Original URL: https://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/01/13/google_pdp_opensolaris/

Google, PDPs and OpenSolaris put readers to the test

Can you make it to the end?

By Ashlee Vance

Posted in Bootnotes, 13th January 2006 23:49 GMT

Letters Call this our attention span test.

The quantity of e-mail received this week - in conjunction with leftovers from CES - has made individual "letters" efforts on our Google Video, a PDP history site and OpenSolaris for Power chips stories impossible. So, we're putting the burden of dealing with this mess on you.

First, we'll start with some perspective and letters on the Google Video column. That's our short attention span course for the youngsters - and likely Google fan boys - out there.

Next, it's off to some clarifications on Paul Allen's PDP museum. That's the medium attention span test, as you history buffs will likely hold out for page two or be smart enough to make your own way there.

And, last we go to our embarrassment of a story on OpenSolaris for Power. We really dropped the ball on that one. We are not, however, hiding our shame on page three. It's simply a story with the narrowest audience and so stands as our supreme attention span test.

Now, to Google country.

Three or four of you took real exception to our Google and CBS release embarrassment of a video store opinion piece. One objection was that we are stupid assholes. The second objection was that Google has labeled this horrible store a "Beta" site, and so it deserves to be horrible.

The most polite and rational letter arguing for the beta merits came from Matthew Natali. His delivered one of the few non-flames on the topic.

I do believe that Google is over-hyped, and that the product they have up is inferior to iTunes. The problem with your argument is that this is a Beta version. Yeah, you can say they shouldn't have released a Beta version this bad, but that is their philosophy, and so far judging by their stock price it isn't too bad of a philosophy.

In today's online world we like to lambast every decision that a company makes, but if you want to be respected and not look like another typical complaining blogger, you should give companies a chance to release their products.

That missive beats the heck out of "Do you understand what beta means? Get a clue." from someone called Iceboxqs, and we really appreciate Natali's perspective.

Screen grab shows one CSI video available

It's the most popular show on TV. Why bother with more than one download?

We are, however, sticking by our original opinion on the matter. Google has a host of products that have been in beta for years. Google News, for example, has stayed relatively the same during its lengthy beta run, making us wonder why the designation exists at all.

Some software companies have made a habit out of running long betas, so time isn't the only issue. No, the real problem is that Google is selling product here. It's fine to put out a test version, but don't trick the consumer into thinking it works fine. For instance, we purchased a Charlie Rose video, and weren't told until the purchase was over that it wouldn't play on our Mac. The receipt sent to our e-mail account has said for five days that instructions will arrive on how to retrieve the video for our Windows machine. No suck luck.

But we're nice guys. So, Page and Brin can keep our 99 cents.

Lots of Charlie Rose photos

Hmm. Should I watch Charlie Rose or that Charlie Rose guy?

And, in fact, Google Video seems to mark the first time the public hasn't popped an erection for whatever Google produces. Our story ended up on Digg.com where most of the readers tore into Google. Ars Technica gave Google a drubbing as well, saying

"Compared to the established competition, the store's interface and navigation is clunky. That is due in part to its reliance on a web browser, but with Google's experience with content-rich web applications, it seems it could have done better with its video store."

As usual, Nick Carr turned a nugget into something much more profound by questioning the beta culture Google pushes.

Thankfully, Google seems to have taken notice of the mess it created. After one day, it managed to find a NCSI video to put under the NCSI tab. It also removed all the photos of Charlie Rose with no description of who he was interviewing and has replaced them with a few photos of Charlie Rose that do describe the interview. That's turning little value into value, and it's appreciated.

Still, the store remains hopelessly thin and is an embarrassment when compared to rivals. With any luck, Google will use the 99 cents it gouged from us to make some improvements.

The most major fix, according to you guys, would be to open the store to international users. Thanks for all your letters on that. There's little we can do, but you might try calling co-founder Brin. We hear he's from Russia.

That's enough of us.

Oh come now, Googles site does have some redeeming qualities. I mean where else can you get a episode of survivor, Barney vs. tupac and some girl called Megan shaking her hindquarters all in one page?

Actaully come to think of it, I think I would rather see Barney take out tupac than an episode of survivor.


Nate Griffin

You are spot on about the quality of the interface for this service and CBS should probably quietly drop out of it, but after just a few minutes of playing with keywords, I found some pretty funny stuff. Didn't take long to find some silly videos with a sexual flavor either, although nothing truly explicit showed up yet. I suspect that may change quickly if anyone is allowed to submit links and/or video. I wonder how Google plans on preventing this becoming just another TGP site for explicit video? Therein lurks huge potential embarrassment for old media.

Mark H

Although it is in Beta, you have a good point. The Star Trek episodes aren't in any kind of order, like air date or episode number.

Jeremy Davis

You do realize that Google Video is still a beta product? It is not meant to be the final form, in fact it is far from the final form. Please before you go about bashing companies for something they are doing, make sure that it is the final product, not a test release.

It even says Beta on the google video site.

Matt Greene

Couldn't agree more -- google video was kind of a disappointment after they hyped it up so much.

you should check out www.youtube.com, they have not received nearly as much press but it is absolutely impressive what they've done.

J Schachter

The NCIS from the drop-down menu comes up with "0 results found". Why? Why include something you do not have? Hello Mr. Page, wakey wakey!

Sahil Choujar

In fairness, any clunkiness and lack of content is entirely wiped away by the inclusion of the superb System Administrator song - http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-7193470719293309352.

Martin Hanley

With regards to the google video store, does anybody else find it rather ironic that one of the videos on the front page is 'MacWorld Boston 1997'???

Perhaps this is a ploy to make people think that is the last time Apple actually did anything worthwhile? Perhaps no one in Googleville realises that Macs are made by Apple? Or perhaps the Googleites are just burying the hatchett and are holding out the hand of friendship?

I htink that the Goole video store would be more successful if it just put up a big sign sayng "Buy you videos from itunes, they're great compared to us!!!" and then they could put an affiliate link underneath to make some money every time someone clicks on it and buys something from itunes :-)

I htink it's high time the people at google loaded up a copy of Google Earth on their PCs as they have clearly lost their way.....


Rob Smith

Take a look at ITN's offering on the video store. For $0.99 you can buy a 17 second video about Hadrian's wall. Because previews are set at 30 seconds, you can see all of it before you buy it. Maybe the purchased one is higher quality. I just can't be bothered to find out.

Paul Morriss

Hi Ashlee,

I don't quite understand what is so terrible about the google video interface.

My honest and impartial opinion is that google video is one of the most important developments of recent years.

It continues the google tradition of relevance and links to free content along with the option of paid for content. Ok, its not as snazzy as a fully branded itunes experience, but I think in the end people will prefer googles open and honest architecture rather than the rather selective 'walled garden' which apple provides.

Obviously time will tell...

graham beale

What classic HTML design. It brings back fond memories of the first Web pages I did in the mid-90s. I bet it looks even better viewed under Windows 3.1.

Cheers, Tony Coates

And now off to the PDPs.

Our biggest mistake with the story Microsoft founder opens PDP fetish site was a pretty fundamental one. The site isn't new. Many of you wrote in saying it has been around for awhile. We're not quite sure why Paul Allen's PR minions decided to issue a press release calling it new, but we fell for their trap.

Our second mistake, in some peoples' opinion, was celebrating the collection of a billionaire when the PDP collections of a few regular blokes are even better.


Enjoyed your article on pdpplanet - though it is rather 'old news', the site has been up for nearly a year AFAIK. Perhaps it's a relaunch.

When it comes to a collection of ancient computers, Mr. Allen (although his approach is very professional and doubtless well-funded) is a rank amateur. Have a look at my Corestore:




I suppose it's petty of me, but I think you shouldn't speak of "the PDP", because Digital produced many very different machines designated PDP-something, including families of 12-, 18-, 36-, and 16-bit machines ranging from desktop to room-sized.

And Paul Allen's pdpplanet web site has been up for quite a while.

Jud Leonard

... zo, no mention of pdp-11, cos then they'd've had to talk about ..... *nix ! Ha!


I was amused to see the related links at the bottom of the PDP article include one to Plasma Display Panels. Obviously the keyword matcher hasn't had enough history lessons top understand what a PDP really is.


Yeah . . . . keyword matcher. That's it.

I am amused to see the PDP referred to as an example of the inconvenience of early computing! You could use compiled or interpreted human readable languages such as Fortran and BASIC on them - surely an enormous step up from the programming of truly early machines like EDSAC (simulator at http://www.dcs.warwick.ac.uk/~edsac/). C, of course, was developed on them and for them. And compared with mainframes of the time (e.g. the IBM 360's JCL - a nightmare if ever there was one) they had a user friendly operating system - UNIX, for example? They had the potential for running real time graphic displays as well - the first PCs didn't (though this was soon rectified by companies like Hercules).

Best wishes

Paul Cooper

So I bowl over to the site you cite where Paul Allen gloats over where they flogged all the ideas for MS-DOS, drift to the blog of their system restoration product and trying to View All http://www.pdpplanet.com/TemplateRestoration.aspx?contentId=8 I'm greeted with

Server Error in '/' Application. Unable to validate data. Description: An unhandled exception occurred during the execution of the current web request. Please review the stack trace for more information about the error and where it originated in the code.

Exception Details: System.Web.HttpException: Unable to validate data.

Source Error:

An unhandled exception was generated during the execution of the current web request. Information regarding the origin and location of the exception can be identified using the exception stack trace below.

HttpException (0x80004005): Unable to validate data.] System.Web.Configuration.MachineKey.GetDecodedData(Byte[] buf, Byte[] modifier, Int32 start, Int32 length, Int32& dataLength) +195 System.Web.UI.LosFormatter.Deserialize(String input) +59


Mark Robinson

"The PDP stands as one of the great machines in computer and server history. It ignited a trend to put powerful computers in the hands of business of all sizes, instead of just government and corporate giants. It also freed up compute power to individuals."

It is also well known for being the first Unix platform. Unix was written on a PDP-7. See http://www.faqs.org/docs/artu/ch02s01.html.

No PDP, no Unix. No Unix, no Linux.

Is Paul Allen trying to tell us something here?

Bertrand Denoix


I just read your article on Paul Allen's PDP Planet site. It's actually be around for a while. As a matter of fact I've just shipped 2 VAX 11/785 systems to Paul from my shop. My company (Shiresoft) does antique computer restoration (I specialize in DEC). I have a fairly large collection of PDP-11's, PDP-8's and a KL-10 (in process of being restored).

My website (www.shiresoft.com) is a bit out of date as I've been busy shipping PDPs to other fanciers of "old iron".

Guy Sotomayor

Your news article on the PDP brought back fond memories from '82, when fresh out of college I'd joined up a (now defunct) computer training institute in Delhi to learn COBOL programming. We expanded the PDP C-130 the institute used in their coaching classes to "Please Don't Push" after a 'field trip' to their server room in the presence of a paranoid instructor. Great times!

Farhiz Karanjawala

There's also a lively PDP discussion happening over here.

On we go to OpenSolaris and Power.

We clearly have no shame or problems with full disclosure, and our story OpenSolaris ready to power up on IBM's PowerPC requires a helping of both.

First off, we fell into the trap of thinking the OpenSolaris port was aimed square at IBM's version of PowerPC. Not true. As we amended the story to say, it's Freescale country first.

Second, we weren't quite explicit enough on how long it will take for an actual living and breathing version of OpenSolaris to run on this chip.

An unnamed reader put us in our place.

The "Polaris" announcement was that they got the thing to compile. Further, they claimed that this constituted a port, but that is risably far from the truth. There are been little to no code actually written and there's a huge amount of PPC-specific code that would be required for something that could plausibly be counted as a port.

Several of you had similar feelings.

SunLabs did the port to PowerPC for v2.5.1, so it's a mixed effort of FOSS folks and SunLabs (SunLabs released their code to Blastwave). To date they have compiled the operating system (I am not entirely sure if it's Sol10). That's it. It has not been run.

They need to get it to boot, run reliably on modern Power architecture, they have to get a set of useful device drivers. Dtrace will have to be substantially written for Power PC if they want it. The whole thing will have to be QA'ed. If you are running this in a datacentre you are looking for reliability on a par with AIX, Linux on the same kit. And then (if you did want blades) you have to tie in some observability tools wth the hardware. And if you want to support decent IBM hardware, SMP.

This is a long and winding road, and is discussed in the dev groups. I really do hope they are successful, but please be realistic about the speed at which this will happen.


Read the article with interest, Sun originaly ported Solaris 2.5 to the PowerPC (For Motorola and IBM) back in the late 90's. We couldn't get customers or ISV's interested, even when we showed the speed of PowerPC vs SPARC and x86 vs SPARC (SPARC always came last).

[Name supplied]


Now IBM will have an OS strategy.

[Name supplied]

And the folks behind the project had this to say.

In our opinion, the Sun approach makes sense:

1. Tap into an open source community. They started with the OpenSolaris Pilot Project and they kept their eyes open. As the opportunities arrived, they channelled them. In this case, it is Blastware/PowerPC (vs. Blastwave/x86-SPARC). The Blastwave Community already existed, had a proven track record and do a good job. It was easy for Sun to leverage Blastwave. They just watered the plants that grew. Blastware was one of the unexpected plants that popped up.

2. The ODW is an open, flexible platform. The developers themselves chose it. Sun saw we had a community around the platform and Sun management channeled opportunity toward us - it other words they honed in on the opportunity as it proved itself by itself with time. It was probably just as hard for Sun management to do this internally as it was to do so externally. They have done a great job on both counts. Don't forget the some of the Sun engineers leading to Solaris open source charge today might have been the same ones that five years ago would have thought that unthinkable.

3. Once the ISA and platform decision was made, the question became where to head first. Embedded markets make the most sense - higher margins, less competition, and even some complacency when compared to the supercharged-everyone-is competing-against-everyone in the commodity oriented Intel space. Embedded development is more specific and more targeted. The 32-bit PowerPC of Freescale has followed a more traceable evolution than the jump to hyper-space with the 64-bit G5 that is just finding its legs of IBM. Solaris 2.5.1 was built for PowerPC. In contrast, an IBM offering would need to be supported by a more complete package than what could be useful to Freescale sooner. So, Sun started there. Instead of maybe needing all things possible in the IBM environment, Sun could focus on some specific opportunities around Freescale chips that would not require a full suite of OS support and this would allow them to move into markets where they were not currently. It is a growth opportunity!

In our opinion, Sun has the most compelling big company vision for the future of this market. We respect Sun because they act on that vision. Being a leader is not waiting for your customers tell you what they want, it is understanding and anticipating what they want and being there with it when they ask for it.

Raquel Velasco and Bill Buck http://bbrv.blogspot.com/2006/01/why.html

Well, my conscience feels unburdened. Have a great weekend. ®