Friday, 6 October 2006

Virtualization - QEMU and VMWare

Discovered QEMU the other day, and I've just given it a spin. Virtualization is all the go, these days: the VMWare product is now free for personal use (if I understand the license), and remains my preferred technology on Windows.  But this QEMU thing is new to me, and appears to be open source, too.

To use QEMU on Windows, you need to go to this site and download the file first.  Create a folder for it, and unzip the contents.  You can try it out right away, by running the qemu-win.bat script.  What you will see (if, like me, it runs straight out of the box) is a new console window containing a very small command-line Linux.  So far so good, but (of course) I really want to run a more functional distro. 

I have the ISO image for the Live CD of the excellent PCLinuxOS distro, and you can edit the batch script to load from this image:

    qemu.exe -L . -m 256 -boot d -hda harddisk.img -cdrom pclinuxos-p93a-minime.iso

The "-boot d" ensures we boot from the CDROM device and the -cdrom argument is the name of the ISO file (which obviously needs to be in the same folder).   The hda argument specifies the file to be used as the virtual hard-drive: I created a new (larger) one with the qemu-img.exe tool, called harddisk.img, and that's what appears in the line above.

Well, I can report that this works!  It's a bit slow, but it does work.  To make it perform better, you are supposed to use the QEMU Accelerator as long as you're on an x86 machine.  Unzip (or untar/gz) the archive, locate the kqemu.inf file, right-click and choose Install.  Then, open up a cmd window and type "net start kqemu" (go here for documentation).  Once the service is running, you add -kernel-kqemu to the argument list in the batch file.

For me, this didn't work at all: I saw the boot screen and the PCLinuxOS progress bar, but it didn't get further than that. I suspect this is something to do with the fact I'm booting a live CD image and not a regular boot from the virtual drive.  I'm going to persevere a bit, in spare time: more later if I get it to work.

Tuesday, 3 October 2006

Good Agile, Bad Agile

Just been sent a link to Stevey's Blog Rants: Good Agile, Bad Agile: This is simply priceless polemic, well worth taking the time to read right through.  The early paragraphs take apart Agile and XP, aka 'bad agile'. It's funny, but I'm convinced it's also grounded in truth.  I especially like the Scientology analogy.  Then he gets into describing 'good agile' which is, apparently, what life at Google is like.  The prose turns from scathingly cynical (but entertaining) to slightly gushing and evangelical, as we're introduced to the over-the-top, out-of-this-worldness that is Google on the inside.  It really does sound scarily ideal...

There's so much here which chimes with my own instincts (and prejudices).  There are serious points being made, too, but I'm not even going to try to summarise them: you can't boil this stuff down into sound-bites or bullet-points. In a way, that's part of the message; our industry has wasted a lot of time and effort trying to do just that, and look where we've ended up.

Anyway, this guy really can write.  Subscribed.

Google Reader Update

The Google technologies just keep on improving: I've just started to use the new version of Google's feed reader, and I really think this is the browser-based reader which makes fat-client reader applications redundant (well, for me at least).  I have been using RSS Owl, an Eclipse RCP application which I think is very good (and cross-platform, and free), but I really want to store my RSS feed subscriptions on the web rather than copy a file around, and my requirements for a reader are pretty basic.

How much further will I want to go with this?  I already use GMail and the Google Calendar, which effectively makes Outlook redundant, and the Google Notebook for capturing material and scribbles quickly, and storing those on the web too.  I'm not sure about the Writely word processor and the spreadsheet (whatever that's called) - when I last used Writely (months ago) it wasn't very impressive.  But there is little doubt in my mind that for web-oriented applications, and for basic calendar/diary stuff, keeping things on the web and accessing them through a browser is almost ideal, provided I can rely on being 'always connected'.  Broadband in the UK is becoming more and more like running water: only the remotest places don't have it.

The bigger question is whether I trust Google with all my data.  How comfortable am I that Google can (in principle, if not in fact) read my emails, see my calendar, know what sites I monitor via RSS/Atom, and read my notes and documents?  Currently, none of this bothers me in the least, for a number of reasons.  First, there are other large companies which already know far more about me (and my lifestyle) than Google does: my bank and the supermarkets I use, for example.  Second, I can choose what I store in any of the Google applications, and I could easily and cheaply encrypt anything I didn't want stored en clair.  Lastly, I'm pretty sure that anyone looking at my Google data would have a hard time finding anything worth exploiting anyway: I'm not stupid enough to store  anything truly valuable there.  Every day, we all leave behind us trails of transactions, CCTV images, cellphone location updates, building entry/exit events, etc.  These things are (for most of us) completely out of our control: is it paranoia, stupidity or vanity that makes people talk-up the 'danger' of online services?

Monday, 2 October 2006

Netron, RIP?

The Netron project (Sourceforge) has disappeared.  It looks like the author has sold out to (or been employed by) Northwoods Software.  Good luck to him, I guess.  I used Netron for a while, but found it frustratingly patchy and the author seemed more preoccupied with adding features and presenting a lot of demo apps rather than with quality.  What's the alternative, in the .NET world?