<IT WORLD> Virtual cure closer for upgrade headaches
By Martin J Young
The latest buzzword in technology circles this week is virtualization, a system
that could revolutionize computing as we know it. Following Microsoft's
announcements last week that they would be putting more resources into its
virtualization initiatives, more interest than ever has been directed towards
The basic idea involves separating various parts of a computer system such as
hardware and software by using an intermediate "virtual layer" and this will
essentially give IT managers and end-users more flexibility. Hardware and
software manufacturers will
also have more flexibility, and a lot more responsibility, for their own
component without having to worry about the other side and compatibility
A good example of virtualization in action would be Mac users running Windows,
with the software acting as a layer between the native software and the
hardware. The technology will eventually lead to more efficient computing as it
will eliminate the need for hardware-specific software or drivers, the need to
reinstall an entire system should a hard disk fail, or the need to swap
everything over if you want to change or upgrade operating systems.
In theory, the user will simply be able to copy over their settings and
programs onto any machine, with little or no hardware compatibility problems.
On a larger scale, virtualization can be employed to manage networks and data
centers. A number of companies such as VMware, Clear Cube, Novell and Citrix
have been experimenting with it for many years and it is hoped that with
Microsoft pushing the technology it will be available to us sooner rather than
A new service launched this week by music sharing website Qtrax has been
rapidly quashed by record companies, which refused to grant licenses for free
music downloading. Qtrax announced to the media last week that it had a made
deals with major record labels accounting for around a 75% share of all music
sales. The deal would enable users to download songs for free in a new service
supported by advertising revenue.
This week however a number of large music companies, including Warner Music
Group Corp, Sony BMG, Universal Music and EMI Music, denied that they had
agreed to support the service. Qtrax offers over 25 million songs for download
and was hoping that this deal would signal the shift from peer-to-peer file
sharing and music piracy to a revenue-generating system that would benefit
record companies, operators and clients.
Qtrax chief executive Allan Klepfisz stated that the recording companies would
get a share of the advertising revenue and added: "Customers expected to get
music for free, but didn't want to use illegal sites. It's been a long trek to
this point for peer-to-peer to find its place in a legal world."
The service now hangs in limbo as the music giants refuse to cooperate and
millions of people across the world continue to share files illegally.
In a related story, the European Union's top court made a ruling on Tuesday
stating that recording companies and film studios cannot demand that Internet
providers and telecommunications companies give them private information on
people who are suspected of sharing copyright protected music and movies
online. The court ruled that EU law does not require governments to protect
copyright by forcing companies to disclose personal data in civil legal
in cooperation with Taiwan's National Taiwan University and National Chiao Tung
University, has started operations this week on its cloud computing project in
Taiwan, the company's first such project outside the US. Cloud computing refers
to a concept that takes data processing and computing away from a PC
environment and onto a web-based one.
By using a cluster or "cloud" of computers online working in parallel, sharing
their resources and taking advantage of high speed Internet bandwidth, the
limitations of traditional PC computing can be broken. Google also plans to
work on the project with universities in mainland China and Israel.
parts of the Middle East and India suffered Internet blackouts this week
following damage to two undersea cables in the Mediterranean. Bandwidth
squeezes hit a number of countries from Egypt to Bangladesh, causing problems
on the Dubai stock exchange and India's outsourcing industry. Asia also
suffered slow downs as Internet traffic was rerouted straining the already
inadequate systems in countries such as Thailand.
East Asia in 2006 suffered similar outages that lasted for almost two months
when an undersea cable was severed near Taiwan. The cause of the this week's
cable damage is still unknown and officials say it could take up to a week to
repair due to rough weather north of the Egyptian port of Alexandria, where the
Gaming enthusiasts will be pleased this week as chip maker AMD challenges
rivals Nvidia for the top spot in graphics card performance. The first dual
core graphics card is about to hit the streets in the form of the Radeon HD
3870 X2, which the company claims packs enough punch to take the lead once
The card, which will be priced in the U$450 range, integrates two
Crossfire-linked 3870 GPUs on one board running at 825 MHz. First reviews and
testing of the card at the popular tech website Tom's Hardware claim that the
X2 can edge out Nvidia's 8800 Ultra in raw performance. Nvidia is already
working on its next generation offerings so the race will still be a tight one.
AMD is also making introductions at the lower end of the PC gaming market with
their sub-$100 HD 3000 series cards. The HD 3400 and 3600 cards offer DirectX
10.1 capabilities, high resolution 1920x1080p video playback and "unmatched
value" according to the chip maker. There will be four of the cheaper new cards
in total and all will be shipped with 256MB of memory. A higher end 3650 will
carry 512MB. At the time of writing however there have been no reviews or
benchmarking of the new budget graphics cards.
Inc, which began to ship its new Macbook Air to customers, announced that the
update to AppleTV has been delayed for two weeks. The Macbook Air, "the world's
thinnest computer" according to chief executive Steve Jobs, will retail for
$1,799 in its base configuration, which consists of a dual core Intel CPU at
1.6GHz and 2GB of memory. A higher specification model featuring a faster
processor and solid state drive is available at $3,098. A number of stores in
the US had concerns about availability of the new machine but were assured that
demand would be met.
Martin J Young is an Asia Times Online correspondent based in Thailand.