Monday Aug 15, 2005

Auto Analogies, Open Processes and Role Reversals

One can find ample analogies referring to the auto industry to explain a particular approach to building IT infrastucture to their customers. And the virtues of synergistic value addition through open software development process is not lost of millions of developers and software consumers. Isn't it time that the auto industry took notice and paid back these compliments to do a role reversal and adopt software industry analogies and embrace the open development process ?

Well, beginnings of such a trend may be manifesting quietly while US consumers grapple with ever increasing gas costs and the auto industry's slow response to this opportunity. This article shows how energetic individuals with a passion to add value can have the power of overriding corporate preoccupations, to create controversial, yet paradigm shifting innovations. At a time when the auto industry's response to the energy crisis has been to only cast a nelson's eye to the problem and continue with its old ways while providing chicken-feed to the bargainers, the innovators have been quietly using today's technology to bring more value. It shows the drive of an electrical engineer as an example, who further refined and enhanced the Toyota Prius battery operations to harness more energy from an already energy efficient engine system.

I especially loved the part in this article that talks about how after initially rejecting these approaches, Toyota is now considering listening to these part-time but passionate innovators who are today's version of the hot-rodders of the yesteryears.

One day, and soon, I would like to see the same open development process applied to various industries that respond to markets placidly and are in for an overdue awakening from rank outsiders who have only passion for innovation as their motivation. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8930811/

Monday Jun 20, 2005

SAMP/SA\*J - a compelling combination for Web hosters

Continuing on my thread from yesterday, I did some intensive web searching for web hosting providers who offer basic web hosting and higher end ecommerce facilities. Not surprisingly, I found a huge number of web hosting providers offering the LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySql, Perl/PHP) combination for obvious reasons. There is a small (sigh!) community of web hosters who offer J2EE hosting but my search is not a scientific one except that it is based on some intense Googling.

For the LAMP based hosters (and of course, the J2EE hosting providers), there is now a very solid choice in that Solaris with Apache/Tomcat/any other J2EE Application Server, Mysql (or your favored DB), with Perl/PHP/J2EE offers a compelling alternative given Solaris 10's various functionalities.

Specifically, Solaris containers is the single most important functionality that would benefit them and their customers immensely. This allows for single machine multi-user contained zones within which the Hosters could offer specific applications to users. In fact, they could even offer dedicated J2EE application server instances to customers to deploy and run their own applications or run a hoster provided ecommerce application.

While the Hosting providers do have several choices in terms of application servers, it would be worthwhile to mention about our own. The Sun Java Application Server Platform Edition, offers a free production license for a single server instance. Hosters could conceivably have many such Platform Edition installs or better yet go for our multi-instance, multi-cluster, multi-domain Standard Edition which has a host of manageability features. They could offer one or more dedicated instances/clusters to the users based on their subscription level for J2EE applications, while other users could be offered their PHP/Perl preferred environments.

In my opinion, OpenSolaris brings in a whole new world of opportunity for Web Hosting providers in terms of the choices they can offer to their customers.

Sunday Jun 19, 2005

LAMP to SAMP to SSMJ

With OpenSolaris a grand reality now, it is conceivable to think of LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySql, Perl/PhP) getting a robust alternative SAMP (Solaris, Apache, MySql, Perl/PhP).

It would be sweeter if SAMP would instead incarnate as SAMJ (Solaris, Apache Tomcat, MySql, Java).

It would be even sweeter if that acronym sounds more like SSMJ (Solaris, Sun Java Application Server, MySql, Java).

But hey, that is already a reality. Free Solaris on Free Sun Java Application Server Platform Edition (with industry leading price/performance numbers) running on free MySql and free Java applications are indeed a reality. Perhaps a popular acronym was not around. Gee, sounds very Dilbertian! But if that works, SSMJ perhaps, then :)

Peace.

Tuesday Apr 26, 2005

Necessity is the mother of switching!

For many years my development environment was on Windows boxes due to better IDE rendering and handling, and usual stuff associated with a Windows dektop environment. Compilations used to be on my Solaris box which nicely mounted our home dirs. Pretty much everything else including email, research/occassional browsing of the net, staroffice, etc. was on windows. A few months ago I installed solaris 10 for x86 on my other PCs and was impressed with the desktop integration through JDS 3 and the underlying powerhouse of an OS. But I had continued on with my original set up.

By sheer quirk of technical fate, I could not log on to my windows box due to a domain controller issue for over three-four days last week. As support for such issues is low priority it does take a while to get it set right around here. So I had no choice but to use my Solaris 10 box as my main environment. Needless to say, it has had an effect.

I have now completely switched to my Solaris 10 x86 system. If there was one issue (other than my old undying habits!) that was preventing me from switching completely, it was the lack of support in the display driver for the Intel 845 GV chipset. At 1024x768 resolution with 85hz refresh rate, I was seeing intense flicker on the Dell P1110 monitor that was hurting my eyes on the Solaris 10 box. I browsed the net a few days ago and found the updated XF86 display drivers which now have support for this chipset. Wonderful!

I installed the Sun contributed Firefox and Thunderbird builds for Solaris x86, Netbeans 4.1 beta and x11vnc to be able to work remotely thru vpn. I even found a flash plugin version for Solaris so that websites with flash could be rendered in the browser correctly. I personally think, we have a pretty compelling desktop, and if we have increased integration for today's (and tomorrow's) gizmos, a media center type desktop based on S10 shouldn't be a far fetched idea. But thats besides the point........
Necessity is the mother of invention and indeed switching too!

Sunday Apr 17, 2005

Encrypting VNC sessions

I have always been apprehensive that the incredibly useful VNC's security is rather weak in that even at the most basic level, every communication to see or modify your remote desktop was in the clear. Googling for a solution, I found this interesting instruction set for using SSH encrypted tunnelling (albeit applicable for using this over Windows boxes - similar solutions should be available for unix/linux environments as well).
http://marc.fearby.com/index.php?p=16

The note shows how to use a combination of TightVNC Server and OpenSSH daemon on the remote machine (called home machine in the article) and TightVNC viewer and Putty (a ssh tunnel client) on the client machine(called remote machine in the article). After following the instructions, I could have SSH encrypted vnc sessions over vpn. I also downloaded Packetyzer to see if the packets sent and received were in fact encrypted and sure enough they were.

Wednesday Jan 12, 2005

Solaris 10 x86 install experience

A few days ago I installed Solaris 10 for x86, build 74 L1, on a couple of my Gateway boxes with P-IV, 2.6 GHZ, 768 MB RAM and a 40 GB HDD. On one box, I cleaned out its earlier Win Xp installation after noting down the network address related details. On the other box, I upgraded from a very early build (b61) of Solaris 10 x86 that had been installed by IT support. Both the installations went very smoothly with no support call. All I needed was my hostname,static IP address, and other network details such as the nis address, dns, etc. I also had to do a "ypinit -c" to get the automounted dirs to show up as a ypbind was not happening at startup.

With the JDS 3 desktop, this is just great with the email client, browser and staroffice all integrated. The new JDS3 look and feel is also nice. I did not have the solaris companion CD so I just used sunfreeware.com's pkg-get utility to install some of the needed utilities and tools such as cvs client, gmake, emacs, etc.; The whole process took a little over an hour for each machine.

One thing that I felt was kinda awkward with the Sol 10 install was that the installer detected the upgrade case much later in the process, in that, it asked for all the networking details such as host name, ip address, nis server address, etc. and later determined that this is an upgrade. If it could detect an existing solaris install and get all these details from the appropriate locations from the disk and just go on with the upgrade, that would be even sweeter.

That apart, this was an awesome and easy experience considering that I have never done a solaris installation by myself.

Thursday Aug 26, 2004

Bay Area home prices moving downward ?

I found an interesting analysis of the supposed housing boom in the bay area on this site: http://www.patrick.net/housing/crash.html

The author makes some very valid statements of facts but occassionally some conspiracy theories to explain away the run-away prices here which sound a bit unbelievable but could well be true. I very much agree with his opinin that the lack of sustained rise in incomes and employment in Bay Area coupled with the increase in outsourcing/offshoring activities will drive down prices and demand sooner than later.

I can't believe it when I see some prices on the MLS. 1300 sqft, 35 yr old house, with a lot size of just 3500 sqft in Sunnyvale quoted at $860,000? Holy moly! I talked with the agent for that house ( I just do these rounds on some weekends out of sheer curiosity and not to go look for a house at these insane prices) and his response was "You know people are beginning to feel comfortable with their jobs and hence there are too many buyers. Prices wont stay this low for long" What? Of course, agents make statements such as this to inculcate the fear factor.
May good sense prevail.

Thursday Aug 19, 2004

Synopsys changes strategy to subscription model

Synopsys reported shocking results. Share prices plunged 30% today. Earnings and revenue for their 3rd quarter are way below expectations.

Reason: Customers are adopting a cautious stance on spending. Their primary customers are various chip designers and manufacturers. Synopsys makes testing, quality control and telemetry software that are employed in process control for chip fabs. Synopsys determined that their current upfront cost licensing model was to blame for customer hesitation in closing deals which were being pushed to later quarters. Interestingly, there was no mention of the woes of chip manufacturers who are pulling back their production and lowering their own offtake numbers for the later quarters due the last two months' weakening overall economic trend, lower consumer confidence, lower consumer spending convoluted by inflationary possibilities due to the oil prices. Synopsys's competitors have been steadily lowering their estimates over the last year or so.

Synopsys announced a strategy change to that of a maximally subscription based model to get more predictable stream of flows.
Sounds familiar...

Their revenues would no doubt plunge in the immediate quarters due to the move to lower priced subscription model but it is anticipated that longer term revenue streams would be healthy. That's the interesting part of this strategy.

While technically this might sound like a comparison of apples and oranges, can one differentiate Sun's push to a subscription based model for its software and that of Synopsys's decision? There is one major and perhaps obvious difference, in my opinion. Sun caters to a rather wide and deeper market, and can (at least, I believe so) take a chance to make a volume play through such a model while making competitors to look for alternative models.
Synopsys caters to a rather narrow market (albeit global) where their own competitors have substantially realigned their processes and business models over the last two years. It does have substantial IP in the area though. Will this change lead to Synopsys regaining its revenue stream or rate of profitability? I'd wait and watch and see this play out. No doubt, they will have to make big cost cuts to deal with lower revenues for many quarters to come until volume picks up. This is going to be a solid practical lesson in leadership.

Sunday Aug 15, 2004

First one



So finally I have caught on like many others to write my mind into a blog. I always wonder if people have the time to read stuff like this unless its from an important person. I did discover a whole lot interesting minds from many other blogs while glossing over their material. Wonders of the net never stop surprising me just as the open source movement has.

Anyways, I hope to pen (or is that type ?) down over future blogs my thoughts and views and interests. I have some average guy views on the concept of open source, I love music in all forms (can actually manage to sing Indian songs) except anything resembling cacophony, love new technologies, new gadgets but am not into the gaming ones, love reading books but prefer a concise edition (dont have the patience to sit through anything that does not get to the point).

A few weeks ago, I attended a time management and personal leadership day course. Expecting only a pep talk going in, I came out changed with a fresh outlook. Many times we humans lose sight of the big things we want to achieve. Day-to-day work and priorities can overwelm and obscure these end goals leading to frustration and stress. The course helped chart out a way to identify long term goals (yeah! yeah! heard a lot of 'em pop books), and then to transform them to short term goals that get further broken down to weekly and then daily goals mixed with day-to-day priorities. The duh! point of it all was the need define the various different roles we assume in our daily lives and specify the big rocks in each of these roles for the long, medium, short and interim time periods. I follow this to a lot of immediate benefit with more to come.

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Shreedhar Ganapathy

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