Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Rich in Wonderland

Well, it was a data centre, but neat nonetheless.

Today I took a quick tour around one of Telus' data centres here in Edmonton. All that purple Sun kit was amazing to see! In addition to the four SunFire 6900s and two SunFire 15Ks, there were dozens of V880s, 280Rs, V440s, V240s, as well as God knows how many disk arrays.

The reason why I was at the data center was to help configure the ALOM for a brace of new V440s--the gawping at Sun hardware was just a side benefit. :-)

Monday, February 21, 2005

Linux Magazine's CDDL article: a rebuttal

Being a true blue (or should that be purple?) Solaris advocate, I don't usually read Linux Magazine. But when I heard that Jason Perlow had written an article about Sun's license for OpenSolaris, the Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL, usually pronounced "cuddle"), in February's issue, I decided to check it out. What could have been a very interesting and balanced article turned out to be nothing more than anti-CDDL FUD. (BTW, this is not necessarily an attack on Jason personally: I thought his article about Skype's VOIP was quite interesting.) I'll go through his article and address the FUD piece by piece.

People are irritable, depressed, and frustrated, and they vent that by giving you really horrendous gifts--like the [CDDL], a wonderful, new, GPL-incompatible license that Sun Microsystems will use to distribute Solaris as open source.

Let's get this straight: it is the GPL that is incompatible with the CDDL (and many other OSI-approved licenses), not vice-versa. The CDDL explicitly allows code available under other licenses to be mixed with CDDL code, provided the language of the other license allows it. GPLed code can only be mixed with other GPLed code; such is its viral nature. Perhaps Jason was so irritable, depressed, and frustrated that he vented by writing such a vitriolic article?

Another open source license is like fruitcake: nobody wants it, you have to douse it with a lot of alcohol before injesting some, and even after that, you still feel constipated.

Why the harsh words? One wonders if Mozilla, which is distributed under the MPL that CDDL is based on, suffered such harsh words when it was released... At least Jason admits to liking Sun's technology, and even admits that Solaris 10 is "that good".

But mass adoption of Solaris will never happen with Sun's current plans to release it under the CDDL... Why does Sun need to give us yet another restrictive license that is completely incompatible with the GPL?... Instead, Sun releases the whole damn thing under a dog license like the CDDL, ensuring that nothing will ever make its way into other open source projects.

Again, it is the GPL that is incompatible with CDDL, not vice-versa. And here's a newsflash, Jason: not all open source projects are GPL-licensed. CDDL licensed code can quite easily be mixed with non-CDDL code, provided that the other code's license allows it. There's nothing to prevent a BSD-licensed project from using CDDL code, for example.

Oh, and with more than half a million downloads (two thirds of which were for x86) less than a month after its release, I'd say that "mass adoption" is only a metter of time...

Perhaps its just me, but does anyone else find it particularly obnoxious that Sun finds it completely acceptable to embrace GPL technologies like GNOME and Xfree86 in Solaris, while at the same time prevents cross-polination of Solaris technology to GPL projects with the CDDL? Sun's strategy is a one-way street...

OK, this bit really pissed me off, because it implies that Sun is quite happy to take from the GPL open source community, but gives nothing back. This is quite ludicrous: Sun GPLed the whole of the OpenOffice code base, and they have donated significant resources to projects like GNOME. They've also donated to other projects, like Apache and BIND. In fact, Sun has probably done more for the open source community than IBM, Red Hat, and SuSE put together. The difference is that IBM and the others fly the Linux flag, which I think is the crux of the matter. Jason, and many other of the more extreme Linux advocates (I'm trying hard not to paint all LInux advocates with the same brush), seems to equate Linux and open source. Here's a newsflash guys: Linux isn't the be all and end all of open source, a point all our friends in the BSD camps will agree with.

I think the bottom line is this: die-hard Linux enthusiasts are either scared of Solaris, or are just hiding their heads in the sand. Now, don't get me wrong: despite being a Solaris advocate, I think that Linux has its place. But it also has a long way to go before it catches up to Solaris, from a technical perspective. Apart from mindshare and hype, the only advantage one can gain by using Linux instead of Solaris is the former's arguably better device support. I say "arguably better" because although many devices are "supported" by Linux, the quality of that support varies greatly. And the number of devices supported, and supported well, by Solaris is growing almost by the day. It won't be too long before the device support differences will be moot, and then there won't be any reason (religous and philosophical issues aside) to use Linux over Solaris, while the latter will still have technical advantages over the former. Especially for ISVs, but that's another story for another blog entry...

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Windoze lusers: how do they cope?

So here I am, in Edmonton working as a Solaris sysadmin for a rather large Telco. Despite being a UNIX admin, for some reason I have a Windoze PeeCee on my desk. To be specific, a Dull Optiplex GX150, with a 1GHz CPU and 512 MB of RAM, running Windoze XP.

Well, "running" is the wrong word to use. No word of a lie, this machine is slower than my SS20--heck it's probably slower than my SS2! To add insult to injury (or should that be the other way round?), this keyboard is by far the worst one I've ever used. Yep, there's finally a keyboard I loath more than Sun's Type 6, and I have the misfortune to have to use it everyday. I'm spoiled by my Type 5 keyboard, so I've ordered one of those Type 5 to USB converters from VPI so I can use a decent keyboard on this thing.

But back to my rant. I can't believe how unproductive the use of Windoze makes one, even taking into account the slower machine. You have to keep moving your hands away from the keyboard to fiddle with the damn mouse, and you can't even give a window focus just by moving a mouse into it (you have to click in it first), and when you do get focus, the bloody window puts itself on top!

Most people seem to think that this is OK (obviously they're too used to this crap), but what really pisses me of if that none of this stuff is user-configurable! Yeah, you can download some widgets from M$ to change this (apparently), but in this corporate environment, users don't have install rights on their PCs.

"WIndoze is everywhere" say the proponents of this shit. Well, all I can say is that ubiquity is no reason to accept mediocrity.

And I won't even start on how useless Outhouse is as an email client...

Visit to Sun's Edmonton office

Last night I paid a short, but pleasant, visit to Sun's sales office here in Edmonton. Paul and Dennis are great guys, and they didn't let me leave empty handed! I scored a couple of Sun mugs (including a very nice stainless steel one), and the 3rd issue of the VBots comic and its accompanying CD. Great stuff!

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Back in the saddle again

Great news--after nearly four years of being "between contracts" (most of which was spent writing my book, Solaris Systems Programming), I'm finally earning some money again! I'm on a 4-month contract (good possibility of renewals) in Edmonton, Alberta, doing some Solaris systems admin stuff for Telus.

While it's great to be back in the saddle again, it does mean that I'm currently living away from home. The 15th-floor apartment I'm renting is OK, but it's a bit of a culture shock having spent the last 4 years working from home! Natuarally, I miss Jenny and Judge (and all my local friends) a lot, but I plan to spend every other weekend or so back in Kelowna, once I've settled in Edmonton properly (hey, at least as a contractor, I can write this stuff off!).

My building in downtown Edmonton (literally a 7 minute walk door to door from work) has a swimming pool and gym, so I guess I'll be able to get some regular exercise (in addition to walking: I hav eno car here, and the pedways make walking very convenient, despite the cold weather outside). But most of the time I read and watch TV (talking of which, last night's Jeremiah was excellent, as was the finale of The Amazing Race).

Anyways, I'm looking forward to paying off my debt, and treating myself to a new toy or three... :-)