Tuesday Sep 16, 2008

SUNrise SUNset...

This is my final blog entry as my employment at Sun draws to a close.

I am reminded of one of my favourite songs growing up, from the musical "Fiddler on the Roof".

Some pertinent points from my employment at Sun

  • Sun rose for me (half of seven) years ago
  • I mostly worked in the seventh layer of the ISO Network Stack.
  • I averaged seven layers of management between myself and the CEO.
  • I worked with about seven different products.
  • I stopped eating seven layer cake when I turned 40 during my tenure at Sun!

I will update my linkedin LinkedIn profile with my next employer, but I am willing to bet some of my Liberty colleagues at Sun will guess who that is from the above list.

I hope I was able to provide some useful information, and occasional humour, in this blog. The Sun Directory Server is a wonderful product built by a talented engineering team.

See you in the blogosphere....


Thursday May 15, 2008

The Internet and an American Girl

My daughter acquired a princess net for her room and was adamant that I install it this evening. Whilst I was looking for a suitable hook in the garage when she joined me and the following conversation ensued:

"Daddy, what's that blue flashing light?"

“That’s the Internet router.”

“What’s the Internet?

“Well it's a lot of wires that connect computers together.”


“So we can exchange information such as sending photos and email to grandpa.”

“Mommy said she ordered my princess net on her computer. Did she use the Internet?”

“Yes the Internet can also be used for shopping.”

“And the net arrived the next day!”

”Sometimes it is faster to shop using the Internet.”

“So, daddy, can I get a computer please I want to order a new American Girl?”

”Did you finish your homework?”

”But daddy……!”

Monday Apr 07, 2008

Blog until you drop

An interesting article in today's New York Times that blogging has become a very stressful 24x7 activity.

Rather ironic that the article is the most blogged story in the NYTimes today (April 7th) :) :)

Friday Feb 29, 2008

Happy Leap Day

When I was a kid I disdained leap years because it added one extra day before my birthday. Nowadays I don't mind the delay...
As an avid reader of the foreign press, I came across a most interesting explanation for the 29th of February, this excerpted from an Israeli newspaper:

It was Julius Caesar who ultimately discovered, in 45 B.C.E., that time was out of joint. Following both Egyptian astronomers and his own experts, he decreed that that particular year would have 445 days, and from then on each year would have 12 months of 30 or 31 days each, including a short February with an additional day every four years. He also appropriated a month for himself - July (originally Quintilius, the fifth month, which now became the seventh). Augustus, who followed him on the Roman throne, added three more days to the year and named the eighth month (Sextilius, originally the sixth month) after himself: August. The Senate suggested that his successor, Tiberius, name a month after himself, but he was practical enough to refuse the honor by asking: "And what will you do by the time there will be 13 Caesars?"
Almost 1,600 years then passed before those who cared about matters calendrical, and had enough authority, decided that something had to be done to align the solar year (measured according to the number of rotations the sun made around the earth - at least that's what they thought then) with the lunar one (the time it took the moon to orbit the earth 12 times). In 1582 - counting from the year Jesus was born, although his birth was probably a couple of years earlier - Pope Gregorius XIII dropped 10 days from the calendar and decreed that from then on, every four years, February would have 29 days, not 28. The exception to this rule was that centenary years (i.e., 1700, 1800) would not have an extra day. The exception to this exception was that centenary years that are divisible by 400 would have an extra day.

As the pope was Catholic, it took the Protestant countries almost 200 years to follow suit. Russia and Greece came around only in the 20th century. That is why, in the history of the world's calendars, there was a 30th day in February - twice: Once in 1712 in Sweden, when they were trying to rectify errors made by their astronomers, and the second time when leaders of the Soviet Revolution wanted in 1929 to make a switch from the seven-day week to a five-day week and 30-day month. In 1931 they gave up the idea, and anyway, Pravda did not accept the ruling, kept faith with the Gregorian calendar, and there never was an issue dated February 30th in their history.

The Greek astronomer Meton, who dodged the Athenian draft in the fifth century B.C.E., calculated that 19 lunar years plus 209 days, which amounts to seven months (six of them with 30 days, and one with 29), equals 19 solar years.
This never works out correctly, as the solar year has a bit less than 365-and-one-quarter days (to be precise, it has approximately 365.242149 days), whereas the lunar year has a little more than 354-and-one-third days (precisely, approximately, 354.3734 days). They differ by little less than 11 days (10.8674, to be almost precise). But we valiantly and desperately will persist in showing that while the universe behaves mostly in a maddeningly arbitrary way, there is a method to it. In 3,000 years' time, we will have an extra day in the year, and this has to be fixed and fit into the calendar, and the sooner the better.

And here is some Irish trivia:

A tradition was introduced many centuries ago to allow women to propose to men during a leap year. This privilege of proposing was restricted to leap day in some areas. Leap day was sometimes known as “Bachelors’ Day”. A man was expected to pay a penalty, such as a gown or money, if he refused a marriage offer from a woman.
The tradition’s origin stemmed from an old Irish tale referring to St Bridget striking a deal with St Patrick to allow women to propose to men every four years. This old custom was probably made to balance the traditional roles of men and women in a similar way to how the leap day balances the calendar

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Monday Jan 14, 2008

Humbled by those who have less, much less.

Although it has been 20+ years since I finished high school, The English poetry I learnt, still resonates with me and I can recall phrases and lines to this day. William Wordsworth wrote a sonnet that I shall reproduce here, since it is, of course, only 14 lines.

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.--Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan
suckled in a creed outworn; (1)
So might I, standing on this pleasant
lea, (2)
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of
Proteus (3) rising from the sea;
Or hear old
Triton (4) blow his wreathed horn.

(1) Brought up in an outdated religion.
(2) Meadow.
(3) Greek sea god capable of taking many shapes.
(4) Another sea god, often depicted as trumpeting on a shell.

For two years our family was very fortunate to have the services of a live-in nanny who began her employment with us a year after our son was born. A rather simple woman, almost illiterate, and not conversant in English, I recall that when our daughter started grade one and began to learn reading and writing, our nanny used some of her free time to study English reading and writing as well. I remarked to myself that a 60 and 6 year old were learning to read and write English for the first time. Our nanny grew very fond of our younger son and loved him as if he were the son she could not bear (her husband divorced her in their youth as they were unable to conceive). Upon recent a visit to her home country, she phoned us with the most unfortunate news that she was not returning to America as she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

With no dependents of her own, our nanny worked to save for her and her sisters' retirement. Her sole possessions accompanied her in one suitcase when she went home a few weeks ago. Thus when she called to inform us of her condition, we offered to send her few remaining possessions to her but she refused and suggested we give them away.

As I cleaned her room I found notes she had taken in her English language classes. In the notebook, among other sentences, was written:

“I love children.”

“I love to cook for the children.”

I was moved to tears. Here we live in one of the most sought after areas in the world. Our children attend magnificent schools and not deprived of toys nor clothing nor extra-curricular activities. And a woman who at age 60 is learning English for the first time, writes of her love for children that she could not bear herself. Those of us consumed by the rat-race and materialism that American consumerism thrusts upon us, as Wordsworth wrote, should stop and smell the flowers.....

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Tuesday Jan 08, 2008

a useful link - searching all libraries

I am a member at two public libraries and occasionally use university libraries too.

I found this link that will search for a book across multiple public and university libraries.

The website lists libraries near you, so I am guessing it does a reverse DNS lookup and then determines your location?

Search any library

Sunday Nov 11, 2007

Life with two kids :)

Most days my kids are the sweet, kind and cute.

Occasionally I get home from work to this:

Sunday Oct 14, 2007

Finals, here we come

The Springboks played a great game against Argentina and will meet England in the finals.
Ludo, sorry you lost to the "roast beefs", don't worry, we will take care of them for you....!

Wednesday Oct 03, 2007

Marriage in the Internet age

Wednesday Sep 19, 2007

Telecommuting is so 1990s..

In the age of social networks it is called co-working. If you work remote and get lonely, join or start a co-working group. I just joined the group in Palo Alto and am at the premises right now. A superb idea. Thanks Liz Henry!

Monday Jul 23, 2007

Life begins when you buy a minivan

There is an old joke that goes something like this:

Several priests and a rabbi are debating when life begins. The priests vigorously argue conception, first trimester and birth. The rabbi remains silent throughout. After heated debate they turn to him and ask: “Rabbi you are so silent, pray tell us when does your religion declare that life begins?” To which the rabbi simply answers : “Life begins when the children move out and the dog is dead….”

The saga began a year ago when our daughter and her two friends began carpooling to school. My wife first entertained the idea of a minivan and I scoffed at it demonstrating how three car seats fit very very (very) snuggly into the rear seat of the Volvo wagon. When my wife made her first attempt at buckling the middle seatbelt she broke a newly manicured fingernail.

I spent the next nine months driving carpool. 

In a month my son and his pal will join the carpool to school. A friend of mine in a similar situation told me that Volvo station wagons can fit an extra (rear-facing) bench seat, in the trunk. When I floated that idea at home, my wife gingerly reminded me of her broken fingernail.

So she executed a typical Silicon Valley Craigslist search and found a Honda Odyssey 2006 with low mileage, an extended warranty and sale price below KellyBlueBook. She went to see the car and bought it.

Here one sees the benefit of marriage. Were it up to me, I might have tried the rear-facing bench seat, given up in futility and then kicked many tires before deciding which to buy letting a great deal slip away.

I resisted marriage - futile. I tried to delay having kids - no good. I suggested we wait a little while longer before buying a home - useless. I thought we did not need a mini-van -wrong!

Now that we have purchased a mini-van it appears we have finally landed. My daughter can go to school and no longer lament that we are the only family that does not have a mini-van.

Thursday May 03, 2007

Attend IIW 2007

I encourage you to attend IIW2007.

It is an informal open forum conference on Identity in Mountain View California.

I will be demonstrating Sun Identity Manager

Thursday Mar 29, 2007

Four questions

Next week begins the time of year when, for eight days, I will be passing over many activities that I typically do the other 51 weeks of the year; eating bread or pasta is an example of just one. I will also dine at two extraordinarily long repasts on weekday nights. Fortunately, I won't have to work the following day.

I have four questions for you. I will provide my answers but welcome yours as well. (Drinking four cups of wine while reading and answering these questions is optional, but encouraged).

  1. Why is the Sun Identity Suite different from other vendor offerings?

  2. Why is your deployment of other vendor Identity offerings likely to be a bitter experience, akin to wandering in the desert for 40 years?

  3. Why do Sun Professional Services employees judiciously revise their work at least twice, whereas some other vendors not even once?

  4. Why can you relax and recline after deploying a Sun Identity Suite offering, but not after deploying other vendor offerings?

The answers that four sons might offer are:

  1. I am wise and know the difference.

  2. I am too wicked to tell you why.

  3. I am too simple to know the difference.

  4. I have no idea how to even answer the questions.

My answers to the four questions are simply don't slave over another vendor's offering, like your predecessors did. Deploy Sun Identity solutions using Sun Professional services's strong outstretched arm. Thus you can relax and recline since you are now free! Free from complex manual provisioning and compliance responsibilities.
Celebrate your freedom with a meal and relate the story to your children and their children for generations

In closing, here are four riddles............... Here are the answers


Night Night Night Night Night Night Night  Night Night Night Night





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Friday Mar 16, 2007

South African cricket team has improved

Contrary to my posting 13 months ago, Herschelle Gibbs scored six sixes in one over at the World Cup today. That is the third time this record has been achieved in first class cricket, and the first time in an international match!


Wednesday Dec 06, 2006

Dreidel math

Ivars Peterson's MathLand

December 2, 1996

Fair Play and Dreidel

For centuries, Jews have played the game of dreidel as part of the festivities associated with Hanukkah. Surprisingly, it turns out that this ancient game is also an unfair game. The dreidel is a four-cornered top or spinner having sides labeled with the Hebrew letters Nun, Gimel, Hay, and Shin. Any number of players can participate, with each player contributing a penny or some other unit to the pot to start the game. The players then take turns spinning the dreidel until each player has had a turn, at which time the players spin again in the same order. The game continues until some mutually agreed stopping point.

Each spin has four equally likely outcomes. If the letter Nun (N) comes up, there's no payoff, and play passes to the next player. If Gimel (G) comes up, the player collects the entire pot, and everyone contributes a penny to form a new pot. If Hay (H) comes up, the player collects half the pot. If Shin (S) comes up, the player adds a penny to the pot.

In 1976, Robert Feinerman of Herbert H. Lehman College (CUNY) in Bronx, N.Y., proved that the first player has a greater expected payoff than the second player, who in turn has a greater expected payoff than the third player. Thus, the first player has an unfair advantage over the second player, and so on.

"Furthermore, this unfairness is accentuated if a stopping rule is used which does not guarantee an equal number of turns to each player," Feinerman noted.

Feinerman derived the following formula for the expected value of the payoff on the nth spin with N players: N/4 + [(5/8)\^( N-1)][(N-2)/8].

A few years ago, as an undergraduate math major at MIT, Felicia Moss Trachtenberg extended Feinerman's results and worked out a way to make the game fair. The key is to change the ratio of the amount a each player puts in the pot to begin the game or after G is spun and the amount pof the penalty paid for spinning S.

"The modified game of dreidel will be fair just when p/a = N/2, where N is the number of players," Trachtenberg says. Thus, for four players, if the ante is 1 penny, the penalty should be 2 pennies.

To see why this ratio works, notice that the amount in the pot when the first player spins is Na. The player's possible payoffs are 0, Na, Na/2, and -p, depending on which side of the dreidel comes up. For the game to be fair for the second player, the expected payoff must remain constant from the first to the second spin, and that can happen only if the ratio holds.

In the standard version, the ratio is less than N/2, which biases the game toward the first player. It's also possible to bias the game toward the last player by making the ratio greater than N/2.

Trachtenberg is now a graduate student in statistics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The brief bio that appears with her article in the September College Mathematics Journal notes: "In the future, Felicia intends to go first when playing dreidel, especially against her husband, Ari Trachtenberg, a renowned dreidel enthusiast."

Copyright C 1996 by Ivars Peterson.


Feinerman, Robert. 1976. An ancient unfair game. American Mathematical Monthly 83(October):623-625. Trachtenberg, Felicia Moss. 1996. The game of dreidel made fair. College Mathematics Journal 27(September):278-281.

You can play a computerized dreidel game via an "automated random dreidel-server" at the web site http://www.jcn18.com/spinner.htm.

Comments are welcome. Please send messages to Ivars Peterson at ip@scisvc.org. Ivars Peterson is the mathematics and physics writer and online editor at Science News (http://www.sciencenews.org/). He is the author of The Mathematical Tourist, Islands of Truth, Newton's Clock, and Fatal Defect. His current work in progress is The Jungles of Randomness (to be published in 1997 by Wiley


Jonathan Gershater


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