Browsing the Web on the Tungsten C

I had just about figured that browsing the web using Palm’s Tungsten C was impossible. It comes with a browser, but that was never usable as far as I could tell. I tried numerous other options, and finally found one that worked much better than I had dared to hope.

I tried using Xiino. This browser just looks ugly to start (with decidedly low-resolution graphics), and has completely incomprehensible icons. It wasn’t usable at all; most pages would result in a blank screen. It also uses a proxy server for images (though it doesn’t call it that): the “DataServer” – pds.mobirus.com – no longer exists, which means that you can’t display anything at all unless that setting is cleared. There’s no way to set or unset it; just clear the name entirely.

I tried using Opera Mini. This requires using the old IBM Websphere Everyplace Micro Edition (WEME) – which in reality is the J9 Java Virtual Machine (JVM). The word is that IBM WEME 5.7.1 is much more stable than IBM WEME 5.7.2 (neither of which are supported or available any longer). No matter – Opera Mini v4 (the current) did not work at all, but froze during initial operation; Opera Mini v3 works but crashes reliably and frequently.

I even tried something called TeaShark; that didn’t get past the startup stage (which was buggy at the outset). This wasn’t too surprising since it was running on IBM’s J9 JVM like Opera; word has it that the IBM JVM was crippled on PalmOS in some way.

I love Opera Mini, and used it on my Nokia 6265i (and later the 6165i) – and missed it. However, running it on the J9 JVM gave a completely different experience (I never did try using Sun’s Java Manager – but that was for MIDP 1.0 only) I started thinking to myself: the NetFront browser on my Samsung Caliber is ever so much better…

Then imagine my surprise when I found that there is a NetFront browser for PalmOS. It turns out that the Sony Clie (a PalmOS device) used NetFront for their default browser, and that it would work on a Palm device as well. There are copies of it available on the web, but the one I saw came with something called MaxX to make it work with a different screen resolution than the original browser expected to find (on the Tungsten T I think).

After downloading and installing via HotSync – using Linux (with GNOME’s gpilotd) – the browser crashed when run. However, running on the Tungsten C, MaxX is unneeded; removing it solved the problems entirely.

Running with the NetFront browser has been a delightful (and unexpected) experience. The only problem seems to be a connection-related problem; for some reason, the WiFi connection seems to “age” and loses connectivity even though the device doesn’t think so. Reconnecting seems to fix this.

For more details on using the NetFront browser – and people’s experiences with it – check out this forum thread over at 1src.com.

If you use Google for RSS or for news, try m.google.com in NetFront; it’s the best experience I’ve had yet. You can also use Google’s mobile gateway directly by going to www.google.com/gwt/n and entering the URL that you wish to go to.

IBM Introduces Power7 Blades and new AIX

IBM recently introduced Power7 blade servers to go with the Power6 and x86 blades already available. The Power7 blades come in 4-core, 8-core, or a “double-wide” 16-core configuration (with two 8-core servers tied together). However, the 4-core configuration – with four disabled cores – cannot be upgraded to eight active cores directly (the four extra cores are permanently disabled). The 16-core configuration is two Power7 blades combined together.

Also introduced was AIX 6 Express, a new (and lower cost) version of AIX for small business.

I’ve always been partial to Power since Apple started using it; it was sad to see Apple stop using the PowerPC.

AIX has never struck me as a well-regarded environment, but now IBM has made it more affordable for more folks; we’ll see how this goes. The AIX admins I knew were frequently complaining about the clustering environment (although HP ServiceGuard has lots of interesting problems too). Last time I used AIX, the printing environment was very odd, like the rest of it.

However, no UNIX can be all bad… right?

IBM Introduces Power7

On Monday, IBM introduced the Power7 processor to go up against the new Itanium Tukwila officially introduced by Intel the same day. The general consensus among those reviewing (such as CNET’s Brooke Crothers) these chips is that the Power7 is much better than the Itanium chip. Indeed, the Tukwila chip was delayed for two years.

This new Power chip will provide twice the processing power of its predecessor but with four times the energy efficiency, according to IBM. The Power7 offers eight cores with four threads each, giving 32 processing cores.

However, one notable absence is Sun: no new UltraSparc processor was announced. Of course, with Sun’s recent financial difficulties plus the buyout of Sun by Oracle, there may just be too much going on at the moment. Yet, will a new UltraSparc come too late?

In the meantime, analysts are noting the fact that Unix servers (such as those running Power7, UltraSparc, and Itanium) are declining, and that the x86 servers are increasing in power and capabilities, with the Nehalem-EX (otherwise known as Beckton) due out soon.

What this means for system administrators is that Linux on x86 could be the biggest growing career, in contrast to Unix (such as HP-UX, Solaris, and AIX).

Energy Star Program for Data Centers

The EPA announced that they are expanding the Energy Star Program to include data centers; the measurements are expected to be finalized in June 2010.

The EPA is hoping that the new Energy Star rating for data centers will become a selling point for data centers. The new rating is based largely (but not completely) on the PUE (or Power Usage Effectiveness). William Kosik wrote an article in the September 2007 issue of Engineered Systems Magazine that explains PUE quite well and in detail.

Google talks about their efforts for power-efficient computing in their data centers in some depth; it’s very interesting.

IBM also announced just recently that they are building a new data center in Research Triangle Park where they will test effect of various temperature levels in the data center – and will cool it with outside air as well.

This is definitely an exciting time for data center power research; seems that there is something new every day.

Intel Itanium Tukwila CPU Out Soon?

ComputerWorld reports that Intel has started shipping the Itanium Tukwila processor. The Itanium processor drives the HP Integrity line of servers, as well as the HP NonStop servers.

In the near future (2nd or 3rd quarter?) HP is expected to announce Integrity servers based on the Tukwila processor. These new servers are predicted to be blade servers, and it is also suggested that Superdome will receive a complete overhaul – which is uncomfortably close to suggesting a “forklift upgrade” (i.e., pull out the entire server and replace) for Superdome. The Superdome system infrastructure is 10 years old, so it may be time – but an expensive upgrade like that is never welcome.

At the International Solid-State Circuits Conference next week, both Sun (UltraSPARC “Rainbow Falls”) and IBM (Power 7) are expected to announce new chips. Some coverage of both these chips went on at the HotChips Conference in August; ExtremeTech covered both chips well in its conference preview. In September, the Register managed to snap up a copy of the Sun SPARC roadmap; it shows the Rainbow Falls chip being introduced in 2010. As for Tukwila, Intel is rumored to be making the formal announcement of Tukwila at the ISSC.

We shall see…

A Book Review: “Green IT”

The book Green IT: Reduce Your Information System’s Environmental Impact While Adding to the Bottom Line by Velte, Velte, and Elsenpeter is extremely interesting. Unlike some other books that might go in this direction, this is not a book of theory, nor of political change, nor of persuasion. This is a book for IT staff about how to create a “green” data center and more.

Because of the nature of IT, going “green” can mostly be summed up in one word: electricity. A vast amount of what makes an IT department “green” consists of using less electricity wherever possible. This includes such areas as the corporate data center, the corporate desktops, and much more.

However, the book also gives significant attention to the other big environmental impact of computing: paper. There are a lot of ways to reduce paper use, and this book seems to cover all of them.

The book is in five parts: part I explains why to implement conservation in IT; part II talks about consumption; part III discusses what we as IT users can do individually to help the environment; part IV covers several corporate case studies; and part V expounds on the process of becoming “green” and how to stay that way.

It would have been nice to see more information about how the authors exemplified their suggestions during the creation of the book. The only hint of any environmentally sound practices is the recycled paper logo on the back cover (100% post-consumer fiber). That leaves more questions: did they use thin clients? Did they work from home? Did they use soy ink? Perhaps lastly, where is the e-book?

There is a web site that is set up for the book, but the current breadth of the site is disappointingly anemic. Some of the best web sites for Green IT would be Dell Earth, Intel, as well as IBM’s Green IT and Energy, the Environment, and IBM web sites.

It was interesting to note that HP’s Eco Solutions web site is “heavy” compared to the others – that is, it requires much more processing power to display, and requires a lot more time to download – which translates into more power consumption to view the web site. In addition, IBM and HP are the #1 and #2 in Computerworld’s list of Top Green-IT Vendors – whereas Dell is #6… HP also topped Newsweek’s 2009 list of Greenest Big Companies in America (along with IBM, Intel, and Dell in the top 5).

ZFS and Apple’s new MacOS X (Snow Leopard)

Sun’s ZFS is, by all accounts, the most revolutionary file system to come along in years. The Wikipedia entry on ZFS has some details, and Sun has a ZFS Learning Center where you can learn how to use it.

Of course, ZFS is in OpenSolaris, but it is also being introduced into FreeBSD as well.

The Solaris Internals site has a beautiful ZFS Best Practices Guide.

What does all of this have to do with Apple’s MacOS X (Snow Leopard)?

Just this: early in the development of MacOS X 10.6, Apple announced that they would use ZFS in the new MacOS X Snow Leopard. The ability to read ZFS volumes had been put into MacOS X Leopard Server. However, ZFS is missing from MacOS X Snow Leopard and Snow Leopard Server entirely. Robin Harris over at ZDNet has an excellent article that explains it all. He then went on to expand on his ZDNet article with more details.

The one detail in particular I wanted to note is the lawsuit between NetApp and Sun over ZFS and related patents. Groklaw has been following the lawsuit, but the last update from Groklaw is October 2008; Sun has more details on their lawsuit page. Way back in 2007 when the patent lawsuit erupted, CompuerWorld had an article suggesting that Apple might be forced into the lawsuit since it had been courting ZFS – or could be sued next if NetApp won. Neither Apple nor NetApp would comment.

It would also be worth noting that when IBM was in talks to buy Sun in March 2009, there were articles about how the ZFS lawsuit would affect such talks – especially given that IBM and NetApp had a strong partnership already (IBM remarkets NetApp hardware for instance). AMLawDaily had a nice article about it, as did CNET. It wasn’t much more than a month later – in April 2009 – that Sun announced it was being bought by Oracle.

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IBM to Buy Sun?

This is big news, apparently broken by the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday (18 March). Vivian Yeo had an short article on it in ZDNet, and Stephen Shankland of CNET had an extensive piece on it – suggesting that the sale would have some severe stumbling blocks, including a clash of cultures between Sun and IBM.

The New York Times discussed the possibility at length on 19 March. The piece in the NYT posits that such a merger would invite antitrust scrutiny from the U.S. government – which I believe it would.

According to the NYT, Sun went looking for a buyer and was turned down by Hewlett-Packard among others.

The possibility of a sale of Sun Microsystems is by no means new; in 1996 there was raised (by the Wall Street Journal on 23 January) the possibility of an Apple-Sun merger, which was finally put to rest by a succinct press release from Apple (then under Gil Amelio): Apple is “not currently in merger discussions with any party.” (This was also covered in the February 1996 edition of SunWorld).

In 2006, there was some discussion in the 4 June 2006 San Francisco Chronicle about the possibility that Sun was preparing itself for sale, having just jettisoned its poison pill and laying off 5,000 workers.

In August of that year, the possibility of a Sun-Apple merger was brought up again with the ascent of Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO, to the board of Apple. John Dvorak suggested on 30 August that Schmidt could be an intermediary to a Sun-Apple deal.

That same day, Dan Farber, senior editor at ZDNet, replied, essentially stating that such a possibility was unthinkable.

So, we will have to wait and see what happens.

IBM z/Series and OpenSolaris

In the past, the z/Series has been known for its virtualization of Linux servers (over 10,000 possible!). Now, someone is showing OpenSolaris running on z/Series at the Gartner Data Center Conference in Las Vegas. There is an excellent write-up from the Mainframe blog, and another post from Marc Hamilton.

There is also an excellent open source IBM zSeries emulator called Hercules which can run Linux, MVS, DOS/VSE and others – and now, soon, OpenSolaris.

There is a very interesting speech given at Linuxworld by Guru Vasudeva from Nationwide about how his company implemented virtual Linux machines on IBM zSeries with z/VM.

When I first saw this (from IBM’s web site) I thought it was laugh out loud funny – and it still is. It also gives a hint at the power of the IBM z/Series, and shows one of the reasons I’m excited about the power one of these has.

I just love the deadpan Joe Friday responses from the cops, and some of the quotes:

  • “Could it be an inside job? We’re inside, right?”
  • “I need my pills!”
  • “What’s a server?”