SunRays prove popular

A few days in and the SunRays are proving very popular with the family.

The smartcards to exactly restore your desktop are already (even with only 2 terminals) working well. It is a great way to reduce conflict as you can swap between people and rooms so easily.

Already if you get stuck with something you pull out your smartcard and goto ask for help, slip the card into the nearest SunRay, much quicker help than asking parents to come to you ;-)

So far I have not had to give any help for the move from Windows XP to Gnome despite the very different look. They just get on with it, I have seen them finding new applications, play with their preferences etc without any problems. In fact I have got back positive feelings about the Gnome menu structure (Applications/Places/System) which makes a lot of sense.

Interestingly enough our middle son was quite annoyed when both SunRays were being used and so he had to go back to the Windows Xp system. Obviously the Sugar Quill reads better on a SunRay (the very nice Samsung Monitors are probably a key reason).

While we sort out the rooms we have one machine in the living room, the lack of any fan makes this perfectly acceptable.

Personally I am not yet very fond of the keyboard which has an extra 10 keys in a block to the left of the main section. I keep hitting these instead of the Control key.

As the family system administrator I am (as expected) really pleased with the control from anywhere. Setting up email, printers etc is so much easier than on Windows XP. For example we sufferred by having the XP home edition and the separation between users was poor, some software would only be on personal menus after installing, others global and you were not given the choice at install time. If you allow the kids to install games it always means hassle sorting it out.

I will be conducting bandwidth experiments to tryout remote use over the internet. But I now wonder about a bundle for families of a server (not a V20Z but cheaper, less powerful, quieter and in a tower configuration) and 4 or 5 SunRays. It would need to be a bundle including everything and with Linux + the SunRay Server already installed and a wizard to handle connection to the internet with firewall already setup.  Probably the SunRay 170′s with the unit built into the monitor would be best. If they could use wifi then even better.

Just imagine, you order a 4 terminal set with your broadband connection. All you need to do is plug the server into the mains and Broadband modem, then setup the 4 terminals (plug into monitor keyboard, mouse and mains power), turn on, complete a few forms to add the users. It could come pre-configured with all the broadband settings. The smartcards would be pre-registered so you just allocate them to the family members and get them to login the first time with the card in place.

But could the price be made competitive? Most families would not buy 2 or 3 PC’s at the same time so this would probably work best on a contract sale with monthly rental. There is scope to bundle lots of other services in with this eg remote backup, replacement server/terminals, party packs [extra terminals for sleepovers etc], and of course remote management/support.

11 thoughts on “SunRays prove popular

  1. The Clingan Zone

    Sun Rays for the whole Family

    Non-Sun-employee Dave has a good blog entry on using Sun Rays at home. Seems like his family has no problem moving from Windows XP to Gnome. He also has an interesting idea about packaging for home use.
    Dave, your on to something …

    Reply
  2. diana

    I would suggest that Sun have a pre-configured deskside server with Solaris 10. A cheap box, under $1000. This would serve multiple ends. First it could easily act as a small business server-hub — how many small businesses have racks. Second it could act as a diskless client hub, both for home and a small business. Small businesses and home users don’t have IT capability(except for nerdy type homes) so it needs to be ‘push button’ install and maintain — build python front-ends for existing tools, like RH does.
    You don’t necessarily need Sunrays to serve as clients, existing old PCs could be pressed into service. All you need is the appropriate boot disk, or liveCD — make use of what is there. Would work for small business as well. Great for adding laptops to the net.
    But your idea of a bundle is intesting. How about a slightly larger Sun-mini ala Apple-mini as the hub? Maybe with a two disk raid setup.
    Cable companies could offer to rent the setup, bundle with broadband — that would be sweet.
    Without a doubt home users and small business users could surely use configurations like you suggest, they just need marketing — hello Sun marketing, anyone home? The maintainence of systems is overwhelming the small users — WinXP is killing time.

    Reply
  3. neil

    If you want terminals in different rooms try homeplug adaptors. Ethernet over mains power. they actually seem to work very well. I don’t think SunRay units do WiFi
    I was forced to try this route after Wireless failed to transmit through the very thick walls in our home (built 1905 using slate rubble & lime mortar)

    Reply
  4. Alex Goncalves

    SunRay technology rocks! I’m installing one at home, I’ll be giving SRSS3 a try on Solaris10 on a Ultra10 box (hope it won’t be toooo slow) and x86 (w/ Linux) box. But having only one sunray is pretty lame, even though its cool for the geek factor, and to showoff the hotdesking/”always on desktop”/easy swap features. :-)

    Reply
  5. Martin Hargreaves

    Hi,
    Sounds like good work! I’ve been running SunRays at home for a couple of years now (since SRSS 1.3 came out, and a 20 seat license was 400 quid!) with good results.
    The kids are still small, so Macromedia Flash is their main app, which is rather heavy for the SunBlade 150 running the SunRay server – it works, but it’s lumpy.
    I’m moving over to SRSS 3.1a on Solaris x86 now on a w1100z, so it should be *much* faster.
    The other thing I made is a “KidsRay” – it’s a wooden cabinet, painted in bright colours, with a perspex screen, and a trackball. Inside is a SunRay 1, speakers, powerstrip, and an old CRT. Kiosk mode on the server jumps straight to http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies – it’s all low enough that they can stand, lean, or sit in front of it, and it switches on and off at the wall.
    Seems to work really well between ages 2 and 4, another toy to play with in the playroom and it was a run project at the time.
    Have fun!
    Martin.

    Reply
  6. BobD

    I’ve also written up my experience with my Sun Ray at home scenario. I have a couple of suggestions that might help make your experience even better:

    • You don’t need to use a smartcard, if you configure the “Non-SmartCard Mobility” policy (man -M /opt/SUNWut/man utpolicy) e.g. “/opt/SUNWut/sbin/utpolicy -a -g -z both -M”. Then you just login wherever you like and continue your session. My family can’t keep track of smartcards, so this makes more sense for us.
    • If you don’t like the Sun-provided keyboard, you can use any standard USB keyboard (or mouse, for that matter). Sun’s about to start shipping new keyboards/mice, including an optical wheel mouse.

    It’s great to hear about folks using the product at home. Enjoy!

    Reply
  7. David Vawter

    Sun does also have a Sun Ray Laptop that does Wi-Fi, but obviously has to be local to its Sun Ray server.
    Also, Sun does have a pre-configured Solaris server for small business, the V250, OK being a sparc box, perhaps a little pricy for home users, instead try the Ultra 20, or the W1100/2100 AMD workstation, all will run Solaris or Linux and would make a great Sun Ray server at home. But I can see the future of sun rays heading in a different direction. Comcast could package the Sun Rays and allow them to be managed over their network. Than you wouldn’t need a sunray server. They could lease the units to you like they do a modem, or just give them away with their service (and of course charge more, they are a cable company after all)
    The Desktop as a service. Google and Sun may sell this themselves before the ISP’s get around to it. The Network is the Computer could become a reality even in Home PCs

    Reply
  8. BobD

    Um – sorry but Sun does not have a “Sun Ray Laptop”. You are perhaps thinking of the Tadpole Comet, manufactured by Tadpole Computer, who has licensed the technology and OEMs this compatible device. The “laptop” has a great battery life since it has no disks or fans!
    You don’t need to be “local to its Sun Ray server”, but you do have to be local to a wireless access point on a network which can be routed to its Sun Ray server.
    Frankly, the biggest problem Sun Ray faces in the home market is lack of Windows apps, plugins, and browser “helpers” for Solaris (or Linux, for that matter). So some home users are frustrated when they cannot access certain websites. For this reason, it’s unlikely that an ISP will offer a desktop service based on either Solaris or Linux in the near future. This isn’t really the market that Sun Ray is focused on, although it’s fun to see folks use it this way (as I do).

    Reply

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