Thursday, March 22, 2007

Institute of Advanced Study/Park City Mathematics Institute Admission

Much to my surprise yesterday, I received an acceptance letter for the IAS PCMI Undergraduate Summer Program that I applied to in Feburary. The PCMI Undergraduate Summer Program seems to be a highly-selective, focused program that brings together undergraduate, graduate, and high-school students. I've gotten a full fellowship to attend the program from July 1-21, so naturally, I have been doing a bit of research regarding what's in Park City, and it certainly seems to be an interesting place. The Wikipedia entry on Park City indicates its the home of the Sundance Film Festival, several extravagant restaurants, three ski resorts, and a load of factory outlet stores.

According to the information that was sent along with the acceptance letter, I'll be staying in a "studio condo unit" along with another attendee, and the pictures of the rooms do look very nice. There's something to be said for doing math in style at the foot of a mountain range.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Tadpole SPARCbook 6500

I recently acquired a SPARCbook 6500 through a liquidation of a telecommunications company. Its a very interesting and powerful system -- 650MHz UltraSPARCIIe, 4GB of memory, and 2x60GB IDE disks, which makes it plenty powerful for workstation/development purposes, as well as a portable Oracle server. Its been an uphill battle, though, getting a recent Solaris on it. Tadpole seems to have made a deal with Sun to resale Solaris 10 media with their drivers on it to customers. Unfortunately, one must pay for the media or purchase a new laptop to receive a media kit, as Tadpole does not offer the necessary ISOs or packages for download. I've heard through internal hearsay, though, that packages containing drivers for Solaris 10 Update 2 or 3 should be released at some (hopefully, near) point in the future.

For those of you that might be asking why drivers would be necessary, the SPARCbook utilizes a lot of interfaces Tadpole engineered on their own, like the power management unit (PMU), PS/2 keyboard containing the extra Sun keys, and the cardbus interface. Unless you have media containing the drivers, one is forced to attach a USB keyboard and mouse to do an install until you can install the packages Tadpole provides separately that contain the drivers.

Much to my surprise it seems support for the Tadpole PS/2 keyboard has been integrated into ON, and the keyboard works out of the box with newer Solaris Express releases. A fast-track request was presented to PSARC (Sun's internal Solaris core architectural commitee) to add more support for the interfaces that the various Tadpole laptops (including the SPARCbook) sport, so things are definitely looking up for those of us that want to be on the cutting edge with our SPARC-based notebooks.

On another front, it seems Xorg is finally being shipped in Solaris Express SPARC releases, along with the generic, 'wsfb' driver which supports ATI Rage cards, like the PGX32, PGX64, m64, etc. Fortunately, the SPARCbook 6500 (as well as most other Tadpole notebooks) have PGX cards, so I could be looking forward to Xvideo support in the future, which is something that the traditional Xsun X11 server has always lacked. Alan Coopersmith stated that 24-bit colour is currently not working properly with the 'wsfb' driver, but Martin Bochnig (another owner of a Tadpole notebook) seems to be working on it.