It seems that JRuby is more than just an entertaining and challenging project; it's also getting attention from folks that matter at Sun Microsystems.

Tim Bray, Sun Web Technologies director and XML specification co-editor, has recently taken an interest in JRuby. He's corresponded by email with both Tom and myself, and has offered useful insight here and there. It's good to know people are watching JRuby and wishing us well.

Of course, a couple free machines never hurts either.

Tim managed to "jar loose" a couple beautiful Sun Ultra 20 machines, one each for Tom and I. I can't speak for Tom, but considering the dismal condition of my home data center, the new machine is a welcome addition.

I generally have nothing but good things to say about the Ultra 20. We received the base "Large" model as listed on Sun's store; I'll save you a click and paste specs here:

Sun Ultra 20 Workstation
1 AMD Opteron Model 152 Processor
1-MB On-Chip L2 Cache
2-GB Memory
1 250-GB 7200 RPM SATA Disk Drive
1 Quadro FX 1400 Graphics Card
1 DVD-Dual Drive
1 10/100/1000 BaseT Ethernet Port
6 USB Ports
2 IEEE 1394a Ports
1 PCI-Express x16 Slot
2 PCI-Express x1 Slots
4 Conventional PCI Slots (32-Bit/33-MHz)
Sun Studio Software Pre-Installed
Sun Java Studio Creator Software Pre-Installed
Sun Java Studio Enterprise Software Pre-Installed
Solaris 10 Operating System Pre-Installed
3 Year Warranty, 3 Year Parts Exchange

Any review I might give would be impossibly biased by my complete lack of experience with recent hardware. Before the Ultra 20, my fastest machine was my 1.6GHz Pentium M Dell laptop, which overheated when running unit tests too vigorously (producing no end of colorful metaphors from yours truly). I had no desktop, having converted my poor old 1GHz Celeron homebuilt into the headius.com server. Suffice it to say that the Ultra 20 is by far the fastest, quietest, and most impressive workstation I've had the pleasure of using.

Before this machine, the stories of AMD chips trouncing the top-end Intel equivalents were merely anecdotal. Now I get it. The Intel machines I use most days almost seem broken in comparison. Given that AMD topping Intel only means Intel will work harder to create more competitive chips, this bodes extremely well for the next crop.

My only disappointment was that my old 17" Mitsubishi monitor, the only remaining working monitor in my house (don't ask about the 21" Viewsonic that met its untimely demise at the hands of a leaky basement window) was unable to work out-of-the-box with the pre-installed Solaris 10. I was keen to give it a shot, but it seems it will have to wait until I upgrade to a better screen. Hopefully, that will happen in the next week or two.

I would whole-heartedly recommend this machine (or even one of the lower models) to anyone that needs a new box. Even the base "Small" model is still far faster of a machine than I've ever used, and it seems to be priced well. Again, take my star-struck (Sun-struck?) opinion with a grain of salt, but having a powerful, inexpensive computer with a Sun logo on the front seems like a pretty sweet deal to me. YMMV.

In the end, however, a blazing fast machine means faster development, faster test runs, and faster progress on JRuby. Who knows, perhaps I'll even have time for the other 9000 projects I'd like to tackle.

Thank you Tim Bray, and thank you Sun Microsystems.
Written on March 27, 2006