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.

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.

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 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).

Friday May 18, 2007

Cool Technology Names

The INQUIRER is running a list of the "top 10 greatest ever technology names". Sounds like it should be a fun little read, doesn't it?

Well, I found it disappointing. It was nice to see Sun included (#5), but overall their list seemed pretty weak. With just a couple minutes of thought, I think I have a list that beats theirs (though I won't try to order mine or give it exactly ten entries). Here goes...

  • Eclipse. Of course, I don't like to see anyone taking a slap at my employer. But if you're going to do it, you might as well be clever about it.
  • Apache. Your project starts out as a collection of patches for NCSA's HTTPD code. So you end up naming yourself Apache (as in "a patchy web server"). Not bad.
  • GlassFish. Okay, I'm part of this project and I'm biased. But I really do love the name. After years of criticism for not making the evolution and development of Java sufficiently open and visible, Sun names its open source Java EE project after an animal which is literally defined by its transparency. How cool is that?
  • Niagara. It's officially just the code name, but could there possibly be a more elegant way to describe Sun's chip multithreading processors? If you've ever been to a presentation about Niagara, you may have seen a slide which compares traditional processors and CMT processors using pictures of different waterfalls. A traditional processor is like a very fast waterfall that's only a few feet wide, whereas a CMT processor is like Niagara Falls--slower moving, but extremely wide. If you're just trying to get one or two things done (over the falls), the fast and narrow waterfall is great. But if you need to move a bunch of things at once, you want the Niagara. Like I said: elegant.
  • UNIX. It set a standard for poking fun at a predecessor (as in "one of whatever Multics was many of").
  • GNU. It may not be the catchiest name around, but you have to respect the whole recursive acronym thing. What's GNU? GNU's Not Unix. Right, but what's GNU? GNU's Not Unix. But what's GNU? ... Abbott and Costello would be proud.

Anyhow... Those are some cool names which came to mind for me. What's on your list?

Wednesday Apr 25, 2007

Help Duke and Sparky!

Wired is running a feature looking for the Lamest Technology Mascots Ever. Despite its "lamest" title, the feature describes itself as "a tour of the good, the bad and the ridiculously lame of technology mascots." So I suppose I shouldn't be too upset to see inclusions which I think are good mascots--such as the Mozilla Lizard, Tux the Penguin, and Duke the ... (Curvy Triangle?).

They also include a poll where readers can vote on which mascots they like and dislike. So if you're a Duke fan (like me), go vote for him. And while you're there, I hope you'll also share your opinion of Sparky (our mascot for Project GlassFish). He wasn't in Wired's original list, but I submitted him (since I really do think he's a great mascot, capturing the spirit of an open source project like GlassFish).

Note that you may need to hit the "Next" link in the polling page a few times to find Duke and Sparky. Or you can go straight to the raw poll at reddit, which shows more of the mascots at once.

Update -- this note has been added to the poll: "Clarification: Click the GREEN ARROW for mascots you think are LAME and should be moved to the TOP of the list. Click the RED ARROW for mascots you think should move DOWN the list and should be rated LESS LAME. Sorry about the confusion!" So I suppose that we all need to vote against Duke and Sparky if we like them. Lovely. Maybe I should change this entry's title to "Help Wired Figure Out How to Word a Poll!"

Monday Apr 23, 2007

A Look Behind NBC's Heroes

NBC's Heroes is a favorite of mine. I follow the show itself pretty closely, but had never read anything about its background or creators. But today a Wired Article caught my eye and changed that.

It's got some interesting tidbits. For one, the show's creator has never really read or liked comic books. But actor Masi Oka (who plays the "Hiro" character) more than compensates for that. The article describes him as "a geek made good." Why? "Before he pursued acting, he was a CG artist at Industrial Light & Magic, crafting f/x for films like War of the Worlds and Revenge of the Sith."

Oka sounds pretty talented. They should let him do his character's own special effects. Then they could bill him as the first mainstream actor to do his own digital stunts--a new-millennium version of Jackie Chan, you might say.

Friday Apr 20, 2007

Dell Leader Endorses Ubuntu; Ubuntu Leader Endorses NetBeans

The latest Ubuntu release has lived up to its name, with things getting just a bit feisty in the last couple of days. First came the news that Michael Dell is using Ubuntu on his personal laptop. That's an interesting endorsement (as is his use of OpenOffice).

Then yesterday came the news that a complete Java stack was being made available in the Ubuntu Multiverse. Hidden in one of the many articles on the subject was another celebrity endorsement--with Ubuntu leader (and civilian cosmonaut) Mark Shuttleworth calling NetBeans his "preferred Java development environment."

Pretty cool stuff. Of course, being a member of the GlassFish Project, I'm a little jealous that we didn't get an unexpected celebrity endorsement of our own. I certainly don't think it's due to a lack of product quality or innovation. I'd say these articles and discussions just have more of a desktop focus (which Ubuntu, OpenOffice, and NetBeans all fit nicely).

No matter. Our day is coming. Just be sure you're registered.

And in the meantime, be sure to check out Harpreet's notes on GlassFish in Ubuntu. He was Sun's lead on the effort--so he certainly knows his stuff.

Wednesday Mar 21, 2007

Sun Related Trends

Dan Farber has a post talking about some Q&A with Jonathan Schwartz at a recent "Mashup Event" at a Sun campus.

His last paragraph is what caught my attention:

Sun's stock price has been trending upwards, and would seem to correlate with what Schwartz said he found in checking Google Trends for keywords associated with Sun–such as NetBeans, GlassFish and Niagara–are up and to the right. "Word of mouth is a way more efficient than buying ad words," he concluded. Based on the Google Trends chart below, it's unclear just high and to the right the keywords are trending.
Google Trends Graph for Sun-related Terms in 2006

(The chart that Farber references.)

I think his chart is a bit misleading. For one thing, it only covers 2006. We're almost a full quarter into 2007. So I think it's worth looking at that data:

Google Trends Graph for Sun-related Terms in 2007

(Same chart, but covering 2007.)

If you look closely at the 2007 picture, you'll see that the Sun-related terms (NetBeans, GlassFish, and Niagara) do all trend up. That's better, but this chart still suffers from a second problem: combining so many terms with such different search volumes makes it hard to see the trends. In other words, you shouldn't have to look so closely.

So let's look at charts for each of the Sun-related terms individually. (Also note that these charts use Google's "All Years" time period, since I don't want to run into the afore-mentioned issues with just seeing 2006 or 2007 data.)

Google Trends Graph for "NetBeans"

(Google Trends Chart for the "NetBeans" term.)

Google Trends Graph for "GlassFish"

(Google Trends Chart for the "GlassFish" term.)

Google Trends Graph for "Niagara"

(Google Trends Chart for the "Niagara" term.)

That's better. Both Niagara and GlassFish clearly do demonstrate "up and to the right" trend growth in these pictures. The Niagara picture might be seen as showing a stagnant overall trend, but I think that too can be addressed if we dig a little deeper.

The "Niagara" term is too ambiguous. While we at Sun (and hopefully any of you reading) think of it as the code name for our UltraSPARC T1 processors, most of the rest of the world thinks of it as a waterfall (or, as the dictionary tells us: a river, a fort, or a variety of grape). Searches from people seeking those kinds of "Niagara" are going to clutter up the trend chart (from our perspective).

So, let's instead look at some less ambiguous terms related to this Sun product. How about the actual server models which use the Niagara processor--the Sun Fire T1000 and T2000?

Google Trends Graph for "T1000"

(Google Trends Chart for "T1000" term.)

Google Trends Graph for "T2000"

(Google Trends Chart for "T2000" term.)

A bit better, perhaps. I realize that any true skeptics out there will argue that these show stagnant or even declining trends since 2006. But I think there are a few reasons to give this product line the benefit of the doubt. For one thing, it's likely to have people's searches be spread across many different terms (such as "Niagara," "CoolThreads," "UltraSPARC T1," "T1000," and "T2000"). Second, a throughput server such as this might appeal most to people who will already be familiar enough with Sun that their searches for it will take place directly on sun.com sites more often than on general search engines such as Google. And finally, Sun has publicly released sales figures which do demonstrate a lot of traction and momentum for these servers. For a hardware product, revenue probably trumps Google Trends as a momentum indicator.

By digging deeper, we have seen that there definitely is an up trend for two of these offerings (NetBeans and GlassFish). You may or may not feel that we've also established momentum for the Niagara offering. But even if you do discount that one, two out of three isn't bad. I'd say it's pretty supportive of Jonathan's original statement that we're seeing good momentum for Sun-related offerings.

Tuesday Mar 20, 2007

I'm a Mac. I'm a PC. And I'm Linux.

There's no denying the brilliance of Apple's "I'm a Mac ... and I'm a PC" commercials. Ted Haeger does a nice job of explaining how they put the Mac in the best possible light by playing off of our existing perceptions, "framing" the conversation in favorable either-or terms, and by just being funny and clever. Whether you like the product or not, you've got to appreciate its marketing.

Ted goes on to look at attempts to redirect the popularity and momentum of the ads, such as with spoofs inserting a Linux character. As he notes, these probably haven't done a very good job of making Linux look its best.

(Though in all fairness, I think the above was clearly intended just to be funny--not as an attempt to mold Linux's public image.)

Ted's clearly an optimist, though, and has set out to create his own spoofs which do make Linux look good. He describes in great detail how he and others at Novell tried to break the "either-or" framing of Apple's original commercials with a spoof casting Linux as a sexy female (though not too sexy--see his blog for the full reasoning).

The results are interesting, as is Ted's description of the thought process behind them. But I walked away thinking about one detail he didn't address. This was the work of Novell? As in the company which is well on its way to destroying any credibility it may have once had with the Linux community?

I could be wrong, but... Don't they have more immediate concerns than trying to sell Linux to the masses?




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