My Sun Blog Page

I just noticed my old blog home page on blogs.sun.com is still accessible.  Although it’s still displaying the Sun Cloud template, I suspect it will get Oracle-tized soon.  Here’s a screen snapshot to preserve my old blog in its final resting state, in case the site gets decommissioned like the rest of sun.com.

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Farewell Sun Microsystems

Today is my final day at Sun Microsystems 😦  After 12 1/2 years, I’m still not ready to let go.  It has been such a fun ride!  I had the opportunity to work with some of the smartest and most wonderful people, many of whom I consider my personal friends.  I have enjoyed the opportunity to work with many ass-kicking technology, and implemented world class Websites and download infrastructure.  Along the way, I have gotten married, bought a house, completed my Masters in Engineering Management, started a family (1 child so far) and gained a few pounds too.  Aside from the dot-bomb era and the many RIFs that followed, the journey has largely been rewarding!

Although the spirits of Sun Microsystems will live on, as a company it has already been subsumed by another great company, Oracle.  Soon after the deal was approved on Jan 27th, 2010, it was with mixed blessing that we raised the Oracle brand on www.sun.com and the various Sun Websites in the US.  It felt weird to be wearing another team’s jersey for the first time, despite having over 9 months (April 20, 2009 News) to mentally plan for this transition.  Many great Sun employees have bid farewell to this great Silicon Valley icon.  Our fearless leaders Jonathan and Scott are gone too, though they left some kind and inspirational words for the lone troopers who are still here.

Last Thursday, I submitted my acceptance of the offer from my future employer, Oracle.  I’m lucky that I will be joined by my long-time Sun buddies:  Yong, Gary, and Michael; though it still won’t be the same.  This reminds me of a popular saying at Sun that “change is constant”.  Well, I’m looking forward to both the challenges and the opportunities that come with this change.  Next Monday, I will start the new journey.  Farewell, Sun Microsystems.  You have been good to me.  To all the former Sun employees, I look forward to staying in touch with you via LinkedIn and FaceBook.

In the words of Scotty, we sure “Kick butt and have fun!”

Alfred Chen, Sun Employee #39534

P.S.  Wondering what will happen to the Sun Microsystems legacy?  Check out:

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this blog are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Oracle.

Alfred’s Blog Has A New Home

I have recently migrated my blog to WordPress.  Please update your browser bookmark or blog reader subscription with the new address for my blog:

https://chenalfredc.wordpress.com/

In the next couple months, I will continue to re-post most of my blog entries on my blogs.sun.com account to give you (my audience) a chance to complete the transition.

Thanks

Alfred

Learnings from the Advanced Download Widget

Recently, we released a new feature to the download platform that powers the Sun Download Center.  Internally, we refer to it as the Advanced Download Widget (ADW).  Essentially, it’s a Web component that can be deployed on any Sun-branded Website, to deliver an integrated and streamlined download experience.  Working with Lifecycle Marketing, we have also integrated the ability to present the user with a free offer (e.g. whitepapers, training, etc.) that complements the download.  It’s completely optional, but to receive the free offer, the user will need to login with a Sun Online Account or create a new one.  To see it in action, checkout the Java ME SDK 3.0 download page.  Although the project was generally successful, there were some lessons learned (in terms of went well and what can be improved from my own personal perspective) that I would like to share via this blog for future reference.

When developing new Web functionality that relies heavily on Web browser technology, it’s important to understand your users.  Do they largely run on a single Web browser / platform combination (Intranet apps), or do they span the gamut in browsers and platforms used?  The answer may greatly affect your project plan and testing strategy, so find out before you start on your project.  Sites such as Wikipedia publish aggregated Web browser usage stats for the Internet, but it is better to take your own measurements if possible.  Our sampling of a very popular Java download yielded slightly different distribution with 48.6% running Internet Explorer and 40.8% running Firefox.  The data helped shape our testing strategy.

Given the constant evolution of the Web browsers, it’s not always practical to maintain backward compatibility to outdated Web browsers; however, forward compatibility for new releases should definitely be a priority.  Internally, you want to establish guidelines on the Web browser makes and versions, as well as the browser platforms that you can support.  This way, you can provide Engineering and QA with clear expectations on the testing scope and staffing needs.   It’s also good to have designated personnel who keep tracks of the product roadmap for key Web browsers.  During the development phase for the ADW, new version of Firefox (3.5) and Safari (4.0) were released, but they were not on our radar.  We later uncovered some minor incompatibilities with these Web browsers during the testing phase that prompted additional round of testing and contributed to some avoidable schedule delays.

One key aspect of project management is accurate planning of the time and resource it takes to complete the project.  While the Development and QA phase are largely determined by Engineering’s estimates, the business generally drives User Acceptance Testing (UAT) and therefore estimate the resources and duration required for UAT.  Because the project scope varies from release to release, successful UAT planning requires a good blend of gut feel (art) and common sense (science).  By applying past experience and intimate knowledge of the system to the bug fixes and enhancements in scope, you can devise a rough approach to the UAT test plan and test cases.  From the estimated time for completing each test case and the availability of UAT testers, you can then derive the duration required to complete 1 round of user testing.  When testing new features that relies heavily on Web browser technology, be sure to add extra time and/or testers for targeted cross browser/platform testing.  Finally, allow time for bug fixes and at least a second round of user testing to make UAT a success.

Finally, while the project life cycle ends when the release goes live, the product life cycle continues on.  By product, I’m referring to the system or the download platform in this case.  Although it’s possible to roll out new features that meet the user’s needs on day 1, quite often the road to nirvana involve a couple design iterations.  To avoid the design-in-a-vacuum pitfalls, it’s essential that you have ways to collect feedback and gain insights into the user’s real world interactions with your system.  In our case, we chose to conduct a usability study to gather feedback from a diverse group of users whose experience with Sun ranges from none to developers and Sun customers who are quite familiar with our Websites.  Although the usability study was insightful, we plan to integrate Omniture into future releases so we can measure and assess the usability of the ADW across the entire user base.  Meanwhile, we have other ways (see my blog on The Voice of the Customer) to collect and act on customer feedback as well.

The Voice of the Customer (VOC)

One way to develop a better understanding of the customer’s needs is to simply ask for their feedback.  Through out sun.com, you will notice a floating [+] icon in the lower right corner of your Web browser window.  When you click on this icon, an OpinionLab scorecard pops up allowing to you provide input on your Web experience as it relates to the content, design and usability of the current page.  Below is a screen snapshot of a sample scorecoard:

Recently, we added the OpinionLab icon to the Web pages for the download application that powers the Sun Download Center.  In the month of April alone, we received 481 ratings through the OpinionLab scorecard.  90 people chose to provide additional feedback through the Comments field. The overall rating was 3.5 out of 5.  It was a bit lower than I expected.  Again, this is why we’re asking for your input, so you as the customer can help drive further improvements base on your needs.

I would like to thank you if you took the time to provide us with your feedback on the Sun Download Center.  While I cannot share the specifics of the feedback that we received through the Comments field, I can say that most of the comments were fair.  I’m still flattered by the number of people who are fans of Sun, our products or the Sun Download Center.  Regarding the constructive feedback related to the download experience, if it’s actionable, we will definitely include the enhancement in one of our upcoming releases.

A New Perspective

It has been nearly 2 months since I last blogged.  I was sidetracked by recent changes at work and in my personal life.  In my expanded charter at Sun, I’m now responsible for defining and implementing a  2-3 year Download platform strategy and road map for supporting Sun’s business model on the Web.  At home, my 10 month old baby girl started attending daycare 3 weeks ago.  As predicted by my friends with children in daycare, my baby girl got sick within the first week.

When work and personal life gets hectic, it’s easy to loose focus on our surroundings including our families, friends and the broader community.  With the recent meltdown in the stock market, undoubtedly everyone’s mind is on their investments and retirement funds.  The going joke is that the 401K should be aptly renamed the 101K.  While the government appears to be aggressively tackling the financial problems, the looming news of a major recession is having an even greater impact on the less fortunate people.

This past week, a small group of Sun employees volunteered at the Glide Memorial in San Francisco.  We spent 2 hours serving lunch to the poor, the elderly, and the homeless who depend on Glide for 3 nutritious meals a day.  The door at Glide is open 365 days a year, and it’s open to everyone.  During lunch alone, they serve up on the average about 700 to 900 meals.  But without funding from local government, grants and individual donations, as well as help from volunteers to help serve the meals, this non-profit organization cannot perform its miracles.

I signed up for the volunteer event, because I needed a break and  because it was an opportunity to bond with my co-workers.  I walk away with a new perspective, with greater appreciation for my own welfare and greater recognition of the needs of the less fortunate.  I want to spread the word and encourage you to consider how you can help during such difficult times.  Lastly, if you have never volunteered at Glide, I highly recommend that you try it at least once.  I walked away feeling really good about my service.

Download Du Jour – FireFox 3.0

First of all, congratulations to the FireFox Community on establishing the Guinness World Record for the most software downloads in one day.  As one of the 8,002,530 people who successfully downloaded FireFox 3.0 on June 17th, I feel privileged to be displaying the FireFox 3 Download Day certificate on my Blog.  After all, I simply downloaded the latest version of the Web browser (for my Macbook Pro) that I already use daily for all my Web activities.

Well, it has been 2 1/2 weeks and I have not encountered a single crash.  Performance has been great and all my existing add-ons upgraded without a hitch.  Thanks to FireFox 3 I’m enjoying my Web surfing experience even more so.  Kudos to the developers who work on the Mozilla projects.

There are so many new features in FireFox 3 that I simply haven’t had the time to test drive them all.  Among the new features, my favorite include the Password Manager, Instant Web Site ID, and the New Location Bar with One Click Bookmarking.  I’m also a big fan of the FireFox 3 Download Map (Cool page, not a feature.) which provide an at-a-glance view of the latest FireFox 3 download stats across the globe in a very visually engaging manner.  I hope we can provide similar reporting UI for the software downloads at Sun.

Speaking of Sun, I was disappointed to not find FireFox 3 for Solaris readily accessible on the FireFox home page.  As it has been with prior releases, the download links to the Solaris port of FireFox 3 is buried in the Release Notes under Contributed Builds.  You really need to dig for it.  Well if you have been looking to download FireFox 3 for Solaris 10 or OpenSolaris, today is your lucky day.  I have conveniently provided the download links here on my Blog.

Download FireFox 3 for Solaris here:

Platform / Format
Download Link
Checksum README
Solaris 10, SPARC (Tarball) firefox-3.0-en-US-solaris-10-fcs-sparc.tar.bz2 cksum readme.txt
Solaris 10, SPARC (Pkgadd)
firefox-3.0-en-US-solaris-10-fcs-sparc-pkg.bz2 cksum readme.txt
Solaris 10, x86 (Tarball)
firefox-3.0-en-US-solaris-10-fcs-i386.tar.bz2 cksum readme.txt
Solaris 10, x86 (pkgadd)
firefox-3.0-en-US-solaris-10-fcs-i386-pkg.bz2 cksum readme.txt
OpenSolaris, SPARC (Tarball) firefox-3.0.en-US.opensolaris-sparc.tar.bz2 cksum readme.txt
OpenSolaris, SPARC (Pkgadd)
firefox-3.0.en-US.opensolaris-sparc-pkg.bz2 cksum readme.txt
OpenSolaris, x86 (Tarball) firefox-3.0.en-US.opensolaris-i386.tar.bz2 cksum readme.txt
OpenSolaris, x86 (Pkgadd)
firefox-3.0.en-US.opensolaris-i386-pkg.bz2 cksum readme.txt

To download FireFox 3 for all other supported platforms (Mac OS X, Windows, Linux), checkout the FireFox Home Page:

Download FireFox Now!