Wednesday Apr 01, 2009

Solaris 8 Vintage starts today!

With effect from today, April 1st 2009, Solaris 8 has entered phase two of its end of service life transition. This means that while you can continue to get telephone support and access to existing Solaris 8 patches, you will not get access to any new Solaris 8 patches produced from this date onwards unless you have signed up for a Vintage Patch plan.

For more details on this, please visit our Solaris 8 EOSL page.

You may also want to consider an upgrade to Solaris 10, which is something you can get our help with if you need it. There's a raft of new technology in Solaris 10 that may appeal. We've also done a lot of work maturing the patch and live upgrade infrastructure to make maintaining Solaris 10 even easier.

Monday Jun 30, 2008

No "patches" for OpenSolaris

Are you prepared for the change in the way fixes are delivered in OpenSolaris?

With the Image Packaging System (IPS) in OpenSolaris, there is no longer the concept of a "patch" as it is known in Solaris 10 and earlier. Updates to OpenSolaris will be delivered via refreshes from the distribution repository - there will be no patch delivery vehicle for fixes in OpenSolaris.

Interim relief for critical situations, for example security issues, will still be delivered via the IDR program but once the formal fix is released, it will be obtained by refreshing your packages via IPS.

Do you create your own patches for 3rd party software?

If you "roll your own" patches using the Sun patch architecture to update 3rd party software via the patchadd utility, then I recommend you look at transitioning to the IPS mechanism. Let me know if this applies to you, as I'm curious to know how many folks out there actually do this currently.

Wednesday May 21, 2008

Eggs thrown at Steve Ballmer!

I have to confess that I think Steve Ballmer has done a good job... surviving an egg attack from a protesting student at the Corvinus University in Budapest.

The student follows a verbal accusation with a couple of eggs - Steve Ballmer ducks behind the podium and avoids getting tagged! You can see the incident on this video at the BBC website. You can see that he looks pretty angry at first but quickly gathers his composure to laugh it after the student has left the room.

Monday May 19, 2008

UK Government Considers Phone call and Email Database

Okay so here's an example of the sort of thing that gets my hackles up ...

According to this article on the BBC website, UK government ministers are to consider plans for a database holding details of every phone call made and email sent within the nation.

Aside from the fact that this presents an ethical dilemma between national security and reasonable individual rights to privacy (which is a separate rat hole in and of itself), this also illustrates just how poorly our government representatives understand technology.

I mean, unless they plan to capture every single octet of data on the wire, anyone wishing to make nefarious phone calls or emails to plot against national security can easily circumvent this. Do they plan to try and get the Skype P2P network updating their database? :) Do they have some clever way of detecting email that isn't sent over the standard ports? Nope - this is another great way to burgle the taxpayer. Dumb!!

Saturday May 17, 2008

Solaris chosen over Linux for better performance

It's nice to hear a success story, no matter how big or small, so I was pleased to see that Real Time Matrix Corp. had a pleasant surprise when the compared the performance Solaris 10 to Fedora.

Despite being a committed Linux environment, they decided to try out Solaris 10 while they had a T1000 on trial...and ended up feeling quite pleased with the result, claiming that Solaris 10 had "50 times the throughput" of the Fedora configuration.

For the full story, take a look at the online article.

Tuesday May 13, 2008

Solaris 8 End of Service Life & Vintage Support

On April 1st, 2009, Solaris 8 completes its service life. This means that support for Solaris 8 effectively ceases with no further new patches being made available.

However, I'm pleased to report that we will be offering a Vintage Support Plan for Solaris 8, so that you can continue to get support (including the escalation path up to us in engineering) and patches for your Solaris 8 environment. The good news is that the pricing model for Solaris 8 Vintage Support should be substantially better value compared with the old Solaris 6 program!

If you want to take advantage of Solaris 10 and the latest hardware while preserving your Solaris 8 runtime environment, why not download our Solaris 8 containers?

I'll update my blog soon with more news soon. In the meantime, if you're interested in Solaris 8 Vintage Support, feel free to email me directly and I'll follow up with you.

Sunday May 11, 2008

Music video montages on YouTube

Three of my tracks have accompanying video montages and these are available on my YouTube channel. Unfortunately, I didn't realize that they compress the stereo track to mono when they convert submitted videos to the FLV (Flash Video) format.

I've since found out that if you transform the video to FLV prior to uploading to YouTube, you can preserve the stereo. I'll have to work on this for the next videos but for now mono will have to do. You can always listen to the stereo versions over on my main music page.

Friday May 09, 2008

A wish for the people of Myanmar (Burma)

As a personal survivor of the 2004 tsunami and being involved in the relief work (thank you Sun for the compassionate leave), I know first hand the sort of devastation a natural disaster like the one in the Irrawaddy delta region of Myanmar can cause.

It's good practice to keep clear of politics in a Sun-badged blog but I'm deeply saddened that the Burmese military junta is preventing a free flow of urgent life saving aid to the affected people. The horrific loss of life and damage to homes, infrastructure and supply routes together with the despair that the apparent isolation and lack of help must be causing is, quite simply, unconscionable.

Folks in the region will probably never see these words - but my thoughts are with you all.

Thursday May 08, 2008

OpenSolaris provokes!

OpenSolaris certainly seems to have stirred up a great deal of both interest and controversy in equal measure! There's been a lot of reasoned debate and a very encouraging level of interest and optimism too! Naturally there has been a whole load of the usual foaming at the mouth rhetoric but hey, so what? Religious "OS vs. OS" flamewars are nothing new...and by the looks of it, these wars are as intellectually impoverished as ever.

Personally I think it's all rather reassuring. If OpenSolaris was of little consequence or, as was asserted by a laughable bit of FUD, doomed to die, then we wouldn't be seeing such emotionally charged battle lines being drawn. Clearly we're doing something right to provoke such a defensive response!

That said, I don't assert that there aren't valid questions and concerns being expressed or that rational discussions aren't taking place. To be honest, I guess this is less about advocating OpenSolaris and more about my personal dismay at the flamewar phenomenon in general. It's just that the OpenSolaris versus Linux issue seems to be the "flamewar du jour" and it reminded me of my distaste for all the online pontification that goes on.

Curiously, I learnt recently that a possible explanation for this psychology is that people are far more unlikely to change their stance in group settings (whether that's a group of people in a meeting or in a public forum) due to a visceral need to "save face" - the fallacy being that you lose face by being persuaded to adjust your views. Frankly, I tend to have much more respect for people who don't fall for this delusion and retain their rationality. Anyway I digress...

This is still the start of the journey for OpenSolaris. We (Sun and the community) have a lot more work to do. It's certainly too soon to be wishfully doomsaying with any credibility. Interestingly, I'm already hearing of inquiries coming in about the OpenSolaris production support offering. It will be interesting to see how many folks sign up for this.

The production support includes 24x7 coverage with a 1 hour response commitment to top priority calls. Note also that if necessary, support calls under this plan can be escalated up to our team in engineering...just as they can under the regular support plans.

Okay, so you don't get the onsite hardware rapid response support like you would with a regular enterprise service plan - this is a software only. But for the price, this is a really cool offering!

Tuesday May 06, 2008

Insist on rational troubleshooting!

Sometimes, things happens. This can be annoying but if you can log a support call and get the problem diagnosed and resolved in a timely manner, that can be such a positive experience that it actually more than offsets the inconvenience of the original problem. A customer can feel confident that they're in good hands and that their support contract was a worthwhile investment.

If the reported problem is in any way complex, then the only way to get this done effectively is with a rational troubleshooting process. Taking intuitive guesses at what the problem may be and/or making repeated requests for data in the hope of "getting lucky" are guaranteed, sure-fire ways to drive a customer up the wall with frustration.

What follows is a spiral of chaos - the customer starts beating up on the service and account teams. They, in turn, can panic and exacerbate the problem with even more earnest but futile wild stabs in the dark. The customer soon gets the sense that nobody has any idea what's going on. Conference calls ensue, fists bang on tables and the crazy scrabble for progress on the issue continues. Sigh!

It can all be easily avoided through rational troubleshooting!

The Sun Global Resolution (SGR) process is a rational troubleshooting program derived from Kepner-Tregoe. We use these techniques for gathering, organizing and analyzing problem-specific data. We then base our diagnostic and remedial action plans on this analysis.

The advantages of the process are compelling. Not only do we not make the problem worse by guessing, we quickly distill the data gathering into specific and relevant areas. By organizing related data together and analyzing the results, we can typically identify what is odd, unusual or distinctive about the problem scenario far quicker than relying on intuition alone.

Additionally, the customer can see from our action plans what we're doing, why we're doing it and where we're going. This inspires a whole lot more confidence and keeps everyone in sync.

So why am I blogging about all this? Well, this is a topic dear to my heart! When a problem cannot be diagnosed or resolved by the customer support organization, then it can be escalated to our engineering team. (Note that our cousins in Services do an excellent job - only a tiny percentage of issues ever get escalated to us). Cases where the troubleshooting is uncontrolled are very rare. However, in almost every one of those rare cases that I have been involved with, our rational troubleshooting process has not been applied!.

If you ever feel like a problem is not making good diagnostic progress, go ahead and demand that the SGR process is applied to your issue...and you can quote me on that!

Saturday May 03, 2008

A new take on the Dr. Who theme tune

Not long ago, I was playing around with some music and I ended up making a "techno" version of the theme from the television classic, Doctor Who. Unless you're a Brit or a SciFi fan, you may not be sure what Doctor Who is, in which case I'll briefly explain that it was a BBC TV science fiction show that has run, on and off, for decades.

If you want to listen to my re-theming of this iconic tune in an electro/techno manner, you can check it out at The Doctor Who Remixes site or over on my music page.

Understanding the Sun Strategy

A sound business strategy is essential for revenue growth and the long term success of the company. I personally believe that helping people to understand Sun's business strategy is equally as vital. We fear what we don't understand and so its essential that we effectively communicate Sun strategy to retain the confidence of our customers, shareholders and even our employees.

A couple of weeks ago, I was on a training course and we had Jonathan Schwartz visit us for an hour (very nice of him to spare the time). At that session, he said:

"One of the most frequently asked questions is 'how do we make money from open source sofware?'"

He then went to a flipchart and drew a diagram like the one on the right...

Software represents the Sun software product suite.

Systems represents the Sun system hardware range (servers, storage & network)

Services represents the support and professional services offerings

Microelectronics represents our silicon business (microprocessors, etc.)

Notice the overlapping regions - these are the richer business areas where we provide solutions that integrate two or more of these four fundamental product spaces. The sweet spot being right in the middle! So how does this relate to open source software and translate into growth?

Well, software is the most common "adoption vector". Entrepreneurs typically want to prototype their new business ideas as cheaply as possible, so they turn to the rich and fertile pastures of open source software as a source of free software building blocks for their nascent business. If the prototype proves itself and a new startup is born, they're unlikely to throw away those building blocks - no, it is far more likely that the new startup will continue to evolve and grow from those early open source adoptions.

By providing an attractive, feature-rich and technologically advanced open source software product range, we significantly increase our chances of being the "adoption vector" for these new businesses...and when they bloom, we can help them grow with our systems, services or maybe even microelectronics thanks to the relationship we established with them in their early days. This partnering relationship is exactly what we want to foster - for the mutual benefit of our customers and Sun.

The crucial point is that this is not a short term strategy. While we are doing everything we can to accelerate the process, it will take some time to get the momentum we want. It's inevitable that the high end proprietary software market will eventually dry up because sooner or later, open source alternatives will dominate.

Friday May 02, 2008

Sun is Leaner, Greener & Cleaner

Although it doesn't grab many headlines, Sun's "Eco Innovation" initiative is working hard to provide environmentally friendly solutions by reducing power usage and taking advantage of recyclable packaging materials.

There are a number of different facets to our ecological strategy. You can minimize space, power and cooling requirements with our modular blade servers or take advantage of the power efficient CoolThreads product range.

Alternatively, reduce the power footprint of your desktops with a Sun Ray solution (about 4 watts for a Sun Ray 2 versus 80+ watts for a typical desktop PC). Verizon Wireless managed to reduce their total energy usage at their facilities by 30% by using Sun Ray thin clients - and they're not alone. That's an attractive cost saving, as well as a sound ecological move!

I remember visiting a customer site where they had an immense machine room full of iron, most of it many years old - sucking down the amps like I suck down a mojito! Not only that, but their increasing processing needs meant that they were considering knocking down the wall and expanding their datacentre into the adjoining room! Naturally, they were keen to hear more about how they can take advantage of the high end enterprise servers or our virtualization offerings to consolidate their legacy machines and increase data processing throughput.

With the steady rise of power costs and an increasing awareness for environmental impact, I can't think of a better time to see how Sun can help your business both save money and boast a higher standard of environmental care!

Monday Oct 29, 2007

Why video games could be damaging your children

Much of the controversy around the way video games affect our children has been around the violent nature of the games, in much the same way as violence in film has been accused of causing "copy-cat" behaviour amongst the impressionable young.

However, there is circumstantial evidence of a far more insidious effect, especially among younger children due to the use of video games as a form of "surrogate" for imaginative play.

It is widely accepted that mental faculties can atrophy with disuse, in much the same way as a lack of physical exercise can cause the body to weaken. One needs to exercise the brain to keep it sharp and agile.

The potential harm from video games comes less from the content of the game and more from the fact that it does the imaginative play on behalf of the child. The older generation may remember how we used to play with even the most simplest of toys, constructing rich mental landscapes of play and imaginary interaction.

Now, however, all you need to do is switch on a box and that rich landscape is graphically portrayed for you on screen. The child is drawn in to this artificial world without any need to use intrinsic mental imagination. I first observed this in my own daughter, who could play computer games for hours on end if we, her parents, did not intervene. I also noticed that my other daughter would happily play for hours with "traditional" toys, chattering away to herself in her imaginary world while her older sister seemed to have lost all interest in any real-world playthings.

The concern here is that when one loses the ability to imagine for yourself, you also start to lose the ability to intrinsically entertain oneself...turning instead to artificially induced entertainment in the virtual world of the video game. What happens when the child grows older and ultimately becomes bored of the video game? What do they do then?

This could be one of many reasons why antisocial behaviour in teens (and even pre-teens) is on the increase. It's not that we had a more entertaining environment when we were that age. Perhaps the inability to entertain oneself leads to a form of boredom that forces the child to seek out extrinsic stimulation from the surrounding environment, which in turn can lead to exactly the sort of antisocial behaviour we're now seeing?

Of course, it would be a gross over-simplification to lay all of societies ills at the feet of video games but I do think there is definitely a relevant factor here. I believe the lack of imaginative play results in the atrophying of the imagination, which in turn leads to a dependence on external stimulus and that can, in some cases, lead to addiction (and video game addiction is a very real phenomenon).

Now, I'm not calling for anything so extreme as a ban on video games or any such draconian measures. I simply think that rationing the amount of time our children spend playing games may be more than just sensible, it may actually be better for their mental health!

Tuesday Aug 07, 2007

My own music is now online!

Well, it's taken a while but I've finally launched my new music site! Friends and family tend to be very lenient with their criticism but they've often told me that I should really do more to promote my own music (after all, that is my first love. I enjoy my job but I love composing!)

Check it out at

There are demonstrations and samples available under "free music", although these are mostly classical in nature. You can listen to samples from the album I'm currently working on too!

The music files are hosted in the UK, so you may need a little patience to download or stream the mp3 files from other parts of the globe (depending on the quality of your international internet feed).

For those with Simon Cowell tendencies, you have the option to leave criticism on the forum :)

(Note to foreign readers: Simon Cowell is a music industry personality infamous for his very blunt but usually correct critique)


Jimmo has been at Sun since 1994 and is currently a director within the software organization. This blog is infrequently updated with his thoughts, ramblings and observations. Enjoy!


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