Category Archives: Technical

Next gen virtualisation: about time



VMWare has just announced its new version of ESX server, 3i.  They only mention, in the info out to date, that the new hypervisor “..is an extension of the hardware.”  This is actually much more geeky cool than it seems and represents a large step forward in virtualisation.  They are not the only company to have this, Xen is one example of open source embedded hypervisors which appear to do similar things to ESX 3i.  My purpose is not to compare virtualisation technology though.

Intel released its VT processors (VT standing for Virtualisation Technology) extensions about 2 years ago (AMD has similar AMD-V), but applications are only just starting to become mainstram that support it.  The problem with virtualisation has always been with ring 0 access to the processor.  If you are not familiar with priveledge rings, you can find a basic primer on Wikipedia.  Traditionally the hypervisor takes ring 0, which is the only level that can directly access hardware, forcing guest operating systems to operate at less privelaged levels.  Virtualisation engines have used various methods to get around this like emultation or binary translators.

Intel VT and AMD-V chips have a ring -1 that allow the software that controls the virtualisation to run in a special privelage level. This means guest operating systems can now directly access hardware without needing weird translations.  This reduces the complexity of virtualisation and opens the market for more players and faster developement.  But the real cool thing is the future possibilities this opens up for clustering.

If you can picture that a clustered OS allows applications to grow across seperate machines.  The limitations on how that application can use the resources of that cluster is dependant on that application.  Because the level of clustering is at the OS, it is the next level that must know how to use it.  At the moment the ability to do cool things with clusters is often application specific.  If the clustering is moved down a level, to the hypervisor, then this gives greater scope for the OS to do cool things with clusters.  And the applications can transparently take advantage of them.  This wasn’t impossible with ‘old school’ virtualisation, but much harder.

While virtualisation to date has offered some benefits, the virtual machines have still been limited in size by the physical hardware.  The future of virtualisation is to expand beyond a single box.  Not only will it be possible to have many virtual servers on a single physical box, it will also be possible to have one virtual server on many phyical boxes, and anything in between.  In all these cases, once the resources are selected it is only a standard OS install that is required.  The new generation of hypervisors make this much easier to achieve.


Road Runner Debacle



On the GNC podcast #238 Angelo’s Time Warner situation was briefly discussed. Basically he moved across town into a new home and experienced a dramatic loss in connectivity speeds with his Time Warner Roadrunner Cable service. The worst part was the pathetic customer service he received. You can find the whole story and what he ended up doing on his blog. [link] I hope he gets some compensation for the insanity he was put through.


Rendering Video with Final Cut Pro and need some help!



I do have a few observations here at CES getting Video Rendered is proving to be time consuming beyond belief as we expected. I have no problem getting the projects ready for rendering but I really would like to batch the renderings to process while I am asleep at night. I am using Final Cut Express so I am not sure if the version supports it but you Mac masters out there find me a solution and you will get a big warm hug. geeknews@gmail.com


My EV-DO Amplifier Experience



For about a year now I have had a Sprint EV-DO card that has worked well in all of the locations that I find myself in. But recently I changed offices which moved me from a outer wall in a building with few windows to inner office. I knew I was in trouble when the guys desk I was taking over for told me that if I wanted my cell to work I would have to place it about 20 feet from my desk on top of a cabinet.

Obviously when I plugged in my EV-DO card at my new desk the signal was non existent even though I had perfect reception at my old desk that was less than 30 feet away along with a couple of walls.

I started hunting online for an external Antenna and Amplifier solution. The more I looked the more I become concerned when I found many sites that sold Antennas and Amplifiers did not have a customer support line. With the price of most solutions just under $250.00 I wanted to talk to someone that had a clue.

I finally found one company that had a responsive customer, and a warm body I could call with any questions I may have. Ultimately I ordered a amplifier and antenna from Gordon over at Maximum Signal. Gordon was very helpful and the kit I purchased really did the trick and I have a usable EV-DO card again.

The amplifier – antenna combo raised my signal from like -110 to -85 db it’s not perfect but it’s better than not working at all.

Meanwhile I am hoping Sprint looks at the building and installs a commercial amplifier in it so that our cell phones will work. It really sucks in this day and age to be in a location where the thickness of the walls kill the mobile coverage.

If you need a solution that works I highly recommend using the folks at Maximum Signal!

I will have more to say though about a couple of popular EV-DO sites that I have some serious concerns about in their site information and sales transparency.


Laptop Blows up at Airport!



Update: I have gotten some info that this is a hoax.

I can almost guarantee you that there will be a ban on using Laptops in Airplanes happening very soon. Some airlines have already banned the use of Dell and Apple computers in-flight. The latest laptop to blow up was a Thinkpad and I am sure if it had a Sony battery in it that it will be added to the list of banned devices used at 35,000 feet. [Engadget]


Using Sprint EVDO on the Fringe!



My moms house is 13 miles from the closest town were most of the major cellular services work. My mom business uses Verizon Wireless phones which is the only service that works reliably here at the house. I have a T-Mobile and Sprint cell phone in my pocket and neither of them even register a single bar of signal level. In order to get my VoiceMail I have to dial in via a land line or go to the second floor of the house and hang out a window.

Yesterday on a whim I plugged in my Sprint EVDO card into my computer and tried connecting to the sprint wireless network, even though their was no signal on the card it connected. I about fell out of my chair. Well it turns out that if I sit at the kitchen table which is next to a window the PCMCIA card will connect to sprint. I am getting transfer speeds that are a little slower than dial up.

To give you a idea my moms home is on a dirt road and will likely never get broadband via cable I doubt ADSL service will ever be available as well. This has made me realize that someday when Sprint and Verizon get their act together and get 3G or next gen wireless broadband speeds deployed to rural areas via their cell towers people like my mom will be able to get connectivity.

I have always told my parents that I would love to live in this area, we have land to build on but with no broadband there is no way I could operate my business. There is a huge untapped market of people here that are stuck on dial up in a broadband world.

Honestly I am pretty shocked that my EVDO service with Sprint works at this point even though it is at dial up speeds. The Samsung Sprint cell phone I am reviewing has no signal at all. I suspect if I stood on the roof I might get a signal with the handset. It is obvious that the antenna on the PCMCIA card is better.

I should have brought my wireless router that I can plug my EVDO card into as I would have tied it down on top of my dads 3 story barn to get a better line of site connection. Hey Sprint I would be happy to give you some land to put a tower up here at my moms place if you will give her free 3G broadband access as long as you have a tower here. Until then I guess I will have to deal with less than dial up speeds.


Kyocera KR1 Mobile Router



If you have been listening to my Podcast you will know that I have had a dilemma, since the acquisition of the MacBook Pro I have been scratching my head on how I was going to have them both connected to the net when I was on travel or on the move. Yea I am one of those nuts that travel loaded to bear. Well I have been using Sprint EVDO service now for about 8 months and while it is faster than dial up but not as fast as ASDL I really did not like the idea of buying another card or having to pay for another broadband account that just does not make sense.

So instead what I have done is picked up a Kyocera KR1 Mobile Router this thing is awesome and testing it tonight setup took about 5 minutes the evdo card plugged in turned power on setup the wifi and I was in business. This allows me to share one EVDO card with 2 computers.

The box was a bit pricey but rumors are on the street that Sprint is going to be coming out with a USB EVDO card so that you can easily swap them if needed. But I like the setup I have better now.

With the upcoming Podcast Expo we are going to need connectivity in the booth and this will be the perfect configuration in that we will be able to use the the Mobile Router to stay connected and demonstrate things live. This will allow people to setup there accounts etc straight from the floor. [Kyocera]