UKOUG Solaris Sig September 2015

It’s been a while since I attended what used to be LOSUG (London Solaris User Group), a name which seems to have been last officially used in 2011. Nowadays it’s just the UKOUG Solaris Special Interest Group. The main thing is that the key people are the same although there were a lot fewer people there than I expected on my first visit to Bonhill House, Moorgate. That might have been due to the terrible wet weather.

The venue is great and we are back to having hot food (excellent food too) and beer after the talks, as we used to get in the Sun days (in the Oracle Office we were relegated to sandwiches and crisps). The only drawback seems to be a strict chucking out policy at 9pm.

Anyway, the talks…Phil Harman kicked off with “Integrating ZFS Performance Data Using DTrace & Zabbix” show and tell, followed by Tomasz Kloczko with “Zabbix & Solaris”.

Zabbix is not something I’d heard of before – no reason why I should have – but I am always keen to hear talks involving ZFS and Dtrace, both great technologies. The takeaway from Phil’s talk for me was the fact that “tying ZFS and Zabbix allows you to do forensics” plus the fact that sampled traffic from a live system could then be replayed as IO on a new system without the app. All interesting stuff to be filed away for future reference.

An added benefit was meeting some old colleagues and I will certainly make more of an effort to attend Bonhill House more frequently in the future.

UKOUG / LOSUG Jan 2015

Or, Down the Rabbit Hole.

I checked the archives and the last event I went to was in May 2012. Everything was exactly the same as it was then, although my extended absence just heightened to me how surreal the whole event is.

I don’t mean that in a bad way at all. Quite the opposite. Peter Tribble gave an interesting talk entitled “Adventures with illumos”. Myself and the other middle aged geeks were treated with another journey down memory lane where I heard words long absent from my ears like “Sun”, “Solaris” and “CDE”.

The irony is, a lot of the technology is new, and as Peter ably demonstrated is actively being worked on. What made it surreal is how far divorced it all is from the “real” i.e. commercial world, especially if you have been exclusively in that environment for a few years, dealing with big vendors, clients and “The Cloud”.

There’s something very “British”, and heartening about how, hobbyists (can’t think of a better description) dedicate their time to preserve and develop something that is of value because they (we) love the technology: the effort and creativity that is embedded in it and the respect for the people who have worked on it before. People are not doing this to become the next dot com with A,B and C round funding. They’re doing it because they love it.

As time goes by and the rise of the machines continues, this community could form the core of a whole new field. In the compressed timescales of IT, the rate of change and the knowledge that could be lost is a real risk. Britain is very good at preserving heritage; in IT terms, Bletchley Park is the obvious example that springs to mind and you can find sites like These however, are mainly concerned with hardware; hardware that can be identified with a specific country.

Code is different. It is global. It is like DNA, literally “code”. It contains lots of redundancy and continually evolves. How do we preserve it? Should we preserve it? Is anyone else writing this story down? Who is carrying on the work of Peter Salus and his history of Unix

Great to have a dose of un-commerciality once in a while.

UKOUG / LOSUG May 2012

Late, but as promised, a quick blog on Dr. Clive King’s presentation to the OpenSolaris User Group in September.

Another great talk which will particularly stick in my mind for the anecdote about the customer who bought larger and larger systems to solve performance problems and ultimately found out that RAM was being artificially limited by a system setting. Ouch. That came from Clive’s tip #1: don’t copy /etc/system settings!

I noted down 10 tips in total and got links to other good blogs like Gerry Haskin’s blog.

By the time the room got hot and stuffy, we were into the realms of chip performance, large pages and MMU traps so we had covered a large spectrum.

If I do any Solaris performance tuning in the future, this talk will certainly be my starting point.

IPS for OpenIndiana and Solaris 11 – UKOUG March

I went to the March LOSUG / UKOUG where Chris Ridd gave a (long) talk about IPS – Image Packagaing System for OpenIndiana and Solaris 11. I have not used IPS so I was interested to see how it differed from the old pkgadd system I am familiar with.

He started out by saying there were little or no design docs for IPS but there are some blog postings by Stephen Hahn, Bart Smaalders and Tim Foster about the original ideas. Unfortunately I have not had time to look for or read them.

The comment was telling though as the impression I got at the end was that IPS was a system which lacked exactly that: a design. As a result, as Chris pointed out, the terminology is odd and key functionality is missing. Security, for example. As I understood it, the main conceptual difference is that unlike other packaging systems there is no “package” as such. What you make is a config file which describes the content, including metadata and how to get the files you need from a repository.

Until I play with it (which might be a while!) I’m not going to pass judgement. It was too much new information for me to absorb in one sitting.