Archive for July 2006

OpenSolaris Space Pen

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You might have heard a joke where NASA spends millions of dollars to develop an ink pen that can write in zero gravity, and Russians simply use a pencil!

Today I got (as part of OpenSolaris contributor award) a Fisher Space Pen engraved with ‘OpenSolaris Contributor 2006’.
It is apparently a real thing! not a joke. Its manual – as if to refute the joke – tells in all caps, “… invented pressurized space pen in 1965 at NO COST to NASA”. Further it says, “.. since 1967 they have been used on all manned space flights (American and Russian)..”
More details on NASA site


Written by chandanlog

13 Jul 2006 at 9:12 pm

Posted in Solaris

Thumper Capacity Expressed in Other Units!

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Sun released X4500 (Thumper) – a beautiful new 48 disk computer with 24 Terabytes of storage space with 2 dual-core AMD processors and 16GB of main memory. See also X4600 and Sun Blade 8000. While Gigabytes may not be new to people who have bought an iPod or a computer system, it perhaps gives a better sense of capacity and size if expressed in other units.

So here are my calculations:

One fully loaded Thumper is about 50 years of continuous mp3 music! – more than what you can hear in a life time; or one year worth of playing continuous DVD quality movies!
or photo IDs of an entire country like India with one billion people (children included)

If you recorded your voice everyday in telephone quality sound, you, your grand children, great grand children .. also did that,
then you need 8 centuries to fill this box! However if all the international calls to or from US are wire tapped and recorded, then it takes about 2 days to fill the box! (per FCC report, 80 billion minutes were spent by people over international calls in 2004)
To wiretap every telephonic conversations in a year, you would need about 18 racks each fully loaded with 10 Thumpers. Not an expensive deal for the government!

Imagine a fully loaded rack which can take 10 Thumpers, then it means every thing above gets multiplied by ten!

If you are wondering if there is a filesystem that can handle this capacity and manage the storage for years without having to worry much about disk failures, take a look at ZFS – the last word in filesystems.

If you have other creative ideas on how you can use this capacity on a single system, please do share.

Update: The original illustration which was hosted on was lost. Thanks to richardmasoner for saving a copy in his Flickr account.

Written by chandanlog

12 Jul 2006 at 9:21 am

Posted in Solaris

Installing err Recovering Windows XP

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Factory Ferrari 4000 came with two partitions: one about 3G of unknown junk and another about 40G installed with Windows XP. One of the few things I did on my Ferrari 4000 was to blow away its Windows partition and reuse its space attached to a ZFS pool. Adding or removing partitions to a file systems is not only possible, but also easy with ZFS – the last word in filesystems!

Everything was fine, until I had to fill a form on an US Government site, which had a page, which had a big
button titled “Continue” and above it were these words written in red, font size X-Large: “CLICK THE CONTINUE BUTTON ONLY ONCE. DO NOT CLICK IT AGAIN AFTER YOU CLICK ONCE. PLEASE WAIT FOR THE NEXT PAGE WHICH MAY TAKE SOME TIME TO LOAD..”
I faithfully clicked the button once, the mouse pointer showed busy signal and the page was waiting to load … 1 min … 2 min … 15 min … it is still waiting! I have no idea what would happen if I clicked it again.
Well after some investigation, it seemed, that brainless site either used active-X or some other critically insecure Technology (or No-tech-logy), that refused to work on Firefox, not even on the latest Opera 9 (it is available for Solaris x86 right on their download page!)

At any cost I had to submit a form in the national interest of United States, and thus had no option but to re-install Windows. I hadn’t thrown away the recovery CDs, because like everything else that came with the laptop, they happen to be Company property. I backed-up all data on Solaris partitions just in case the Windows recovery program happens to erase them. I Inserted the recovery CD and rebooted. It started restoring windows. It took about 45 minutes, changing three CDs in the proces, before it said “Recovery complete”. (Ah, Solaris install from a single DVD is so painless and faster)

I rebooted and was delighted to see that GRUB is still there and showed an option to boot Windows. On booting windows, it said “Preparing to start windows for the first time..” … BEEP … A black screen and a small dialog “Setup was not complete”; with a single ‘OK’ button. I clicked the OK button and it rebooted. May be I had inserted the CDs in wrong order, when it asked disk 1 of 2… may be it rebooted before installing everything …

So I restarted the recovery process all again.. After another 45min to 1 hour of listening to the Recovery CDs whirl inside the drive, I encountered the same dreaded black screen with a short dialog box that said “Setup was not complete”.

Third attempt, meanwhile few friends knock the door, and to get them directions to somewhere, I had to reboot in Solaris to use Google maps.

Fourth attempt, 45 mins.. big black screen with small dialog box that is laughing at me “Ha Ha Ho.. Set up is not complete. Hu Hu Ha Ha”. Here I am sacrificing my comfort of Firefox browser on Solaris desktop environment, in the interest of safety and security of the people of this country, to submit an online form of utmost National importance to United States, more critical than war in Iraq or the rhetoric in Iran; and this silly small evil dialog shows up from nowhere and throws up a meaningless OK button like a North Korean missile … and laughs at me.

Not accepting defeat, I tried for the fifth time. Just like North Korean missiles do not carry the name or brand which supplied the underlying Technology, nowhere in the recovery program can you see the brand name of Microsoft. While searching for the brand name I saw the vital clue which was the main reason for failure to set up, even when the recovery program hailed it a success. This whole brainless recovery thingy was going on to the factory default 3G partition, too small to fit the recovery bits.

Then I picked up a Linux Rescue CD that had QtParted tool and deleted the 3Gig partition and the old Windows 40Gig Partition to create a new 20G FAT32 partition meant for the recovery tool to reinstate Windows XP to that partition. It went fine this time, and when I saw the chiming XP animation, I knew Victory isn’t near yet.

The most crucial part is now to get the latest updates from Microsoft headquarters, quickly before the vanilla system gets infected with numerous worms, launching deadly packets targeted at my Widows RPC ports. I quickly navigate to Start -> Control Panel -> Security -> Check for Windows Updates.. It goes connects to headquarters and the very first message from there is “Please try our Windows Genuine Advantage tool!”
That is like a silly pepper mint jingle advertisement to a soldier in distress, needing critical supplies.
It took two reboots and about 60 minutes to completely reinforce the system with latest updates.
Much more time to upgrade than it took to setup.

Finally, bruised and hungry, when I clicked on that button which had the large red text above saying ‘CLICK ONLY ONCE’ I felt victorious!

Well, While not all software is perfect,
Imperfect software sold at hefty prices is cheating,
Charging for imperfect software bundled with a laptop is extortion,
Asking money for its security updates is blackmail,
It is also greater threat to world peace and security than North Korean missiles.

Written by chandanlog

6 Jul 2006 at 1:55 am

Posted in Security

Sun on FIRST Steering Committee/Board of Directors

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In the Annual General Meeting of (held last week), where elections are held for half the members on its Steering Committee for a two year term, Derrick Scholl of Sun was elected as a member of Steering Committee and Board of Directors. Congratulations to Derrick!
I see it as a recognition for Sun being an important and responsible member of world wide security community.

Written by chandanlog

1 Jul 2006 at 11:56 pm

Posted in Security