Tuesday Dec 02, 2008

Microsoft's Modular Datacenters Look Familiar

Call me crazy, but if Microsoft's vision of the future data center is all about packing servers into one of these...

Isn't it a lot like the vision that Sun articulated (two years earlier) to pack servers into one of these?

Incidentally, Sun's vision is now a real, live product. And Microsoft's is a cool cartoon.

Of course, I'm biased. And I'm no expert in this space. And I realize that our industry is all about building on the ideas of others.

But still... Couldn't they at least give a little credit where it's due?

Wednesday Nov 26, 2008

Barbara Bush Recovering From Full-Body Transplant

Fear not, concerned citizens. Former first lady Barbara Bush is recovering from her recent fully-body transplant surgery. Or at least that's what you might think if you saw this blurb on Google News:

It looks like Google's news bot picked up an erroneous picture from Current World News' coverage of the story. In case that story/picture is corrected by the time you read this, here is a capture of its current content:

Kind of funny when a mistake like this can reverberate onto multiple sites. But it's also a little scary. Imagine if there were some similar incident involving a publicly-traded company. It could cause a billion-dollar stock swing. Oh wait, that already happened.

Thursday Nov 06, 2008

Sun Co-Founder to be First CTO of the USA?

Would you trust this man to be CTO of a country?

It might just happen, if President-Elect Obama listens to the advice of Silicon Valley legend John Doerr.

I think it'd be a great choice. And it's a nice reminder of Sun's impressive roots.

Thursday Oct 30, 2008

Making Money with Free Software

When I saw today's Slashdot story with a similar name, I assumed it'd be about some business model for monetizing opensource software. That's a fairly dry subject, but nonetheless one that interests me. So I read on.

But much to my surprise, the money being made was this:

Picture of New Commemorative Coin: 'The Architecture Fiver'

...and when they said it was being made with free software, they really meant it. The Dutch Ministry of Finance held a contest to design a new five Euro coin using the theme: "Netherlands and Architecture." And the winning entry came from Stani Michiels, who developed it using nothing but opensource software.

For the whole story, see Stani's blog. I particularly like the bits about how he did the design and visualization. On the front of the coin, for example, he took the names of famous Dutch architects, sized and positioned them according to how many web pages mention them, and finally varied the lettering's line widths to produce the image of Queen Beatrix. Pretty cool stuff.

Tuesday Oct 07, 2008

Note to Google: I Drink Too Much

Big Brother Is Watching

Dear Google,

Please help me. I'm prone to bouts of drunken foolishness. They usually end with me sending a string of ill-advised and highly embarrassing emails.

I feel good about sharing this with you, since you're already handling information about my health conditions, sexual preferences, and financial concerns.

John Doe

1975 Elm Avenue
New York, NY 10041
Ph: 212-555-1278
SSN: 123-45-6789

Sound like a good idea? Then you're going to love Gmail's new feature.

Monday Sep 29, 2008

Uncle Sam ... and Great Uncle Kitchener?

You've heard of Uncle Sam. But what about his dad, Lord Kitchener?

Okay, I'm exaggerating. They aren't really related. But apparently this poster from the British Army's recruiting campaign for World War I:

...served as the model for America's most famous World War I recruiting poster (which was later adapted to World War II):

Kind of interesting, isn't it? And no, I'm not an expert on the history of recruiting posters. I just happened to stumble upon this when I was seeking an image that Vijay could use to highlight our own recruiting campaign for Project SocialSite.

Friday Sep 26, 2008

Wordling SocialSite

I happened to be looking at an entry in Alexis' blog yesterday and this caught my eye:

He made it with Wordle, an online tool which describes itself as "a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide." I agree that the results are beautiful (especially when they prominently feature my favorite project).

Wordle is able to grab text from a URL to generate a word cloud. Alexis fed it the URL for The Aquarium when he generated the one above. And, much to my happiness, he must have done it on a day when there happened to be a lot of SocialSite-related material on The Aquarium's front page.

So I was inspired to try it out myself. And, of course, I used our SocialSite blog as the source URL. I like the results:

Looking at it, you'll probably get the feeling that SocialSite has OpenSocial at its core and then builds a set of extensions and complimentary functionality around it. I'd say that's a pretty good description of what we do. Maybe a picture really is worth a thousand words.

Thursday Sep 25, 2008

Want to Feel Like Royalty? Join an Open Source Project.

A Crown

Every open source project talks about how much they want your contributions. But do they really mean it? If you submit a patch, will they puke all over your work because they would have written it differently? Or because you indented your code with three spaces instead of four? Or just because you don't work for the right company?

Maybe. But not in most projects. I can guarantee that it won't happen in the area where I work (Project SocialSite). And I honestly think the same is true for most of Sun's other open source projects.

Why? Because these things shouldn't be Sun's open source projects. They should be open source projects in which Sun happens to be a very active participant. I think that most people at Sun understand and agree with that sentiment. So we'll bend over backwards to support outside contributions. Again, using SocialSite as an example, we would love to see any of the following coming from people who don't work for Sun:

  • Bug and RFE Reports
    • You just need a java.net ID to submit a bug or RFE in our Issue Tracker
  • Code Submissions
  • Wiki Updates
    • Anyone with a java.net ID can create and edit content on the SocialSite Wiki
  • Outreach
    • Mention us in a blog or a discussion forum--anywhere our project might be of interest

And when I say we'll bend over backwards to support you, I mean it. If your contribution could benefit from some changes, we'll work with you to make them. If you need more information before you can contribute, just ask and we'll provide it. Or if your goal is to become a commiter, we'll help you through the process.

One thing we can't do is suspend the rules. But the rules are simple and they serve a purpose. To become a committer, you first need to sign a Sun Contributor Agreement (SCA) and then submit a patch or two. That's pretty standard stuff in the world of open source. The SCA ensures that Sun has the legal rights to protect the project and its source code in court if necessary. And the patches don't have to be huge. They just need to be a positive change and demonstrate that you have a basic understanding of the project's code.

So please, put me to the test. Find something in SocialSite that you think could be better, and submit a patch. Or edit the Wiki. Or open a bug. And if we don't give you the support you need, let me know. It'll be my personal mission to find out why we failed and make sure it never happens again.

Monday May 12, 2008

Video: Project SocialSite In One Minute

As Dave noted a few days ago, we have a video that demonstrates Project SocialSite (by turning your MediaWiki instance into a social networking system in 1 minute, 8 seconds). I'm sure you'll all want to give the video a top rating (which helps us in a contest for the Enterprise 2.0 Conference). So I wanted to remind everyone that today is the deadline to submit your ratings. :)

PinkDots Onstage at JavaOne

The "Pink Dots" Maps made the big stage at JavaOne last week--albeit with a new (pink-free) color scheme. Here is a picture (taken from Arun's extensive collection) showing Rich Green talking about a map of world-wide GlassFish usage:

It's always fun to see one of your babies in the spotlight. :)

Monday Jan 28, 2008

My Favorite Online Poll

Slashdot Logo

Slashdot is running an interesting poll today:

How Many People Will Select The Same Option As You?
  • 0%
  • 1-25%
  • 26-50%
  • 51-75%
  • 76-99%
  • 100%
  • Just CowboyNeal

Give it a little thought... Then head then over there to vote and see the results.

For now, I won't spoil things with any further commentary of my own.

Tuesday Jul 17, 2007

Coca-Cola Breakfast Beverage Suite, Citrus Edition

A Minute Maid Juice Carton, with name changed to "Coca-Cola Breakfast Beverage"

Imagine that Coca-Cola followed the tech industry's lead for product naming. Since they bought Minute Maid in 1960, you could have ended up drinking out of this thing each morning.

Tech companies love to mash a bunch of stuff together under a top-level brand and then slice things up with sub-naming, suites, and special editions. Here at Sun, this approach has has given us product names like:

The argument for this approach goes something like this:

  • It concentrates our efforts on building the strength of a few key brands (such as Java and Sun).
  • It yields descriptive names which people are likely to understand from the first time they're heard.

Even if we concede these points, I would argue that they're far out-weighed by negatives:

  • The names are too long.
    • There is a reason that "Beautiful Child, Genius Edition" never makes the list of popular baby names. Parents may think it perfectly describes their child, but they're still pragmatic enough to realize that it won't fly as a name. People just don't talk that way. They don't even write that way. So if someone does mention one of these products, chances are they'll do so using their own incorrect abbreviation or permutation of its proper name. Every time that happens, we miss an opportunity for real brand reinforcement. And with today's search-driven information access, it also makes it hard to learn about the products. (Do I Google for "Access Manager" or "Sun Java System Access Manager" or "SJSAM" or "OpenSSO" or ...?)
  • They're stretching to tie products to a top-level brand where there is little natural connection.
    • What's so Java-ish about the Sun Java Desktop System? The windowing environment certainly isn't written in Java. The majority of the apps you'll use in it aren't written in Java. Java is a great brand which represents great technology, but is it really applicable here? Or are we doing the equivalent of slapping a soda brand onto a juice carton?

Of course, not all tech products follow this pattern. Open Source software projects and Web 2.0 service offerings tend to use names composed of just one or two unique words (often inventing new words or spellings in the process). And Ina Fried of CNET reports that even Microsoft is rethinking their naming strategy. The company has already simplified the name of one major new offering (from "Windows Presentation Foundation/Everywhere" to "Silverlight"). And they have a team working to reeducate the entire company on branding. Among that team's favorite tools is a poster they're plastering around Microsoft's buildings. It shows a box of Band-Aids and the caption: "You wouldn't call it Wound Healer 2.0."

Hmm... Wonder if they printed any extras.

Friday Jun 08, 2007

Deep-Linking Into The Pink Dots

The "pink dots" maps have been getting some special attention lately. First, Jonathan referenced our original Solaris registrations map to make a point about how Sun's embrace of free software is driving adoption of our technologies. Then yesterday, Eduardo mentioned our new GlassFish adoption map on The Aquarium.

Both Jonathan and Eduardo asked readers to look at a particular map view to get an illustration of their point. One thing worth mentioning is that it's actually possible to link directly to such views.

For example, Jonathan (who wanted his readers to look at the map with a blank background) could have referenced this URL:


Or Eduardo (who wanted users to look at how GlassFish usage had increased in Brazil) might have referenced this URL for February:


...and this one for April:


But wait, those are complicated URLs. How could anyone possibly know which one to use?

It's easy. Just find the map view that you want and then copy the link referenced by the "This View" anchor in the map page. It's the link which I've highlighted in yellow below:

The JavaScript code in the maps page dynamically updates this link to always reference a URL which would recreate the current view.

So there you have it. If you want to have people look at some specific view of these maps to illustrate your point, you can send them there with just one click.

However, there is one caveat...

These deep-linking URLs guarantee that everyone will see the same map view at a given center point and zoom level. However, the actual amount of territory visible in the map (and thus summarized in the sidebar stats) will depend on the user's window size and screen resolution. So they won't necessarily see exactly the same image and figures that you do (though it should be close, assuming that most people have reasonably-sized screens and windows).

Friday May 25, 2007

Harnessing CAPTCHAs to Read Books

NETWORK WORLD has a piece about an interesting project called reCAPTCHA. The project started when Carnegie Mellon professor Luis von Ahn realized that people are collectively wasting over 150,000 hours of effort every day solving those visual CAPTCHA puzzles that certain sites (such as Yahoo) require before allowing you to perform some action (such as registering or posting). His solution won't save you any time, but it will make that time go to a good use: digitizing the world's books.

Instead of just making up an arbitrary visual puzzle which is useful only for determining whether you're a human, reCAPTCHA uses images of text from not-yet-digitized books as its puzzles. It still serves the primary purpose of determining whether you're a human, but has the secondary benefit of identifying text which is hard for present OCR systems to handle.

Clever, isn't it? But wait, you say... If the puzzle uses text which isn't yet digitized, how does the system know whether you've answered correctly or not? Don't worry, they thought of that. Per the project's own description:

But if a computer can't read such a CAPTCHA, how does the system know the correct answer to the puzzle? Here's how: Each new word that cannot be read correctly by OCR is given to a user in conjunction with another word for which the answer is already known. The user is then asked to read both words. If they solve the one for which the answer is known, the system assumes their answer is correct for the new one. The system then gives the new image to a number of other people to determine, with higher confidence, whether the original answer was correct.

Pretty cool stuff. Want to learn more? You could start by looking into the field of human computation. Or for an example of a not-so-positive application, there is a well-know method to defeat one site's CAPTCHAs by recycling them in some other popular setting (such as a free porn site).

Thursday May 24, 2007

Slynkr on JavaDB

The first question my boss asked after I got the Slynkr code released as a java.net project: where can I file an RFE for it to install with one click using a JavaDB back-end? Then, as if on cue, the first outside message on the project's dev aliases followed suit: "What are your thoughts about other support for other databases (ie, MySQL and/or Postgres)?"

I may be slow, but I think I see the message. People might just want to use a database other than Oracle (which is what we used for our initial development of Slynkr). Well, guess what? You can do it.

It's not yet a one-click install process (sorry, Eduardo). And I personally haven't yet tried things out with MySQL or PostgreSQL (sorry, Nick). But I do now have instructions for running Slynkr using a JavaDB back-end (aka Apache Derby). If you're wanting to get your own instance of Slynkr up and running, this is currently your best bet. After all, Oracle is a nice database but it's a lot of overhead for just trying something out.

So please, give it a shot. If you run into problems, let me know. Or if you see ways to make things better, update the instructions (that's why they're on a Wiki, after all).

Oh, and by the way... I think that at least MySQL support should be pretty easy also. Here at Sun, we actually have an internal Slynkr instance which is using MySQL. I just don't have instructions for it (yet).




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