Category Archives: Computing

Hardware, software, computer science and the rest

(Not) downloading Solaris 10

The most advanced operating system ever built is according to Sun Microsystems Solaris 10. Last Sunday I decided to try out the latest update release Solaris 10 6/06 on my ULTRA60. Because I have frequently problems with NFS and NIS on my Powermac (running Mac OS X) I wanted to try out whether another operating system on the server makes a difference.

I went to Sun’s websites and followed the download links until it asked me to login using my Sun Online Account. I entered the username and password that I registered years ago (if I remember correctly for downloading Java) and selected the Solaris for SPARC DVD link. But instead of the requested download I got a form which asked me to update my personal information. That was actually a valid request because the data was out of date. I therefore updated it and submitted it. The result was something which looked like an empty web page. It took a moment to realize that it was the bottom of a mostly emtpy web page. I scrolled up and found this error message:

Fatal Error: We’re sorry, an unexpected error occurred, so your transaction cannot be completed at this time. Please help us resolve this error as soon as possible by e-mailing our support department at ( Download Center Customer Service ) the name and/or URL of the page you were on and a copy of the following error message:

And the real error message was missing. Neither entering my personal data again nor creating a new account helped. I finally followed the advise above and submit a support request. Here is the information I put it (as quoted in the reply I got from Sun):

Name: my account name
Email: my e-mail address
Feedback Type: Download
Browser: Firefox
Version (if known):
Operating System: Mac
Product Name: Solaris 10 6/06
I’m trying to download Solaris 10 6/06. After login in and clicking on the link for the SPARC DVD image I’m asked to enter my account data. If I do that and press on the “Update” button I get a page with a message about a “FATAL ERROR” on it. If I press reload I’m back to the SDLC page and after clicking on the link for the SPARC DVD image the problem repeats itself.

Note that I made the mistake to specify acurate information for the platform I was using to download Solaris. And here is the reply I got from Sun:

Dear Sun customer,

We do not currently provide software that supports the Mac environment. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you. For possible suggestions or workarounds, please visit the Java Forum at the following URL:

Please feel free to contact us with any further questions.

name removed

Sun Customer Service Specialist

Now I know that I cannot update my Sun Online Account because Solaris is not available for my Mac. Thanks a lot, I’m glad you told me that. I guess I have to ask Apple whether I can get Mac OS X for my ULTRA60 instead. 🙂

My little Bugathon

Elad Efrat, one of the most active NetBSD developers in the last few month, recently organized NetBSD’s first Bugathon. It was a successful effort involving NetBSD users and developers to reduce the number of open bugs report against the NetBSD operating system.

I tried to contribute myself but was fighting with adverse conditions when I finally had some time. I nevertheless managed to take a look at two bugs:

  1. PR bin/24583: /etc/security doesn’t parse /etc/exports correctly
  2. PR bin/28492: more(1) doesn’t handle NUL data blocks well

The first PR was easily solved because Jukka Salmi already supplied a fine working patch. I only applied it on two of my systems (NetBSD 3.1_RC3 and 4.0_BETA), checked my e-mail the next morning to make sure that the nightly scripts worked fine and committed it.

I’m still working on the second PR because I cannot reproduce it so far.

Running a server at home

I keep a server running at home 24/7 for ten years now. It started with a small 486 CPU based PC running NetBSD 1.1. Back then no ISP rented out servers and hosting your own machine in an ISP’s data center was very expensive. Running my server at home wasn’t that cheap either because of the analog leased line required for the permanent Internet connection. But it was really cool to have your own website, a permanent feed into your news system and mailing lists which operated in realtime.

Over time I got more bandwidth for less money and upgraded both the software and hardware of my server. These days it is a Pentium M CPU on a desktop motherboard with four SATA drives and a RAID hostadapter running NetBSD 3.0_STABLE. It provides mail service for my family and a few friends, hosts my websites (including this Blog) and is the fileserver for most of the computers at home. Running these service myself provides me a lot of flexibility and better service compared to the offerings of a lot of ISPs. But it also requires work to maintain the infrastructure and reliable Internet connection which provides fixed public IP addresses (what makes it more expensive).

A lot of other people prefer renting a server in a data center these days. There are numerous advantages of course:

  1. Less noise and heat at home.
  2. More bandwidth.
  3. Somebody else maintains the hardware (although you might have to pay for that).
  4. Your don’t depend on the reliability of your home Internet connection so much.

One of my fellow workers recently rented a server from the Hetzner Online AG because he doesn’t trust his cable connection at home – I wouldn’t trust it either :-). And foolish as I am I argued with him and told him that my DSL link is reasonably stable.

The universe does of course not forgive such bold statements and punished me. Two major BT outages within 24 hours, a power fluctuation this morning (no machine rebooted but the DSL modem lost the connection) and two more connection failures during the afternoon tought me humility. Only after I decided to write this Blog entry and admit my defeat the universe forgave me and stopped playing yo-yo with my DSL.

Despite the advantages and the problems in the last 48 hours I will continue to run a server at home. Besides the effort of relocating my server I also prefer to have certain services (e.g. the fileserver) at home and not in a data center, mostly for performance reasons. And splitting the services between two machine would only cause more work. My hope is of course that in a not so distant future you can get a 1Gb/Sec low latency Internet connection into your home which allows you to use a server in a data center just like the one you used to have under your desk at home. Such a setup would provide the advantages of both solutions and open new opportunities. I’m stilling dreaming of nice thin clients which I could give to my familiy members for reading e-mail and surfing the web. And if they have problems with their Windows PCs afterwards I can simply refuse to fix them. 🙂