If the world was perfect, it wouldn't be. – Yogi Berra

After 4 good releases, Ubuntu let me down with 8.04. Maybe it was the timing – I upgraded my laptop as part of restoring it from a hard drive crash a few weeks ago – but isn’t a brand new disk a good time to change your OS version? 

 On the upside, Hardy was the first OS I’ve installed where I opted to keep the default wallpaper (the bird is purty). And I’m pretty sure suspend (nVidia driver and all) was working better than previously, which is always good news. 

But I no longer had use of the VGA port for cloned or extended desktop, and I was unable to find a solution. That’s a dealbreaker for anyone who needs to do frequent presentations (or, for that matter, uses their laptop as a primary workstation and has a > 15" monitor).

Worse, vpnc was, at best, squirrelly. I do quite a lot over VPN, and we still have two of them (Sun & MySQL). My sunray solves half of that problem for me, but until that mobile sunray comes out…

So I was on the market. One of my coworkers mentioned to me that he was already using the RC of Suse 11 on his laptop – same model as mine, and with the same list of concerns – and so I thought I’d give it a shot.

There are a lot of good things to be said for Suse 11. A lot of the notebook stuff works better – suspend/resume, monitor changes, network switching – I hold my breath a lot less than i used to. NetworkManager recognized my WLAN card and integrated it in seamlessly (no more wvdial for me). For a dot-zero release it is also remarkably stable, and I even took the plunge and went with KDE4.

My only complaints thus far have been in the UI department – and those may be taken with a grain of salt coming from an Ubuntu/GNOME person.  I was unable to actually create a new VPN connection from the NetworkManager applet (though once configured, it did show up). I’ve had some confusion over what to do in YaST and what is part of desktop management – the former changes between an external and laptop screen, the later can change resolutions. I can’t seem to tell Suse to conserve power more when the laptop is unplugged, or allow me to use an external monitor with the laptop closed. 

And then Suse has different ideas about the root password than I do. The default setting when creating an initial user at install time was "Use same password for root" – I am guessing this is a compramise for Suse’s default sudo setting of requiring the root password rather than the user’s, which I’ve always thought odd. But Suse 11 did gently prod me into using enigmail and was very thorough about gpg key management, so they still get high marks on security from me.

So I’m sticking with Suse 11 for a while, though I might go over to GNOME depending on how the KDE4 thing shakes out over the next few weeks.

Bike month ends this weekend in the city, so I felt I had to bike to work at least once – it was great! Brooklyn to 101 Park (the Sun NY office) – six miles in just under a half hour.
My route, for those interested:

It’s a perk to having an office that I’d forgotten – I was a lot more awake than I usually am when I first sit at my keyboard. No bike parking or showers at 101 Park, but  those great friends of the bike commuter, talc and baby wipes, spruced me up nicely on arrival.

My first day was over a month ago (depending on how you reckon it – I count by when I was “onboarded” in Burlington, MA in late March), but I am finally settled in enough to have a Sun blog. It’s been quite a ride.

This could (and may) be the subject of many posts in this space, but I thought I would start this one with some observations of what it is like going from a smallish company (MySQL was ~60 when I started and ~400 when we were acquired) to a largish one (Sun is close to 34,000 today).

Sun is big. I remember a statistic from 9th grade physics that the number of basketballs you can fit in the Earth is roughly the same as the number of Earths you can fit in our local star. I think there is a similar ratio for the number of MySQLs (offices, people, servers, etc) you can fit in the terrestrial Sun.

Some interesting first-month facts:

  • My local office (ok, it is New York City) is significantly larger than MySQL’s largest – I’d wager about the size of the top five MySQL offices combined.
  • The local Systems Engineering team (see prior disclaimer) is exactly the size of my globa SE team
  • My new employer’s largest product was in Manhattan two weeks after I started – they needed to close the Holland Tunnel to get it there.

Is it going well? Am I itchy to jump ship?

I’m listening to the comforting clicks of my Sun keyboard sending keystrokes to my SunRay 2, with the dogs sleeping over on the couch in my Clinton Hill home. My team is still hitting it’s targets, my company is the largest contributor of Ope n Source software of it’s size (still), we are regularly dismissed by our larger competitors and shredded on Slashdot for the business model we pursue. Business as usual, except the targets are getting bigger, the competitors massive, the critics more shrill.

Pass the Kool-aid.