Archive for December, 2005

Back to Blighty


Off back home to London today for Christmas, back in the office on January 2.
Emirates will be whisking us on our way, hopefully with the TV on demand systems they have in their newer Airbuses.
I’m really looking forward to going back. I enjoy living in Dubai, but need to escape every so often and Christmas at home is always great fun.
This will be my fourth Christmas since coming to live in the UAE. Every year I more feel more and more like a visitor in my home town rather than someone coming back home. It’s still very much ‘back home’ – just a bit different on each trip. It’ll be interesting to see what emotions being home in Richmond give rise to this time around.
One thing I always notice is how haircuts change and fashions chance while I’m away. The worst phase was the spikey mohican every bloke under 25 started sporting. An increase in the use of gel was noted during our trip home in July. Yuck.
As a style icon myself, I feel the short back and sides, spikey bit at the front and sideburns have a certain timeless appeal 🙂

Getting SchoolTool running with Solaris


A customer of ours is looking at SchoolTool, as well as considering Sun Rays with Solaris on AMD for their school environment. SchoolTool is written in Python and has packages for Windows, Mac OSX and Linux available, but nothing prepackaged for Solaris.
It’s very simple to install, although the readme misses out a couple of critical steps and there is a small error in the Makefile. I used a recent build of Solaris Express running on my Toshiba laptop, but I expect any Solaris version will work fine, providing the right versions of Python and libxml are installed.
Here are the steps I took.
* Download latest source distribution from SchoolTool website.
* Unpack into /usr/local, which gives me /usr/local/schooltool-0.11.3
* Ensure I have the latest versions of Python and libxml2 and that my PATH is correct. I use pkg-get to get the latest GNU stuff and handle dependencies.
* cd into /usr/local/schooltool-0.11.3/Zope3 to build Zope.
* Link gcc to Sun’s /usr/ucb/cc
mv /usr/ucb/cc /usr/ucb/cc.orig
ln -s /usr/sfw/bin/gcc /usr/ucb/cc
* Run
python install
* The readme file misses out a step here – you need to run make next to complete the installation of Zope. Whether you use Sun’s make or GNU make compilation will fail with the error ‘Command failed for target ‘bin/runzope’. This is due to there being no bin directory present in the SchoolTool directory. Make the bin directory and run make:
mkdir bin
* Everything appeared to compile correctly.
* Build SchoolTool.
cd /usr/local/schooltool-0.11.3
python install
* The readme misses out a step here. You need to run make again.
* Create a copy of the example server configuration file:
cp schooltool.conf
* Make any changes necessary. It seems to work out of the box, but you may wish to check that it doesn’t conflict with any other web servers currently running.
* Start the schooltool server:
* The schooltool server started and listened on the defaultport: port 7080. I accessed it via http://localhost:7080
Login with username manager and password schooltool

Sun Ray Smartcard FAQ


I had to put together a little FAQ on Sun Ray smartcards for a customer recently. Since this info doesn’t seem to be in one easily accessible place on the web at the moment, I’ll post it here.

* The smartcards that Sun ships are Schlumberger PayFlex smartcards. They are actually now technically “Axalto” Payflex cards since Schlumberger spun off it’s smartcard division. That division
is now a separate entity called Axalto.

* A full list of the various cards supported is found in /etc/opt/SUNWut/smartcard.

* Cards based on ISO-7816-1 are supported. Cards with a T=0 or T=1 communication protocol are supported – you’ll need SRSS 3.0 or later to get T=1 support.

* When buying cards from a vendor other than Sun, nine times out of ten no special ‘activation’ is required. The Sun Ray simply reads the card’s serial number, no special pre-work is needed.

If the card is not instantly usable you will get an icon in your screen with a symbol representing Sun Ray and a card and a green arrow from the card to the Sun Ray.

If you look at auth.log and see that the card has not been recognized you may need to create a smartcard config file in /etc/opt/SUNWut/smartcard and include it in the probeorder.

Vendors who produce Sun Ray compatible cards:


Giesecke & Devrient:

G&D’s Card Solutions:,64822&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL

SecuNet for consulting and integration of Card solutions :

Oberther Card Systems:

Activcard for the middleware:


First Secure Global Desktop orders


The SEE region has had its first orders for Secure Global Desktop.
Two countries, two different customers, well over two thousand seats in total. One success will provide full screen Windows to Sun Rays and other clients. The other will provide access to remote Windows apps to Windows PCs.
Hopefully we’ll have some case studies out soon.
Congrats to the Sun and partner teams involved, you know who you are!

Can’t launch Object Manager


I’ve seen a couple of customers testing SGD (Tarantella) have a problem with launching the Object Manager or running the standard preconfigured Linux applications after installation.
A quick workaround is to turn off xauth –
tarantella config edit –security-xsecurity 0
Turning off xsecurity is only a workaround though. The solution is to configure the
SSHD in ipv4-only mode. tells us what to do –
“Using SSH and X authorization
If SSH connections fail, when X authorization is enabled, you may have
to run the SSH daemon in ipv4-only mode because Secure Global Desktop
may not support the xsecurity extension used on your server. You enable
ipv4-only mode by editing your system SSH configuration file. For example:
* On SUSE Linux, edit the /etc/sysconfig/ssh file and add a
SSHD_OPTS=”-4″ line.
* On Red Hat Enterprise Linux, edit the /etc/sysconfig/sshd file
and add a OPTIONS=”-4″ line.
Note If the SSH configuration file does not exist on your system, you
can create it.
You must restart the SSH daemon after making this change.”
Thanks to Steve Mellor and Rick Butland for helping me out with this.

Voting for the new Iraq


A friend of ours who works for a Sun partner here came into the office today with the tip of one of his fingers died blue.
Mo was born in Iraq but grew up in the UK, now lives in Dubai and holds dual British/Iraqi nationality. He went to vote in the Iraqi elections at a site a fair way out of town, with lots of security. There were literally hundreds of candidates on lots of huge sheets of paper. I’d love to have seen it.
A bit of Middle Eastern history on show in the Sun office.
Mo’s off to Baghdad next week to start working on some IT projects there. One of the first will be with a local financial company whose IT manager is an American Iraqi. Like many others he has ‘gone home’ to take part in the rebuilding. The problems they face are huge. Forget about what resolution you’d like your monitor to be – let’s worry about power, someone stealing the VSat dish and people blowing your branches up.
I don’t see myself going to Iraq for a long time.
One of the guys in our office was surprised recently when an Iraqi passport with his name in it turned up in his pigeon hole at work. He’s Lebanese and also holds a Canadian passport. His grandfather was a businessman who worked in Iraq and his father happened to be born there in the 50s, which entitled my colleague’s father and his immediate children to Iraqi passports from the new regime. Dad submitted his old 50s passport, got a new one for him and his family and sent his son a surprise new nationality in the post.

Best ever spam name and subject?


Beat this for an inspired combination of names and subject in today’s spam email for under the counter ‘performance enhancing’ drugs.
From: Israel Fleurant
Brings to mind an exchange student from dressed in paisley shirt and big flares, flouncing across campus, waving to the first year history of art students.
Subject: Commissar Cantankerous
A grumpy Eastern European ex-military man, now running a vast network of illegal toxic waste dumps. Forerunner of Star Wars’ General Grievous?

I know you did. I read it in your blog.


I had some interesting ‘blog’ experiences over the last week or so.
Whilst chatting about various subjects to people I either hadn’t seen for a while, or better still had never met, I kept getting the response ‘I know, I read it in your blog’.
This poses a dilemma – if I write about things in my blog, will I not have anything to say to people any more?
The feeling that you’re repeating yourself to people you’ve never even spoken to before is quite strange.

Best hotel room view yet?


The Cairo Four Seasons on The Nile is without doubt the nicest place I’ve stayed in during my time at Sun. It gets a solid 9 out of 10. Make the breakfast a bit more interesting and fix the handle to our meeting room door and it’ll be honoured with a coveted 10 out of 10, courtesy of my world famous hotel rating method.
Can you beat this view from the balcony?

Traffic chaos!

England win Dubai Rugby 7s


30,000 people in a small stadium and a thoroughly successful event. Ladies and gentlemen, this is testament to why queueing is a good idea. You can’t hold these events if people aren’t prepared to respect eachother and wait their turn. Civilisation, human rights and a growing economy can’t exist if people won’t queue. Bear that in mind next time you shove your bag in front of mine when going through the X-Ray machine just before Dubai airport’s duty free. I will continue to remove it, place it on the floor and direct you to the back of the line. Stopping at Zebra crossings is another symbol of civlilised life, but that’s another story.
Onto the subject in hand…
The Rugby 7s were great fun. I’m not a sports fan generally, but the quick pace of 7s games coupled with the well organised event and the great atmosphere made for two super days out. There was supposedly some trouble in the stand that we were in, triggered by some morons throwing the melted water from their beer buckets over spectators in front. This caused someone to take offence and a fight allegedly ensued, but we didn’t notice anything untoward. Apparently this was the only trouble that took place, which is pretty amazing when you consider the number of green tins consumed by most people there.
England won, of course.

The final against Fuji was very close and very exciting.
Our stand had the most hideous collection of English Beer Bellies sitting near the stairs. About a dozen heart attacks waiting to happen managed to consume such a vast number of pies and beers whilst sitting, shirtless in the blazing sun from 11 in the morning to when we lest around 9, I’m amazed they were still able to sit upright. Sadly I wasn’t able to get a photo.
Darren, Mark and I showed Tabu that not all rugby fans are beer bellied monsters. They can be quite alluring, if they make the effort.

Mark, Me, Darren
Pete and Quintin happily indulged in traditional 7s style behaviour.

The only thing the organisers could have improved on was litter collection. By 8 in the evening the stands were beginning to get pretty litter filled. Better traffic policing on the way to the stadium would be welcome too.
That said, a great event, highly recommended.