Monday Mar 29, 2010

My last blog...

Well the time has come to put an end to this chapter in my life. The past 7 years have been memorable for me. Literally today is my 7 year anniversary. To tell the truth some years at Sun seem like dog years. Others went by very quickly. Wow it only seems like yesterday I arrived here.

I will miss the truly talented people here at Sun. Well now Oracle. These folks made SUNW work regardless of the direction of the week. We weaved a story together that unified both a engineering, community and management vision. Sometimes they even lined up :)

What I will not miss. We got the crap beat out of us almost daily. But the professionals here persevered regardless of the bloggers that wanted Sun to die.

The future. New job. New technology. Not wasting my time reading blogs from those with an opinion and zero knowledge. Wasted too much time.

Good luck SNORACLE. Ok I just had to do that. Oracle the more interesting times are still ahead of you all. Fasten your seat belts !

Monday Feb 08, 2010

Creating a kiosk app with JavaFX, Sun Ray, Solaris and yeah some middleware...

I set out to see how easy or doable it would be to create a kiosk system that could be used in a Minority Report type of display. Let me state this experiment is in its very very non-Minority Report stage. The first stage of this experiment was simply to create a display mechanism that could be used to broadcast images using Thin Client technology.

So I chose to create a JavaFX application that would talk to Rest based server I set up. Using JSON the JavaFX application would retrieve data to display on the thin client screen. Not to taxing but a good learning experiment.

So what did I learn. JavaFX is a great mechanism for doing this type of display. Sun Ray is a good platform for displaying the information. Note that the as the level of interactivity goes up (aka moving graphics) things can get interesting.

Additionally I learned that a JavaFX application can easily be started from the command line and integrated into a Sun Ray startup script. Hear is my sample script.

#1 /usr/openwin/bin/xset -dpms s off

#2 unclutter -root &

#3 cp /jfx/.javafx_eula_accepted $HOME/.

#4 cp /jfx/.javafx_ping_sent $HOME/.

#4 cd /jfx

#6 javafx -cp JavaFXApplication1.jar javafxapplication1.Main

Not the most complex or proper start script ever written but it got the job done. First thing you will notice is line #1. I used the xset command to disable the power management and screen saver options. This is non starter for a kiosk display. It must never be blank. Also with no mouse or keyboard attached to the Sun Ray you cannot wake it up.

Line 2 is the unclutter command. You can download and compile from http://www.filibeto.org/pipermail/sunray-users/2010-January/014592.html. Unclutter will hide the cursor if it detects no activity in a given period of time. Sucks seeing that big ole cursor sitting on the screen with no mouse to move it.

Lines 3/4 are needed because the kiosk mode of Sun Ray cleans the user directory (rightfully so) when the session is ends. Well JavaFX will ask the user to accept the usage terms every time it starts and does not find the two files in the users home directory. No keyboard or mouse equal headache.

Finally the line (#6) to start the JavaFX application. Use the properties tab in Netbeans to get the correct name for the Main entry point.

That is it not to bad overall for a simple display. Now to crank it up to see how far it will go before it breaks.

Wednesday Dec 09, 2009

TSA, PDF and the Open Gov't Directive

There has been a firestorm today over the TSA posting a document publicly that had procedures and information that some consider harmful to keeping the public safe when traveling. It is debatable how harmful this action will be. Unless you are in the media of course. But they are missing the other half of the story.

This document had parts of it redacted. Blocked out. So the user thought. Little did they know what was hidden could be easily undone by simply selecting, cutting and pasting.

Technology led the user to believe that the sensitive parts of the document were secure. When in reality they were not.

The folks at the TSA will be fried over this. But what about the applications used to create, read and open the document. If you create a document format who is responsible for following the rules when allowing an user to open it. This seems to be a huge hole that will be ignored.

The Open Government Directive is rushing to get government information published externally within a certain timeframe. In light of the TSA firestorm additional guidelines should be published with regards to what can and cannot be shared. Otherwise we will encounter even more events like this.

Thursday Sep 10, 2009

OT: Camaro 2010

A warning this is an off topic post. But you probably figured it out by now.

This weekend I traveled and required the need of an rental car. So I decided to trade up at the Avis counter for a new Camaro. Yes, Avis has a locked on renting the Camaro. They also include the "SS" as an option. I finally choose the black non-"SS" version. Figuring that yellow or red would make me way too visible. The "SS" would unleash my inner child that would make me more visible.

The car itself is quite nice. Fit and finish are great. I thought I would never drive a Camaro. It was just not me. But the Camaro is quite me with one note. More on that later. It has a great 6-speed transmission with paddle shifters. Yes, not a manual in the rental fleet. Paddles were fun. Exhaust well not as raspy as a v-8 was quite nice.

Additional feature. Visibility. This car attracts all kinds of attention. In 3 days, I was stopped by 5 people who wanted to talk about the car. I was followed and cruised by numerous cars taking a good look.

If you love the Camaro, then the only questionable feature will not be a problem. Visibility out of the rear windows. But this comes with the design of the Camaro and cars like it. You learn to cope.

May the new GM continue to produce winners like the CTS and Camaro. Go GM !!! The biggest problem will be getting folks to give them another chance.

Sunday Aug 30, 2009

FIOS, DNSmasq and DD-WRT

Moved to the wonderful world of FIOS this week. It is so nice to be speeding along at 25mbs and not have to share the pipe with my neighbors. Not that I am the hater type. But downloading CD's and DVD's for work is so much nicer now. Plus for the next 6 months I am saving like 90 dollars a month. Sweet.

DNSMasq is the best thing since sliced bread for home networks and more. I have been having trouble with my DNS server recently. Every OS upgrade breaks it. Tired of messing with compatibility issues. I started DNSMasq since it was already installed. I now am serving up internal addresses once again.

DD-WRT. Well it has so much promise. During an upgrade of my Linksys WRT310n router I managed to brick it. Do not ask. But their is this proceedure called 30/30/30. Basically hold the reset switch for 30 secs w/power applied. While holding the reset switch. Pull the plug for 30 secs. Then for the final 30 seconds plug the power back in while holding the reset switch. It managed to reset the OS back to a fresh copy. Nice.

Tuesday Jun 09, 2009

Father convinces Daughter to let him drive

Toke the car in for servicing yesterday and got a great chuckle. Their was a father and daughter waiting for "her" car to be brought up from the service area. Dad was convincing her to let him drive the car. She did not have a problem. But it became clear that he really wanted to drive. Turns out he gave his baby to his baby (daughter) recently and was really missing the car. Amusing but says a lot about how a generation really felt about the freedoms driving gave them.

Thursday May 07, 2009

Star Trek successfully reboots !

In a totally non related Sun moment, went to see the new Star Trek Zero. Not sure how they will handle the next Star Trek movie moniker.Maybe Star Trek 0.1. Any way the movie totally rocks and successfully sets up a future for fans (both young and old) to see new adventures. Either on the big screen or a series. Brilliant way to ....

no spoilers here....

Thursday Apr 16, 2009

Ben's Chili Bowl - Why so long

Well I have been in the DC area for 24 years. Ouch. I finally made the trip to Ben's Chili Bowl in DC for lunch today. Great chili, sausage and fries. Something you must do at least once in life. It reminds me of the Varsity in Atlanta(food wise). The decor is in class by itself. Which actually makes the place it is. I highly recommend a visit if you are in the DC area. Just not too often. Time for cardio :)

Sunday Apr 12, 2009

Southwest gets it right with Open Seating v2.0

Well I have never been a Southwest airlines fan. Most of that came from first impressions back in the late 90's/00's of sitting on the floor at the gate just to receive a good spot in order to get a decent seat on the plane. Well I flew with them last week. I must say that Southwest is not sitting still. They have improved the "open seating" process so you can still get a great seat with out sitting on the floor. Checking in at home allows you to get a spot in line without busting your butt to get to the airport before anyone else. Business travelers that can pay more then the lowest available price can also push themselves to the beginning of the the line by paying a few extra bucks more. Kudos to Southwest for continuing to improve themselves in an industry that has lost its way.

Healthcare costs can be improved ...

I spent the past week being probed for my yearly physical. In the process I noticed there are certain aspects to the healthcare system that should and can be improved. This particular visit included a stop to the Doctors office and a visit to the lab for blood tests. Remember when the Doc did your blood tests. Well that has been outsourced and not very well.

Part 1. Went to Doctor for the first appoint that day. I learned over the years that any afternoon appointments are tragically delayed. I have waited up to an 1 hour after being assigned a waiting room. So this visit was good although I still waited 11 minutes for the first appointment of the day in which I arrived 15 minutes early.

So my first pet peeve and improvement area. Why does it take 3 people to check me in. Oh the endless mounds of paper they have to manage. Why do I need to fill out the same paperwork each year. Tablet PC's were supposed to solve this. Why do I carry a medical card with a mag strip on it. Same for my license. Can't someone solve this issue ?

Sun could save money by issuing a paper card each year. The embedded technology is not used from what I can tell. But if it were, I would not have to fill out paper work every time I visit to Doctor. The staff in the office could actually do more productive things instead of copying my card and managing my paperwork. They would not have to check to see which treatments my provider will reimburse them for.

Part II. The Doctors office visit would be the easiest part of the morning. Less then 45 minutes and I was out of there. Now on to "Blood Corporation" for the blood tests. I should have known better when I saw the line outside the door. I went the desk and signed myself in. Now the wait starts. Literally 50 minutes go by and I get called to the desk. Yes I am in. No, I now need to fill out more paper work. Yes, it takes 45 minutes to process paperwork for a 5 minute blood test.

Once the paperwork is done it still takes another 20 minutes to get the actual test.

What went wrong. One person is managing the check in process. She is generating literally 6 pages of paperwork and yes copying my medical card one more time. Why not use a bar code reader ? Their computer system does not even know I have been there before. Although the lady who takes my blood recognizes me. Must be my stunning personality :)

A lot of people worry that any healthcare reform will take a toll on medical care. I argue that the process can be improved while keeping the same level of care.

That is why Sun has been working with the NHIN and others team to improve communication across healthcare entities. I hope it takes hold before the next physical.

VDI 3 - Bad as in 70's badddd !

Well after two weeks of travel and layoffs I thought I would spend the weekend relaxing. Which for me this seems to be a little time with the Shuttle team and VDI. VDI is a way cool and under promoted virtualization technology that can run Windows, Linux and Solaris guests. Clients can access via Sun Ray thin client, SGD and RDP clients.

VDI 3 is part Sun Ray, MySQL (profile management), Solaris, VirtualBox and Open Storage (think OpenSolaris). By the way it is totally badd. These distinct components are integrated so well beyond anything Sun has done in a long time. All components are installed by one command. The open storage server is a separate install of OpenSolaris by the way. It works flawlessly. Administration is via browser and so easy to use. No instructions needed.

I had not figured out how VirtualBox could be used other than the developer module so tossed around these days. But Virtual Box fits so well in this solution. One might question xVMServer's existence but it fits well running headless servers vs. desktop virtualization.

VDI 3 integrates with your existing enterprise LDAP or Active Directory solution for authentication. No coding needed. Just configure and go.

Best yet, each user can be provisioned multiple desktops for use. Once the user authenticates they can choose which desktop to access. VDI gives you the ability to toss other virtualization technologies to the curb for no doubt a better cost model. VDI 3 will let you use VMWare's VDI solution too. Flexible...

Thursday Apr 02, 2009

Update on Atom Powered Sun Ray Server

I have been asked why not OpenSolaris for my Atom powered Sun Ray. Well the customer requirements a few weeks back were different. Now I have wiped the drive and deployed OpenSolaris + Sun Ray server together. Works well. I recommend following the instructions on the Sun Ray wiki. They work perfectly.

Tuesday Mar 24, 2009

Sun Ray, Green Screen and VNC

I have a client that is exploring thin client technologies. They want to update their desktop technology. But they do not have the resources to rewrite their existing client. An existing Green Screen client that runs perfectly in a terminal window. Except the terminal clients on RHEL block certain function keys. Certain keys are intercepted by the terminal application for menu operations and are not passed to the green screen client.

I had an light bulb idea. Why not use VNC to connect to the client to see how well that would work. It works like a charm. All the function keys get sent through. One exception was the F8 key. Luckily VNC will let you remap that key to some other combination.

So now we have a solution that protects the customers investment while letting them move to current display technology.

Monday Mar 09, 2009

The bear comes out of hibernation...

Ok I whole heartedly admit that I did the bear plus workout this winter. I hibernated. Worse yet I did not bulk up before hibernation. I actually slept and ate at the same time. I now have to work off the pounds I put on. At least to did not get close to my original poundage.

I actually got good cardio in this evening. DC seems to be enjoying a bit a spring time. It was refreshing to get outside again. No worries. No recession. Just me and nature. Yes.

Wednesday Mar 04, 2009

Atom powered Sun Ray Server

Some times you do crazy things in life. I had the opportunity to purchase a Intel Atom 330 powered nettop computer for $140.00. Since I already had a spare sata drive and dvd drive the cost was attractive. The box has 2 cores with hyper-threading enabled. It speeds along at 1.6 ghz. Yep it is a barn burner with all fours threads showing up as 4 "cpus".

So now the question was what can this baby do. I have a customer Sun Ray gig next week. So I decided to replicate the install process. Surely not the hardware. So the little atom is running RHEL 5.3, Sun Ray Server 4.1 and the Sun Ray Windows Connector. It is like the Prius of the Sun Ray servers out there. It is handling a couple of desktops. Only using 828 mb of the 2GB of maximum ram the box will take. Yet it is only using 65 watts of power.

To be sure, I will not be transcoding video with this baby. But for a lightweight environment with a handful of users the Atom is doing quite well. Granted the Atom is not going to handle a 700 user call center alone but it makes you think.

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