Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Sun Has Set

So long, Sun, and thanks for all the Glassfish!

Sun de-listed itself from the NASDAQ yesterday and Scott McNealy said his goodbyes (last of the founding fathers).

I spent 15 years as a Sun specialist (with a string of certifications and a email address to atest). So I'm sad to see Sun go.

A bit concerned as well. In about an hour, Oracle will let us all in on their plans as the devourer of the Sun. ComputeSpace's 3D environment is based on Sun's Looking Glass technology; its look and feel are based on JavaFX; its components are served using Sun's Glassfish application server and web server. We run smoothly atop Sun's OpenSolaris operating system on Sun multithreaded servers.

Strangely, we didn't get so heliocentric because I am a Sun expert. We tested a lot of different components and environments and Sun fought its way to the top by having the specs and the performance we needed.

Of course you don't have to tell me that capitalism is brutal and the race doesn't always go to the swiftest. If it did, you'd have fond memories of your BetaMax instead of your VHS VCR.

And capitalism has its excesses. From Ivan Boesky to Michael Milken to Enron to Bernie Madoff.

It might be nice to envision some other system where everyone gets to play on an even field in peace and harmony. But that's not what we do here, and as the son of a serial entrepreneur who rode the system's ups and downs until the day he drowned, I'm both at peace with it and profoundly affected by it.

So the Sun has set, night is falling, it's always darkest before the dawn, blah, blah, blah.

The next chapter in computer technology's adventures out in the real world is about to start. If there's a paragraph in there about ComputeSpace, then --win or lose-- we've done our job.

OK, Dad. I'm ridin' the pipe all the way through and plannin' to come out still on my board.

Doin' it while not always diggin' it -- Court Cannick, Managing Partner and App Architect, ComputeSpace

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Picking up some speed now!

We have datacenter space and fiber bandwidth for our test deployment through summer.

We start prepping the first server to go in the rack tomorrow.

Installed and configured the new development tools today (now if I can only figure out how to use them...)

Heard some potentially good news on the financial side from our business advisor. We'll have a chat tomorrow.

On the down side, our big memory order was a bust. It was the wrong kind and we're RMA'ing it back.

Found the right stuff, but it's 50% more expensive.

Good luck tomorrow, Werner!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

We're Prayin' for it All Day and Fightin' for it All Night

The title is a line from the chorus of Todd Rungren's Just One Victory. A lot of the ComputeSpace story has been hurry up and wait but this weekend we got confirmation that we'll be co-locating our test deployment servers in Sutter Coast's data center and piggybacking off their OC-48 fiber.

That's a big leap forward (after 6 months of prayin' and fightin') for which I'm duly grateful. The rest of the chorus is " Give us just one victory and we'll be alright".

Friday, January 22, 2010

Shifting Sands, Turbulent Waves

Nothing stands still for very long in the technology world and we do our best to build platforms that can "surf the wave" of change and keep running.

The European Union gave its approval to the acquisition of Sun Microsystems by Oracle this week. It's been a long time coming. I believe Oracle announced the merger in April 2009.

A bit sad for me as I've had a lot of my career fortunes tied up in Sun for 20 years or so. After taking an unconscionable beating in the 80's as a developer for Commodore's Amiga, followed by Steve Jobs' NeXT, I settled comfortably into the 90's engineering Sun's hardware and Solaris operating system in more technical and scientific environments.

Sun was a major supporter of SETI@Home. I met Scott McNealy a few times and actually got to know Andy Bechtolsheim well enough to get him to give us some early Thumper systems. Knowing Solaris, their premier UNIX operating environment, seemed to endear me to a lot of organizations and keep me working.

Now the Sun is setting. What that means for the future of ComputeSpace is still anyone's guess. After thorough analysis and benchmarking we architected our platform on OpenSolaris, Java, and Sun hardware.

Larry Ellison, the Oracle himself, has set up a press conference for the 27th to foretell the future. We'll be listening closely.

When I showed up at Berkeley in '91, the three hardware platforms I needed to know to survive in scientific computing were Sun, SGI, and Cray.

Opened up my email this morning to find notice of Cray's filing with the FCC. It looks as if about 12% of the company is now owned by Wells Fargo. In these turbulent financial times that's certainly a concern.

First Sun gets taken over by baseheads and now Cray at the mercy of the moneychangers.

And poor SGI was eaten alive last year by business mainstreamer Rackable, who promptly changed their name to SGI to bask in the techie glow a little bit.

At the time we were in discussions with SGI to use one of their technologies in ComputeSpace, but Rackable made the cost too high and sent us home to roll our own solution.

So the sands are shifting again and the waves are getting very rough. We've all been good at surfing them for a couple of decades now, but, we wonder, will we ride the next big one all the way into shore or will we get drowned out here?

When I was at Cittio and we were under extreme pressure on projects, Ross Fujii used to say "...But you know, we love it! Fighting for our lives".

I have a slightly different point of view. Ross, we're doin' it. We're not diggin' it but we're doin' it. Everyday. Fighting for your life everyday doesn't make you a better company. It just makes sure you're around long enough to become a better company.

So the sands are shifting and the waves are crashing and I'm mixing metaphors like there's no tomorrow. But of course, there is a tomorrow. And we expect to be in it, busily teaching science to the 21st century.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Great Outdoors

I have some photographs I've taken and submitted to JPG Magazine for their upcoming issue theme "The Great Outdoors".  

Take a moment and check them out.  Vote for any of them you think worthy of being published.  

Hot Roddin'

What's new around ComputeSpace?  Werner and I are working on a consolidation project to bring down some of our operational costs.  

I've been using 3 64-bit PCs to do most of the development. One for graphics, one for audio, and one for program code (Java, JavaFX, Flex, etc.).

We're rolling them all onto one mighty Sun workstation that's been tricked out to do the job of three.  

The Sun Ultra 27 with 8GB RAM (come on, Spartantech!), 1TB internal disk, 4TB RAID (lots of astro data!), Quad-core CPU, and NVIDIA FX Quadro 580 graphics.

75% less power and only 25% as much admin time.

All of the Windows tools will now be running in virtual containers under OpenSolaris, our OS of choice for ComputeSpace.  

We may have a few systems for sale soon...

Alla Dat Good, Good Lovin'

Sorry I haven't been blogging.  I've been running all over the place, annoying the heck out of friends and strangers alike, raising matching funds for ComputeSpace.

But I definitely want to take a moment to thank Fred, Carole, J, and anonymous , for contributing generously to the fund.  Alla dat good, good lovin' keeps me getting out of bed and getting into code. (Mugs on the way!)

Lunchwalking and the Ladies' Get-Together

Hey, I was doing my lunchwalking-thing at Stone Lagoon a few days ago and came across these ladies "girl-talking" near the general store.  They send their greetings.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Well, it seems as if the whole "California-Endowment-thing" went pretty well. I got held over an extra half-hour chatting about ComputeSpace and invited to a luncheon on the 1st of next month, so it wasn't bad. No one unleashed a waterfall of cash on us though. A shame since I've been looking forward to at least a shower of money if not being able to bathe in it.

On my way back from the meeting the sun defied the weather service and poked through the clouds. I took a few shots on the way along Pebble Beach and down King's Valley Road where someone owns what seems to be one of the old Cathedralite Dome Houses (I'm a big fan!).

Well, now the Dude and I are going to have a quiet lunch and then I'm off to San Francisco. See you there!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Command Performance

Got an 11th-hour summons to do a presentation on ComputeSpace for the California Endowment tomorrow morning.

The show must go on so I'm spinnin' up my turntables, crankin' up the bass, and practicing my stage divin'...

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Deceptively Peaceful

There was a big (6.5) earthquake off the coast of Eureka this afternoon. shook us pretty well even 90 miles away.

About a half-hour later I walked down to the lake where everything was quiet and peaceful and made a few photographs.

It's nice here.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Rare Occurrence

75% the rare "musical Court" will pop up from his hole long enough to perform on piano for a few hours, publicly, next Friday, January 15th.

My good friend and business advisor Barbara has invited me to perform at the 1st Annual Crescent City Artwalk to be held at the new Art Gallery on H Street.

Just this morning I was summoned down to San Francisco for meetings next week. If all goes well, I'll be back home by Wednesday, but there's a slight chance I'll get held over and have to miss the ArtWalk.

If things work out and I make it back here, then I'll be there from 4-6pm, performing. I haven't performed in 10 years now. I'm actually curious to see if I can still do it. No new music here, just playing the "hits" (and other people's hits at that). I have arrangements of Myers' Cavatina, Quincy Jones' Grace, and a few others that I've transcribed for piano over the years that I'd like to hear.

Don't know if there'll be any recording. Hope so. Might not happen again before the next solar eclipse...

Thank You, Thank You, and Thank You

A Big-Hearted Thanks to All My Friends who have helped out with our matching funds drive.

We're getting closer to our goal of doing a test deployment in the schools here this Spring.

Also it means so much to me to have friends that want to help make this dream happen. It tells me I must have done something right to have you all.

And I want to send a special thank you to my former boss, Robin (the mug's on the way, buddy!) and especially to my old friend Fred for being tireless in the face of adversity and for having such a kind heart himself.

If you navigate to the Donation Page, you'll see the temperature on the thermometer has moved up a few notches! And if you haven't gotten around to it yet, there's still time to help out. We think this idea of equal access to world-class science education, no matter where you live, no matter who you are, is something worth loving and we hope that you'll love it, too.

So thanks for giving, thanks for thinking about giving, and thanks for just reading my blog.

Next step for me? I'm giving a presentation on ComputeSpace for the California Endowment on Monday, the 11th.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Why Can't We Learn to Live Together, Microsoft?

Seems that some incompatibility came up between the Linux software running our public site and the Windows-based software used to generate content for the postings here. Thus rendering the links unworkable. All due to a single missing letter!

One would think those days were long over but apparently not.

If your heart is still in the right place and you'd like to help us with matching funds, here is a corrected link to enable you.

Thanks again,