Saturday Jul 29, 2006

SDN Channel on Linux: deleted scenes and commentary

Last week I had my first ever public exposure of a major kind and now that I can finally sit back and relax somewhat I guess it's time to put my first impressions in writing (before I forget them altogether) and also set the record straight on things which turned out to be not quite the way I expected them to.

As you could very well imagine for a non-native English speaker like myself the toughest part was the interview itself. And even though I have some experience in lecturing and giving presentations at various technical and scientific conferences I don't have a habit of augmenting my slides with exact words I want to say or otherwise script my speeches. I usually just give myself a framework of slides and then I try to improvise within it. Sometimes it works great, sometimes not, but the crucial difference is -- once I'm done with my live presentation the only thing I have to fear is an occasional rotten tomato, in case of an interview (which is supposed to be available on-line for at least a couple of weeks) the stakes are much higher. That said, the pressure wasn't really severe enough to make me repeat the Demosthenes's routine but it surely was enough of a motivation to make me do the proverbial homework at least a couple of times before the shooting date. I think it helped a great deal because when I did arrive to the set on Monday I really knew what I wanted to talk about and how I wanted to phrase it. I spoke for about 10-12 minutes and when I was done I actually expected our producer to call it a wrap. After all, at least in my opinion, it was the best dozen or so minutes I could possibly muster anyway. Instead they told me -- too long and too geeky. We need more entertainment. And thus the battle for entertainment has begun. We did 5 takes total and by the end of it I was talking a mile-a-minute and was really delivering a bunch of sound-bites instead of talking about things I felt like talking. Luckily when it was all over they told me that the end result is going to be a composite of the best segments from all of the outtakes not just the last one. Now, frankly, looking at the final product I don't think I have anything to complain about in a big way. It looks professional and I have only myself to blame if there's anything wrong with the presentation or material, except may be the final speech where they cut to the host way too early while I still talk which in my opinion looks a bit silly. That said, I still feel a bit sad about a couple of points I was trying to make which didn't make it into the final video. It would be nice to have an opportunity of making a sort of "director's cut" based of the raw outtakes and be able to show it for anybody with an attention span larger than what producers of the show are used to. Micheline (my host) is now doing her best trying to talk our producer into releasing these tapes. But before that actually happens, here's what I remember from my favorite part that didn't make it. Enjoy and please leave your comments on whether you liked the interview or not. It is really important to me. And I'm going to explain why in my next post.

Believe it or not, but it all began almost 8 years ago when I was hired to work for Sun doing C++ compiler. Of course, given that I had started to tinker with Linux even earlier -- one of the first things I suggested to my manager was to port the excellent software which at the time was known as Sun's Workshop to Linux. I think at the time Linux kernel was around 1.0 and if my memory serves me right the answer I got from my manager was : "Linux who?". Fast forward 5 years and you can find me in Sunny California doing all sorts of compiler related projects for Sun. What is different though is Sun's attitude towards Linux. There's an embracement of it on the deployment side -- there's even some embracement on the development side because of Sun Studio 9 which had tools available on Linux, but still no compilers. There's a general interest in Linux, but nobody is ready to stand up in one of those PowerPoint meetings and claim that we MUST port compilers to Linux NOW! That said, the approach I took almost a year and a half ago was a different one. Together with the two friends of mine (and you know, three crazy dudes from Russia -- Horsh, Fidor and Vusya -- are a pretty powerful combination when it comes to skunkworks) we started this porting project pretty much in our spare time. We had to battle Linux we had to battle glibc we had to battle gcc but it was great fun and we were doing something really useful. On top of that in two months we actually had a C compiler not only capable of bootstrapping itself but also passing about 80% of the most rigorous testsuite you could subject a piece of code to. At that point I just showed up in from of my boss and told him -- its time to ship it. Much to his credit he was very supportive and helped me a lot with everything. If it weren't for him our coming out of the closet during LinuxWorld in San Francisco probably should have never ever happened.

Friday Jun 30, 2006

Sun Studio Compilers on Linux are [almost] 1 year old

It looks like summer is Sun's time for doing the right thing. Last summer a year ago we opened Solaris to the community and a bit later what had started as a skunworks project of just a couple of guys trying to bring some software they like to the platform they cherish was finally approved by the management (thanks Don!) to be released to the outside world as well.

And thus what is now known as Sun Studio Compilers for Linux Technology Preview Program was born.

At the time it was a small project fueled mainly by the enthusiasm of good folks around me (thanks Lisa, Kuldip and Richard) but it was because of you guys reading this that this project was allowed to morph into a much more respected and supported one called Sun Studio Express. Now its not just about making Sun Studio compilers on Linux available but about changing the way our organization produces software. And that's a biggie.

I guess in this last paragraph I just want to thank everybody who supported us by downloading our stuff, trying it out and discussing it on forums -- keep doing it! The only reason it all goes out is because of you!

Thank YOU!

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