I haven’t written an off-topic post in a while, so here goes.

I’ve got a milestone birthday coming up in the next few months and the
missus has been at me to come up with some present suggestions. I’m
generally pretty bad at coming up with present ideas – I have most of
the stuff I need already.. For the same milestone, I got the missus a bunch
of diamonds, but they wouldn’t really suit me : I’m not into jewellery to be honest. I’m a tecchie.

So, it seems to be coming down to two possible options – either an iPod, or a
new computer. Oh by the way, if anyone’s got alternative ideas, I’m open
to suggestions.

Well, for the last while, I’ve actually been using my

laptop
as a large, slightly unweildly, but amazingly multifunctional
music player. Okay, I’ll admit for playing music, it’s overkill and battery life isn’t quite 8 hours, but it does the job for the 1hr walk into work
whenever I’ve got a puncture, so no problems there.

I’m starting to think about a new computer. The missus thinks
that I don’t need another machine – the last one I got was an iMac back
in 2002, but since it’s my birthday present, I get to choose ! (besides, she’s wrong
about me needing another computer ;-)

I saw the
announcement
of the
Ultra 20
workstation and got excited. This is something
that I can run Solaris Express on, do development of the Open Language Tools and (gulp) install win32 (just so I can play
Half-Life2 you understand : I blame Glynn for showing
me that back in March, I was hooked in less than 10 minutes. Installing windows will be extrememly gut-wrenching for me, but the game really does look so good that I’ll willingly run an atrocious, buggy, insecure and unpleasant operating system just to be able to play it. Thank goodness for grub and firewalls!)

I’ve never owned a Sun workstation – but have admired them for many years, and
mentioned it before : we’ve produced some really cracking workstations over the
years, and this one is no exception. It

screams along
. In the past, for me as a home user, getting a Sun workstation
was always going to be way out of reach, financially : but this one seems
pretty reasonable at only $800 – wow!

Regarding workstation design, I’ve never seen better built systems than Sun
machines. Have a peek inside your machine. Which of the following match yours ?
(now yes, this is a wildly unfair comparison – but induldge me for a bit, okay)

Apple

This is about as close to my Apple workstation as they’ll allow me to get, except
perhaps for the tiny door on the bottom to add RAM or an Airport. I believe this
one (and it’s succesor) is a laptop squeezed into a tiny space,
with some nice ergonomics. Okay, “workstation” is the wrong word to use here, this
is definitely a consumer device rather than a workstation, so I’m being a bit
unfair.

I like Apple machines, as does the missus, but they don’t run Solaris (yet?)
and I won’t be able to play Half-Life2. I’m still waiting on the iTunes port to
Solaris (yes, I did ask them – didn’t get a reply though) I’d also like Canon to
port their Digital Photo Professional software to Solaris too – again, no joy yet.

Dell

This is what the inside of my Dell machine looks like. Again, an unfair
comparison : this is an Optiplex GX110, and is a few years old (Pentium
III 733mhz with 256mb RAM, though it runs Solaris 10 just fine). Internally though,
doesn’t it look messy ? Newer Dell machines are a little nicer, I’ll admit, but
they’re still not a patch on a good Sun box.

Sun

Okay – here’s what I mean by a workstation : just look at this
! My
SunBlade 2000
(okay, not mine, Sun owns this one). It’s very well
designed. The 2nd image there shows a plastic wallet attached to the
inside of the case, with a leaflet explaining how to service the machine
(add processors, ram, disks, etc.) The 3rd image there is of a tool that’s also
inside the case, allowing you to remove the CPU board.
The “W” in SUNW means
Workstation

Historically, we’ve always
been building these sorts of machines – they’re fantastic : right back to the
SparcStation 1 pizza boxes, through
SparcStation 10s
and 20s, IPC, IPX and Classic machines, Sparc 5s, and Ultra 1s and 2s : all excellent
machines in their time.

Looks like the new Ultra 20 machines are continuing this legacy – are there
instructions on how to service the system on the inside of the case ? Yep, I
think so (haven’t yet seen a production version of the hardware yet) USB
and Firewire ports on the front, SATA disks, and a blazingly fast AMD processor
: and, for bonus domestic brownie-points, it even looks pretty :-)

Oh, and if you think our workstations are well designed, you should seriously
check out our servers

they’re just as good, if not better.

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