending to be in the know by using the code word, ahem, I
mean buzz word, of the day.

Let's make sure we set our
priorities right. Buzz words are comforting, for sure, but rather than
use a buzz word, why not make clear what we are talking about... and
express it properly to everybody. We gain in clarity. And employees
aren't feeling lost because they don't understand a word that everybody
else seems to take for granted.




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