Friday, July 21, 2006

Jonathan Scwartz named most influential mover and shaker

I see that Sun President and CEO, Jonathan Schwartz, has been named as the most influential mover and shaker in the enterprise IT sector by Computer Business and Review. Way to go, Jonathan!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Computers in the movies

Hollywood movies are well known among geeks for the usually poor (as in, unrealistic) representation of computers and computing. Obviously, one has to suspend a certain amount of disbelief in the name of entertainment, but it really bugs me when movies screw up technical details that almost any techie would spot.

I was watching one movie recently (alas, I can't remember the name), and the heros were looking at a list of IP addresses. However, some idiot thought that something like 456.23.75.749 was a realistic IP address! There are countless other examples (password overide, anyone?), but I think you get the point.

So I was pleasantly surprised last night when I watched Antitrust. Apart from one or two belief suspension moments, I thought the portrayal of computers was fairly accurate. The satellites in the movie are supposedly on a private network, and indeed they all have IP addrsses like The OS the geeks use is obviously UNIX or UNIX-like, and the source code shown is real source code for real open source apps.

But as a fan, perhaps the coolest scene (apart from when the CEO of NURV, Gary Winston, says "Bill who?" when Bill Gates was mentioned) for me was when one of the Good Guys is shown receiving an award from none other than Sun Chairman and ex-CEO, Scott McNealy! I wonder if the computers in the movie were running ?

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Getting dtterm to play nicely with GNOME 2.14.1

I recently posted about my trials and tribulations with GNOME on and . My list of grievances, until very recently included another show stopper: my preferred terminal application, dtterm, didn't play very will with GNOME (or perhaps it is vice-versa). Gnome-terminal is very nice, but not quite what I want.

Like most geeks, I run my terminals with green text on a black background. But when I opened dtterm in GNOME, I got an illegible green on light grey. If I tried setting the background to black (e.g., dtterm -bg black), the scrollbar background would also change to black: not what I wanted, and not very legilble.

Before giving up, I thought I'd try my luck with the OpenSolaris community, so I posed my question there. Sun's Laszlo Peter had the answer, and I thought I'd share it here.

To make dtterm play nicely with GNOME, simply put the following lines into your ~/.Xdefaults:
Dtterm*dtTermView*foreground:   green
*XmText*background: black
*XmTextField*background: black
*background: black

I'm still playing with getting the font the correct size (in my case, 9 points), but I suspect the fix for that will be similar.

Anyways, I hope that this little tidbit helps someone. Enjoy!

CDE to GNOME migration: the pros and cons

I've been a CDE user for many years (in fact, since I started using very early internal builds of Solaris 2.6 when I was a contractor at Sun). For the most part, I've been happy: little superfluous, performance-robbing eye candy, intuitive ease-of-use, and enough customisation to let me do things more or less how I want.

Sun has stated for a long time now that GNOME is the way forward for desktops, so every now and then I give it a try. To say that I've underwhelmed by Solaris 10's GNOME 2.6-based JDS is an understatement. But recent builds of have included Vermillion, which is the codename for the next generation of JDS--currently based on GNOME 2.14.1--so I thought I'd give it another try. Given that the only way something can be fixed is if people are aware of perceived trouble areas, I though I'd blog about my efforts to come to grips with GNOME.

I'll start off with the pros: The performance issues I remember with GNOME 2.6 are, for the most part, history. The default desktop, a striking fade of dark blue to black, is beautiful. Some of the toys--esepcially the image previewer of the file system browser--are great, and very useful. (The image previewer was VERY useful recently, when it was time to sort the 600 or so photos on my camera's CF card.) Finally, if you're coming to Solaris from Windoze, the migration should be fairly painless, as the two seem to act similarly (I am fortunate enough to not use Windoze very often, so I can't say for sure how close the two are). Unfortunately, this last point is the source for most of my issues with GNOME.

Let me get this one out of the way first: I *hate* the stupid "Launch" menu being buried in one corner of my screen. My screen is 24.1" in size, running at 1920x1200 pixels; the bright spark who thought that putting the menu in a corner of the screen was a good idea obviously didn't use high res displays (I'm sure that on a 15" monitor at 640x480, it's a fine set up). Sun touts the accessability features of their contributions to GNOME. All fine, I'm sure, but perhaps they ought to do something about that bloody menu location to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome! Moving my mouse to the bottom left corner of the screen everytime I want to open a new application is a major pain...

CDE has it right: you right click on the desktop, and presto: the "Launch" menu appears where your mouse is, enabling you to run the app you want with the minimum of hassle. I strongly encourage the GNOME people to adopt this behaviour--or at least make it an easily selectable option. Launch -> Preferences -> Menus & Toolbars seems to be the most logical place to put this; create an new option under "Behaviour and Appearence" called "Enable Desktop Launch Menu" or something similar.

The applet bar along the bootom is a good idea; I think minimised apps are supposed to go there, a la Windoze, but at least for me they don't. For me, this is another annoyance: I prefer my minimised apps to appear as icons on my desktop. Not everyone would like this--especially those coming from Windoze--so this too should be easily configurable behaviour. This time, Launch -> Preferences -> Window Behaviour is the logical place to put this option. Simply create an option called "Minimised windows appear as desktop icons", and away you go. Even if minimsed apps appear on the desktop, I'd keep the applet bar, because, as I said earlier, it's a great place to put nifty little applets, like the volume control, clock, and network activity monitor.

On the subject of window behaviour, can we please make it that double-clicking the top left Window menu button closes that window, like it does with CDE? Or at the very least, make this behviour optional (put it in the same place as above).

Here's another one: GNOME seems to (at best) ignore the keys on the Sun keyboard (Stop, Again, and so on). I very frequently use the Front, Open, Copy, and Paste keys, so their non functioning in GNOME is a major pain.

I think that's covered my major issues and annoyances with GNOME. I managed to fix one very major issue recently with the behaviour of dtterm on GNOME (I'll blog about that soon); I really want to adopt GNOME, but I'm afraid that right now there're too many problems with it for me to adopt it full time. For now I'll be sticking with CDE, opening up GNOME when necessary. If the community can fix these issues, I bet a lot of people would be happy. Oh, and one final message to GNOME developers: configurabilty is not necessarily evil!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

A few days in the Canadian Rockies

Jenny's dad, Ted, has just returned home to the UK after staying with us for a couple of weeks. We just relaxed around the house for the first week of his visit, but Ted's girlfriend, Chris, came out for the the second week. She arrived in Kelowna on Thursday evening (June 27th), and the next morning we departed for a 5 day road trip to the rockies.

We left Kelowna at around 08:30, and our first stop was the D Dutchman Dairy, in Sicamous. The dairy features mini onsite zoo, where we saw a camal, a horse, a lama, and several calves. Locally, the diary is perhaps most famous for their ice cream, which is made on the premises from milk got from the dairy's own cows. So naturally, we all had a double scoop of our favourite flavours!

Our next destination was Revelstoke. Normally we usually drive right through Revelstoke, but I had recently read an article about the view from the top of Mount Revelstoke, so we decided to check it out. The view was indeed fantastic, well worth the 2 hour delay. Next stop was Golden, where we had the traditional Subway for lunch.

After Golden, we (after turning our watches forward an hour, to Mountain time) made a couple of stops in Yoho National Park: Emerald Lake, Natural Bridge, and of course, the breathtaking Takakkaw Falls. After watching a train going through the Spiral Tunnel (which is where trains "loop back" overthemselves to climb the steep terrain), we went to Castle Mountain Chalets (which is roughl;y half way between Lake Louise and Banff), where we spent the first of two nights.

Refreshed after a good night's sleep, we headed towards Banff, stopping for a couple of hours at Johnston Canyon. At Banff, we persuaded Ted and Chris to take a ride on the Sulphur Mountain gondola ride (where we had the traditional ice cream), and then went to the Bow Falls, where Chris managed to snap a photo of a Mountie in full dress uniform (they had just returned from a Canada Day parade in downtown Banff).

After that, we were finished with Banff, so we drove to Moraine Lake (a beautiful blue lake near Lake Louise) and Lake Louise, before returning to Castle Mountain Chalets.

The next day we drove up the Icefields Parkway to Jasper, taking in many sights along the way, including the Athabasca Falls, the Sun Wapta Falls, the Columbia Icefield (where we went for a ride onto the glacier on the Snocoach), and Tangle Creek. We spent the night in a cabin in Becker's Chalets, which was a little dissapointing to be honest--although the food in the onsite restaurant was excellent.

After breakfast the next day, we went for a ride on Maligne Lake, to see the world-famous Spirit Island. And after that, we had a long drive to Pemberton (Which was interrupted by a two hour delay caused by someone's motorhome catching alight!), which is a bit north of Whistler. In Pemberton, we stayed at the Log House Inn B & B.

The next day, Tuesday, we headed home for Kelowna. We stopped at a few waterfalls on the way (including the Brandywine Falls, the Shannon Falls, and the Bridal Veil Falls), and stopped for a Subway lunch in Hope.

Five days and 2500 KM later, we arrived back in Kelowna. The weather, which was absolutly gorgeous on our trip, had turned somewhat inclement back in the Okanagan Valley, and the house seemed a bit quiet without Judge. All in all, a great--though tiring!--trip!