Monthly Archives: October 2004

Sun: AMD Opteron options

This is a follow on from 42: Solaris Hardware Platforms particularly see the helpful comment from Tom for a non rack Opteron workstation. I have looked further and have found a nice option for the Clingons of this world, see below.

There is an interesting comparison. You can get the most powerful Opteron Workstation (Sun Java Workstation W2100z) or a similar specified server (Sun Fire V20z Server) plus 3 SunRay 1g ultra thin clients (including Sun Ray Server Software 2.0 licenses) for almost exactly the same money (excluding screens, keyboards in both cases).

The Sun Java Workstation W2100z is clearly going to have awesome graphics speed (particularly 3D). But for any situation where only 2D graphics is needed then the server and ultra thin client looks like a winner.

With the right network infrastructure you could have a dedicated server for each developer and give them a SunRay client in the office another at home and a third at their favourite StarBucks. Pity that the economics swing the other way when you add screens ;-) (mind you that is made worse by the way I have my eye on the 24.1″ TFT 1920×1600 screen at 2,500 GBP)

Not much fun

This weekend we have finished clearing out Mum and Dad’s home. New people will be moving in. A horrible job that I suppose I feel should not have needed doing for many years yet.
After we finished we went for a walk down to the harbour at Emsworth and around the Mill Pond. A favourite of theirs and it was terrible. I don’t think I will be going back for quite a long time.

Python testing progress

I wrote about 42: std.utest, the complementary unit testing framework a while ago. Now there is more progress. Read about it from the current docs. Details in this email from Holger Krekel:



you’ll find generated html files from the documentation text
files at svn/py/dist/doc. This is automatic so whenever a
commit happens it takes a few seconds on codespeak to show
the latest.

Note also, that if you already put something like

eval `python ~/projects/py/py/`

into your shell boot script then you now have a little command
line utility called ‘’ which is able to generate html
files from ReST files which you specify on the command line.
Without any arguments it does it in the current working dir.

It will also link the html-docs with the ‘style.css’ file in
the doc directory so that you can see the full documentation
on your local side by pointing your browser to the doc-directory.

and feel free to fix typos or add/correct stuff but please check
with ‘’ in your doc directory that there are no ReST-errors.

have fun,

py-dev mailing list

Solaris Hardware Platforms

In 42: Buying Sun is too hard I was grumbling about how to choose which processor architecture for a server. So far I have the following thoughts:



  • More choice of applications to install a) I can run linux binaries b) many projects don’t provide SPARC versions (almost none AMP Opteron optimized).
  • I can switch to any Linux distribution if I decide I hate Solaris
  • Should be easier and cheaper to buy add-on hardware due to wide variety of sources.
  • Cheapest Sun servers are x86
  • Choice of 1 to 2 processors


  • Someone could install Windows on it. Argh! ;-)
  • Sun only seem to sell rack versions (good for work, not ideal for home)
  • Sun don’t seem to recommend them for database applications. Is that because the blub is written for big data centre staff? Or is it really not suitable for web applications with 100′s of concurrent users and 1GB databases?
  • No so many commerical solaris applications ported to x86 – but currently we use 99.9% free software on our servers anyway

AMD Opteron


  • 64bit
  • I can switch to some Linux distributions if I decide I hate Solaris
  • No one else has one (geek vote)
  • Blub looks promising for our needs
  • Choice of 1 to 2 or 1 to 4 processors


  • Someone could install Windows on it. Argh! But no 64 bit applications so they probably won’t bother.
  • Not 64bit OS until Solaris 10
  • No one else has one (manager vote)
  • Sun only seem to sell rack versions (good for work, not ideal for home)



  • 64bit
  • Windows can’t infect it
  • Blub looks promising for our needs
  • Tower or rack options
  • 1 to lots of processors


  • I am stuck with Solaris
  • Highest Cost
  • Least applications, most need to build from source, many free software projects won’t support SPARC unless written in Java, Python, Perl, Ruby, PHP. H’mm that is quite a lot after all ;-)

What next?

I think I need to dig futher into the SunRay server requirements. If I can get a grip on the number of SunRay clients each server can support then I have a reasonable basis for comparison. Problem is I think the documents for that are all for the SPARC version only.

I would also like some indications of how the power consumption and noise output compare for the servers. Generally we find rack optimised systems very noisy. In small companies that can make it harder to locate them. It also means we have to consider upgrading the air con in the server room.

Buying Sun is too hard

If you look at the other recent posts in this category I have been looking at Solaris and SunRays recently.

Tonight, I decided to go another step and cost a working solution. First scenario is quite simple. A server with 5 SunRays attached. The server to also replace an existing Linux server with Samba for 15 Windows clients, and approx 6 Java web applications (simple servlets using Firebird and MySQL databases).

Now I start looking at the options to meet this scenario and this is where the problems start. Start by looking at the order page for SunRays on the only UK online reseller stocking them. The key problems with this are

  • As you add each item to the shopping basket and then continue shopping you keep going back to the top level of the shop. Ok so use the Back button
  • Now why in the UK shop is there not a standard UK bundle with UK keyboard, UK Power cord and SunRay 1G, the UK country kit is shown as the 9th item (nice price of 0 though)> A single 1g without monitor means adding the UK kit and the 1G (item 31 in the list) to the basket separately.
  • Then I need a monitor unless I choose either the 24″ (drool) or the 19″. Try finding a 17& TFT monitor in the shop (tip entering “17 inch monitor” in the search won’t help you much).

Ok, now we have the price for the SunRays, guess we will need the SunRay server software. H’mm what is it I need from the appropriate page? If I am buying 5 SunRays, why can’t it automatically suggest the appropriate Server licenses? Anyway it is quite confusing. Do I need a CECIS-200-992S per SunRay and just one CECMS-200C99MS. Is CECIS-992S-LIC just the support to add on top, or is that CECIS-992S-1PR or CECIS-992S-1ST or CECIS-992S-3PR or CECIS-992S-3ST (note no comparison tables, no suggested combinations, no links to explain what Standard Support and Premium support mean).

OK lets assume I guess and hope the Sun guys will take pity on me if I get it wrong. Now I need the server. Oh no, so much choice. H’mm I can have 3 processor architectures (I think the SunRay server release in testing will work on all 3). So do I go for x86 Sun Fire V60x Server, AMD Opteron Sun Fire V20z Server, Sparc Sun Fire V250 Server. Again I can’t find any comparison tables so end up hunting through lots of long listings crowded by things like a “Cisco Catalyst 3750 1RU 24-port Gigabit-Ethernet switch” on the Sun Fire V60x Server page.

That is where I have given up for the moment. I can’t see how to choose between these server options. All our own software is written in Java so I guess all should be OK (assuming that the database servers run on all 3 architectures) on all the servers. But which is going to give the best options for low initial cost, best performance, greatest expansion etc.

Now if I were buying for a large data centre I doubt there would be a problem. I could very quickly get a Sun guru down to advise me. But this is low level basic stuff, it should be straight forward commodity standard small office packages. In some ways I am attracted to the flexibility of Solaris and the multiple processor options are a good example of that flexibility. But the Sun catalogue needs a lot of work to make it friendly and helpful.

Maybe this scenario is not traditionally typical Sun customer, but Jonathan does keep telling us he wants the volume and there are a lot of us (small companies) out there.

Oh and by the way, just an aside really, is the iForce VPN/Firewall Appliance available online or in the UK. I can’t find it.

Cubicle Muses: A Gem of a Language

Cubicle Muses: A Gem of a Language is about the wonders of Ruby and how according to google it is the “best programming language”.

H’mm, I have not read some of the docs and would agree it does look nice in many ways. But surely best must also relate in some way to volume, until there is a large body of applications it would be hard to prove.

So I have re-run my google popularity checks, see 42: More Programming Language Popularity and the results are:

Totals at 2004-10-14 03:53:46.647971

programming development support training skills learning testing help TOTAL Prev Total % Change
ruby 19850 1546 2242 259 72 2133 118 826 27046
c# 64000 3430 1244 3044 906 5007 256 8545 86432 89369 -3.29
python 62640 8750 6500 1454 606 9348 641 4820 94759 104368 -9.21
visual basic 144800 9240 2853 27000 2299 6090 353 4930 197565 209017 -5.48
c++ 292900 20760 17240 5986 3880 13210 1092 36990 392058 504608 -22.3
perl 282600 17490 43840 10290 2326 36920 3462 11283 408211 417059 -2.12
php 238700 88400 183200 223900 15160 25390 4860 249000 1028610 1109040 -7.25
java 569500 313100 371100 56930 8160 34600 8020 124600 1486010 1512370 -1.74

Notice that Perl and C# have swapped places and that all results are smaller than on the 28th September (no idea why that might be, are we in a google dance?).

However, critically for this discussion notice the positiom of Ruby, it clearly has some way to go. Changes will be interesting though.


Watch out John, I am going to take pot shots at your favourite place. As the most regular customer Starbucks (warning site inaccessible without cookies so I have not visited them) have you are in a position of great influence.

To get you started on the Fairtrade movement I have a few links for you. Firstly, the Fairtrade Foundation, secondly Traidcraft, then Cafe Direct and Clipper (all a bit UK specific).

When you get up enough strength and courage to find out more about Starbucks and their Fair Trade status have a look at the Background Information provided by the Organic Consumers Association, note that they are supported by organisations such as Oxfam who have many reports on their website. See for example Oxfam America: Fair Trade Coffee, Oxfam America: Fair Trade Coffee in the US and Oxfam America: Oxfam Campaign: What’s That in Your Coffee?

Others in the Organic Consumers campaign to change Starbucks include Pesticide Action Network, Center for Food Safety, Friends of the Earth and Sustain.

All our Coffee and Tea at home and work is fairly traded, mostly it is also organic too. We also get chocolate (when I am allowed it ;-) and a variety of other food as well. You might have old out of date views on price and quality for fairly traded goods, we generally find the quality to be higher than the alternatives and the price is not very different.

So for little extra cost there are lots of benefits, selfishly fairly traded good are often better quality and much less likely to have as many chemicals in them. But more importantly by buying them you are directly helping (through fairness) those who grow/produce these items.

In the UK you can get Fairly traded coffee at all Costa Coffee outlets and I think at most Starbucks. Remember though that Starbucks don’t admit to how tiny the percentage of coffee they sell is fairly traded. It is poorly promoted and staff seem confused when you ask for it.

Of course Coffee, Tea and Chocolate are only the start when it comes to fairtrade. But an important start due to their significance in our lives and the dramatic effect a small change by consumers can have on lives of producers.

John, looking forward to hearing back from you on your local starbucks response when you ask for fairly tarded coffee (mind you it seems like you should be asking for rather fewer genetically modified components as well).