Thursday, May 26, 2005

Solaris and GUI management

Following up on this comment, which gets its roots from some other thoughts.

I've heard this criticism of Solaris elsewhere - it's a fairly common comment.

Is it justified? Well, yes and no. Let me take this on a bit further.

It's true, without question, that Solaris is largely lacking in GUI management tools. And generally I would have to say that those that are present are pretty poor.

So the criticism is justified? Well, not quite.

One reason that Solaris doesn't have and of that fancy management crap is that quite simply it doesn't need it most of the time. The CLI interfaces are pretty straightforward, and if you want to ignore those then just editing a few files won't tax anybody - the files used are in well defined locations with well defined contents, and all this is pretty stable. I've managed Solaris systems for well over ten years and never in that time felt the need for anything more than the tools that are provided.

In that sense, Sun's existing customer base - myself included - must take some of the blame for Sun's failure to provide fancy management tools. We (I know I have and I know other customers who have the same response) have repeatedly told Sun that we don't want dodgy GUI management tools. Given the negative response, is it any wonder that Sun haven't produced much in the way of groundbreaking works of art in this area?

(On the other hand, my experience of trying to do essentially trivial things with networking under RedHat was very frustrating. I can see why why RedHat admins need tools to help.)

One other thing: if you're spending that much time doing trivial things to your systems that the GUI vs. not argument makes any difference, then there's something fundamentally wrong with your admin framework.

OK, so the critcism is completely unjustified? Well, not quite.

The reality is that there are some great graphical admin tools, and the possibility for some additional ones. But there is precious little for the inexperienced or part-time admin. And if Solaris wishes to expand out of its datacenter roles, it must cater to wider markets.

Security Awareness for Ma, Pa and the Corporate Clueless

Check this out: Security Awareness for Ma, Pa and the Corporate Clueless.

One thing I've often wondered, though. Is the Wintel platform really as bad as it's made out to be?

I mean, I'm a Solaris guy, and I know that Wintel is bad. It's obvious that the cost is way higher than our Sun/Solaris setup, and the reliability/availability is way lower.

But the idea that home users have to spend hours per week maintaining their PCs just sounds crazy to me.

I'll admit here that I have a PC at home. It's a reasonably modern, broadband connected PC, running Windows XP. Nothing special about the setup - it gets the latest service packs and patches applied regularly and promptly. But it has no third-party security software of any kind on it. No anti-virus, no firewall other than the basic one that XP now provides.

Is my machine infested with trojans, spyware, and virusses? I don't think so. I occasionally check, but we don't see any problems, and everything runs pretty solidly.

Am I just lucky?

Probably not. You see, there are a couple of things that I (and perforce the rest of the family) do to keep it that way.

Rule 1. No Internet Explorer. Period. Total. It's not the default browser, and everything except windows update is forced to run at the highest security setting I can think of. No icon on the desktop. Depending on personal preference, we run either netscape or firefox.

Rule 2. No email. Period. Total. You want email, you ssh into a real computer and read it from there. I'm still a ucb mail person, but the wife uses pine. Whatever, there's no chance of any garbage getting through onto the machine.

Rule 3. (OK so I can't count.) No network clients other than decent browsers and ssh. No music, chat, online services, none of that rubbish.

Given that, I've found Windows XP to be an adequate, and largely trouble-free and useable, environment.

Of course I would rather run Solaris on it, but (at least last I heard) you couldn't get Flight Simulator, Zoo Tycoon, Age of Empires, or Rise of Nations for Solaris.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Welcome Dowstone

A big welcome to Dowstone Limited!

One of the directors is Gary Pennington.

(This blog is delighted to be listed among Gary's friends. That's a real honour.)

I worked with Gary for about a year - he was unfortunate enough to be my support engineer for the Solaris 10 platinum beta program. Which means he's used to a dumb systems administrator trying to do stupid things with Solaris!

I wish Gary and Alan well in their new venture.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Great Birthday Present

I know it's off-topic, as I have a separate personal blog, but...

For my recent birthday Mel bought me the Season 2 DVD boxed set of Star Trek, The Original Series. So I'm just about to pop one of the disks into the DVD player, and watch this blog's namesake episode.

(And then the other episodes, but I've got to watch them Tribbles first!)