Of Machines Within 
Monday, 10 May, 2010, 12:53
Posted by Administrator
Yep, another post about virtual machines. Dead useful, these things.

Everyone who has paid more than a modicum of attention to anything computer-related knows that there's more than just Windows out there, and I'm referring to alternatives other than Mac OS. After all, if someone goes out and buys a Dell, HP, Toshiba, Sony, etc., how would that person then go and install Apple's operating system on that hardware? Don't get me wrong, it's possible -- I've done it -- but not without the procedure being a massive pain in the ass for someone who lacks the technical knowledge (or knows "just enough to be dangerous" ). Once that's done, you'd need to worry about Apple releasing an update that breaks it. That, and there are those with consciences who won't do it because Apple's EULA states that their OS should only be installed on Apple-branded hardware (easy workaround: take one of those Apple stickers that seems to ship with ever Apple product and slap it on the side of whatever you're trying to use).

But I digress. I'm not here to get on my "Apple is turning into Big Brother" soapbox. No, I'm here to preach about virtualization. This time, though, I'm talking about virtualization on a desktop rather than on a server. Desktop machines are pretty powerful lately and people are usually talked into buying beefy machines that they'll never fully utilize. Some software companies are lazy, further refining and maintaining their products on what is now an 8-year-old operating system, Windows XP, instead of moving to Vista (suppress your gag reflexes, people) and Windows 7. Still others are slow to acknowledge the existence of 64-bit extensions to x86 architecture, preferring instead to limit their memory-hungry applications to the relatively restricted 32-bit memory space. I, for one, am glad Microsoft Office 2010 is available in 64-bit form; makes it much, much easier to open and manipulate 16GB worth of email archives.

The lazy software houses are the primary reasons for desktop virtualization. Some industry-specific software packages won't run on Windows 7, much less the 64-bit version of that OS. Enter XP Mode -- what essentially boils down to a Windows XP SP3 virtual machine with TSGateway functionality bolted on, which allows you to run your XP applications in "seamless windows" on top of Windows 7. You can launch your XP applications from the Start menu, just like your "regular" applications. Don't try to play games on it, though.

XP Mode uses Windows Virtual PC, but there are other virtualization solutions that allow you this sort of seamless integration. VirtualBox (Oracle's product as of January 2010) does this, and is available for free. This is my preferred platform on the desktop. I have a total of 15 virtual machines on my desktop in the office that serve various purposes, from providing connectivity to our customers' VPNs to new feature testing to alternative OS playgrounds.

... and that brings me to another benefit: the ability to mess around with the alternative operating systems I alluded to earlier without the risk of killing your desktop. Yes, many Linux distributions offer "live CD" functionality, which allows you to boot into and run Linux from a CD instead of from a hard disk, but as you could imagine this is slow. These distributions allow you to install to your hard disk if you like them, but of course there are people who do just that and then wonder where all of their precious files have gone. Given a machine with sufficient power, a user can test-drive an alternative operating system from the comfort of their existing one without shutting down, rebooting, burning a CD, and so on. I wrote this post in Google Chrome under Ubuntu 10.04 while performing my other day-to-day tasks in Windows 7 Enterprise x64; with the default settings under VirtualBox, Ubuntu 10.04 installed just fine and the VirtualBox extensions went on without a hitch.

So ... do you have enough disk space? Do you know just enough to be dangerous? Do you have the itch to try out a new operating system while preserving your files and sanity? Virtualize it :)

This long-winded, not-exactly-coherent post brought to you by a cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee service swill.
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The baby wants a post. 
Saturday, 10 April, 2010, 01:20
Posted by Administrator
I figure if the baby wants Italian beef, a Big Mac, frozen pizza, pineapple sorbet, and homemade ravioli, the baby would want to post something on my website and, in turn, on Facebook. While I understand the food thing ... something tells me that a fetus is incapable of typing.

On to more nerdy stuff ... passing physical disks through to virtual machines is freaking fantastic. That whole I/O bottleneck thing is much, much easier to manage. I ran up a virtual SQL server recently and threw a couple of physical RAIDs at it (a two-disk RAID 1 and a 5-disk RAID 5). Before this setup, the SQL server was a physical machine with a two-disk RAID 1 and a 4-disk RAID 10. Yes, the RAID 5 is slower than the 10, but overall the performance of the virtual SQL server is only slightly slower. That's saying a lot, because the physical had 8 Hyper-Threaded cores (looked like 16 to the OS) and 72GB of RAM; the virtual has 4 cores and 32GB.

Toning down the geek ... Daisy is being hilarious right now. Julie's sitting on the sofa drinking water, and Daisy appears to have dropped something in the cushion on the end. She's digging in there and sticking her behind in Julie's face. Everybody knows a dog's ass is a biological weapon.

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Move gear up! 
Tuesday, 23 March, 2010, 23:40
Posted by Administrator
Entire team is babies! ... at least, one baby. Ladies and gentlemen, that is what is cooking right now -- Julie and I are expecting our first child. Let that settle for a minute. Good? Good.

In other news ... well, not much. I figure that's pretty big.
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Sunday, 28 February, 2010, 01:33
Posted by Administrator
Happy Birthday, Bob! :)
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2010 Auto Show Pics are Up! 
Sunday, 14 February, 2010, 03:26
Posted by Administrator
So, as per usual, I went to the Chicago Auto Show and too some pictures. I had three cameras with me but only ended up using two. Silly as it sounds, there's a reason for that: two of the cameras have model-specific battery packs, and one has a 64MB card and is too old to take new cards. All three are pretty old. I'd love to pick up a bitchin' DSLR and a huge memory card.

I took upwards of 200 pictures, but not all of them made the cut. I lean pretty heavily on the auto focus on these cameras, and the auto focus sucks almost as much as the steadiness of my hands. Some of these were just barely out of focus and were easily fixed with a quick sharpen, but others were just horrendous. In the end, I think there are only 110 photos left.

So ... link is in the bar on the right. Enjoy!
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