A New Experience

Today, after a fraction over 12 years, I bade farewell to the Solaris Desktop team to join Oracle’s Systems Experience Design team, a.k.a. sxDesign, which has a wider but still largely Solaris-focused usability remit.1

There’s been a good deal of overlap and collaboration between the two teams over the years anyway, so it’s not exactly a step into the unknown. The elders among you will remember the GNOME 1.4 usability study I presented at GUADEC in 2001, for example, which was primarily the handiwork of a previous incarnation of sxDesign… I pretty much just turned up at the end to steal the glory for the Desktop team. In your face, people I’m going to be working with now!2

While this pretty much brings an end to any ‘day job’ involvement I still had in the GNOME community (which has been basically ‘none’ for the past couple of years anyway), it certainly won’t be the end of my interest. If anything, I’ll probably be using GNOME more often again, albeit the trailing-edge enterprise-stable version we currently ship with Solaris 11. But I’ll certainly be keeping a keen eye on the GNOME 3 releases too, and continuing to call for its inclusion in Solaris as soon as is practical :)

1 A move I was first approached about making in about 2003, I think… who says I’m rubbish at making snap decisions?

2 I’m not really. They all left years ago.

Happy Solaris 11 Day!

Nearly seven years after the launch of Sun Solaris 10, today sees the official launch of Oracle Solaris 11 at an event in NYC*.

Oracle Solaris 11 Launch
November 9, New York City
Register Now!

There’s a host of new enterprise-class features in Solaris 11, including a modern package management system, live upgrade with the ability to reboot to previous known good versions, network virtualization, ZFS encryption and reduplication, and many SMF, DTrace, zone and security improvements. On the desktop, CDE has taken its final curtain call, and now GNOME (currently 2.30) takes centre stage. Solaris 11 is fully supported on both SPARC and x86, and it still has the best binary compatibility guarantee in the business.

The road to Solaris 11 has been a particularly long and winding one, of course. Starting from the closed source base of Solaris 10, Solaris was gradually open-sourced, mostly under the CDDL license. The OpenSolaris project was founded, part of which was a Sun-built distro called Project Indiana, under the brief leadership of Debian founder Ian Murdock. Project Indiana was a Fedora-like concept, with its own release cycle and the eventual intention of being forked to produce Sun’s next commercial release of Solaris (which at that time was codenamed Nevada, and seemed unlikely to be called Solaris 11 at launch).

Before its first milestone release, Project Indiana was somewhat confusingly renamed OpenSolaris, a fully-fledged, developer-focused distro that saw three releases, snappily called OpenSolaris 2008.05, 2008.11, and 2009.06. Then, of course, Sun was sold to Oracle, who (regrettably without any official announcement to the OpenSolaris community, just a leaked internal memo) closed it all up again**, and decided that the next version of Solaris was going to be called Solaris 11 after all.

Nearly two years of spit and polish, and an intermediate Solaris 11 Express release later, here we are at last. Enjoy!

* No, we’re not launching it on 11/11. Yes, it would be nice if US-based global corporations would hold their launch events in other parts of the world now and again, so some of the many thousands of non-US staff and customers could be there.

** Of course, once the open source cat is out of the bag, there’s no pushing it back in, and there are still some thriving OpenSolaris communities out there today, notably Illumos and OpenIndiana.

“That thing you burned up isn’t important to me.”

Interesting announcement from the LibreOffice project about their online and tablet versions. Those of you who’ve been around as long as me will remember that Sun had the same vision for StarOffice almost from the moment they acquired StarDivision, announcing the StarPortal project for browsers and PDAs somewhere around the end of the last century.

In the end, like all too many Sun projects, it was delayed, then subsumed into the SunONE Webtop project in 2001, and died off before it could gain any traction. Just goes to show that from a business perspective, being a decade ahead of the curve isn’t necessarily much better than being a decade behind it…

iPad, meet GNOME

Just been playing with the new Oracle Virtual Desktop Client for iPad, which to you and me means “the first Sun Ray client for a tablet”. Here I am playing with GIMP on a Solaris GNOME 2.30 desktop, which is running on one of the Sun Ray servers in the Dublin office:

Sun Ray client for iPad

There are a couple of rough edges — the main one, perhaps, being that you can’t scroll the content of windows on the remote desktop in the same way that you’d scroll any other content on the iPad. Right now you have to grab and move the scrollbars, which isn’t so easy on a touchscreen. But other than that, it’s pretty tidy for a first release.

If you have access to a Sun Ray desktop and want to join in the fun, the app is a free download from the iTunes App Store.

A decade at Sun redux

I felt a mild flutter of excitement when I finally received my 10 year Sun/Oracle service award notification on Friday, two months after my actual anniversary, because Sun had some nice gifts you could choose from (I chose a telescope for my five year award!).

Assuming Oracle would be much the same, I hastily logged in to see what I fancied, only to discover out that there was only one option: a ballpoint pen. A $200 ballpoint pen, certainly, but a ballpoint pen nonetheless.

How many people in the IT industry, I wonder, have a use for a $200 ballpoint pen? I certainly wouldn’t carry around a pen that expensive, as it’s the sort of thing I’d inevitably lose. Even as UI designer who does a fair bit of sketching, I just tend to use whatever pen or pencil comes to hand. And if I did want my own fancy, personal pen, it would be a fountain pen, not a ballpoint. (But you have to rack up 20 years at Oracle to earn one of those—even 15 just gets you a ‘rollerball’.)

Indeed, up until I left university, and for a while afterwards, I did carry around a fountain pen. But it wasn’t an expensive one, and it was in the days when I still wrote a lot more than I typed. I doubt there are many people in our line of work who do that nowadays.

So if you’re reading, corporate gift overlords, we minions do appreciate a choice. And if you’re not going to give us a choice, could you please at least give us something we can either put to good use without fear of losing or breaking it, or something that looks nice on a shelf? Or, if in doubt, just stick an extra few quid in our pay packet that month, and let us buy whatever we like :)

A decade at Sun

Well, 9.66 years at Sun, and 0.33 at Oracle… it was the Tuesday after the August 2000 bank holiday when I first ventured into this office, from the B&B that Sun were putting me up in until I found an apartment. Back then, we were working on getting the forthcoming GNOME 1.4 to play nicely on Solaris 8…

Have to say it would be nice if I got to choose the traditional thank-you gift from any leftover Sun stock in one of the countries that hasn’t LEC’ed yet :) But somehow I can’t see that happening…

All my pictures seem to fade to black and white

Tonight we head into town for a few beers, to commemorate the untimely passing of Sun Microsystems Ireland Limited, some 17 years after Sun’s operations began in Dublin, and a little less than ten years after I joined.

Tomorrow, at 10.30am sharp, and likely with a few sore heads, we become inducted as employees of Oracle Ireland. See you on the other side.

OpenSolaris Governing Board Election Results

This time last year, I noted I was slightly disappointed at the low number of non-Sun folks who’d been elected to the OpenSolaris Governing Board. No fear of that this year, with just one of the seven newly-elected board members currently representing Sun^H^H^HOracle… although there are certainly a few ex-Sun faces in the mix too.

The new constitution was approved this time around as well. Here’s hoping all concerned can keep up the momentum that’s been gathering over the past few years.