No Ultra 20 for me…

Sun finally put up details about their “Free Ultra 20 with a three-year service/support contract at $29.95/month” offer.

It’s not actually $29.95/month. It’s “three yearly installments of $359.40”.

Since I don’t have $359.40 free right now to blow on something like this (I *did* have $29.95), it will have to wait. 8-(

20 thoughts on “No Ultra 20 for me…

  1. I just put the annual payments on a low interest credit card and upped my monthly payment to the card by $40. Not quite the same, but it works.

    I was also disappointed that the program was advertised as “$30 a month” but was really $360 a year.

  2. My Ultra 20 just arrived! Alas, everyone at Sun seems to be clueless about this machine. It arrived with all software pre-installed, but not one shred of documentation beyond a useless “setup” guide that did not remotely match the actual boot process, which asked a slew of questions and apparently requires that reverse-DNS be configured for the IP address you assign the thing.

    There is no documentation CD, no Solaris installation media, and lots of fluff stuff like a demo “solutions” CD (with, amazingly, not ONE Solaris demo on it!) The registration card says only “Be the first to know! Go to” This link goes nowhere.

    I called tech support, but I don’t have a support contract number, and after two days nobody can find out where my support information is. They can’t find the machine s/n in their systems. One Sun person solemnly assured me that I can’t possilby have an Ultra 20 because the first ones won’t ship until August 26th, yet my machine plainly says “Ultra 20” right on the front of it.

    It’s been a while since I used Solaris, and a lot has changed. The default Java desktop replaces CDE (I’m sure I can get CDE going if I try). This desktop is very clean looking, but rather sluggish. Dragging a window results in many ghosted copies of the window dragging behind — very ugly, and very tedious after just a few minutes.

    Oddly, the default $PATH is so primitive that even ping doesn’t work. I doctored it up, but still haven’t been able to get any of the clearly-existing Jave Studio packages to run. There are no obvious launch icons for these, and no printed docs, and no system-resident or online docs that anyone can point me to. There are install CDs for the various Studio things, but they appear to have no manuals on them — just some VERY complex installation instructions for installing from scratch. Sheesh! This can’t really be this hard!

    I installed a third-party package installer, called pkg-get, that let me install some useful open source tools to make the machine usable — ethereal, debuggers, etc.

    The machine looks absolutely stunning sitting there in the corner, giant SUN logo in 500-point type blazing away on the side. Sun gets an A+ for pretty box design. Alas, they get a D- for out-of-the-box experience. I’m not expecting to have my hand held every step of the way, but I expect SOME sort of basic guidance from Sun. A Getting Started guide. SOMETHING!

    Ah, there’s Sun calling me back again now… False alarm, just a Sun techie telling me that his group can’t help me because they don’t support the Ultra 20 and he doesn’t know who does.


  3. Call Sun support. Have the serial number ready. Tell them you want to escalate the issue. Don’t take “no” for an answer. Failing that, you can get ahold of me though Bill, and I will try to put you in touch with the right people.

    Also, you can send mail to scott dot mcnealy -at- sun dot com if there is no resolution. He reads his mail, and he’ll want to know if somebody is unhappy.

    I’m surprised you have a U20 as well, last I knew it would be another week before they shipped. (I’ve got two on order, one for work and one for home.)

  4. OK, Sun now has a ticket open on my questions. I spoke with three different groups today, and all of them had interesting things to say but none knew anything about how the Ultra 20 is supposed to work. One found a page of Ultr 20 documentation that I hadn’t located before (it apparently just appeared at

    This person mentioned that a holdup might have been the need to translate the docs into ten languages. I noted that since they almost certainly have not shipped any of these to non-english speakers yet, it might have been politically expedient to send the English version on CD with the unit (or make it available for download) at the same time the hardware became available. In any event, I poured through these five manuals, only one of which is useful for getting the thing working: Sun Ultra 20 Workstation Getting Started Guide. This has the magic incantations for setting path variables and accessing the Sun Studio stuff.

    All this book really does, though, is let you launch the Studio components. There is nothing here about how to use them or understand them. I’ve not found such a starting guide online anywhere either. All the docs at related to Studio are about Fortran, C++, blah blah blah, all drilled-down-detail stuff. I want The Big Picture.

    So far this has been a much fun as pulling your own teeth. Come on, Sun, lend a hand!


  5. Mel, I work for Sun and am responsible for the Ultra 20.

    Can you tell me if you systems had an Ultra 20 logo on the front bezel? This would indicate that you received a production machine.

    The software on the pre-production machines varied fairly signficantly from the production machines. For example, there are icons for all the Studio tools on the desktop for the production sw load.

    I will work with my documentation person to bolster up the U20 documentation and point out where to obtain more information on the tools and on Solaris itself.

    I will also work to escalate the response from our Service Team. I apologize for your experience.


  6. Matt,

    How does one get the 29.95 per month offer that sun advertised? Last time I checked it was against California law to advertise an offer then charge 12x the advertized amount.

  7. Matt,

    I just received my U20 as well…documentation is lacking, and very annoying that the Sol 10 media isn’t included. I don’t like the disk layout(of the pre-installed OS), and want to re-install x64 Sol 10, but when I try and boot the CD (media I burned awhile ago) it doesn’t have drivers for the console, and doesn’t get any farther…no fun. Please advise.

    Also, is the BIOs controled RAID supported with Sol 10 at this time? I have no problem using SVM…but was just curious.


  8. There is a small plane that has been flying around and around the Dell campus with a huge banner saying ” Sun has x64 servers…WATCH OUT DELL! …the plane has been flying around for well over an hour now.

  9. null, I’m on the engineering-side of Sun and don’t have exposure to how the $29.95 works. I know marketing is working to address the monthly vs. annual billing. I don’t know the details though.


  10. Eric said:
    >> I just received my U20 as well…documentation is lacking, and very

    Do you have some specific suggestions? I’m starting a cross-functional
    exercise to improve information presentation on the product

    >> annoying that the Sol 10 media isn’t included. I don’t like the disk >> layout(of the pre-installed OS), and want to re-install x64 Sol 10, >> but when I try and boot the CD (media I burned awhile ago) it

    see if the following URL helps:

    >> doesn’t have drivers for the console, and doesn’t get any farther…>> no fun. Please advise.

    >> Also, is the BIOs controled RAID supported with Sol 10 at this time? >> I have no problem using SVM…but was just curious.

    I do not believe S10 has RAID drives. You would have to use the VM.


  11. Well, let me say that I just received my Ultra 20 and I am likewise disappointed. I haven’t even had a chance to check it out, because mine came with the NVS280 card which I’m guessing disabled the on-board ATI video. Unfortunately, I don’t happen to have a DVI monitor. I was hoping that there would be some option to use the on-board video, but there’s nothing in any of the docs I can find (someone directed me to the “system technical service manual” or some such, but I can’t find anything like that). Right now it looks like I’ll have to get a cable and drag the whole thing down and plug it into my TV to get to the BIOS! I really want to like this machine, but it sounds like it’s going to be an uphill battle to get it working.

  12. I just received mine also, but I’ve been too busy to have time to hook it up yet.

    I would have to agree though with the documentation issue, I suspect Sun wasn’t prepared for the number of end users getting these. The amount of docs might be okay when you’re a VAR getting a stack of Netras, but not for an end user.

    I also agree on the Sol 10 media. I went and ordered the media kit just because I’ve got better things to do then downlod and burn discs.

    As far as drivers, I think the “Supplemental CD” that is shipped is supposed to have them, no?

    TO TRACY: if I’m reading the documentation right removing the extra video card should re-enable the internal one. All the usual disclaimers apply…

  13. Just as a quick follow-up, I went out and got a DVI->VGA adapter for $25 (didn’t know such a thing existed) and I’ve been able to get my video working. Went through the preliminary config and managed to get it partway up (it doesn’t seem to take DNS server info from the DHCP response, I may have to hardwire something). I’m a little stuck due to my unfamiliarity with Solaris, but I’ve got a book on the way that should help with that. Thanks to Dave K for the video info, wish I had the same resources you do!

  14. Tracy, most of the information specific to the Ultra 20 has come from the docs at:

    I’m having no trouble with DNS, the Ultra 20 is connected to a Linksys BEFW11.

    I did had problems with the X setup, it never asked me about it, never did anything. I had to remote login and do the setup manually. I assume I could have interrupted the boot and gotten in single user, but I haven’t tried that.

    Being an anal-retentive sysadmin, among the first things I did was make a backup of the initial config. First chance I’ve had to use fssnap, pretty nice.

    I’m finding it fun to see how many little differences there are in setting up a (mostly) stand-alone machine versus a fully networked one.

  15. Well, things are looking up. I still want to change my IP address from DHCP-served to a quasi-static one, but I haven’t managed to thread down through all the init files and (smf?) stuff to figure out how to manage this. But I did manage to get DNS working, and a user account created (after figuring out that /home is for remote mount points, and /export/home is for user accounts — why wasn’t useradd(1) informed of this?), so I’m stylin’. The machine is very quick, and I’m looking forward to getting some serious Java development done.

  16. Just received my Ultra 20 yesterday and would echo the earlier comments great hardware very unfriendly set-up , mine would not update the time and date from the initial set up (ie reverted to Jan 1 , 1970) this caused the java desktop not to load (panel fault due to bonobo crashing) after repeating the set up process several times ( usr/sbin/sys-unconfig to restart and re config) I realised it wasn’t me , out of desperation i tried setting the time using date (eg date 100615302005) and bingo it loaded straight away.

    If Solaris is to have a growing future it’s going to have to get a lot friendlier – if this was my experience with ‘pre-installed’ software I dread to think what a full install would be like!! Most developers now are used to popping in a Linux or Windows cd and it just working.

  17. I ordered and received my Ultra 20 about a month ago. I also ordered the extra 512MB of RAM. Booted and did the config with only the 512MB of RAM in the machine and all went fine. Then I remembered the other 2 chips and put those in and booted up. Machine hangs during the Solaris load every single time. I take the additional chips out, it boots fine. I even swapped the 2 additional chips with the original chips and it works fine. Every time I put in the full 1GB of RAM it hangs.
    Opened up a call with Sun. They too were confused that I had an Ultra 20 as they had no record of the S/N. After a couple of calls to support my issue was finally escalated to their backline and they opened up a bug report on this. It has now been a month and no response from them. The 2 chips are just gathering dust. Anyone else seen this issue?
    And yes, configuring X has been a nightmare. I’ve tried Xorg and Xsun and have had issues with both. I love the box, I just want it to work…

  18. Obviously late to the party, but I too had a dimm problem. Lo and behold one day a packaged arrived via regular mail (?) with 4 new dimms to replace the defective ones. No call, no email, no nothing before or after. I still have a full set of 256 dimms (albeit not usable in the u20) if anyone is interested.

    Sun could use a lesson in customer service.

    Also had a defective cpu…which was replaced as well.

    Other than that quite pleased since then…

  19. Ubuntu works great on the ultra 20. Been running it on my work u20 since it got here last fall. I played with Sol10 on it when I first got it but found that both xsun and xorg are flakey at best in solaris. Also dont switch keyboards between boots as this brakes the windowing system.

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