Category Archives: Personal

using community power for good

While there are many example of online games and tools to waste time, there are a few that actually use people to harness either spare computing power or people power:

  • Folding@home:  a distributed computing effort run by Stanford University, whereby different parts of the program or data are processed simultaneously on two or more computers to study protein folding and misfolding.  For anyone like me who didn’t study or remember much science, there’s more details here.
    There are clients for linux, mac, playstation and windows available for download.
  • Zooniverse: a citizen science base where people were first used to determine what shapes galaxy pictures captured from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey: either elliptical or spiral – as computers couldn’t interpret the pictures taken.

Now the Citizen Science Alliance, the folks behind Zooniverse are looking for new citizen science initiatives. Be quick the proposals are due on August 15th, 2011. More details here.



After a nice long break over the winter holidays it’s time to start blogging again. It’s amazing what a long break can do for you, I was pleasantly surprised to find much excitement in the little things:
– getting lost in books, my reading list was rather large and has now reduced significantly!
– the intoxicating smell of the morning coffee and taking time to enjoy it rather than gulp it down.
– walking into the local town and noticing the wildlife, blue jays, robins, cardinals, hawks and ever present squirrels.

There’s been a lot happening over the last couple of months, so I’ll be posting sporadically until I catch up and also updating the blog site – well that’s the plan! – or something like that anyway 🙂


And now my time has come to leave the Sun family, as part of the back office support not required in the new Oracle. I’ve learnt and developed so much over the past 8 years, thanks to the generous and supportive people in all areas of the business.

It is however fortuitous timing as I’m taking the opportunity to relocate from the UK to be closer to the in-laws in Virginia/Washington DC.

So look out for me at any EPM/BI/Solaris events in the DC area.

My work blog at will now stop and not be updated.

# halt

I’ll continue to update this, my personal blog, after some time to recharge the batteries and unpack 😉

is it possible to manage knowledge?

I’ve just finished reading a very interesting book: "Managing Knowledge" edited by Stephen Little and Tim Ray.  I found it very interesting given the collaborative and sharing environment I’ve observed at Sun Microsystems over the past 8 years.

It’s actually a compilation of academic writings over the past 10 years on the subject of Knowledge Management.  While it’s originally designed to support the OUBS course of the same name, it stands alone as a very interesting read, although very academic focused with lots of references!

The books starts off with a discussion of information – how explicit information and tacit knowing interact and can lead to "knowledge".  An example encompassing this is the information that my friend Adam wears a red jumper, however the tacit knowledge I have to recognise Adam out of a crowd of people at the railway station is very difficult to quantify, describe and share.

It then reviews some of the current theory and concepts devised by Nonaka & Takeuchi and Cook & Brown and critically analyses them based on current learning.  As well as reviewing the Deep Smarts concept devised by Leonard & Swap – 2 very respected US academics.

Once the current theories and are understood the book moves onto "knowing in practice" which review why organisation should look to implement knowledge sharing practices, some of the human resource issues and organisation issues to include.  This section also looks at failed knowledge management activities to understand the key learning points.

The book closes by reviewing the Japanese model as described by Nonaka and whether this can be combined with Western ideas, such as Michael Polanyi’s work on tacit knowing to create a super-theory of knowledge.  The answer is no and the book goes further to suggest that "Knowledge Management" is really an oxymoron as true knowledge is unable to be taught or explained, therefore you cannot manage what you cannot explain.

While I agree to a certain extent, you can set up an environment for your team, group or organisation which allows time for training, group sessions and a sharing culture.

As mentioned in the book, it’s not enough to add a one liner to employees job descriptions to "share knowledge and training".  It must be more than this and involves having the right team members, in the right environment with the right motivation and a willingness to learn and discover.  Although there is no certainty that true knowledge will result.

I really enjoyed reading this book and have learnt from it, although I’m not taking the OUBS course, as it gave me a much better understanding of how some people have knowledge and others just read from notes and will never truly understand. Go and give your brain a fix, read today 😉

Congratulations to me

I have just received word that I passed my exam and course, so I now have a Professional Diploma in Management from the Open University. It’s one step along the path to a MBA, so I’m pleased I’ve made it this far (after so long away from any study or books).  Although mindful there’s 2 more years of study ahead.

It has taken a lot of time and effort to get here and I couldn’t have got here without the valuable input from colleagues and others – thanks all.

recycle, reduce, reuse

The xmas season is soon approaching and thoughts are with family and friends far away, and also with friends with new babies: Marion & Doug, Jo & Mike, Jodie & Nat.

It’s also the time to think about how lucky I am and that there are those who are less fortunate and in need of assistance. So have a clear out and take any items to charity shops or donation centres.

Another great idea (for those in the northern hemisphere) is reviewing your closet and taking a spare coat to charity:
Thanks to Cindy for the reminder.

Windows Service Packs, there must be a better way.

I have my main computer as Solaris dual boot with Windows 2008, to keep it updated I recently booted into Windows to install SP2.

After some time downloading, asking me to quit everything and rebooting a few times the installation failed at 100% at Stage 3 with the following message:

Installation was not successful 
Unspecified error 
Error: E_FAIL(0x80004005)

Sigh, how hard is it to write in English or to check for certain parameters before installation?   This is one reason why I love Solaris/OpenSolaris, you can have multiple boot environments and update them while using another one.  Then the only downtime is a reboot to enable and switch to the new boot environment.

At work they have implemented it and it has reduced the possible downtime from 6 – 8 hours down to 2 – they still allow this much time in case of any issues.

After much searching, I finally found our that for SP2 to install on Windows 2008, it needs to be on the active partition . . . so after a quick change with Disk Management SP2 successfully installed.

Then it was a quick boot into failsafe Solaris to make the Solaris partition active again. 

All updated!

Relaxation, but only for a couple of weeks

I’ve been a bit quiet lately – that’s been due to lots of reading and assignments required for the management course I’m taking (through the Open University: B700).

While I did realise it was going to be around 10 hours a week, I didn’t really comprehend the incessant nature of the reading and work required, with little time for reflection.  After the last tutorial it seems most of the others feel the same way and are struggling with organising time and reflection.

I am really enjoying it and learning a lot and thankfully have a 2 week break before a small assignment is due (500 words only). Have a small trip planned to Barcelona this so will be able to relax and enjoy (assuming the weather allows it).  There are more wintery storms coming. 

Space Station off the starboard bow Captain!

Last weekend on clear evening (how very unlike the UK) we wondered if any stars or planets would be out . . a quick search actually told us the International Space Station would be passing over soon (after entering out location details).  Seems the ISS is almost always passing over soon as a full orbit is only 91 mins.

It was rather cool to see it passing by overhead, amazing to think man can create something that viewable from land and traveling so fast.  Check it out if you get the chance.

In with the new and out with the old

An appropriate title for my first blog as this is the ‘new’ me going forward and leaving the ‘old’ unblogger behind. I’m also starting an MBA course so will be blowing the cobwebs off my study brain and changing my life for the next year or so if I continue after that.

It’s also an appropriate title as I recently upgraded my home computer to run zfs root:
– I previously had 2 ufs slices and proceeded to use live upgrade to move between them when updating between editions of solaris community edition (also known as nevada).
– I had been meaning to do it for some time as it’s much quicker when copying (as it clones, think seconds rather than 50 minutes to copy 7GB) and is more robust with all that zfs goodness.

I just created a new zfs pool on the unused ufs liveupgrade slice, no need to re-format, mind you I did need to use the -f flag:

# zpool create rootpool c2d0s0
invalid vdev specification
use '-f' to override the following errors:
/dev/dsk/c2d0s0 contains a ufs filesystem.
# zpool create -f rootpool c2d0s0
Then create the boot environment:
# lucreate -c snv_98 -n snv_102 -p rootpool
Checking GRUB menu...
System has findroot enabled GRUB
Analyzing system configuration.
Comparing source boot environment  file systems with the file
system(s) you specified for the new boot environment. Determining which
file systems should be in the new boot environment.
Updating boot environment description database on all BEs.
Updating system configuration files.
The device  is not a root device for any boot environment; cannot get BE ID.
Creating configuration for boot environment .
Source boot environment is .
Creating boot environment .
Creating file systems on boot environment .
Creating  file system for  in zone  on .
Populating file systems on boot environment .
Checking selection integrity.
Integrity check OK.
Populating contents of mount point .
Creating shared file system mount points.
Creating compare databases for boot environment .
Creating compare database for file system .
Updating compare databases on boot environment .
Making boot environment  bootable.
Updating bootenv.rc on ABE .
File  propagation successful
Copied GRUB menu from PBE to ABE
No entry for BE  in GRUB menu
Population of boot environment  successful.
Creation of boot environment  successful.
Mount the iso for the upgrade and wait:
# lofiadm -a /export/home/ic140957/sol-nv-b102-x86-dvd.iso
# mount -r -F hsfs /dev/lofi/1 /mnt
# luupgrade -u -n snv_102 -s /mnt
System has findroot enabled GRUB
No entry for BE  in GRUB menu
Uncompressing miniroot
Copying failsafe kernel from media.
52155 blocks
miniroot filesystem is 
Mounting miniroot at 
Validating the contents of the media .
The media is a standard Solaris media.
The media contains an operating system upgrade image.
The media contains  version <11>.
Constructing upgrade profile to use.
Locating the operating system upgrade program.
Checking for existence of previously scheduled Live Upgrade requests.
Creating upgrade profile for BE .
Checking for GRUB menu on ABE .
Saving GRUB menu on ABE .
Checking for x86 boot partition on ABE.
Determining packages to install or upgrade for BE .
Performing the operating system upgrade of the BE .
CAUTION: Interrupting this process may leave the boot environment unstable
or unbootable.
Upgrading Solaris: 100% completed
Installation of the packages from this media is complete.
Restoring GRUB menu on ABE .
Adding operating system patches to the BE .
The operating system patch installation is complete.
ABE boot partition backing deleted.
PBE GRUB has no capability information.
PBE GRUB has no versioning information.
ABE GRUB is newer than PBE GRUB. Updating GRUB.
GRUB update was successful.
Configuring failsafe for system.
Failsafe configuration is complete.
INFORMATION: The file  on boot
environment  contains a log of the upgrade operation.
INFORMATION: The file  on boot
environment  contains a log of cleanup operations required.
INFORMATION: Review the files listed above. Remember that all of the files
are located on boot environment . Before you activate boot
environment , determine if any additional system maintenance is
required or if additional media of the software distribution must be
The Solaris upgrade of the boot environment  is complete.
Installing failsafe
Failsafe install is complete.
# umount /mnt
# lofiadm -d /dev/lofi/1
# luactivate snv_102
# init 6 (reboot)

The new boot environment is now updated and can be booted. Hurrah!