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Distance Multimedia: 4 score & more

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Free code meets free sectors permanent reference link
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pixel March 28, 2007 -- My wife dryly prefaces nostalgic comments with "back in the McKinley administration" (at the turn of the previous century). In the McKinley administration, telegraphs were normal distance communication. In 1927, the baud became a measure of transmission speed. In the 1990s, Andy Grove and others at Intel spoke of "free bauds" in anticipating Internet hyper-growth. Joe and I repeated (paraphrased?) the Intel-speak as "free MIPS meet free bauds" in our Barriers Breaking Down chapter.
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pixel Though Intel did and does charge for processors, their prices in the mid-1990s were likely a few (U.S.) dollars per MIP and today are likely below a penny per MIP. At a free WiFi hotspot, megabits of Internet access are literally free. The smallest allocation unit of most disk drives is a 512 byte sector. 500GB disk drives are readily available for under $200 and have roughly a billion sectors, so the marginal cost of a disk sector is under 0.2 micro-cents.
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pixel In the last week or so, I've become re-enamoredVRM with virtual machines and am using them to gobble up tens of millions of sectors with free software.
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pixel I have a reasonably well-configured Windows machine that mostly exists for historical reasons. It had been doing next to nothing. It seems a very natural host for the free VMware Server. Though things haven't been as smooth as I might have hoped, the supported VMware capabilities are broader than I might have expected.
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pixel Sun had sent a free Solaris 10 DVD. In my experience, Solaris doesn't play well with multi-booting other operating systems, and is particularly unfriendly regarding Linux partitions. But in a virtual machine, it can appear to Solaris that it has dedicated disks -- avoiding conflicts with Linux or Windows. So far, my Solaris installation seems to be working as Sun intends. (That is not to say it seems natural to me. Neither the CDE nor the Java desktop options make a lot of sense to me in comparison to all of the other windowing systems I know.)
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pixel VMware officially supports numerous flavors of Linux, but not Fedora. My first attempt to install Fedora 6 failed because the Fedora installer could not find the virtual disk. Though disquieting, this wasn't a problem since I have so many (at least, four) other physical machines running Fedora 6. I found the pre-built Fedora 6 virtual machine from thoughtpolice. That seemed to work, so I promptly removed it! Being able to simply create a virtual machine, "kick the tires", and then delete the virtual machine seems powerful.
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pixel For example, I was curious about AsteriskNOW as a way to get more immersed with Asterisk without having to understand all of the arcane aspects of dialplans and more. AsteriskNOW insists on installing its own flavor of Linux, so putting AsteriskNOW on raw hardware would be inconvenient, and maybe seriously disruptive. Installing AsteriskNOW in a virtual machine was painless using the free CD image. However, AsteriskNOW also seems obtuse, so pursuing raw Asterisk on Fedora appeals more. Learning that in a fairly painless way was quite valuable to me.
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pixel Back to Fedora, Fedora 7 is in the final stages leading to release. Installing the "Test 2" DVD image was painless. Right now, the virtual machine is "powered off". Maybe I will customize that image the way I normally customize Fedora or maybe I will simply delete it. Right now, the only cost of delay and indecision is the allocation of about ten million sectors, a few cents worth of disk space.
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pixel VMware supports most flavors of Windows, back to Windows 3.1. So it is tempting to install a representative sample of those flavors. If/when I want Windows 3.1 running on something faster than a 50MHz 486, I know where to go.
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coda
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pixel VMware isn't the only option. Of course, Microsoft has their own way. Xen and KVM are vying for attention in Linux foundations. However, only Parallels seems, right now, to be a compelling competitor to VMware. There, the primary motivation is quite different, i.e., integrating Windows into OS X, but Parallels list of supported "guests" seems comparable to that of VMware.
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