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All over the map…

Yep, that’s a good description of my BLOG — and it’s intended to be that way.

While most of the time I focus on posting articles that convey information on technology, I certainly don’t shy away from the opportunity to rant or rave on something that’s on my mind.

That’s really the great thing about a personal BLOG; it allows you to share who you are, and what’s important to you.

Be assured that most of my posts are focused on technology and sharing what I know and learn… but from time to time you’re going to find a quote or some biting political or social commentary (I’ll try and hold my personal views to a minimum and just hope for getting you to think — but I do have my convictions, and they are strong).

Let me close this post by encouraging each and everyone to start a BLOG — there’s tons of places where you can get a BLOG for free, and it’s a wonderful place to record the thoughts and ideas that make you who you are and share them with the world if they choose to look!

Self awareness and open sharing may well be the foundation for a much brighter future — and certainly free though and free speach are values that we should not only fight to protect, but take advantage of every moment of our lives.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

Thus far the collapse of the US housing market and [near] failure of Frannie Mae and Freddie Mac have cost US tax payers $145B… and it’s far from over.

The New York Stock Exchange have announced that the two companies will be delisted from the exchange next month (the stocks had been trading at the $1 per share mark — the minimum threshold to remain on the exchange — for over two years (since before the federal government took control of the companies).

The Federal Housing Finance Agency states that the delisting “does not constitute any reflection on either [company’s] current performance or future direction.”

Right…

Fannie and Freddie were created by an act of Congress decades ago… as private companies.  They buy mortgages from banks, re-sell them to investors, and guarantee to pay off the loans if borrowers default.

And, of course, for the last decade they’ve been buying junk mortgages that banks irresponsibly made to people who couldn’t possible afford them on vastly over-valued property.

Of course, the bank’s weren’t the losers; the shareholders of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac largely lost their proverbial shirts — but the tax payers bailed out the banks (and continue to fund Fannie and Freddie — and they continue to lose money).

Congress will have to decide how to handle this mess.  A GAO report last fall included these points.

  1. Create a government agency to buy mortgages and re-sell them to investors. This would eliminate the profit motive that, some critics say, drove Fannie and Freddie to take the risks that led to their demise. It would also continue to subsidize the mortgage market, making it easier for Americans to buy homes. On the other hand, the government would still be putting lots of taxpayer money at risk to subsidize the housing market.
  2. Reconstitute Fannie and Freddie as government-sponsored enterprises, similar to the way they were before. This might be accompanied by new rules limiting the risks the companies can take. Still, this would bring back the problematic ambiguities of having private, government-sponsored companies.
  3. Dramatically reduce the government’s role in the mortgage business. In this model, there would essentially be no replacement for Fannie and Freddie. But the government might still take some role, such as selling insurance to cover mortgage default. This would reduce (but not eliminate) the risk to taxpayers, but it might also make it more difficult for people to get mortgages.

Vocabulary Lesson: Utopia

Utopia or Eutopia; homophones and a double entendre for sure…

  • Utopia is a term for an ideal society.
  • Dystopia is a negative utopia: a totalitarian and repressive world.
  • Eutopia is a positive utopia, different in that it means “perfect” but not “fictional”.
  • Outopia derived from the Greek ‘ou’ for “no” and ‘-topos’ for “place,” a fictional, this means unrealistic or directly translated “Nothing, Nowhere” This is the other half from Eutopia, and the two together combine to Utopia.
  • Heterotopia, the “other place”, with its real and imagined possibilities (a mix of “utopian” escapism and turning virtual possibilities into reality).

__________

  • Utopia: from Greek: οὐ, “not”, and τόπος, “place”.
  • Eutopis: derived from the Greek εὖ, “good” or “well”, and τόπος, “place”.

Most modern usage of the term “Utopia” incorrectly assumes the latter meaning, that of a place of perfection rather than nonexistence.  You can thank Sir Thomas Moore for this.

Virtualization Best Practices, Selecting A Vitualization Solution

This will be the first in a multi-part posting.

I use Microsoft Virtual Server on my PCs for virtualization, and I use VMware on my Macs (I used to use Parallels, but it got to be too expensive to keep paying for updates, and when VMware attempts to charge for an update I’ll probably switch to VirtualBox on my Macs); but most everything I have to say here will apply to any virtualization solution you might choose to use.

When you evaluate a virtual solution, you need to look at a number of requirements and features and decide which is right for you:

  • Cost, that’s the initial cost of acquisition, plus updates
  • Hardware requirements, some virtualization solutions require machines with hardware vitualization (most modern processor have that, but not all), some do not — some only require it for 64-bit virtualization.
  • What type of host operating systems are supported (that’s the operating system you will run the virtualization software on, and install guest operating systems).
  • What type of guest operating systems are supported (and what guest operating systems are known to work).
  • How reliable the solution is on the particular host you’re interested in, and how reliably it runs the guests you’re most interested in.
  • How easy the solution is to use, and how well it fits into the host you’ve chosen (software that runs on lots of different hosts may not be engineered to fit the paradigm of your host well, it may look and act the same on all hosts — which really is of no value unless you’re running it on lots of different hosts, in general you should prefer a solution that looks and works like the other software your use).
  • Whether the system supports 64-bit and 32-bit virtualization or only 32-bit virtualization; and whether you need 64-bit virtualization or not.
  • What type of network connectivity the virtualization solution provides (NAT, bridged, etc), and what type you need.
  • The performance of the network virtualization, and how important the performance might be.
  • What type of storage virtualization the solution provides, and what you need.
  • The performance of the storage virtualization, and how important the performance might be.
  • Does the storage system support undo disks, checkpoints, snapshots, etc, and what do you need.
  • What type of device virtualization the solution provides, and what you need.
  • The performance of the core virtualization (and how important slight differences in performance might be).
  • What type of management tools exists, and what you need.

The above list will get your started on evaluating the relative merits of different virtualization solutions.  My recommendation is start with a solution that’s free and try it out, if you find it doesn’t seem to fit your needs, then try solutions that offer a trial period.  And when you identify things you like or don’t like, go back and look at the free solution and compare it again.  Often you will find after getting a broader experience base things look different, and you shouldn’t just stop with the last one you looked at — you should reassess the less expensive alternatives you dismissed.

One final word, don’t install multiple virtualization solutions on a single machine.  Remove the previous software you were looking at (you can retain the virtual machines), reboot, and install the new software.

The next postings will cover basic operating, maintenance, and some ways to make management easier.

Elive – Luxury Linux

I’ll have to start my post off with what may seam like a very unfair comment; and it may be.

I’ll prefix this with I don’t ever feel comfortable with individuals or companies who try and charge for Open Source software when they don’t offer anything tangible for that money, and they don’t allow (and encourage) you to try out what you’re going paying for before you are asked to pay for it.

Elive falls squarely into this category.

You cannot download a “stable” version of Elive unless you make some donation (I believe $10 is the minimum donation) from the publishers site (you certainly can find torrents and ftp links to download it from other sites if you’re willing to put a few minutes into it).

Strictly my opinion; but I suspect the publisher realizes that no one would ever pay him for a “stable” version of Elive because what he passes off as stable isn’t.

When Elive boots, it’s striking, and all the applications that are installed with it seem to work nicely.  The interface, while not 100% Mac-like, is intuitive and easy to use…

So why start with such a strong negative stand?

Easy, Elive just isn’t stable.  It’s mostly form with little function.

What’s included on the CD seems to work fairly well, but start updating components or installing additional software (the VirtualBox guest additions started me on the road to ruin) and then the trouble starts… laughingly you have an environment with the stability of Windows 9x on junker hardware rather than OS-X (or Linux).

I suspect that the failing of Elive is that it isn’t a collaborative project of many people; nor is it a commercial venture from a publisher with the resources to adequately test it.

I simply wouldn’t pursue it the way it’s being pursued — but I like quality, and would simply not be comfortable asking for donations from people who will probably end up not being able to use the version they donated to (and there’s no mention that you get upgrades for life for free or only need donate again when you feel you’ve gotten something of substance).

My advice… look at the free “unstable” build, play with it, make it do what you want it to do — when it crashes move on; don’t expect a great deal more from the “stable”.

Hopefully, though, others will look at Elive and see the potential and we’ll see another distribution that is every bit as flashy and way more stable.

Elive

Un-unlimited Data

Last week Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg confirmed that Verizon would be discontinuing it’s unlimited data plans in favor of tiered data plans (similar to what AT&T introduced with the iPhone 4).

I’m expecting T-Mobile and Sprint will use this announcement to their advantage, since both of those carries still offer unlimited data (and at a lower price than Verizon ever did).

Also, Verizon’s move to end unlimited data just as the smart phone market hits critical mass may also catapult carries like Cricket and MetroPCS to major expansions since they’re far more likely to find large numbers of subscribers eager to dump the expensive plans offered by carries like AT&T and Verizon.

For the moment Verizon still offers their $29.99 unlimited data plan — so if you think you might want a smart phone in the next few months you might be wise to go ahead and do your upgrade now if your contract permits it, and remember that you can purchase a used CDMA phone with a clean ESN (meaning it has not been reported lost or stolen and the terms of the contract / account it was on were satisfied / paid) and have it added to your account with the unlimited data plan without incurring any extension to your current contract.

Keep in mind that when Verizon launches it’s 4G (LTE) services at the end of the year it’s very likely that they will not offer any unlimited data and will require a plan change to use the enhanced services (meaning you won’t be grandfathered into the unlimited data once you move to 4G).

For me, this is yet another reason I’ll dump Verizon in a heartbeat when I have an alternative.

There’s no place like home…

According to a survey by Mercer (a London based investment services company owned by Marsh and McLennan Cos) that’s true is you live in Vienna.

Their survey considered political stability, crime, economy, personal freedom, health services, sewage, air pollution, schools, public utilities, transportation, housing, and climate.  It aslo took into account the cities’ restaurants, theaters, sports, availability of consumer goods, and record of natural disasters.

The United States didn’t have a single city appear in the top ten.

The ten most liveable cities included Vancouver Canada; Auckland New Zealand; Dusseldorf, Munich, and Frankfurt Germany; Bern Switzerland; and Sydney Australia.

Of US cities, Honolulu ranked 31, San Francisco ranked 33, and Boston ranked 37.

The company also prepared a list that emphasized eco-friendly cities; focusing on water availability, cleanliness, waste removal, sewage, air pollution, and traffic congestion.

Honolulu placed second, bested only by Calgary Canada.  Minneapolis was sixth, Pittsburgh was thirteenth, and Washington was twenty-third.  Cities in Canada, Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan dominated the list.

Oracle – The Destroyer of Open Source

Yes I know Oracle supported open source Linux in the past; but that was when they felt they needed to help in the fight against Microsoft, but since their acquisition of Sun Microsystems and MySQL it seems that Oracle is killing off open source projects; like because Larry Ellison believes that’s the road to profit, and has feared open source from the beginning.

Open Solaris is a thing of the past (though the project will likely be reincarnated as a real open source project not under the control of a big company); who knows what will happen with VirtualBox and MySQL or any one of the many other open source projects that Sun Microsystems supported.

Docker – Lightweight Virtualization

Docker lightweight virtualization is based on Linux Containers (LXC) and provides an interesting way to insulate applications from the host operating system and efficiently use constrained resources.

You can watch the video on Docker and read more at:

https://docs.docker.com/

https://www.docker.com/whatisdocker/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Docker_(software)

Quantitative Easing Explained