Monday Dec 30, 2013

Final Post: Retiring from Oracle

December 31st will be my last day at Oracle.  Although I've been asked by my boss and sales management to stay on, I've decided that now is the time to enjoy as much free time as I can.

I joined Sun in September of 1995 after 11 years at Gould/Encore and have survived through the ups and downs including multiple levels of layoffs at Sun.  I successfully transitioned to the North American Public Sector Hardware (NAPSH) organization of Oracle and have enjoyed working closely with our software colleagues.  At Sun and Oracle I've seen tremendous innovation in technologies such as:

  • Java
  • Solaris
  • Engineered Systems
  • SPARC 
  • Virtualization

as well as a few flops such as:

  • Sun/Netscape Alliance
  • Acquisition of Cobalt
  • Sun A7000 storage acquisition from Encore (my former employer) 

During my time at Snoracle, I've had the pleasure to support our war fighters by providing high performance, secure and scalable systems for the Global Command and Control System, DISA Datacenters, NIPRnet, SIPRnet and other mission critical programs.  I've also worked with key government customer such as NASA, DoT, FAA and others.

My first blog entry here was posted in October of 2006 and with my final entry will be hitting number 136.  In the last two years alone, I've received over 100 comments on my entries.  Whether positive or negative, they are always appreciated.

Thanks to all my readers and coworkers for your comments and contributions over the years.  I'm glad that I've been able to help the global Sun and Oracle community to better understand our technologies.

Solaris 11 STIG update

My work on the Solaris 11 STIG will continue in the able hands of Brett Norman and Glen Brunette. I would like to thank Glenn and others from Oracle (Glenn Faden, Gary Winiger, Darren Moffat, Alex Barclay and Dave Walker) for their assistance.  Without them, the project would have foundered.  Thanks, also to Charlie at DISA FSO for keeping us moving the right direction.

Friday Aug 05, 2011

Oracle at the DISA Customer Conference

Each year the Defense Information Systems Agency has a great conference hosting their customer, employees and industry partners for four days of technology talk and networking.  Oracle will be attending as usual this year and can be found at booth #1320.  We will be representing all of Oracle's technologies including Database, Middleware, Applications, Sun Servers, Storage and Operating Systems.

Oracle technologies are a key part of DISA Computer Services Directorate offerings as well as their Command and Control programs. 

Come see me and the rest of the Oracle team to learn more about our Exadata and Exalogic Integrated Systems, security software, advanced virtualization options and development tools.

See you in Baltimore, August 15-18th.

Monday Apr 25, 2011

Jim Laurent's blog moving to

The big move is coming soon.  My blog will be moving to and should be live on May 6th.  Hopefully all of my current content (working as my online memory) will be moved and I will start adding new content.

 Come join the fun in May at!

Friday Jan 07, 2011

Solaris 11 Express and US DoD Security guides


This article should not be construed as a statement of compliance by Oracle or by DISA.  It is simply the result of a casual review of Solaris 11 against current DISA Security Guidelines

With the release of Solaris 11 Express, I decided to compare it against the current US DoD Security Technical Implementation Guidelines (STIGs) as maintained by my customer DISA. Solaris 11 Express is a production ready and fully supported OS from Oracle.  It was released in September 2010 at Oracle OpenWorld and provides a preview to the features and capabilities that will be available later this year in Solaris 11.  It supports SPARC and X86 platforms from Oracle as well as other vendors.  See the Hardware Compatibility List for options.

DISA owns and operates the DoD datacenters, develops a number of command and control applications, runs the DoD networks and is responsible for enforcing DoD security mandates.  The STIG checklist is a comprehensive set of requirements that system adminstrators are expected to follow in order to attach and maintain a system on DoD networks.  There are STIG documents for enclaves, dabatases, firewalls, web servers and more, but obviously, I'm only concerning myself here with the STIG document for Unix/Linux operating systems.

The DISA STIG checklist is a public document that describes specific permissions settings, password policies, administrative record keeping and more. Section 3 is 546 pages long and is where all the specific requirements can be found. There is a collection of Security Readiness Review (SRR) scripts that automate portions of the review process to assist a system administrator in evaluating the completion of the process.  These are not publicly available.

For my review, I downloaded the documents and the SRR scripts.  I then compared Solaris 11 Express feature sets to the checklist, ran the scripts and documented where Solaris 11 Express was in compliance as well as the areas in which it differed from Solaris 10.  

Some items of note:

  • The SRR scripts will sometimes generate false positive or negative results because they are looking at files that are no longer used in Solaris 11.
  • Solaris 11 features the root home directory in /root therefore complying without any extra action
  • Solaris 11 auditing is managed as an SMF service making it easier to use but causing problems in the SRR scripts
  • Solaris 11 includes a native in-kernel CIFS service rather than using Samba
  • The default ZFS root file system currently does NOT allow /var to be mounted as a separate filesystem as required by one of the STIG items.  I have made Solaris engineering aware of this requirement.
  • I had to modify only one line of the SRR scripts to allow it to run on Solaris 11.
  • Solaris 11 has a number of new privileged user accounts that cause false finding in the SRR scripts.
  • Solaris 11 by default does NOT allow a user to login as root.  root is a role.
  • Solaris 11 implements "Secure by default" upon installation allowing only SSH access.

In summary, with the exception of the /var filesystem issue, it should be possible to bring a Solaris 11 express system in compliance with DISA STIGs. Download the detailed document.  As always, comments, clarifications and corrections are welcome!

For those who are still running Solaris 10, please refer to my earlier blog entry on using the Solaris Security toolkit to facilitate the STIG process. 

Friday Mar 05, 2010

Sun/Oracle Welcome event in Reston VA, March 11

Come join us to learn about Sun and Oracle's strategy for combining the technologies of the two companies in Reston VA on March 11th.

If you can't make this event learn more about our product strategies with these video webinars.   Topics such as Solaris, SPARC, Identity Management, MySQL, Glassfish and OpenOffice are covered.

 Register for the Reston event or other locations.

Friday Sep 26, 2008

Back from Grand Canyon rafting vacation

Yes, I know, I promised I wouldn't post my vacation pictures on my blog, but this one was just to good to resist.  I'll be very brief.

Fifteen passengers and 5 boatman put in to the Colorado River at Lee's Ferry about 10 miles south of Lake Powell, named for the brave explorer who first traversed the Grand Canyon in 1869.  We spent five days of perfect weather on the chilly (55 degrees) river enjoying smooth water and rough.  The river was surrounded by cliffs up to 2500 feet high. The food was great and prepared by our boatmen each night.  It included steaks, fish, fettuccine, salad, fruit and nightly dessert. The nights were cool sleeping under the stars on the riverside beaches.  Our sleeping companions included scorpions, tarantulas and at least one rattlesnake that we found four feet from my head one morning.  The valley was also populated with bighorn sheep, deer, ducks, rainbow trout and falcons.

In addition to floating on the big 18 foot rafts, we also got to take turns on a smaller inflatable kayak or a catamaran style inflatable boat called a "shredder."  The waves were great!

We enjoyed daily hikes into side canyons to hunt for indian ruins and petroglyphs, final resting places of long dead river runners as well as hidden waterfalls.  The last day included a 7.8 mile hike from the inner gorge to the south rim (4500 feet up) and back to civilization capped with a few cold beers.  It took 5.5 hours but provided great views of the canyon and wildlife  as well as a few mule trains passing us on the way down.

The staff of Moki Mac took great care of us and there were only a few involuntary dunkings in the cold river.

See the Photos

Also, see the brief Quicktime movie

Tuesday Jul 22, 2008

FAQ: Getting free Solaris security patches

Solaris 10 is free for download and security patches are also free.  Additional patches, however, require a subscription or service contract from Sun.  The question frequently comes up on how to get the free security patches.  In the past, they were built into a bundle, however, I have this information from the Solaris sustaining engineering team.

The patch bundles at contain the recommended patches.
This includes security AND other non-security patches.
- The bundle of patches contains all the patches that fix the Sun Alert issues.
- The Sun Alert categories are defined as security + availability + data_loss
- This is stated in the README for the patch bundle

As the "other" non-security patches are NOT free, the whole bundle of patches
cannot be made free.

Note that as with patches themselves, the README for the bundle is free, just the
actual patches are NOT free.

But assuming that your customer has a service plan, he should be able to get this.

To see which patches are free in the Sol 10 SPARC set, you can go to:-

But you need to view this when logged in as a regular user without a contract.
Then it will show you a red key symbol next to each patch that is NOT free.

The security patches alone, do not appear in any bundle.
You must download any patch individually.
Or you can use PCA - a free non-Sun tool for patch management.

Sun advertises this free PCA tool located at

Wednesday Apr 09, 2008

Mac Tips from Sun Mac Users

I recently had a problem. It was actually good news!  My niece decided to get a Mac Book Pro and convert from Windows.  My problem?  How to collect all the knowledge that Sun Mac users have collected and make it available to her.

There is quite an active Mac community at Sun.  Perhaps it's because we don't like MS Windows or perhaps it's because Mac OS is Unix-based and shares a number of Solaris technologies such as DTrace and ZFS.  Perhaps it's just because it's easier to use and easy on the eyes.  Regardless of the reason, we have built quite a bit of knowledge internally on the Sun network.  I've taken a bunch of it, stripped it of Sun specific content and made it available here.  It consists of some "getting started" tips, frequently used software and FAQs.


Some Web resources for new Mac users

Getting Started

  • Power on
  • Complete the user name creation and network configuration wizard
  • Log in
  • (optional if required) Configure network location and proxies
      • Apple Menu > Location > Network Preferences
      • Select your network device (built-in or AirPort)
      • Click Configure
      • Location Pull down > New Location
      • Enter a name such as SWAN
      • Show > Select your network device to configure
      • Click on Proxies Tab
      • For each protocol (FTP, HTTP, HTTPS) Click the check box and enter proxy name and port
      • Click Apply Now
  • Get the latest MacOS X software updates
    • Apple menu > Software updates
    • Reboot as requested
    • Repeat until no software updates are available (some updates are dependent on earlier updates.)
  • Configuration settings
    • FileVault (enable FileVault per security recommendations below or use encrypted disk images for protection of  proprietary or government data)
  • Download NeoOffice for Intel Macs and run the installer
  • Download the most recent NeoOffice patch for Intel Macs and run the installer
  • Set up Apple Mail or Thunderbird to access your mail account
  • Review all the other System Preference panels and configure as desired
Recommend Security settings for Mac OS X
  •  Apple menu > System preferences
    • Security Panel
      • Turn on Filevault 
      • Require password to wake this computer from sleep
      • Disable automatic login
      • Require password to unlock each secure system preference
      • In Leopard (10.5) the firewall settings are also here.
    • Desktop and screen saver panel
      • Start screensaver after xx minutes
    • Energy Saver panel
      • Put computer to sleep after xx minutes
      • Put Display to sleep after xx minutes
    • Sharing panel
      • Firewall Tab (in Sharing for 10.4 and Security for 10.5)
        • Click the lock and enter admin password to make changes
        • Click the Start button
        • Enable only services that are required.
        • Apple Remote Desktop must be enabled
      • Services Tab (10.4)
        • Only enable services that are required
        • Apple Remote Desktop must be enabled.
      • 10.5 Sharing panel
        • Only enable service that are required
        • If you enable file, sharing, you may wish todelete the users "Public" folders from being shared.
    • Accounts panel
      • Uncheck "allow user to adminster the computer" for non admin users
      • Delete or disable unused or guest accounts
      • Login Options tab
        • Uncheck "Automatically login"
        • Check  "Enable fast user switching"
    • Finder > Preferences > Advanced (NOTE: This does NOT appear to work)
      • Click "Empy Trash Securely" checkbox
      • Use: Finder > Secure Empty Trash when emptying trash.
    • See also: NSA Security Guidelines for OS X

Popular software tools (alphabetically) Random Tips from the Mac Masters
  • Drag Applications, Utilities, Documents, Desktop and other frequently used folders to the right side of the dock.  You can now access them with a single right mouse click using a heirarchical menu.  Dragging your Hard Disk icon provides complete access to everything.
  • Use Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility to:
    • Repair permissions after an upgrade or software install
    • Check the file system integrity (must boot from install DVD to repair)
    • Burn ISO images to DVD or CD
    • Erase R-W media
    • Build your own Disk Image files
  • MacOS Keyboard Shortcuts
  • Set your default browser using the Safari Preferences.  Set you default Mail reader using Apple Mail preference
  • Monitor and kill processes using Applications > Utilities > Activity Monitor
  • Apple equivalent to CTL-ALT-DEL
    • Command-Option-Escape to bring up a dialog to kill a hung process.
    • Apple Menu > Force Quit
    • Right click on the dock icon and select Force Quit
    • Option-Right Click on the dock icon and select Force Quit if force quit does NOT show in the contextual menu
  • Buy a 3-button wheelie mouse (wireless bluetooth enabled is supported)
    • Right click works in many applications to bring a contextual menu
    • Wheel click in Safari works to open a new tab
    • Control-Click or Click and hold are one button (touchpad) alternatives to right-click
  • Drag frequently used applications to the left side of the dock.
  • Turn on Dock hiding and adjust the size of the dock.  Apple menu > System preferences > Dock
  • Put less frequently used applications in your "Utilities" folder rather than Applications
  • Learn to use Expose and Dashboard widgets  Apple menu > System preferences > Expose
  • Create an "Installers" folder on your desktop to keep all those xxx.dmg files that you download.
  • Move your iTunes, iPhoto, and Solaris images files OUT of your home directory, the large files slows down FileVault substantially.
MacOS X 10.5 (Leopard)
  •  Leopard is now shipping with all new Mac
  • Detailed Leopard review at ArsTechnica
  • Application compatibility notes (when available)
    • NeoOffice reported to work on Leopard
    • VMware Fusion latest version is reported to work on Leopard
    • Classic mode (OS 9 app support) will NOT work on Leopard
    • Disk utilities such as Disk Warrior, etc will require an update from vendor
    • Java 6 is not available in Leopard.
    • Unsanity APE apparently causes problems in performing an upgrade to Leopard.
    • Partial list of apps that don't work with Leopard at MacRumors
    • Time Machine and File Vault are apparently incompatible with each other. See this tip.
    • MacBooks and MacBook Pros keyboard becoming non-responsive has been fixed with an update.
    • When using Mail 3.1 Mail downloads go to  ~/Library/Mail Downloads folder regardless of what the mail preferences report. This can result in many megabytes of stuff (and potentially Sun or customer proprietary data) piling up in a folder that is generally "invisible" to the casual user.
  • User changes
    • Make a backup before upgrading.
      • Suggested freely available full disk backup solutions include:
      • Choose the upgrade option rather than clean install.    
  • Security Changes
    • There is currently a reported issue with the Leopard Firewall.  A SunIT warning has come out about it.
    • Enable "Stealth IP Mode"
      • Apple > System Preferences > Security > Firewall
      • Click Advanced
      • Click Enable Stealth Mode
    • Firewall Settings are now in the Security system preference instead of the Sharing preference
    • Sharing system preference for File Sharing now has an "Options" button to enable AFP, Windows or FTP file sharing separately.
  • Resources
    • Sam's Teach Yourself Mac OS X Leopard All in One at Safari Books
Apple's Boot Camp software
  •  Boot Camp is a part of MacOS X 10.5 which allows you to create a separate partition for a native OS to be installed.  Windows, Solaris and Linux variants are supported. It has advantages and disadvantages when compared to virtualized solutions
  • Advantages
    • OS runs natively on the hardware for higher performance and able to use all of memory.
    • Simplifies troubleshooting by eliminating the effects of MacOS and virtual machine
    • Allows you to claim you are running Solaris directly on the MacOS Intel based HW
  • Disadvantages
    • Requires a separate hard partition and boot loader
    • Requires a reboot to switch between MacOS X and Solaris
    • Cannot run both MacOS and Solaris simultaneously
    • More difficult to keep multiple images and take backups of images.
    • Cannot take advantage of canned VMs, cut and paste, file sharing, sleep/suspend etc.
  • See this blog entry for tips on using BootCamp with Solaris
Resources MS Windows
  • MS Windows can also be installed directly on the hardware using Apple's beta BootCamp package.  BootCamp is built into Leopard.
  • Where to I change my computer's name?
  • How do I find my MacBook's serial number?
  • How do I create an encrypted disk image
  • How do I change the Keyboard shortcuts.
  • How do I make applications start when I login?
  • How do I add/remove/change items on my dock?
  • How do I use my Apple remote to control NeoOffice presentations
  • How do I force my screen saver to start manually with hot corners?
  • Should I "Shut Down" my Mac or put it to sleep.
    • Unlike Windows, the MacOS is remarkably reliable and we know users with "uptimes" exceeding two months.  Just close the lid and go.
  • How do I change the icon on a file or folder?
  • How do I add the date to my menubar clock?
    • in the terminal type: defaults write -g AppleICUTimeFormatStrings -dict-add 2 "MMMM d, hh':'mm':'ss' 'a"
    • then: killall SystemUIServer  (to restart menubar)
    • Alternate Solution using the GUI
  • How do I take a screen shot?
  • How do I type a "forward-delete" characters on the laptop.  Use FN-DELETE
  • How do I extend my MacBook display to other monitors?
    • Open System Preferences and click Displays.
    • Click Arrangement and follow the onscreen instructions.
  • How do I change the desktop login background image?
    • The login screen is a file located at /System/Library/CoreServices/DefaultDesktop.jpg.  Just replace that file with something you like.
  • How to I eliminate the transparent menubar in Leopard?
    • With the release of 10.5.2, there is a system preference to control this
      • Apple menu > System Preferences > Desktop and screensaver > Desktop tab
      • Uncheck the "Translucent menu bar" box.
    • If usiing 10.5 or 10.5.1:
      • Open a terminal:
      • sudo defaults write /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/ 'EnvironmentVariables' -dict 'CI_NO_BACKGROUND_IMAGE' 1
      • Then reboot.
  • What is Mac OS "Safe Sleep" or Why won't my Mac wake up and what is that funny progress bar?
  • How many ways can I quickly lock my screen?
  • What is a "Sparse Bundle" disk image?
  • How do I sync my Palm using Bluetooth with Mac OS?
  • How do I reduce the size of my PDF documents?
  • How do I auto-hide the main menu bar of an application?
  • How do I add a "Recent Applications" item to my dock?
    • In a terminal (I use iTerm), type:
    • defaults write persistent-others -array-add  '{ "tile-data" = { "list-type" = 1; }; "tile-type" = "recents-tile"; }'
    • killall Dock
  • What happened to my Dashboard Widgets?
  • How do I remove language support from applications to save disk space?
    • Choose an application (iPhoto for example)
    • Click once.
    • File > Get Info
    • Open the Languages triangle
    • Select the languages you don't need (shift click to select multiple contiguous items)
    • Click the - sign
    • Close the window.
    • Repeat until you get bored.
  • Why doesn't Time Machine backup my VMware Fusion VM images?
    • Fusion sets the "exclusion flag" on images because the entire image will be backed up with every change.  See this discussion thread more more information.  Back them up manually.
  • How do I get rid of those horrible "stacks" in Leopard and revert to menus as in 10.4?
    • Drag a folder to the right side of the Dock
    • Right-click (control-click)
    • Select "Display as Folder"
    • Right-Click
    • Select "View Content as List"

Monday Feb 11, 2008

What's new in Solaris Express Developer's release?

Solaris Express developer's release is a regular packaging of the code being developed by the OpenSolaris community targetted towards developers. It contains some of the latest features that we would like our developers to test out and provide feedback for.

Some of the new capabilities that you might like include:

  • xVM virtualization (based on the work of the Xen community) for X64 systems
  • CIFS built into the Solaris kernel
  • Improved installation experience
  • Improved networking and wireless support
  • Improved development, compiler and desktop tools
  • See the complete list
Download the January edition today and let us know


Comparing Solaris 10, RHEL 5 AND Windows 2003

My big boss (Bill Vass, President and COO of Sun Federal) has posted a new blog entry describing the updated comparison chart that I've been working on to compare Solaris 10 with RHEL 5.  This time we have added MS Windows 2003 Datacenter Edition.

All three of these operating systems run and are sold and supported by Sun on our X64 based servers featuring Intel or AMD processors. 

Feel free to comment on errors and corrections that you may see.



Thursday Dec 06, 2007

New Solaris Trusted Extensions, Patching and Live upgrade information on BigAdmin

If you do any work with Solaris, you NEED to know about Sun BigAdmin portal.  This is the place to find useful operational tips on a wide variety of Sun products and services targeted at the technical systems adminstration audience.

Examples of recently posted information include:

See the "What's new section for a complete list.

In addition to useful technical information, you will also find our Hardware and Software compatibility lists, newsletters and discussion forums where you can ask or answer a question.

Join the community today! 


Thursday Nov 01, 2007

Installing Open Solaris "Indiana Preview" on my Mac (part 1)

NOTE:  No CD-ROM was harmed in this exercise. I shall waste no plastic before its time.

Warning:  I am testing a Preview product on top of a beta product using virtulization on MacOS.  You results may vary.

This is just what I could get on the blog the first day.  More to come....  First I must prioritize my day job activities!

Wow!  Project Indiana is available today in a developer preview.  I had to have it to see if everything they told us at the recent OS Amb preview was true.  My system:

  • MacBook Pro 2.4 Ghz with 2 GB RAM
  • VMware Fusion 1.1RC1 beta

 What is Project Indiana?

It is intended to be a binary distribution of the OpenSolaris code provided by and supported by Sun.  This developer preview is the first step to a released product expected in March 2008.  It includes the latest technologies and will have a faster changing and shorter life cycle than Solaris 10.  More detail is available at the Project Indiana FAQ.

Who should use project Indiana?

At this time it is intended for developers and testers only.  When it becomes a supported product in 2008, we anticipate it will be used by a wide variety of customers inproduction who required the advanced features of OpenSolaris and can tolerate the shorter life cycle support model. 

How did it go? 

First I downloaded it and read some of the release notes and caveats including important points such as:

  • Live CD format provide (yes that's CD not DVD)
  • X86 version ONLY today (the liveCD uses the 32-bit kernel but will install both 32 and 64-bit capability)
  • ZFS as the native root file system
  • Network Automagic included
  • No custom disk partitioning.

With the ISO on my Mac, I created a VM for it to live in with 1 GB of RAM and 10 GB of disk space.  The ISO booted perfectly into "Live CD mode."  NWAM automatically detected my network address.  I wasted no time in clicking the Installer.  After a few questions about time zone, root password and initial non-root user, the installation started and took about 22 minutes to complete.  After installations was complete, I clicked the Reboot button and the system started up from the virtual HD.  The installation experience was quite easy and fast.

At this time, VMware Fusion 1.1RC1 has a bug that causes the 64-bit kernel to "hang" for about 1-2 minutes during the early boot process.  Changing the Grub menu to boot the 32-bit kernel is a workaround for this issues.

Once I logged into the new Gnome 2.20 interface, I attempted to install the Vmware tools.  This is necessary for the proper screen displays and file sharing. Unfortunately, I received the error that it could not copy a file to /usr/dt/config/Xsession.d/  Manually creating the Xsession.d directory allowed the VMware tools to complete.  Although the installation of tools complete, it caused a problem with login where my keyboard was mapped wrong.  I could NOT log into Gnome because of this issue and didn't have time to workaround it. 

What's different for the user?

  • Default shell is bash
  • Java Desktop System is not installed by default. This means that there is no "Launch" menu in the lower left.  Menus are in the upper right.  Panels are enabled at the top and bottom.
  • /usr/gnu/bin is at the beginning of the user's path
  • There is a minimal set of software loaded.  The pkg command can be used to get additional components from the software repository.
  • The grub menu is now in  /zpl_slim/boot/grub/menu.lst  rather than /boot/grub/menu.lst

Interesting bug/oddities

The file browser lists a "Documents" in the Favorites sidebar, but clicking on it produces an error because it doesn't exist.

Dave Miner has published instructions on how to place Indiana in a USB drive. 

Why should you care?

If you are interested in testing, developing and contributing to the future of Solaris, this preview will give you a taste of where we want Solaris to go and the opportunity to joint the community.


Thursday Oct 11, 2007

Flash: Myths entry pushes Laurent into "Popular Blogs" territory

<Head expanding> 

My recent entry must have touched a nerve with a lot of people.  I actually made it into the top half of the "Popular Blogs" roll for the first time.  Thanks for reading!  Keep up the discussion and continue to post your favorite Myths and Legends. jimgris is thinking of a similar post for OpenSolaris.

 <back to work>

<head shrinking>

Thursday Jul 26, 2007

A Radio ad for Sun's Intel chip based product line that runs Solaris, Linux or Windows

For those who don't live in the Washington D. C area, listen now to Sun's most recent advertisement for our high performance Intel based blade servers.


Learn more at Open Your Mind today. 

Thursday Jun 28, 2007

Mourning the death of my Cobalt Qube

At long last, my cute and reliable Cobalt Qube has decided to bite the dust.  Although its noisy fan still runs, no amount of vacuuming dust, swapping cables or reseating boards have been able to coax it into printing "Booting" in that lovely LCD screen.  With its massive 32 MB of RAM and 300 MHz processor it has reliably and unobtrusively performed its duties as firewall, NFS and backup server hidden in a closet over the last 6 years.

It was definitely worth the $2 billion that Sun spent to buy Cobalt back in 2000.

Now I'm looking for a replacement, inexpensive NAS device that I can put in my closet to act as a backup server for my family of Macs in the house.  If anyone has any favorites, post a comment. 

Why should you care?

OK, I admit it, you have me there.  There's no reason you should care so I'm violating one of my own rules laid out when I started this blog.  I'll try not to do it again.  BAD JIM!

Monday May 07, 2007

Pet Peeve: Poor email subject lines

Like most employees at Sun, I live and die by email.  I subscribe to a wide variety of email aliases within Sun including:

  • mac-users
  • OS ambassadors
  • Sun Federal Engineers
  • Sun Federal All Employees
  • McLean Office inhabitants
  • and more...

 I use Mozilla as my email reader at work and on my laptop (on Solaris) and home (MacOS X).  I take advantage if its email threading and labeling (with colors) capabilities as much as I can so that I can delete mail in bulk whenever possible.  However, I find that I still get dragged down into the muck by the way that many users at Sun construct their email subject lines.

A quick sampling from my trash includes such gems as:

  • Should be elementary
  • Easter Egg
  • Need help
  • Email 
  • Please read

And of course, the ever popular:

  • HELP!

Keep in mind that not everyone has configured their mail to change different alias message different colors.  Therefore, "Need help." doesn't let the reader know whether you need help physically, technically or mentally.  You could need help with Solaris, Storage, Servers, Software or getting through the door because you left your badge at home. Unless your subject line provides more information you might not get the response that you want.

I would like all email senders to keep in mind that not all of us:

  1. care about your problems
  2. have the answer that you might be looking for
  3. want to actually read a mail before deleting it

If I don't know anything about your question in the subject line, I would much rather delete it with other messages than wait for it to display before deleting.  On the flip side, if you describe your question well in your subject line, you are MUCH more likely to get a person with the correct answer to read the message and reply.

Perhaps you don't realize that when you send a message to 800 people entitled "Please read" that they can't always tell from the subject whether you want a Solaris tip or need to evacuate the building.  One message with the subject "HELP!" was requesting (I am NOT making this up) assistance in find a vet for the building manager's dog. 

To prevent all of us from wasting time and help you get the best answer possible please:
  • Describe your question in the subject line as completely as possible
  • Place the most important words at the beginning of the subject for those who use mobile devices
  • Add a ? to the end if you are asking a question.
  • Don't be afraid to change the subject in Re: and Fwd: lines to make it more appropriate to changes in the topic
  • Use a keyword such as: "Solution to:  re....." if you are providing a definitive answer to a question.

Therefore, the subject lines above might be better rendered as:

  • How to attach a disk to a mac should be elementary but I can't figure it out
  • Easter Egg on iPod when you do ......
  • Need help with NIS configuration on Solaris 10
  • Email doesn't show up in Mozilla on Mac OS.
  • Please read if you know John Smith

Why you should care. 

There, I've said it and I feel better now. Hopefully, I've managed to reduce the number of hours we all spend on email each day so that we can get more productive work done.

Friday Mar 09, 2007

How much is Jim Laurent's blog worth?

Apparently not worth enough for me to quit my job yet!

My blog is worth $4,516.32.
How much is your blog worth?

Monday Oct 09, 2006

Hello (blogging) world

Yes, I've finally taken the leap into the new millenium by starting to blog.  I never thought I would do it because I find most blogs tedious and annoying.  Although there is a tremendous amount of fantastic content at, it is frequently watered down by cryptic messages, cutsie photos and "what I did on my summer vacation."

Who am I?

I am a pre-sales systems engineer (variously called "engagement architect", "technical account manager" over the years) in the Sun Federal organization.  In this role, I meet with a variety of US Government and DoD customers to help them determine the best Sun products and service to meet their requirements.  Prior to Sun I worked at Gould/Encore Computer for 11 years as a training instructor and SE working with their proprietary real-time hardware and OS.  Before that, I taught 7th grade science in Ft. Lauderdale FL.  With a Bachelor's of Arts degree in Education, I am living proof that a liberal arts degree can get you somewhere.

Why am I doing this?

I decided to start this effort because as an OS Ambassador within Sun, part of my job is to be an evangelist for the Solaris OS.
Internally I maintain an OS Ambassador web page with a variety of tips, links and FAQs regarding the Solaris OS.  Why not spread this message farther so that our customers, partners, developers will find Solaris as useful as we do.  As a member of the Sun Federal sales team, I am responsible for increasing the revenue from Sun products and services in the US Government.

What will my blog be?

I plan for my blog to consist of useful information related to Solaris, other Sun products and the US Government computing business.  I hope to be able to post information on a weekly basis.  I plan to annotate each entry with a "Why you should care" sentence.  If I can't think of a reason that you should care, I promise to hit the DELETE button.

What will my blog NOT be?

I will NOT post pictures of my cute kids, dog or wife.  I will NOT create posts that send you off somewhere without explaining why you should go there (eg "Check this out...." ).  I will NOT write about "What I did on my summer vacation."

Why should you care?

If you are interested in making yourself and your business more productive with Sun products and services, I hope you will get benefits from my blog.


Jim Laurent is an Oracle Sales consultant based in Reston, Virginia. He supports US DoD customers as part of the North American Public Sector hardware organization. With over 17 years experience at Sun and Oracle, he specializes in Solaris and server technologies. Prior to Oracle, Jim worked 11 years for Gould Computer Systems (later known as Encore).


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