e hënë Jan 10, 2005

Solaris 10 x86 Notes



So I had some fun this weekend playing around with Solaris 10 x86 on my Toshiba 9100 laptop. Here are a few notes and observations. First an embarrassing confession. My network got screwed up a while back. When I booted up, everything came up. An ifconfig -a and a netstat -rn command showed reasonable values, but Mozilla would barf on most sites after loading part of the data. I tried a couple of nslookup www.cnn.com and dig google.com commands to make sure name resolution was working. The name lookups worked but still Mozilla wouldn't cooperate. Friday afternoon I finally checked /etc/nsswitch.conf and it was hosed. Looked like part of my xorg.conf had overlayed it. I copied /etc/nsswitch.dns to /etc/nsswitch.conf, rebooted and voila, back in business. Annoying to me that nslookup and dig don't complain about the bogus nsswitch file but its all better now.

So now I am ready to try out several new things. I have been hearing good things about Firefox as a browser and Thunderbird as an email client. Supposedly leaner and meaner than Mozilla. Each package mentioned above available to you for Solaris 8 x86 to Solaris 10 x86 at one of my favorite sites, SunFreeware.com, at this special link. I downloaded FireFox and Thunderbird and installed according to the directions. The package install placed the basic executable in /usr/local/bin. I then used Google image search for the Firefox and Thunderbird logos, downloading them into /usr/share/pixmaps. I am using the Java Desktop so I did a right click on the background and did a Create Launcher. I named Firefox and did a Browse for the command, finding it in /usr/local/bin/firefox. I then clicked the No Icon button and found my downloaded icon and selected it.

I tried out Mozilla, Firefox and Thunderbird for a comparision. I hate to say it but I like Mozilla because of the fonts. The fonts on the Mozilla panels render the letters clearer than the Firefox panels. Also on serveral web pages the fonts on the Mozilla browser were thicker and easier to read than on the Firefox browser. So then I checked the fonts in the preferences and the proportional fonts are the same. The rest are not filled in Mozilla and I can't find the same fonts from FireFox in the Mozilla list. I also cannot clear the different fonts in Firefox. However, that is simply my own aesthetic opinion which may not be shared by others. What about technical aspects of the situation?

I fired up each browser and ran pmap on each of them to see if Firefox is leaner and meaner than Mozilla. Mozilla had a total memory size of 66316K and a heap size of 9956K while Firefox had a total memory size of 38096K and a heap of only 7364K. So Firefox is only 57% of the size of Mozilla. But when my laptop has 512MB do I really need to worry about 28MB? The prstat and vmstat of the startup of Mozilla and Firefox seem very similar. I guess I am going with my own aesthetic opinion. Perhaps a developer or a browser guy can comment on my font issues.

e mërkurë Jan 05, 2005

Engineers with too much time on their hands



In a fascinating article Forbes offers "Five Custom Gadgets you Can't Buy." The image on the right is a beer cooler constructed from a microprocessor cooling unit. There is also an iPod Battery mounted in an Altoids box, an Etch-a-Sketch with a computerized drawing unit, and a PC mounted in a Millenium Falcon model ala Star Wars. I just love the internet. Its amazing what you can extract from information overload.

Solaris Internals



An email for from a friend today asked the question "What do you suggest to help a programmer understand Solaris Memory internals?" I thought about it and suggested Richard McDougall and Jim Mauro's book Solaris Internals. However, that book is a perfect illustration of my theory of the "half life of information." The book was released in the year 2000 and covered Solaris 7. Mssrs. McDougall, Leventhal, Cantrill, Bonwick, Price, Shrock et al. have been extremely busy and much improved Solaris from the days of priority paging in Solaris 7. In Solaris 8 and beyond the page scanning algorithm is now called Cyclical Page Cache so the book is outdated in some respects. The term 'half life' is drawn from radioactivity and refers to "the length of time in which half the nuclei of a species of radioactive substance would decay." The image of 'information half life' is how much of the material in the book from 2000 is still accurate. My belief is that much of the material in the book is still relevant since the early architecture of Solaris has carried through to Solaris 10 (download and play with your copy from here.) The information in the book has been updated for later versions of Solaris (8 to 10) in a set of 367 slides, dated November, 2004, in an Adobe acrobat file available here. Those of you on dialup do not want to download that file and you are already mad at me because of the number of images on my page.
And in a late breaking update, Richard just asked me to review the new chapters for Solaris 10. Hope that the publisher can get the revised version out soon so the information half life will be longer.

e diel Jan 02, 2005

Christmas Present



One of my best Christmas presents was a ticket to the Bruyas Collection exhibit at the Dallas Museum of Art. My son got tickets for the entire family. I had almost given up hope of seeing them enjoy cultural exhibits, having overlooked the bored expressions of my darling children when I dragged them to museums throughout their childhood. But now that they are twentysomethings, culture is cool. We now swap meaningful notes on current books and movies. As a matter of fact Jordan takes issue with my review of Closer and asked for the screenplay for Christmas.

We had a nice family lunch and then went to the museum for a few hours. The exhibit consisted primarily of 19th century French works by Courbet and Delacroix. And then my poor children both had to go to work. I wanted to say to them as they drove off, 'Welcome to my world.' There is however this promising exhibit for our next trip to the museum.

e shtunë Jan 01, 2005

On Blause Recently



Sorry I have had a busy Christmas season...according to the Double Tongued Word Wrester site, I've been 'on blause' or blog pause. I've got a bunch of controversial posts to do but I just haven't bandwidth to deal with the comments. However, one of my New Year's resolutions is to renew my commitment to blogging. I have a bunch of technical stuff to put up and am trying to decide the most appropriate format for it. Happy New Year to all.

e premte Dhj 10, 2004

Your Research Dollars at Work

First let me apologize for my silence for the past 2 weeks. Unfortunately my laptop has been in the shop and the first week in the shop did not fix the problem. To paraphrase the New Testament, 'Those that live by the laptop fail miserably while the laptop is in the shop.'

However, current events continue to fly by. Two research studies in the news recently caught my eye. First, as I type this with my laptop laying firmly in my lap, I come across the news headline "Laptop heat a threat to fertility"   Ooops! Good thing my wife and I have already had our darling children who are in college now. This has generated 265 articles across the world on Google News and a hilarious thread, most of which cannot be repeated here, on Slashdot.   I mean, dude, can I file an OSHA claim?

And then, a linguist at the University of Pittsburgh has done extensive research on the term 'Dude' to be published in the fall edition of American Speech. I mean it seems like a totally lame study, dude, but it has generated 211 news articles according to a search of Google News. Here are a few extracts from the CNN report:

"An admitted dude-user during his college years, Scott Kiesling said the four-letter word has many uses: in greetings ("What's up, dude?"); as an exclamation ("Whoa, Dude!"); commiseration ("Dude, I'm so sorry."); to one-up someone ("That's so lame, dude."); as well as agreement, surprise and disgust ("Dude.").

Kiesling says in the fall edition of American Speech that the word derives its power from something he calls cool solidarity -- an effortless kinship that's not too intimate.

Cool solidarity is especially important to young men who are under social pressure to be close with other young men, but not enough to be suspected as gay.

In other words: Close, dude, but not that close."

And these guys get paid for publishing this stuff? Where did I go wrong?

e premte Dhj 03, 2004

Closer or Relationships as Verbal WWF



Last night's cinematic outing was "Closer" a movie disguised as a verbal assault. (NB for our world wide audience, the initials WWF stand for the peculiarly American television entertainment form World Wrestling Federation which could never actually be glorified as a sport and which bears only a vague resemblance to GrecoRoman wrestling.)  You can tell that this movie was first a play by Patrick Marber.  The cinematography and scenery take a back seat to the verbal jousting on screen.   It is entirely unfair that I have used the picture of Julia Roberts for this notice but there were no available shots of all 4 actors together.   Jude Law, from 2003's "Cold Mountain" and 2004's eye candy piece "Alfie (Hated it)," Clive Owen, from one of my personal favorites "Croupier" and 2004's "King Arthur" (please forgive him), Natalie Portman, aka Queen/Senator Amidala in Star Wars or in another recommended rental "Garden State", and Julia form a relationship cube that morphs through several iterations.  I still can't decide how much I like this movie since there are several places where I think the plot takes an unrealistic turn and I thought to myself, 'No woman I know would do that or respond like that.'  However, the sample size of women I know might be too small or too provincial.  Perhaps the sample of American women transplanted to London would do these things.  There are several scenes that really are excellent interchanges and make the entire movie worth the effort.  The relationship consequences of the actions and exchanges could also be viewed as a modern morality play.  Naturally this is just one man's humble opinion and you are free to (verbally) disagree..."Let's get ready to rumble!" (in the comments)

Marshall McLuhan in the New Millenium

There is just way too much to cover today.    My laptop croaked itself Sunday and I just got it back yesterday.    Makes it tough to be productive...those that live by the laptop fail when the laptop fails (to paraphrase the Gospels.)   First up is todays Op-Ed analysis of the Ron Artest dust up and its continuing fall out.   Danniel Henninger has this analysis on-line in the Opinion Journal of the Wall Street journal (proudly powered by Sun according to the ad on the page.)    A few salient extracts follow:

"... Marshall McLuhan was laughed at in 1967 with the publication of "The Medium Is the Massage," his aphoristic summary of what electronic media were going to do to us.   'All media works us over completely,' McLuhan said.   The book's subtitle was "An inventory of effects."   It's a good time for another inventory, because no one's laughing now.

Much of the "culture" we consume is graphic and electronic.   Most of us have watched more screens of entertainment--on TV, in movies, videogames and computers--than any other activity not required to sustain life.   A cable company like Time Warner now offers about 500 channels.   This is relatively new.   It must have an effect.   But what is 'it'?

It is mostly entertainment.   As with movies, TV from the first days was primarily a performance medium.   That means it is a medium of exaggeration.   It exists to go over the top.   Professionals will tell you that like any staged performance, TV requires exaggeration, or sharpened behavior, to succeed.   On a TV screen or the silver screen, normal "performance" doesn't "come across."   To compensate for the screen's odd, deadening effect, all actors ham it up.   Actors from Jackie Gleason to Telly Savalas to John Belushi have all painted their characters in broad, "unreal" strokes--to put them across.

Violence is also one of the medium's most basic tools.   Since the slapstick figures of Europe's old Commedia dell'Arte, violence has been a staple of exaggerated effects--the Three Stooges, the Marx Brothers and today "South Park."   But of course no one in the 17th century watched such stuff every night.

...McLuhan said media would change us.   He was right.   There are simple words to describe what we are seeing lots of now: vanity, anger, impatience, envy, egocentrism, arrogance.   Oh yes, vices are not crimes. But standing under a constant electronic shower of them will wash away what might be called the smaller, quieter virtues, such as humility, restraint, modesty, respect, tact, patience, generosity, prudence, piety--that stuff.

Does it matter?   Two years after "The Medium Is the Massage," Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black issued a famous dissent in the Tinker case, which elevated the speech rights of very young students and lowered the inclination of teachers to civilize their students.   Justice Black warned this would make the schools vulnerable "to the whims and caprices of their loudest-mouthed, but maybe not their brightest, students."   So what? They're all stars now. "

To which I can only raise my voice and say, "Amen, brother.    Preach it!"   Please read the entire article since I have only excerpted from it here.
Image courtesy of Sports Illustrated/CNN...click image for article on the whackiness of Ron Artest.

e martë Nën 30, 2004

Grids Redux



One of my first posts was a plea to sign up for the United Devices Grid to participate in cancer research in cooperation with the University of Oxford and the National Foundation for Cancer Research.

Now the Human Proteome Folding Project has begun. I have noticed my computers participating in this project recently. CNN reported on this project here. You can download the software here and join the SunOne team to show your support. While you are typing or out for coffee or away from your computer, it will be doing its part to cure cancer or fold proteins, participating with more than 1 million other computers in these projects.

Remember, Sun's illustrious leader is positively mental over grids also.

Sarah McLachlan Redux



Back in October I mentioned that I liked World on Fire. As I mentioned before, I love this video because during it, Sarah says that a typical music video costs $150,000 but she made this one for $15. Then she she describes all the charity projects she sent the $150,000 to rather than pay LA studio costs. (One snide comment is that we may have to take up a collection for all LA production staff that did not get paid) Again I want to warn you before you watch the video at this link or at Itunes for a larger version, have a Kleenex ready. I still sniffle when I watch it.

I also added Blogoslovi to my Blog Roll because he gave the Afterglow album 4 stars. He is also concerned about cultural and spiritual issues.

e hënë Nën 22, 2004

Immersion Week




Here's part of the gang that got together at the Q center outside of Chicago last week for Sun's Immersion Week. This fine group is part of the Central US Data Center Practice that got together for a 'Birds of a Feather' meeting Thursday night. Standing on the left is Bill Pilarski, our fearless Practice Manager, and standing on the right side is Brian Ahearn, our Director. Squatting 2nd from the right is Phil Morris, our CTO. We got together to learn about Sun's new technology and strategy for the next year. As usual for this type of gathering, the classes contained important material but some presenters could have had better skills. The Solaris 10 Dtrace sessions and Zones sessions were good but I was in too few of them. Famous Sun Bloggers who I know were there include John Clingan, Glenn Brunette, John Beck, and Bart Smaalders. If I missed any other famous bloggers who attended, I apologize.

e diel Nën 21, 2004

The Machinist...Descent into madness



This weekend's cinematic choice was Christian Bale and Jennifer Jason Leigh in "The Machinist," a haunting movie about an insomniac who is losing it. As a matter of fact, you name it and he is losing it. He is losing weight and is down to 121 pounds, losing sleep and tends to nod off frequently, losing friends because he is acting peculiarly and perhaps losing his mind. It is suspenseful, shot in sepia tones with very little color and has a nightmarish quality. I liked it but it is definitely not for everybody, especially those who are squeamish. In Dallas it is only at the art house theater. A summary of reviews is found at Rotten Tomatoes my favorite movie review site.

e premte Nën 12, 2004

FireEngine aka Solaris 10 Network Stack



How did they get this past the lawyers??? They are actually saying that the new network stack is up to 45% faster. For a performance guy, this announcement is truly amazing. This article also discusses the coming 10 Gigabit networking. You can download the latest version of Solaris 10 x86 from here and take this screaming network stack out for a spin. Run your own speed comparisions against Linux, Windows, or whatever. (Disclaimer, your results may vary. Please do not use ftp as a networking benchmark, it sucks. Use the ttcp utility.)

e enjte Nën 11, 2004

Ray Charles



Last weekend's cinematic expedition was to Ray which truly was an acting tour de force. Everyone turned in an amazing performance and there should be several Oscar nominations and statues won for this movie. I began listening to pop music in junior high school and Ray Charles was often on the charts. Ray was a troubled performer who struggled with his addiction to heroin. This behind the scenes film looks unflinchingly at some of the ugly parts of the music industry and Ray's own life. He and one of his bandmates successfully overcame their addictions. Highly recommended.

e mërkurë Nën 10, 2004

Good News - Niagara in the public eye

Yesterday's news was depressing, but The Inquirer has this article, Sun's Niagara Falls Neatly into Multithreaded Place, discussing our 8 CPU core massively multithreaded processor code named Niagara. The diagram below attempts to illustrate the text of the article which says in part, "On a macro level, it will have eight cores, each core capable of running 4 threads in parallel, for 32 concurrently running threads." Naturally the illustration is chopped off at 4 cores, but its for illustrative purposes only. The C's in the diagram are compute time for the thread and the M's are the memory latency of the thread. By switching between threads on a core, we hope to minimize the time waiting for memory to catch up.
As a performance guy, this is exciting news. I can't wait to run cpustat and busstat on one of these processors.


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