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Taking QEMU for a Spin

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QEMU in actionQEMU in actionHave you tried QEMU? I must admit that I hadn't really tried it until recently... although I have used VMware and Parallels. Supposedly Xen and the new KVM both draw from QEMU code. What is QEMU? Obligatory quote from the QEMU wikipedia entry:

QEMU is free software written by Fabrice Bellard that implements a fast processor emulator, allowing a user to simulate a complete computer system within another one. It is similar to projects such as Bochs, VMware Workstation and PearPC, but has several features these lack, including increased speed on x86, and support for multiple architectures in-progress. By using dynamic translation it achieves a reasonable speed while being easy to port on new host CPUs.

I'm not sure why that says that QEMU is faster than VMware, because it isn't... but QEMU can emulate several different CPU families other than just x86. Read on if you want to hear about my experience installing Windows XP SP2 from an .iso file.


A Different Office Suite?

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I've been keeping my eye on SoftMaker (I've been on their mailing list for a couple of years now) and their products TextMaker (a word processor) and PlanMaker (a spreadsheet). I'm not usually a fan of closed source, proprietary, pay software but the reviews I have read of Textmaker and PlanMaker have said that they are extremely fast, lean, and offer the highest degree of compatibility with Microsoft Office .doc and .xls files. While OpenOffice.org has really progressed over the last few years, it still has a ways to go when it comes to bloat, speed, and Microsoft Office document compatibility.

On December 22nd, SoftMaker came out with new Linux and FreeBSD releases with the two products merged together and called SoftMaker Office. The MSRP is $69.95, which is fairly reasonable. The academic pricing is amazing... as most institutions can get can get a site license for $13 for the Linux version and $13 for the Windows version. It also includes compatibility with OpenDocument files, can export to PDF, and can be run from a USB stick.

So, I'm curious... What do you think? Should I consider the "dark side"? I would like anyone who answers to have actually downloaded the 23MB trial version (Linux, FreeBSD, or Windows) and given it a try.

Now if SoftMaker Office only included a presentation program and a GUI database, there would be more to consider.


Vaio Wrestling

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I somehow got "voluntwisted" into fixing a coworkers Sony laptop. Well okay maybe it was my own doing. I love to recover data from presumed dead hard drives. His had been dead and powered up for so long, I presumed it was toast like so many laptop drives usually are. Much to my surprise it was mountable using an old Live Knoppix disk. So I simply plugged in my USB drive and with MC I did mass copies to it. Since it was a bad disk it did take about 8 hours to move about 2GB of data (music and pictures).

So next the coworker produced a replacement drive. One dilemma though... he didn't have his recovery CD's since he just moved here and having a tough time finding anything really. So I thought I'd try using my home Dell PC. OEM CD's tend to require you to use their own hardware to do the installs so my XP Home disk would have to be installed using my PC. Ordered a laptop to IDE converter from RadioShack online; as they don't carry them in the stores. All is well. Got that installed and next I plopped it back in the Sony. No go. CRAP! It's an AMD. I used an Intel PC not to mention possible disk parameter differences. Back to the drawing board.


What distros have you installed lately?

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In the quest for the perfect Linux distro, and to better familarize myself with others... I occationally download and install lots of distributions. Recently I gave Vector Linux and OpenSUSE a try.


KVM = Kernel-based Virtual Machine

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It seems that a sort of hypervisor is going to be added to the mainline Linux kernel. It has been dubbed KVM... as if KVM weren't already taken by "Keyboard, Video Mouse". In this case, KVM stands for Kernel-based Virtual Machine... and it only works in CPUs that have VT (Intel) or AMD-V/SVM (AMD) extensions via a module named kvm.ko... and will available upon the release of the 2.6.20 kernel.

How does it differ from other virtualization schemes? From the FAQ:

What is the difference between kvm and Xen?

Xen is an external hypervisor; it assumes control of the machine and divides resources among guests. On the other hand, kvm is part of Linux and uses the regular Linux scheduler and memory management. This means that kvm is much smaller and simpler to use.

On the other hand, Xen supports both full virtualization and a technique called paravirtualization, which allows better performance for modified guests. kvm does not at present support paravirtualization.

What is the difference between kvm and VMWare?

VMware is a proprietary product. kvm is Free Software released under the GPL.

What is the difference between kvm and QEMU?

Qemu uses emulation; kvm uses processor extensions for virtualization.

And now for the question everyone wants to ask:

What OSs can I run inside kvm VM?

We have tested Linux (32/64 bit) and Windows (32 bit). Others may or may not work. 64-bit Windows is known not to work. This will be fixed once qemu-0.8.3 is released and merged. Several Linux flavors are known to hang on Intel processors during startup. Workaround is to disable splashscreens in grub.

I wonder how long before this becomes part of all of the distributions... and how it might conflict with Xen???


What to do with an old server?

Front viewFront viewI have an old server at work. It hasn't been used since last Spring. It lasted a fair amount of time (4 years)... yet it is still a fairly capable machine: 1.1GHz Xeon CPU, 2GB of RAM, 1 IDE system disk, a 3ware ATA RAID controller with 8ea 80GB drives (RAID5) and redundant power. I believe it was purchased in late 2001.

One of the RAID drives died and I put in a replacement today. I didn't need to rebuild the existing RAID because I wanted to do a new install anyway... but it makes me wonder if I should even bother. Side viewSide viewI mean, the drives that are in it now are at least 4 years old. They are an accident waiting to happen. So, I have a few options... I can retire the machine and scrap it... or I could spend around $800 and buy some new ATA drives. I figure that the hard drives are the most vulnerable piece in the system... other than say... the fans... that I'll replace if they are showing some wear.

Back viewBack viewIs it worth the money to turn this machine into a backup server? ...or should I just retire it? Do you think the hardware will last a few more years? It would run Linux of course. It was previously.

Let comments be your answer!


Butting Heads with IT

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Okay I said I would do some explaining. I don't want this to get long so I'll try to summarize.

My coworker who does GIS work here is using a workstation formerly used by another former employee. This PC has seen its day I think. All the form boxes in applications and websites are out of proportion and sorta smooshed into other text. I took a stab at figuring out what it was to no avail. Okay that was short and sweet. Then recently a couple apps started popping up the Windows installer every time the Desktop was accessed. Thinking he must have some spyware or virus, I scanned his machine and ultimately uninstalling one of the two troubling apps to work with one at a time popping up. As administrator things seem to work fine after going through the install motions but only for that session and IT has these locked down so that users can't do installs. So in one effort to fix that dang form box monitor resolution issue, I install a different video driver and viola! it is fixed. Install one of the pissy apps and wham it's all crap again.

Auto Reboot after Update!?

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Damn those company computer guys!

Getting those Apache/PHP settings just right

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Warren is the guy who has been running Gallery for a few years now. Me? I ran it at my previous job but I didn't get into it much.

Cybernet PCCybernet PCNow I'm running Drupal and on the default Apache/PHP install, PHP is limited to 8MB of RAM. That works fine for most everything... but when you get into graphics processing, it isn't even close. Graphics Processing? The image upload (and photo gallery) module for Drupal take an uploaded image file and then generates a preview size (640x480) image and a thumbnail (125x125?) image. It can use ImageMagick or the GD image processing packages.


Like a Child

Forgot to bring lunch today from home and was left without my backup stock of Ramen Noodles. Running low on cash I decided to head to Wendy's or to some of our cohorts "Wenchies". I slapped down the Discover card as a means to get by. This time of the year I seem to always fall into the rut of waiting until the last moments to make those special purchases our loved ones "expect" of us to achieve. But I digress... that isn't what todays post is about.

Today I was reminded of one of Jesus' stories about what it takes to be welcomed into the kingdom of Heaven in Matthew and Luke. As I sat eating my lunch I was reminded of this because I saw this man there who I see there all the time. He wears a watch on both wrists and loves to clap his hands out of joy as he reaches over his head. To many he is a nuisance and move away; to others they ignore and still others watch as if at the zoo. But I thought that this man; like the classroom of children visiting there for lunch today, didn't really care much about what others were thinking of him. To think what we could accomplish if we only were like a child who does not worry about what others think. As adults we tend to hold back answering a question in front of an audience for fear of screwing up. He seems so innocent as he should because he is in the eyes of God.

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