Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Case For Virtualization, Part II

About 1999 I started to experiment with WMWare because in those days I was really using Linux hardcore, but just like everybody else, I needed some stuff in Windows once in a while and the hazzle of rebooting was unacceptable for my legendary Linux uptimes. Those were the times in which the ultimate demise of Transmeta were still a non-decided issue.

In any case, it was yet another "fringe" experience I had, or so I thought, until early last year when I noticed that the subject of Virtualization became a hot topic again because AMD and Intel initiated roadmap wars around the subject. Thanks to Howling, the other blog contributor, who brought my attention to the subject, I approached the subject from another perspective.

It is clear that current processing capabilities have covered the needs of most usage patterns and then some. Thus, both AMD and Intel began to hurt due to the lack of compelling reasons for ever more powerful processors, stimulating them to find new markets for high performance. Besides, the trend towards multicore processors was already very clear, they had to also find markets for multiple cores in a world of predominantly single threading software. One answer which fitted both issues was Virtualization: Let us help mechanisms to put multiple computers inside a single hardware, that will require raw performance and also suits very well multicore/multiprocessor computing.

Then, it was clear how important the advent in full swing of this technology was going to be. There are many reasons for going the route of virtualization, I have wrote to fairly large extent about that in the previous articles; but I want here to remind of one which is crucial: Today the expenses in Software licenses and maintenance is much larger than the expenses related to hardware, therefore, it makes sense to configure every important, expensive, software package such as Oracle to the exact specification that the SW provider recommends. Often enough, the only way to do that is to dedicate a specific computer of the organization to run that software. Following that route, you fairly quickly stumble with the problem of server sprawl, that in your IT department the count of servers proliferated wildly. Obviously, it is very innefficient to have tens of uni-application servers each very underutilized, then it makes sense to "consolidate", that is, to reunite, all of those weak, inefficient servers, into a single powerful server, but partitioned into many virtual computers just like the fellow blogger of "Tall Sails" chronicles here and here.

I have been very attentive all of this year to technology commentary, but odly enough, I didn't see the subject of Virtualization to gain much traction, despite how crucial I think it is. For instance, I wrote "Pacífica Vs. Vanderpool" as early as Febraury, many months before the actual launching of AM2 and Rev. F; but that article didn't receive much attention either. Then, all along the year, I watched with delight how the subject became mainstream. Our friend from "Tall Sails" wrote about his Virtualization project in April, I kept blogging about the subject with "AMD64 practical" in July, and by that time the subject had become truly mainstream, as attested by the many invitations Diane Greene, President/Co Founder of VMWare received to attend just about every major tech. event such as AMD's Technology Analysts Day and Sun Microsystems, despite the truly uninspired participation of Mrs. Greene. In our local blogosphere neighborhood, I am pleased to have been blogging about Virtualization for over half a year before Sharikou, who emits opinion about everything and anything but haven't touched this subject yet, as far as I know, before "CM1" in which he just makes a passing mention of it*. Even "Jayelliii" is posting messages in "Ireland" about isolating from the newest DRM restrictions in Microsoft O.S. firing up a Virtual computer with an older O.S. that doesn't have the new restrictions.

Even our frenemy Bill Snyder posted an article about the subject, "EMC Becomes 'Virtual' Target"; that I want to prologue:

It can be safely said that this year is the year of the discovery of virtualization as an important computing tool. Nevertheless, there aren't many providers of V. technologies beyond VMWare and Xen. Microsoft is dong something, but incomplete; what matters is that there is no important "pure play" in the virtualization arena, VMWare, which is by far the most important provider, is merely a subsidiary of EMC.

The Eagle-Vision investor should be very attentive to these technologies, because they have assured exponential growth such as VMWare's 70+% revenue jumps year over year for the foreseeable future, and many different phenomenons are creating "a perfect storm" for it to succeed, such as the exploding power consumption bills, the combinatorial explosion of multiciplity of servers in datacenters, the jump in computing power due to AMD's and Intel's war to annihilation, the introduction of linear scalability x86 multi core computing by AMD Opterons, increased market awareness, the help Intel-VT and AMD-V (Vanderpool and Pacífica/Presidio) provide to Xen for paravirtualized approaches to run Windows on Linux, and many others.

By the time being, we can appreciate that the market doesn't know much about the subject because errors such as Snyder's happen without correction.

At the most basic level, virtualization allows a group of servers to be treated like one large computer. If one server is overworked, its load can easily be shifted to another running below capacity
This is not something only for servers, my previous posts demonstrate that it is as useful at the technical user level. And that rebalancing just happens "under the hood", automatically, without human intervention: All the single partitioned computer power can be dynamically distributed among the virtual computers that require it the most.

"Intel began adding virtualization to some of its chips as far back as 2005 and is adding more as it rolls out new processors. AMD is behind, but it's an open secret in the industry that the company's "Project Pacifica" will add similar capabilities to its chips in the near future."
This article was published "after the fact" that AMD trounced majesticly VT with AMD-V thanks to the help the integrated memory controller provides for virtualization. AMD is currently way ahead of Intel for I/O virtualization, only waiting for chipset manufacturers to come up with partitioning mechanisms for the I/O.
"However, virtualization capabilities in the hardware do lower barriers that have either kept out competitors or confined their efforts to low-end or niche markets, Bittman argues. "This will put VMware's business model on its head," he says."
I rather think that either VMWare or others will take advantages of hardware support to take the whole Virtualization idea to much higher planes of usefulness, to great market enlargement. Microsoft's entrance to the fray with a free product, "Virtual Server 2005 R2" (which Yours, Truly hasn't tested yet), only pushes forward existing VMWare businesses, Microsoft is using its marketing muscle to promote virtualization, a market in which undoubtedly VMWare is leader and therefore is a free rider of Microsoft's attempts at popularization. Besides, VMWare has the outstanding credibility of having supported Linux hosts from day one (even before Windows hosts!), Microsoft has yet to convince critics such as Yours, Truly that one can really run seamlessly a Linux O.S. in Virtual Server. But it is unpromising that Virtual Server is only able to run for "non-production use only" in XP Professional x64; I totally refuse to even consider installing a windows braindamaged server operating system.

(*)It caught my attention that Sharikou in his blog mentioned that he runs Parallels, a comparatively lame 15 days trial to the free of charge and feature rich VMWare Server, in a Windows 2000 host!, that is, at 32 bits rather than AMD64!, his blog is supposed to be about 64 bit computing...

On the other hand, here you have seen discussion of running XP x64 as host (or any other AMD64 O.S., the proper thing to do!) and whatever as guest. (I also did the opposite test, an XP 32 host with XP x64 guest, and the x64 ran on all "16 registers").

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Virtualization Articles Index

Hello Audience.

I am overhauling the blog creating some categories such as Virtualization, Dell, Microsoft, Options and Derivatives, to post catalogs in which I cross reference what I say about them and put the indexes in the side bar.

Toghether with the backward links in the articles themselves, the "links to this post" blogspot feature, and the indexes, I hope the dedicated reader who finally finds the hours it takes to read my book-long posts to have an easier time to dig deep in these subjects.

Of course, these "Index Posts" will grow with time.

"Apple up like a rocket": Apple computers are gaining market share very fast, and to convert even more skeptics now Parallels offers hypervisor level virtualization for Mac OS X 10.5 "Leopard" host computers.

The Case for Virtualization: A "Chicagrafo style" introduction to this fascinating subject, followed by "Part II".

Practical advise, links and hardcore information about technologies surrounding Virtualization in AMD64 the Practical Way.

Commentary on an article comparing Intel's Vanderpool with AMD's Pacífica/Presidio, a bit heavy.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Stupidities of Microsoft

Note: this is an "index" post, which will grow as long as I find material to include.

Curiosity #1:

According to the official Microsoft FAQ on XP x64, unbelievably, the 32 bit drivers reside in a folder with 64 in its name: SysWOW64 (System Windows On Windows); but confusingly enough, the 64 bit drivers reside in... System32 (!!)

The reason is that Windows is such a pathetic operating system when it comes to security or organization, or for that matter anything that mundane users don't see directly, that it allows everybody + dog (including viruses) to mess with the critical system files. Thus, along the years, the practice of blatantly and carelessly writing to "System32" without a system call check meant that now that the fixed name stuck and can not be changed. But since a 32 bit driver can not be just run on a computer at 64 bits, but on top of an emulation layer (WOW64), they have to be identified, and are therefore susceptible to be moved by the OS to another place.

This is a excerpt of that link:

Q.What is the SysWOW64 directory?

The \Windows\SysWOW64 directory is where 32-bit system files are installed. 64-bit system files are in the \Windows\system32 directory for compatibility reasons.

Also, this is nice to be seen officially acknowledged:
Q.I have an Intel x64 processor, but my copy of Windows XP Professional x64 Edition has an \amd64 directory, but no \em64t directory. Did I get the wrong version?

No, you got the right version. Because the Intel and AMD processors are binary compatible, they use the same version of Windows XP Professional x64 Edition. Since the original x64 processors were designed by AMD, they were called "amd64" processors, and that is reflected in the folders on the CD.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Has AMD bottomed?

In response to a comment by Mike in this blog, I want to get ahead of me for the third time and mention the following:

Mike, I don't know if it has bottomed, it seems so.

Now, I am "going with the flow", I got burned by stupidly arguing with the market that AMD was a good investment. Fortunately, I have some months already contradicting myself between what I think about AMD and the stock market, just like I described in my previous posts: Selling short term call options, reducing my shares and almost all of my call options just after the Dell announcement, selling fairly deep in the money calls after the tech. analysts day and the New York announcements, and now also buying puts. But lately, I have been "opening" my portfolio for AMD to grow; from the roller coaster that went from current prices to $17.5 and then back I made about $1.1 per share and now my position has a combined delta of about 0.4, that means that every dollar AMD gains my portfolio grows $0.40, and I am waiting to keep milking the shares writing more covered calls for the Dell announcement, thus it may be said that I am bullish.

This is why:

AMD is in a bubble due to Dell coming in and the awareness that Intel new products were clearly paperlaunched.

On top of that, today I was surprised with the depth and the variety of committments and designs for Opterons F, it demonstrates that the market is solidly convinced by AMD and perhaps understands very well the marketing game of bullshit from Intel.

Dell is massive volume. But absolutely every bit of research that I have done lately indicates that Dell is stinking now more than ever before. That company hasn't done a single thing to improve, on the contrary, it has insisted to suicidal degree into fooling the customers with many different fraudulent schemes. I think that Dell is a bitch from which AMD should benefit as much as possible short term to dump it as soon as possible, long term, Dell is a liability.

There are a lot of questions to ponder about the significance of the Dell deal. A short list:

1) is Dell receiving the best pricing AMD has given, better than Sun Microsystems or Hewlett-Packard?

2) is Dell going to switch wholeheartedly to AMD due to the preferential treatment Intel is giving to Apple?

3) Do Intel yields and production schedule stink so much that Dell now is forced to do AMD deals even while probably not receiving preferential pricing?

4) Are there even graver concerns about "Core"?

5) Is Dell's presence going to allienate much better partners such as Sun Microsystems and H-P?

6) Is it possible that Dell, through their business practices, will erode the building reputation of AMD?

7) Is the deal compromising in any way for AMD?, some have said that the ATI purchase was a Dell requirement, if so, and Dell retracts, AMD may be left with ATI's debt and an allienated nVidia going to the arms of Intel.

This is the most important thing: This deal was in the making for years and years, now that we all believe that it is to be announced, we are clueless about how good for each party it is; thus I wouldn't be overly optimistic. I am loading some Puts and covering any written calls this week (my form to go long in a spread for AMD since I almost always have written calls, thus covering them has a similar effect to going long on calls for other people).

On the other hand, there is the issue of the ATI purchase itself. That's a tough nut to crack for me because I wasn't tracking nVidia/ATI and the GPU market in general; but I will venture to say that AMD didn't *need* to buy ATI, with a joint venture would have been enough. Of course that the joint venture has some issues, that I think could have been resolved, but this deal is bad because instead of enticing nVidia to do the same as ATI, that is, to participate in an exciting joint venture with the hottest processor company, it is jeopardizing excellent initiatives for AMD such as the nVidia Business Platform that specifies AMD processors and gives nVidia very good reasons to rather partner with Intel now that AMD will be a more direct competitor.

I think that Wall Street somehow knows that the deal is not good for AMD, and is using its leverage in the financial media to give it as good press as possible so that both companies approve the deal to fill their coffers (remember that everytime one of these major mergers a lot of investment banks and Wall Street in general makes billions, literally) and then the reality of a not so good deal will sink in and the stock take the hit. Remember what happened with the ultra hyped Compaq purchase that catapulted Carly Fiorina to the celebrity status and a possible Senate candidacy to end up in tears.

There is also another reality operating: AMD is not able to do $0.40 in earnings per share in any quarter. Look at the latest Rahul Sood post:

We anticipate that our high end desktops will transition from 100% AMD to around 50/50 with the possibility of more growth from either side. This should give you a good idea of where the high end market is going.
Think about it: with 5% FED interest rate, the EPS multiplier for the stock market should be around 17x, but AMD is *very* volatile and risky, especially now because of ATI, thus expect a significant discount in the multiplier for that, although of course, AMD also is growing, which deserves a premium. I just think that 17x is ok. for AMD, predicting about an annualized earnings per share of $1.2 you have $20.40 per share.

I keep researching intensely about the shift from uniprocessor servers to multiprocessor servers that AMD singlehandedly is creating, because in two processors and up AMD is simply unbeatable for quite some time, but I don't see this market to grow so fast as to compensate the full effect of "Core" when Intel manages to produce enough.

I keep seeing too much optimism about the 65nm; I have reasons to think it is not as "hyper" as some expect, thus it is going to be very tough thing for AMD to make every dime, but still possible.

This is not a time to conclude anything, it is a time to observe attentively, diminish the risk in your portfolio and be ready to jump at the opportunity if it shows itself with clarity.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Sharikou's denounciation of Western Civilization

I just had a hard laugh thanks to Sharikou:

He basically says that the whole western civilization is smoke and mirrors, being the media the apparatus for the massive delusion of freedom.

Well, very understandable social comment coming from the most active "media manipulator" in the AMD blogosphere. Read Sharikou's posts and you will see manipulation in the form of systematic bias toward his points of view, disregard for his mistakes and disregard for evidence contrary to his beliefs; actually a parallel universe.

I guess that Sharikou wouldn't understand what credibility is, that's why his denounciation is so laughable.

But I can agree with Sharikou in that there is rampant manipulation in the modern world, that's why I realized early this year that us, the little "retail investors" only have each other to help us navigate the turbulent waters of the big shots pulling the strings in Wall Street. Among those lines, inspired by the torrent of links, information and commentary that Sharikou poured on the community, I thought that if each of us could replicate to our capacities that effort, then the quality of the information would overcome the manipulation. Eventually, I felt that Sharikou's blog was over the top, and withdrew my endorsement.

To my satisfaction, the community of AMD investors who gathered in the Yahoo message board has proved to be beyond the attempts to manipulate it: I see a lot of active members of the comunity still posting on every phase of our cycle: The climb to $42, the debacle to $17, etc. When Yahoo decided to come with this dreaded new format, our community simply moved out to "Ireland" in an eyeblink (there is a wonderful link: The community first fed itself up of the mindless pumping of "Hash", and then also progressively ejected Sharikou for his lack of credibility. I was also, to a degree, put to the test after my diametral change of stance on AMD. I am Ok. with people not trusting me as much as before, it is only natural after such sudden and drastic change of opinion, but I hope that the same good qualities that allowed the community to eject true "positives" of mindless pumpers will eventually recognize that I am a false positive of a basher.

This humble effort of mine at least is guided by principles such as transparency and honesty, that's why I am so proud of having a growing audience of unmet friends that remains even after the change of stance. These pages remain open to post criticism and contrarian opinions, I will keep trying to answer the best possible way to at least what I feel to be the most intelligent posts, no matter if contrarian or in agreement.

I think that these words to a degree disproves Sharikous thesis, they may not reach mainstream, but I guess that they produce an effect of de-manipulation on readers. In the mean time, what Dr. (?) Sharikou fails to understand is that Western Civilization, or Western Democracy, is ultimately what people makes up of it. It is indeed possible to create environments of meritocracy, such as our message board community.

If you liked "The Matrix", I would advise you to download and watch the awesome Open Source short movie "Elephants Dream" and come by to leave a comment about it.

More on Sharikou's ramblings

This is a continuation of "Sharikou's dennounciation", article which should be read before this.

Sharikou presents his interpretation of "Matrix Revolutions" as "authoritative", in his typical arrogance. He is so arrogant that he resembles a cartoon character, Syndrome of "The Incredibles", with his frustration of not being a true super hero (a successful investor), and the bitterness of having been rejected (his lost credibility), also his incapacity to understand that not because he wants it so badly then what he writes is true. That strikes me as kind of funny when I disregard how pathetic it is.

After his un-especial interpretation of "MR" he goes on in full-fledge political and social commentary displaying his precariousness, thing that also made me laugh, you know, the blatant ignorance in a loudspeaker arrogant voice.

I am not a Ph.D., but I will try to comment on the subject with my sub-masters degree credentials and you be the judge if Sharikou speaks with a higher quality that may indicate that his claimed Ph.D. title is more than a cereal-box-conferred one:

I am a researcher in Artificial Intelligence, thus I have come across the philosophical question of "Hard" Artificial Intelligence versus "Soft" A.I., that is, the discussion of whether mind and thinking are deterministic physical processes susceptible of being completely formulated and therefore emulated by a computer, or "Soft", that is, stochastic. It is important the distinction, because if mind were "Hard AI", then it will be guaranteed that eventually there will be computers smarter than minds, but if the mind is soft AI, then there is the chance that our brains have some sort of peculiarity that would prevent them from being emulated in computers. For instance, the monumental work of the great theoretical physicist Roger Penrose in "The Emperor's New Mind" attempts to demonstrate that mind includes quantum processes not possible to be emulated by digital (actually universal turing machines) computers because of fundamental reasons. (I don't agree with Penrose, by the way).

Then, there is the issue of the incompleteness of logic. Kurt Gödel demonstrated that no mathematical system can provide the tools to demonstrate every truthful assertion, that is, there are mathematical theorems that require to go beyond what the formal system provides with a bit of "intuition" to demonstrate. From this, the opposers of Artificial Intelligence say that logic is incapable of encompassing intuition, and in a failed logical implication, they say that computers being supposedly logic can't evidentiate intuitive behaviour, dismissing the fact that stochastic processes such as what occurs in neurons are replicatable in hardware.

If you accept that Artificial Intelligence is possible, then The Matrix is possible, that is, a simulation so perfect that minds can not tell the difference between the simulation and reality.

Now that the world is shifting to Quantum Computing, it has been proposed that quantum computing is viable only because the Universe is a quantum computer itself. If the Universe today is a state on the execution of the quantum configuration (program) in a quantum computer, then it is clear to consider the posibility that we are a simulation.

By the way, an English medieval philosopher (sorry, don't remember his name) got to the conclusion that we are thoughts in God's head, I sort of remember that since that philosopher subscribed to the idea that change is not possible (Zeno's paradox), the only way he could concile the illusion (for him) of change was that we were thoughts. It would be the same thing to say that God's mind is a computer.

Speaking about thinking, René Descartes summarized in "cogito, ergo sum", "I think, therefore I exist", or my interpretation: "since I am capable of doubting my existence, I am not a "nothingness", and I have demonstrated my existence" that even if we are a simulation there is a loophole: to doubt of true (real) existence, which leads me to think, Turing's test withstanding that if Zion's simulation is so perfect as to make it indistinguishable from reality, then it is demonstrated that it is a reality. But I don't remember much about "MR", so I will leave it at that.

It is important to mention that if a simulation is undistinguishable from reality then it is reality, because Sharikou's Western Civilization's Matrix is not provable to be false. That is, there is no evidence to demonstrate that Sharikou is wrong: If you keep throwing evidence at him of democracy, and freedom, then he will just reply that the simulation is so good and pervasive; but if we are content with degrees of satisfaction of those principles, we may see if there is enough evidence to call something a democracy, or freedom, or not.

I am a guest in the United States, thus, I shouldn't emit an opinion on whether this polical system is a democracy of free people, or not. I will, nevertheless, mention that my hosts (citizens of this country) tend to take for granted the freedoms that previous generations were able to preserve and expand through dilligent vigilance, and have become, quite frankly, sloppy at that. That is, this country is less democratic, and less free, than what it was 70 years ago, even including the huge advances it meant of broadening the real citizenship to people of other races than just anglo saxon.

We operate in a stock market. It may be full of manipulation, but in the end, nobody forces me to sell or buy at a price that I don't accept, thus, we have but one crucial freedom that allows me to categorically speak of a free market. As in every sort of freedom, success (and its preservation) depends on eternal attentive vigilance: We listen, we read, we see what Wall Street says, but always should do our own Due Dilligence, which is to corroborate the facts (or the data accepted as fact) by ourselves as much as possible. We should mistrust the companies we own, read their filings, inspect the actions of our managers (that is, the managers of our companies), watch the watchers, that is, make sure that the S.E.C. does it job, demand objectivity and truthfulness from the financial media, etc. That is the way to preserve freedom and democracy, if we fail at that, as simple as that we lose them.

And by the way, it is not individualism. How is it possible to accomplish all of the above? Only by partnering. If you have read this far, chances are that you got to know about this blog through the AMD investors message board, thus you may already have a fundamental understanding that the secret to the protection of my liberties lies on the protection of the liberties of others, and everyone.

I hope to have sounded very different to Sharikou, not only because we have exactly the opposite opinion, but because he speaks with comical arrogance about subjects to which he displays equally comical ignorance.

The Case For Virtualization

Part I

I read yesterday an article, EMC Becomes 'Virtual' Target by our old "frenemy" Bill Snyder of "" about Virtualization that inspired me to keep developing the subject for the blog.

Before getting into Snyder's article, I would like to restate some of the reasons why the topic of Virtualization is gaining relevance among technology investors and technologists. The reader may like to know that I have previously dealt with the subject in "Pacífica versus Vanderpool" and "AMD64 Practical with XP64 + VMWare Server", but I guess that I failed to justify why it is so important. Thus, if you are new to the subject, begin here. Mind you that I am not an expert in the subject, just an enthusiastic user.

What is virtualization?: A modern computer may "multiply" itself as many different computers running concurrently in the same hardware, that is, the same hardware may host different computers, so different, that they may be running different operating systems such as Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux and all. In VMWare's classic terminology, there is one computer running either Windows or Linux in which you install VMWare and convert it into the "host" of as many virtual computers (guests) as you choose. To accomplish this, VMWare is an application that simulates the different computers.

The top two providers of Virtualization technologies are the company VMWare, who offers free of charge an hypervisor (application that hosts the guests), VMWare Server, that may be installed on either Linux or Windows; and the Xen project, Open Source (and free of charge, of course) that runs on top of Linux. To ease and deepen the reach of virtualization, both Intel and AMD have developed extensions to their microprocessor architectures, AMD did "Pacífica", a more complete solution, and Intel "Vanderpool", which is harmed by the non-existence of an integrated memory controller. I don't know so well about Vanderpool, but if you want to take my anecdotical word for it, I fail to perceive performance differences between virtual computers running on top of my AM2 processor and the native "bare hardware" real computer. Microsoft is also getting into the fray preparing a repertoire of technologies relating to Virtualization.

From the perspective of a common day-to-day user, Virtualization is a really helpful technique:

1) Allows to run old operating systems (legacy) with those very old applications that don't work anymore in Windows XP and the like.

2) Allows to incredibly toughen the security of your Windows OS. Most friends I have are utterly unaware of how easy is to contaminate with malware a Windows computer and also are utterly misled on the impression that antivirus software, personal firewall, or even the Microsoft Updates will really help them protect their configuration and privacy. With regards to antiviruses and firewalls, they don't correct at all the problems, sometimes they just obfuscate the system making it harder to detect activated malware, and they stupidly deccelerate the computer for nothing. Regarding Windows Updates, nowadays they are so concerned with piracy that some actually send information about the computer to Microsoft, that is, they are spyware themselves, only that "officially sanctioned" by Microsoft. Question: Who's computer is your computer, Microsoft's or yours?...

A ColanderSeriously, Microsoft Windowzes have more security holes than a colander because there are many reasons, including Microsoft business reasons, for those holes. That is subject for many posts, but follow this lead if you want to know more about the subject.

What can be done, then? A clean windows system is relatively protectable. This can actually be done if you reduce your host computer to the bare minimum needed to host the virtual computers at top speed, eliminating the great mamajority of the hooks that malware exploits to infect your system, and then defer the work to virtual computers. In my host computers I tend to do the following:

  • To only install the Operating System,
  • the bare minimum of services,
  • to break the Internet Explorer on purpose,
  • not run nor install an antivirus, nor any non-open source software, including not installing printer or scanner drivers; with the exception of VMWare,
  • and never run on user accounts of adminitrative privileges but to really do administration.
Then, on VMWare, I create virtual machines to do these kinds of tasks:
  • Web Surfing
  • Video, Audio and Photographs editing and transcoding
  • Software Development
  • Network Administration
  • Printing, Scanning, and installing other device handlers
  • Nasty stuff such as software trials and dangerous experiments such as resizing an NTFS partition in KDE's QTParted.
All in different operating systems, working simultaneously in the same hardware.

Then, if any of these VMs is compromised by an operating system problem, a mistake, a virus, or whatever, the Virtual Machine acts as a sandbox in which the problem keeps contained without damaging the rest of my whole system. With the help of the host and other virtual machines, I can audit very deeply what may be wrong in any particular virtual computer, and learn a lot about misbehaving applications, viruses/worms/spyware in incubation, etc. In the worst case scenario, I simply go back to the latest known safe snapshot of the compromised virtual computer and keep doing business as usual in five minutes.

3) With that palette of VMs available, in any given moment, I fire up, "awake", the configuration for the task I want to do. Since it is possible to have open, "alive", as many virtuals as desired, I don't experience limitations on the tasks that I can do. Moreover, since the virtual machines are ultimately files in a harddrive, I can, through my 1GBps network, fire up a virtual machine in any of my hosts; thus, it really doesn't matter which physical computer I am using, I do the work exactly the way I like in the environment that I customized to my tiniest desire with the same virtual machine but running on a different host. This is "portability", and also reliability: If a catastrophe happens to a host, it is trivial to make its VMs to run in another.

4) It helps to consolidate: A large organization that provides many different services may need to multiply by every service its hardware and maintenance budgets. But since you can put toghether in the same computer partitioned through virtualization all of those services, configured to the exact specification that the application providers recommend, you slash the proliferating expenses of many computers to the expenses of only one powerful server. For AMD investors this issue is key, because Virtualization is by far the best excuse to go up the scale of the server: One dual processor to do the work it takes two single processor servers, one 8-way machine (with 16 or soon 32 cores) to do the work of 8 single processor servers. Intel, since quite frankly doesn't scale at all, and can't possibly be up to the robustness of the Pacífica (AMD-V) virtualization, is totally excluded of this market in fast growth.

5) It helps with efficiency too: Having many emulated different computers each with an operating system may seem redundant and inefficient, but in the end I have seen the opposite: For instance, since security, and other services are provided by the host and other VMs, I tend to install very thin and specific VMs. I install things like a mere Windows 98 Se stripped of everything non-essential to do web browsing, multiple computers who share a virtual read-only harddrive with the same configuration for applications (especially useful for Linux guests).

In the Windows world most applications assume too much about the computer. Some are as abusive as to demand administrative priveledges not only for installation, but for mundane usage. That's why most users introduce security risks in their computers without even knowing. Have you heard of the Sony rootkit scandal discovered by Mark Russinovich (see this article)?, well, that rootkit got installed when the user put one of the music CDs infested by Sony, regardless of whether the user didn't accept the terms of use (of course that the rootkit required the user to be running on admin privileges, but that's a digression on a digression). But some applications do not work if you don't completely disarm the security of the computer. For those applications, the sandboxing that VMs provide is ideal. Also, some applications, perhaps legitimately, prefer to have a very specific computer configuration, there the VMs also are ideal.

I have an example, my VM for video transcoding: I install there any codec that may do the job with total disregard for the security, in the end, I won't have viruses in the resulting XVid videos, but I couldn't do that with a "real" computer with other applications; thus I see a lot of *synergy* that improves efficiency. Don't tell anybody this secret, but I guess that you can install trial software in computers that "go back in time" and never expire the trial, especially if the computer doesn't have a way to connect to the internet... because it is virtual...

Like I was saying in #4, Virtualization demonstrates that the market is as performance-insatiable as it ever was, because it makes it practical, easy, to do "megatasking". My friends laugh when I tell them about the setups I have at home, they say that most of it is overkill. Then, one day they get to my place, and experience firsthand all the comfort and productivity that I get from my setups; then the next step is to ask me to help them do the same at their places. One of the primary reasons for my HW expenses is to get the most of virtualization.

See at the bottom of this article the "links to this post section" that provides the forward link for the Part II.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Sharikou's dennounciation of Western Civilization

This post has a typo in the title, the article was moved here:
I hate of blogspot that you can not assign yourself the permalink of articles, so if you modify the title you have to lose the original link