Skip to main content


Showing posts from 2007

A cynic's view on the Sun-Network Appliance lawsuit

I've been thinking about the Sun - NetApp lawsuit, which is an interesting case that highlights what is wrong with the Patent Office in the US. I don't necessarily think that all software patents are bad, and that innovation should be rewarded with temporary monopoly on a piece of technology.

However, this lawsuit shouldn't have happened, because at least one of the patents in question should probably not have been granted in the first place. David Hitz, founder of Network Appliance, has a blog in which he contends that Sun's ZFS violates patents held by NetApp for their WAFL. If that's truly the case, Sun should certainly be held liable, and should stop publishing ZFS as open source code. You can't give away what isn't yours.

The larger issue, in my opinion, is that it seems significant claims of the WAFL patent should never have been granted. There exists a significant amount of prior art in the use of a "tree of block pointers" to maintain logica… fixed

Well, it appears that is now fixed, after a few weeks of serving up invalid time. Presumably, the clocks on millions of Windows machines worldwide are now slowly drifting back into synchronization with the rest of humanity.

I find it rediculous that such a problem could go unnoticed and unfixed by Microsoft for so long, and that it took a Microsoft participant on a programmer's blog reading about it to track down and correct the issue.
U:\>w32tm /monitor /, []:
NTP: +0.0541156s offset from local clock
RefID: [] []:
NTP: +0.0293621s offset from local clock
RefID: [] is broken... is your clock off too?

It seems that is broken, reporting unsynchronized time off by two minutes or more. Why is this a big deal? is the default Network Time Protocol server used by the Windows Time Service in Windows XP, 2003, and Vista systems. So there are literally millions of systems out there without an accurate source of internet time.

I have personally reported the issue to Microsoft, and Akamai as well (they seem to host the actual servers). But there has been no response from either for several days. Reports on the internet indicate that has been broken for at least a week!

Fortunately, it is easy to switch to a different time server. If your computer is part of a Windows domain at your workplace, it will get time from your domain controller by default, so you don't need to do anything. If your system is a domain controller, or is stand-alone, you should run these commands: C:\>w32tm /config /manualpeerlist:",0x8" /sy…

Linux plunge not working out so well

So I don't think Linux is ready for laptops. Well, my laptop anyway.

The first problem I encountered was with screen resolution. I didn't have an option for the "native" 1280x800 widescreen resolution of my Dell 700m. After digging through the Ubuntu support forums, I discovered that I had to install a small utility called 915resolution. It was a minor pain to track this down, as there were several contradictory sets of instructions found with Google, but running this command:
sudo apt-get install 915resolution
and restarting seemed to fix things.

My next problem was with WiFi. Ubuntu's network management applet didn't show any available wireless networks, despite the fact that I know there are dozens nearby my home. Reboot into Windows, do some more browsing, and discover some diagnostic tests to run. Boot back into Ubunutu. It appears that command-line tools can see wireless networks nearby, but Ubuntu's GUI is broken and doesn't list them. I could deal…

Taking the Linux plunge

So I've got a decade or so of Windows-based network administration experience. However, my formal computer science education was rooted in Unix back in the early 1990s. We used Sun workstations exclusively back then, and almost all programming was in C or Scheme. I even wrote a simple C compiler.

But my first job was at a Netware 3.X shop, which we transitioned to Windows NT 3.51, and I've been managing large, multi-site, but mostly-Windows networks ever since. (I've also done a lot of DBA and security work too). So I'm not a neophyte when it comes to IT, but I don't have much Linux experience, as none of the jobs or projects I've worked on used Linux.

I finally decided to install Linux and actually try to use the thing regularly. I've done "toy installs" of various Linux and BSD flavors over the years, mostly in in Virtual machines. But this was my first real go at using Linux regularly.

I picked Ubuntu 6.10 as my distribution, based mostly on reput…