Archive for June, 2005

Flickr accessible again

26/06/2005

Good stuff. On Friday I wrote that Flickr.com had been blocked by the proxy you have to go through in the UAE to access the web. According to people in the office, several other similar photo sharing sites had been blocked as well.
Today it’s accessible again. I’m pleased that the process they have for reversing unfairly blocked sites seems to work well.
Now people in the UAE can view the photos from my thrilling blog again!

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Sun Rays as health hazards

26/06/2005

I will probably be mobbed the next time I go to a public place in Dubai. I’m clearly becoming extremely famous after being extensively quoted two weeks running in the IT press.
Cleary there’s a lack of experts here to consult 🙂
Last week I spoke about biometrics, which was interesting. The article was good too.
This week I’ve been quoted in IT Weekly talking about thin clients. My quote gets a headline – ‘They only need to replace it when someone spills coffee on it. The only time you need to upgrade is when it becomes a health hazard’.
I fully expect to visit customers in ten years’ time who are still using their Sun Rays. The back-end applications may have changed, but the device will still be there on the desktop, costing nothing to manage. The ear-wax, bogeys and layers of coffee stuck to the keyboard might be off putting, but the device itself will still be going strong. No Windows Terminal can beat that.

How to trash your rental car

24/06/2005

We had a pleasant trip to Wadi Tayyibeh today.
Starting about an hour and a half out of Dubai, it’s a nice easy route through what used to be the old road that was used to get to the East Coast of the UAE. Today it’s pretty rough in some places, but there are still stretches of tarmac left. This can be pretty bizarre – after bumping over some rocks, you then get 30 metres of perfect road, before it ends suddenly.

The end of the road!

There were three cars – us, Peter in his Nissan Patrol and Duncan in his Nissan Pathfinder. Duncan brought along his girlfriend, Catherine, housemate Julian and friends Abi and Andrea.
The start of the route was quite fun, with some large rocks to crunch over. I stuck the Jeep in low range and let it pull us along, occasionally touching the accelerator to nudge us over the bigger stuff.

Midway along we came across an abandoned hire car, which appeared to belong to Hertz.
Quick quiz – which of these two vehicles, both made by Nissan, do you not take down a wadi?

Correct. You take the 4 wheel drive, six cylinder 4.8 litre monster with massive tyres. You don’t take this one:

To have got this far, the underside must have been scraped to pieces.
The date palms are ready to harvest at the moment…

…but these chaps prefer eating trees.

We had a quick picnic lunch and headed home. A really pleasant afternoon’s driving.

Flickr blocked from the UAE

24/06/2005

Hmmph. I’d started using Flickr.com to host photos I want to share with people or link to from this blog. It has a great automated uploader application so you can upload everything at once, it’s easy to use and it works really well.
Unfortunately noone in the UAE can access Flickr at the moment as it’s been blocked by the telco we have here. Internet access here is controlled.
The telco has a process to unblock sites which is supposed to work well, so hopefully within three working days Dubai based friends will be able to see my pics again…

Flickr blocked from the UAE

24/06/2005

Hmmph. I’d started using Flickr.com to host photos I want to share with people or link to from this blog. It has a great automated uploader application so you can upload everything at once, it’s easy to use and it works really well.
Unfortunately noone in the UAE can access Flickr at the moment as it’s been blocked by the telco we have here. Internet access here is controlled.
The telco has a process to unblock sites which is supposed to work well, so hopefully within three working days Dubai based friends will be able to see my pics again…

Work from home, says the government

22/06/2005

One of the governments in the region I cover is launching a ‘work from home’ initiative. I’m waiting for some more details from the local country team, but it sounds like there will be some kind of financial incentive provided to encourage and enable this to happen.
Sticking a PC in your employee’s home is expensive to manage on a large scale, as well as insecure. Sticking a Windows Terminal is pretty much the same. Sticking a Sun Ray there is different. Here’s how the business model might work for companies with standard office applications, if a local telco or service provider can take the lead.





Of course, the technology is half the story. Sun’s experience of implementing our flexible office has now been used to create consultancy services around managing the whole process – with people being the most important part. Technology comes near the bottom of the list of things to do if you want things to be successful.

Camel burgers!

20/06/2005

For what it’s worth, here’s a rather sweet picture of a baby camel I came across whilst going through my photos !

Burst tyre at Fossil Rock

18/06/2005

Although it’s really heating up now, we did one last offroad trip yesterday. Alastair wanted to test out his new Jeep and Dean had some friends over from the UK, so I suggested a trip to Fossil Rock.

Fossil Rock is a great trip for new offroaders as it’s fairly straightforward, with stunning scenery. Since it’s so hot I didn’t think it would be a good idea to do anything too strenuous, as digging people out of the sand in the heat would be pretty unpleasant. As it turned out, we ended up doing a fair amount of manual labour.
Alastair manged to get stuck shortly after we’d set off from Al Awir.

It turned out that his tyres weren’t properly deflated, so we did a quick deflate, dug a dip out in front of the wheels, gave him a push and he was off without too much sweating.
We made good progress, bumping over the low dunes and shrubs on the way to the more exciting stuff around Fossil Rock.
On a raised section just opposite Fossil Rock, we came across the remains of a Jeep Cherokee.

I’ve no idea what happened here. It puts a bit of a dampener on things!
The sand was pretty hard and not at all churned up, so Dean’s Prado handled the dunes and hills very well. I was impressed.
Here’s the view from half way up Fossil Rock itself –

Alastair descends a dune –

Up until now things had been very pleasant and uneventful, but mild disaster then struck. After driving around Fossil Rock and climbing as high as you can get with a car, we descended the great slipface that takes you down to the base of the mountain. After that the plan was to head straight to the road and drive home, but Alastair’s Jeep had other plans for us.
Alastair had just descended the big Fossil Rock slipface and powered over the last stretch a little too quickly, bouncing his wheels at least a foot and a half up in the air. I’d just stuck my head out of the car to see if I could get a picture of him, so I could see him grinning like a loon, thoroughly enjoying the ride. Unfortunately I also noticed that his rear passenger side tyre was totally deflated.

Just in case it had only popped off the rim, I got the Max Air out and we tried to pump it back up.

Air just blew straight out however – there was quite a large rip!

Time to get the wheel off and put on the spare, using one of my sand ladders to stop the jack sinking in. Alastair’s so strong, he could have held the car up himself, but the jack made things easier.

To get the spare wheel on I had to dig out a fair amount of sand and rock out, as we couldn’t angle the wheel in place.

Finishing touches…

…and we headed off. In the wrong direction. My GPS had run out of batteries and I took us all 15 minutes down the wrong road. We found our way back home in the end though.
A very nice afternoon’s drive, but I’m very glad it wasn’t too humid!
I’ll keep the Jeep over the car we saw at the start of the day –

Can’t wait for September to roll around so we can get out in the dunes again.

Playing with Solaris zones

15/06/2005

Since I’m not flying this week (or for the next two weeks either!) I’ve had a chance to catch up on some of the technical stuff I’ve been meaning to play with.
I finally gave Solaris Zones a try today. This link has a quick and easy ‘getting started guide’/intro/howto.

Using rdesktop to print from Windows to USB attached Sun Ray local printer

14/06/2005

I tested out printing from Windows to a Sun Ray with a locally attached USB colour printer today. Everything worked perfectly.
I was using my laptop with Solaris 10 and SRSS 3.1 alpha as the Sun Ray server. The Sun Ray happened to be a Sun Ray 150 and the printer was an Epson Stylus Photo 870.
1. Get the printer working with Solaris.
I plugged in the printer and fired up the ‘printmgr’ gui to add it. When choosing the port in the gui I choose ‘other’ and cut and paste the path to the printer. The path looks something like this –
/tmp/SUNWut/units/IEEE802.080020c541af/dev/printers/EPSONW44440307221338300
To find it, navigate to /tmp/SUNWut/units and then the mac address of the Sun Ray with the printer attached to it.
The exact Epson model is listed in the printmgr gui, so I selected it and the gui automatically selected the correct driver.
Once this was done, I could happily print to the printer from StarOffice or from the command line. My printer was called ‘test’, so this worked –
cat /etc/hosts | lp -d test
2. Get the printer printing output from Windows apps.
I installed rdesktop using the pkg-get tool from Blastwave. rdesktop is also available as a binary from Sun’s download site.
Also on my LAN was a Windows 2003 server with Terminal Services enabled.
On the Windows server I made sure that drivers for Apple PostScript printers were available and identified what looked like a color Apple Post Script printer driver. I don’t have the machine in front of me now, but the driver was called something like ‘Apple Color LaserWriter NT’.
I connected to the Windows server (called ‘windows’) from rdesktop with the following flags to map the printer (remember, the printer is called ‘test’ – [1]
rdesktop -r printer:test=”Apple Color Laser Writer NT II” windows
After that I could print perfectly, in colour, from Windows apps to the printer attached to the Sun Ray.
During the same testing time I also played with Tarantella Enterprise Edition for Solaris x86, which also worked flawlessly, printing from remote Windows and Unix sessions.
I’m impressed – it all worked very well. I could print stuff in Arabic, pictures, etc, etc, with no hitches.
[1] I’m fibbing slightly. The first time I tried it I used the model of the printer, rather than choosing a PostScript printer –
rdesktop -r printer:test=”Epson Stylus Photo 870 ESC/P 2″ windows
Printing didn’t work – the printer juddered, but nothing came out. You need Windows to be outputting PostScript, which Solaris then translates into the format the inkjet printer needs. Janos Cserep pointed me in the right direction.
To do this in Linux you’d need to install CUPS. We have an internal doc that describe the steps to take.