Thursday Dec 18, 2008

You can teach a somewhat older dog new tricks-OpenSolaris 2008.11: Wow!

Way back in grad school (early 90's), I was called in to assist in the investigation of an internet porn exchange ring.  The ring was using some unsecured FTP servers belonging to our state's government.  Our team finished our initial assessment and called in the State Police to report our findings.  I will never forget that day as long as I live.  I said, "Yes, you've got a problem" and brought up one of the tamer images.  This career cop was two years away from retirement, and he just rolled his eyes and said "I'm too old for this, I don't get this new technology."

I'm nowhere near retirement age, tho if that .com bubble hadn't burst...hmmm...  But when I see something cool, it just invigorates me.  Although I've been on the bleeding edge of Java technology for almost 10 years now, I'm ashamed to admit I've lost my edge in Solaris.  I recently got called into a high-priority escalation involving some native code.  All my familiar tools still worked, but were limited in how quickly I could drill down into the problem.  To analyze this issue, I finally had the excuse to play with all the cool new tools now in Solaris.  prstat, libumem, mdb, dtrace, etc.  Wow, what a difference those years made.  And that's only scratching the surface.

Even netbeans has come a long way since I last "attempted" to use it (4.X).  The debugger and editor are light years better, the profiler now works, and I am now actually using  it to debug my OpenJDK7 builds.  How much productivity have I gained via "Ctrl-space"?   Look for another post on using Netbeans 6.5 to work in OpenJDK7 when I get some more time.

Today, Tim Bell and I set up a sandbox area for the codereview and bug tracker databases for OpenJDK.  We needed the usual parts:  some hardware, an OS instance, a web server, a database.  As we subscribe to the "Eat our own dogfood" school of thought, the new OpenSolaris 2008.11 immediately came to mind.  Wow.

My day went something like this:

  • Lunch.  Check.
  • Find x86 hardware.  Check
  • Download OpenSolaris 2008.11, and burn to CD.  Boot.  Check.
  • Wait, what's this GUI installer thingy?  Ok...a few simple questions later...wait for install to finish.  Check.
  • Wait, it booted and the networking is already up and configured?  DHCP by default?  Cool!  Check.
  • Wait, I just realized I didn't have to spend an hour trying to remember some arcane display commands.  And then spending another two actually tweaking the settings.  My display just came up.  And the default workspace looks good.
  • And now you're telling me I can just use the new IPS GUI to point and click to install a webserver, SQL instance, netbeans, and a bunch of other tools?  No downloading the source, building, cursing?  Cool!
  • Elapsed time:  3 hours.

I'm sure I'll spend the next couple days/weeks tweaking things, but for simply getting something up quickly, Solaris has made huge inroads in the last few years, both in tools for techies and for providing a general work environment for the non-techie.  What a pleasure.  And all on x86.  I can distinctly recall several periods in Sun's history where mentioning x86 and Solaris in the same breath were grounds for dismissal.

It's to the point where I can finally recommend Solaris to my parents.

Except that my brother works at Microsoft, and gets a great discount.

And they always did like him better.

About

Brad currently works in the Java Security and Network Group, Java Standard Edition.

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