SWsoft Brings Apple Hardware Into the Virtual Mix

Hoping to carve out a niche in the increasingly competitive virtualization market, SWsoft has delivered a beta version of its server product, which it claims is the first virtualization product that runs on Apple-based hardware, as well as the first to run multiple copies of Mac OS X Server on a single Apple computer.

The upcoming Parallels Server can be installed using the company's hypervisor, where virtual machines (VMs) work in concert with a primary or bare-metal operating system. VMs run independently of each other and have no dependence on a host operating system. Admins have the option of loading the server in lightweight hypervisor mode or bare-metal mode right at installation time.

Parallels Server can simultaneously support any combination of 50 guest operating systems -- including Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008, Red Hat Linux, SUSE Enterprise Linux and Sun Solaris -- in isolated virtual machines.

Admins choosing to use Parallels Server on Apple Xserves can run Apple's latest OS Mac OS X Server, commonly referred to as Leopard, in a virtual machine. SWsoft officials point out this gives admins the ability to create "sandboxed" Leopard virtual machines on which they can test patches and new applications, and explore various hardware configurations without disturbing the production server.

The new product will sit along side SWsoft's Virtuozzo Containers. The company's officials said they will rework its virtualization management tools to manage both Virtuozzo Containers and Parallels Server some time this year.

Recent changes to the Mac OS X Server v. 10.5 Leopard EULA permit virtualization of Leopard Server only on Apple hardware. The EULA doesn't allow Leopard Server on non-Apple hardware.

Company officials said they are now accepting registrations for new beta testers. Admins interested in participating can go here.

Microsoft Tool Fends Off Malicious Gadgets
Hackers keep hacking away, trying to find new ways to break down Vista's security. Late yesterday, Microsoft urged Vista users to download a new security tool capable of automatically disabling malicious gadgets, those small applets that come bundled with only Windows Vista. Vista users can download hundreds more gadgets that aren't included with the year-old operating system.

The company is calling the new 1MB download, dubbed Windows Sidebar Protection, a "high-priority" update. While the update is optional, depending on what settings a user has selected in Windows Automatic Updates, the code actually may be downloaded and installed whether you like it or not.

The Sidebar panel that holds the gadgets -- which are usually small but useful tools for doing things like providing RSS feeds and tools for monitoring your PC -- are composed of HTML and a variety of scripts.

However, as Microsoft's advisory states, "Vista treats gadgets like it treats all executable code" and that "gadgets are written using HTML and scripts." However, the particular HTML used to create these scripts "is not located on an arbitrary remote server as most Web pages are...therefore, HTML content in the gadget is downloaded first as part of a package of resources and configuration files and then executed from the local computer."

Bottom line: Gadgets are dangerous and potentially malicious. While the gadgets, which are created by both Microsoft and third parties, are available on Microsoft's Web site, the company admits that it doesn't vet them. Microsoft officials said they know of no vulnerabilities in existing gadgets presently.

"The update gives us a mechanism to prevent a malicious gadget from being installed first of all, and if it's installed, to block the gadget [from running]," said Austin Wilson, a director in the Windows client product management group in a prepared statement. "We're being proactive here. We looked at the [security] landscape and wanted this in place in case a problem arises in the future," he stated.

Astaro Helps Promote Greener Networks
Trying to cash in on users' heightened interest in green technologies, Astaro Corp. is starting a campaign highlighting the fact its core products can reduce electricity consumption by up to 1,000 percent. The company, which specializes in unified threat management (UTM) security appliances, contends its technologies allow users to remove up to 10 standalone products by consolidating them onto a single, unified, hardened platform, thereby significantly limiting waste and the electricity needed to power network security appliances.

Company officials point out that in order to ensure the continuous operation of many security devices, most companies must deploy dual products in a high-availability or clustered mode. But in doing so, this can double and triple the number of devices requiring power. So after two or three years, many such network appliances must be replaced and typically thrown out since they can't be reused.

But because Astaro's products are available as software, users can deploy the company's products on their own existing hardware, thereby sidestepping the need to field additional physical appliances. For instance, Astaro said, admins can virtualize Astaro's Security Gateway by using a pre-installed and pre-configured Astaro Security Gateway image that can function with a minimal installation so all security applications are running on a single VMware platform. It's this approach that creates a much greener networking environment, company officials contend.

Some analyst firms agree that the opportunity Astaro is pursuing could pay off handsomely. In a report recently released by Gartner, the researcher said the "need for firewall capabilities within virtual networks within virtualized servers is emerging, yet clear." However, the report also said few vendors now offer full-featured solutions: "Virtual-network firewall solutions need virtual machine and policy awareness, including integration into VM management tools. Vendors providing firewall solutions that bridge the physical and virtual world are needed."

Admins wanting more information on Astaro's green products can go to www.astaro.com.

Mailbag: Hung Up on Cell Phone Ads
Intel's got big plans to make connecting to the Internet easier, and wants to bring all kinds of consumer electronic gadgets together. Darla chips in with her idea:

I would love to see (if it's not already happening) wired and cordless consumer/business phones working with Bluetooth technology!
-Darla

Mozilla has made a few changes to its ranks and recently promoted a new CEO. But Benny thinks it ought to work on its browser a little more:

I use mainly MS Outlook for my Web mail and the interface in Firefox is terrible! So I don't foresee shifting to Firefox until they fix this issue.
-Benny

Readers are fired up about sundry plans to put ads on cell phones. Most of you think it's an all-around bad idea -- to put it lightly:

Call me old (I am, after all, 51), call me cynical (I have been in the industry for 38 of those years), but I just want a phone that sends and receives calls. The day I am forced to put up with the stream of excrement from half-wits exhorting me to buy their unnecessary, useless, self indulgent tripe is the day I place my phone up some advertising executive's rear end on vibrate and switch to smoke signals.
-Christopher

If I start to get advertising when I place a call, I'll stop using a cell phone!
-Steve

If they want to pay my cell phone bill, I would not be opposed. But of course, they will not pay the bill. So, no, I don't want ads on my cell phone.
-Norman

I absolutely hate the idea of ads on my cell phone and I will boycott any advertiser that does so. We should at least be able to opt out of any such advertising.
-Ron

The first lawsuits of this technical age of Aquarius will be directed at the text or display advertiser who breaches the "Do Not Call" lists to which users have already registered their phones. Using a different delivery method to the same device should not render an invasive advertiser immune from prosecution.

I would expect that this collaboration between the two leading companies who monopolize the search engine oligarchy would draw the attention of the government's antitrust investigators.
-Anonymous

I'm with you, Lafe -- no way do I want more advertising! I'm tired of roadside ads of all kinds, extra-long commercial breaks on TV, Web ads that get in the way, and other Web ads that are so poorly built they hog my CPU so I can't work (thanks, HP, for that animated ad, and IE 7 for supporting it). I pay enough for "privacy" on my cell phone -- they had better not invade it or they may find themselves on the end of a consumer revolt! Even responding "GO AWAY," as prescribed by AT&T, doesn't stop the text onslaught. Perhaps we need the "Do Not Call" list to be extended to "Do not text/advertise/whatever" to my phone or "you'll be sued as I have proof of your breach on my phone, sucker!"
-Stephen

And Bruce has a wealth of things to say about Yahoo's mobile development plans, cell phone spam, Firefox and more.

Here's my take on Yahoo as a Verizon customer: Yahoo, on my two phones, sucks. Both phones have a brain-dead version of Yahoo on it where you can't even prevent communications from non-friends. Now, why would a company allow spam like that? Simple: Unless you are on the premium plan or a plan that has unlimited text, you pay for every message you get. So that's my take on why Verizon hasn't killed Yahoo spam -- it would cost them potential revenue, either in the form of text charges or premium charges.

As for phone apps, I'm sick of renting them. I'm also sick of phones being able to play media, but only the media your vendor sells you. And I'm sick of having to buy new phones -- the ones I have rock and work great. Then we get to Android. I want to write my own phone apps -- I have some wicked combinations of various apps I'd love to create (I'd tell you, but then someone might beat me to it -- sorry). I also think that many of the apps are brain-dead because either the phone vendor limits them or the creator runs out of steam due to all the phone platforms that have to be supported. God, it's a nightmare out there for that -- if they got it down to even two that would be a big help. I'd love to have some open source apps that can be extended or mashed up. One of these days, I've got to download the Android kit (not even sure it's available yet) and build one particular mash-up that I think would be a huge sell.

Then we get to Firefox. I use firefox exclusively. I can't stand IE 6 or IE 7; both suffer from "my name is Bill and here's what you will like -- take it or leave it." I love the way you can use tabs and the way that you can decide where the various bars appear. The ONLY time I use IE (and it's by force) is getting updates from Mr. Bill. Again, what I like about Firefox is that it's totally open and if I want to tweak something about it, I can.

One other thing I've noticed: the Sync on Ford cars. Here's another place where you only get what they provide. I'm sure everyone has said this to you, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to think that stuff up. I wanted that thing five years ago on my VW. I've got a mash-up idea for that, too, and a ready-made group that would be willing to buy it. Just need to make sure that it doesn't violate line-of-sight rules in all 50 states.

We as consumers are losing rights in droves. DRM and DMCA have not prevented copying; all it's done is prevent competition. Things you used to be able to do with a bucket of bolts (so to speak), you can't even do anymore. What ever happened to the rule that says I can do with it what I want to and they can't do anything about it? That's a right that consumers need to demand back. Android and Firefox give you those rights back. MS, the music industry, hardware companies, service providers -- they want you to lose everything. Is it any wonder other countries are ahead of us? Maybe it's because they don't have stupid rules that say I can't hack together stuff.

Hey, I understand patents -- that's not the issue here. If I were to take something that is patented and use it, of course I should pay fees. I'm not advocating stealing. Nor am I advocating stealing encrypted streams. No, what I'm advocating is being able to do what I want to do with my stuff after I get it -- to be able to use it as I see fit as long as I don't violate traditional copyright and/or patent laws.
-Bruce

Want to sound off? Leave your comment below or send an e-mail to escannell@redmondmag.com.

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