Solipsism Gradient

Rainer Brockerhoff’s blog

Browsing Posts published in November, 2005

A large shoe which Apple will drop is, of course, virtualization. Virtualization will tie in with a recent Apple patent which, linked to the TPM chip, will allow the new machines to run other OSes inside a sandboxed “virtual machine”. Those other OSes will believe they have a somewhat slower system all to themselves, while running inside a separate window (and, perhaps, disk partition or disk image).

Putting this together with the previously discussed flash memory hypothesis, the advantages to Apple become obvious. Why should they need to have a standard BIOS or EFI at all? They can boot directly into the virtualization kernel (or whatever it’s called at the moment), from encrypted flash memory, which in turn would run a subset of Mac OS X – perhaps only the kernel with drivers and the windows manager – to have a basic GUI to check out which virtual OSes the user wants to run. This could be a full version of Mac OS X, or any version of Windows, Unix or Linux that runs on the abstracted hardware presented by the virtualizer.

In fact, it seems that a virtual OS could be a stripped-down OS specialized for a single application – something like what’s used now for embedded systems. It might be a gaming OS optimized for full-screen interfaces, for instance, or a TiVo-like appliance, or a multimedia center.

So, Apple doesn’t have to tie itself to standards during the boot process; in fact, this means that even if the user wants to run some non-Apple OS most of the time, the Mac interface will be present all the time underneath. At the very least, you can imagine the current ghastly BIOS user interface neatly presented in Aqua…

The Apple Centipede

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Amazingly, I’ve almost caught up with my e-mail, almost a month after returning from the last trip… and the remaining offline work is clearing up, so I hope to be able to post more here again.

The catchy title is just to remind people that Apple has a lot of shoes to drop in the near future.

In particular, there’s been some news recently that I should comment on while I still have all the links. First of all, Apple will prepay $1.25 billion (yes, gigabucks) to a new Intel-Micron consortium to secure supplies of NAND flash memory – the flash memory used in some iPods. This of course is, obviously, also meant to dispel investor’s fears about iPod supply problems, as the present manufacturers aren’t quite able to keep up with Apple’s demands, let alone the rest of the industry.

Separately, the latest build of Tiger for X86 has been cracked; seems they’re not using the TPM encryption capabilties yet, but just checking for the chip’s presence. The latest build also extends Rosetta to emulate the G4 with AltiVec, so a wider range of PowerPC apps should be able to immediately run emulated on X86 – although there’s no word yet about speed ratios.

The Motley Fool and some other folks speculate that Apple will be introducing instant-on capabilities; this would use the suddenly plentiful flash chips to hold parts of the operating system while the power is off. Incidentally, the IBM/360 mainframes I worked with in the 1970’s had something similar; the core memories they used at the time held data when the power went off, so with some care – stopping the processor before turning it off – you often could just continue after turning it back on without a reboot.

Finally, it’s no surprise that Intel has a special “Apple Group” where engineers from both companies work together. As I believe it unlikely that Apple will use a standard Intel motherboard, the most likely focus of this group is to make special motherboards and custom chips for Apple.

Put these bits together and what do you get? I think the X86 hackers are in for a surprise when the new Macs come out. I think Apple will take OS-hardware integration to a new peak with the Intel Macs. They’ll have a gigabyte or so of flash memory where an encrypted version of the Mac OS X will reside – a return to the days of the first Mac 128, when most of the toolbox was in ROM and the “System” file just contained patches and late-minute additions.

This giga-firmware will be encrypted with each machine’s own unique ID – contained in the TPM chip – and will be decrypted on-the-fly as needed into a secure portion of system RAM. Future system updates will come encrypted and be re-coded by the update process, which will run in full secure mode, perhaps even inside the TPM chip itself. Since some Intel CPUs are rumored to have the TPM chip built-in, this hypothesis gains weight. The instant-on capability would be just a nice side-effect…

Re: End of an era

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Posted by neilio:
That’s funny – my magazine consumption is increasing, not decreasing. I guess it’s all a part of me attempting to separate my computer / Internet time from offline stuff. There’s something very relaxing about sitting down with a hot beverage and a good magazine that cannot be replicated by reading the web site.

I think for me this more applies to newspapers than magazines – we still get the weekend edition of the local newspaper here, but during the week we get all of our news from the web.

Albeit I do read quite a few magazines where the content isn’t available on the magazine’s web site, but I think it’s also part of my reading habits. I like to sit down and read a magazine from cover to cover, where as I would never do this with an online version.

I would be interested to hear if your actual reading habits have changed since you stopped reading physical magazines – do you just dip in and read the occasional article here and there, or do you read through an entire magazine’s articles in one sitting as you might have before?

I also stopped keeping the majority of magazines that I buy – like you, I used to hoard everything, but after moving a half dozen times in the past 6-8 years I quickly learned that this, coupled with my massive book collection, was a one-way ticket to gigantic moving fees. So I now use magazine web sites for archives, and only keep the ones where the experience is vastly different with the print edition (Communication Arts, for example).

Just for fun, here’s some of the magazines I still purchase in print form:

– The Economist (though it’s getting harder and harder to read this cover-to-cover with all of the other distractions)

– Communication Arts

Before & After magazine

– Macworld (I have a free subscription lasting for another 2 years or so)

Maisonneuve – awesome Canadian magazine

Walrus – another excellent Canadian magazine – similar to Harpers, but with a Canadian perspective

I would be interested to hear what others are still buying in print form.

End of an era

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Dozens of offline things to be debugged, no time… but I’m slowly digging my way out from under.

Even so, one thing struck me this weekend; I’m not buying magazines anymore.

Ten years ago I was buying an average of 20 to 40 magazines each month. No subscriptions; the few times I tried subscribing, it didn’t work out well; one extreme case was when I subscribed to MacWorld magazine at an expo and the first (and only) issue I ever got from that arrived 11 months late, and with my address wrong – they’d put in “Mexico” instead of “Brazil”. I suppose whoever typed my address in from the subscription card decided I was obviously mistaken about my country of residence. But I digress…

When we moved from a largish house into a smallish apartment, Dorinha wisely decided that my magazine collection would not survive the move. Some I gave to friends, some I stored elsewhere, but most if was discarded… and that part was like several cubic meters of paper. (I thought briefly of microfilming, but…)

Anyway, after the move the only magazine I still bought every month was Wired, since I had the complete run from issue#1. But lately some issues have been missing at the newsdealer’s, and now the last trip has definitely interrupted my collection… and most of it is available on the net now anyway… still, I miss the ads and the back page.

Of course, the blame lies on that Internet thingy. Don’t know how people survived without it…

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