Scott Hanselman

Is This Useful? - Google Street View

May 30, '07 Comments [19] Posted in Musings
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A while back I posted about interesting maps (actually in 2005!) and listed out all the interesting map sites. At the time, Amazon's maps.a9.com was the most innovative because they had street level imagery. They've since shut down, but today Google Maps took it to the next level with Google StreetView.

Not sure why you'd want to watch a blurry video rather than just going there, but you can see a demo on YouTube if you like.

The embedded Flash has a nice draggable cylinder view like QuickTime VR, letting you see any angle stitched together.

The user interface is pure brilliance. Pick up the little yellow man and drag him, and his little feet float in the wind as you drag him round, until he's firmly planted on virtual ground again. A green arrow indicates which direction he's facing. Even arrow keyboard hotkeys work as they should!

Here's the real question - is this useful?

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Going to Foo Camp 2007

May 30, '07 Comments [12] Posted in Musings | Speaking
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I received and accepted an invitation to go to O'Reilly's "Foo Camp" 07, being held in Sebastopol, CA, north of San Fransisco. Here's the schpeal:

We've invited about 250 Friends Of O'Reilly (aka Foo), people who're doing interesting works in fields such as web services, data visualization and search, open source programming, computer security, hardware hacking, GPS, alternative energy, and all manner of emerging technologies to share their works-in-progress, show off the latest tech toys and hardware hacks, and tackle challenging problems together. We'll have some planned activities, but much of the agenda will be determined by you. We'll provide space, electricity, a wireless network, and a wiki. You bring your ideas, enthusiasms, and projects. We all get to know each other better, and hopefully come up with some cool ideas about how to change the world.

There's about 250 folks going, and the list of "foo campers" is pretty cool. I'm going to have trouble keeping track of everyone, as the all seem so darned interesting.

One important thing about Foo Camp it seems, is that every attendee should be prepared to demo something that they are working on. This is, of course, where paralysis sets in. Here's their list of suggested sessions so far.

I like the sound of these:

  • Islam 2.0 - Understanding the intersection between spirituality and computing...creating 'life services' for Muslims (Imran Ali).
  • Using Improvisation to spur creativity and generate ideas (Kent Nichols, Douglas Sarine)

I'm hoping to record a number of Podcasts for folks to enjoy, and perhaps just conversations with cool people.

Help me, what sessions should I come to chat about? Here's some ideas I have so far...yours are appreciated as I'm only as clever as the sum of all of you. ;)

  • Carrying Water from the River to the Internet Cafe - Is Africa skipping a step on the technology road? How can The Continent avoid Brain Drain and support a new middle class of knowledge workers when there's no infrastructure to support them?
  • Using The Social Web to Improve Diabetes Care - What can the medical industry learn from Web 2.0 to provide better care for those with life-long chronic illnesses likes Diabetes?
  • How Important is NOT-English on The Web? - Will the Internet end up like the movie Serenity with just English and Mandarin? Or perhaps English, Spanish, French, Mandarin, Hindi and Arabic? Is there value in supporting a Web with pages in Amharic? Sioux? Zulu?
  • I left my Brain in my Other Pants or Where do you store yourself? or Techniques and Synchronization of your iLife or Mashing up your Life - Between email, contacts, calendars, freebusy information, documents, medical info, bills, accounts, my life is an exercise in synchronization...without an authoritative source. Who will be my cloud and can I trust them?

That's all I've got off the top of my head...What ideas do you have for me, Dear Reader? If you've gone to this event before, what tips can you offer me?

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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The Duh Files - The file is too large for the destination file system

May 30, '07 Comments [16] Posted in Musings
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When copying giant (greater than 4 gig) files and Virtual Machines and Video and what-not to your fresh new External Hard Drive you might be greeted with this message, or one like it:

Doh! This hard drive came formatted as FAT32, which doesn't support files larger than 4 gigs. You can either Format the drive, by right clicking the Drive in My Computer and using the Tools tab, or, if you already have a bunch of files on it...

Run an Administrator Console (click the Start Menu, type cmd, then right click on the command prompt and click "Run As Administrator") then run:

C:\Users\Scott>convert h: /fs:ntfs /nosecurity
The type of the file system is FAT32.
Enter current volume label for drive H: My Book
The volume is in use by another process. Chkdsk
might report errors when no corruption is present.
Volume My Book created 1/31/2003 2:23 PM
Volume Serial Number is XXXX-XXXX
Windows is verifying files and folders...
File and folder verification is complete.
Windows has checked the file system and found no problems.
244,136,352 KB total disk space.
128 KB in 4 hidden files.
544 KB in 17 folders.
3,063,072 KB in 63 files.
241,072,576 KB are available.

32,768 bytes in each allocation unit.
7,629,261 total allocation units on disk.
7,533,518 allocation units available on disk.

Determining disk space required for file system conversion...
Total disk space: 244196001 KB
Free space on volume: 241072576 KB
Space required for conversion: 369647 KB
Converting file system
Conversion complete

...and continue your copy, with the crisis averted. Bummer there's no "Convert File System" button in the Tools Property Tab of a Disk Drive.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Virtual Machine CPU Performance

May 30, '07 Comments [12] Posted in Musings | Reviews | Tools
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In the last post on Virtual Machine Performance Tips I said, here are some realistic goals for your Guest OS (VM) performance, that I originally got from J. Sawyer at Microsoft:

  • Ideally Virtual PC performance is at:
    • CPU: 96-97% of host
    • Network: 70-90% of host
    • Disk: 40-70% of host

In the comments Vincent Evans said:

From personal experience with VM (running in MS Virtual Server) - i have grave doubts about your claim of VM CPU performance approaching anywhere near 90% of native.

Can you put more substance behind that claim and post a CPU benchmark of your native server vs. vm running on that server? For example i used a popular prime number benchmark (can't remember the name, wprime maybe? not sure.) and my numbers were more like 70% of native.

I agreed, so I took a minute during lunch and ran a few tests. For the test I used the Freely Available IE6 WindowsXP+SP2 Test Virtual Machine Image along with the Free Virtual PC 2007 and Virtual Server 2005 R2 as well.

These are neither scientific, nor are they rigorous. They are exactly what they claim to me. They are me running some tests during lunch, so take them as such. I encourage those of you who care more deeply than I to run your own tests and let me know why these results either suck, or are awesome.

I used wprime to calculate the square roots of the first 4,194,303 numbers. Wprime can spin up multiple threads, and this was significant because my system has two processors, so you'll see what kind of a difference this made in the tests.

Both Virtual PC and Virtual Server only let the Guest OS use one of the processors, so I did the tests on the Host OS with one, then two processors, to make sure the difference is clear.

My Hardware (as seen by wprime from the Host OS)

>refhw
CPU Found: CPU0
Name: Intel(R) Core(TM)2 CPU T7600 @ 2.33GHz
Speed: 2326 MHz
L2 Cache: 4096 KB
CPU Found: CPU1
Name: Intel(R) Core(TM)2 CPU T7600 @ 2.33GHz
Speed: 2326 MHz
L2 Cache: 4096 KB

Results

Looks like for both tests a VM's CPU, when stressed, runs at just about 90% of the speed of the Host OS, which is lower than the Goal of 96-97% I printed earlier. Tomorrow I'll update this post by rebooting and going into the BIOS and turning off my system's Hardware Assisted Virtualization and seeing if that makes a difference. If the results are lower (I assume they are) then that'll just confirm that VT Technology is useful - I assume that's a fair assumption.

You can try these tests yourself on your own machines using wprime. Just make sure you tell wprime how many threads to use in your Host OS, depending on your number of processors. Thanks to Vincent for encouraging the further examination!

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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VM Performance Checklist - Before you Complain that your Virtual Machine is Slow

May 29, '07 Comments [22] Posted in Tools
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I continue to meet folks who complain that their Virtual Machine performance is slow. Yes, it would be great if VMs somehow were able to self-tune the relationship between themselves and the host OS, but that's sadly not the case.

When you're running an OS within and OS and maintaining a FileSystem within a FileSystem, not to mention sharing a hard drive spindle, there's lots of opportunities for things to go very slowly.

If you're experiencing poor VM performance, I would encourage you to go through a Performance Checklist.

Also, before you start, remember what you goals are. You'll not get your VMs running at 100% of native speed, at least not this year, so just stop aiming for that as a goal.

Here's some more realistic goals:

  • Ideally Virtual PC performance is at:
    • CPU: 96-97% of host
    • Network: 70-90% of host
    • Disk: 40-70% of host

Try to make all of these changes if you can. If you can't do one or more of these recommendations, then you can't complain. ;)

Virtual PC Performance Checklist

  • Make sure your Host Operating System's disk is defragmented.
    • This includes the System Disk (the disk your OS boots off of) as well as the Disk that holds your Virtual Hard Disk File.
      • For a quick fix, use a single-file defragmenter like Contig from SysInternals. With the Virtual Machine shut down, run Contig -a to analyze single file fragmentation and run without -a to defragment the file.
  • Run Fewer Applications.
    • I'm continually amazed when folks complain about VM performance and when I get to their desk I see that they are running Outlook. That 200+megs could be better used by the system. Are you running a VM or checking your email? Consider checking your email on a schedule, or using Outlook Web Access while you work on your VM.
    • If you have 2 GIG or more of memory, consider running your Host Operating System without a Paging File. This doesn't mean you get to keep 50 applications, plus Outlook running all at once, but it does take the pressure off your Host OS's disk, and you might find things run considerably snappier.
  • Run the Virtual Machine on a separate spindle.
    • There's no better tip, as anyone who has run VMs (I've been using VMWare since it was in Beta) will tell you. The #1 bottleneck is disk.
      • Try to use a 7200RPM or 10000RPM drive for your VM disk
      • Use USB2 or SATA or Fireware.
        • If you're using USB2, make sure the Eternal Hard Drive is on it's own USB root hub, all alone. Don't share it with your keyboard, mouse, or webcam.
  • Optimize your VM for your current task.
    • Personally, I use and highly recommend Invirtus Virtual Machine Optimizer for this. It's inexpensive if you value your time. Considering getting a site license and actually do the math at how much time it'll save your company when you're trying to convince your boss. I run it over lunch on a VM and move on. You can also do a lot of the work manually if you have the time using tools like XPLite and CrapCleaner (although less so with CrapCleaner if the box is already fresh).
      • Remove any application that's not needed.
      • Shut down every service you can possibly get away with.
  • Enable Hardware Assisted Virtualization
    • If you've got this on your computer, turn it on. There IS some concern about really sophisticated Trojans that can use this technology for evil, but for me, it's all good as it speeds most Guest Operating Systems (especially non-Microsoft ones) up quite a bit.
  • Give your Virtual Machines LESS MEMORY
    • I've found that 512 megs is just about the Ideal Amount of memory for 90% of your Virtual Machines. Don't bother trying to give them 1024 megs, it's just not worth the pressure it'll put on the Host Operating System.
  • Considering making a custom Windows install for your VMs.
    • Rather than going to all the effort to REMOVE things, why not create a Windows installation that can be shared across your organization that doesn't include the crap ahead of time. There's a Windows Installation Customizer called nLite that lets you prepare Windows installations so they never include the stuff you don't want. Makes it easier if Solitaire is never installed, eh?
  • Make sure the Guest Operating System is defragmented.
    • Jeff likes this free Disk Defragmenter that runs in that "Text Mode" place before Windows really starts up. This allows it to get at files that don't always get defragmented.
  • Squish your VM Hard Drive.
    • Again, I use Invirtus so it does this for me, but you can also zero out the free space on your VM hard drive with the Virtual PC Pre-Compactor that comes with Virtual PC when hosting Windows, and there are Linux options for shrinking VM hard drives as well.
  • Don't use NTFS Compression on the Virtual Machine Hard Drive File in the Host Operating System
  • Don't Remote Desktop or VNC into Host Operating Systems that are hosting Virtual Machines.
    • If you're remoting into a machine where THAT machine is running a VM, note that to the Remote Desktop protocol (and VNC) the VM just looks like a big square bitmap that is constantly changing. That guarantees you slow performance. If you can, instead, Remote Desktop into the Virtual Machine itself.
  • Make sure you've install the Virtual Machine Additions (or Tools, or Utilities, or Whatever)
    • Virtual PC and VMWare and Parallels all include drivers and tools that improve the performance of your Virtual Machine. They are there for good reason, make sure you've installed them.
      • Also, if you're running a Virtual Machine created under and older version, like Virtual PC 2004, and you're now running under a newer one, like 2007, pay attention to the upgrade warnings and install the latest drivers and Virtual Machine Additions.
  • Optimize Painting and the "Perception of Responsiveness"
    • If you're running a VM, you don't need to have eye candy like menu fades, smooth scrolling or shadows.
      • Turn off wallpaper
      • Turn off Window Dragging and Shadows under Menus (under Effects in the Display Control Panel). Consider removing all effects like fading as well as ClearType.
      • Consider running the Classic Theme if you're running an XP VM, or consider "net stop themes" altogether.
      • Turn off the Mouse Pointer Shadow in the Mouse Control Panel.
      • Turn off Mouse
      • Use TweakXP or change the Registry to remove the Menu Delay for the Start Menu and other Menus via the MenuShowDelay setting in HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop.

Did I miss any tips?

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.