The Real Deal 174: Virtualization

Rafe and Tom explain what virtualization is and how it works, plus take your calls and questions on Windows installations, virtualizing Android, and more.

Tom Merritt Former CNET executive editor
10 min read

Rafe and Tom explain what virtualization is and how it works, plus they take your calls and questions on Windows installations, virtualizing Android, and more.


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(From Wikipedia) Gerald J. Popek and Robert P. Goldberg defined virtualization requirements in their 1974 article “Formal Requirements for Virtualizable Third Generation Architectures”.

They required a virtual machine have three properties.
Equivalence A program running under the Virtual Machine Monitor should exhibit a behavior essentially identical to that demonstrated when running on an equivalent machine directly.
Resource control The VMM must be in complete control of the virtualized resources.
Efficiency A statistically dominant fraction of machine instructions must be executed without VMM intervention.

A system virtual machine provides a complete system platform which supports the execution of a complete operating system
Virtual Box
VMWare Fusion
Windows 7 XP mode (?)

process virtual machine is designed to run a single program, which means that it supports a single process.
Java Runtime Environment

Three techniques
Full virtualization – uses Hypervisor.
Emulator -
Operating system-level virtualization

Three most popular consumer VMs
VMWare Fusion
Microsoft’s own: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/virtual-pc/
Run (PowerPC) OSX on a PC http://pearpc.sourceforge.net/

Links for calls




E-mail questions


Hello Tom and Rafe,

I have a MacBook Pro 15″, but also have a Sony Ericsson phone that I
unlock/debrand every few years, and with the Sony update software
which must be used, a Windows machine is required.

To quench this need I ran Windows 7 in VirtualBox, but the problem was
that the phone has to be physically connected to the computer at a
certain time during the update, and that triggers the progression of
the update. This did not work in VirtualBox, because it automatically
connects to OS X instead of Windows. I went to settings to try and
change this, but wasn’t successful.

Does Parallels or Fusion automatically steal the USB ports when
running so that I would be able to unlock/debrand my future Sony
Ericsson phone?

To solve the problem, I just used my mom’s laptop, but with college
coming up, I’d rather not rely on other people so that I can update my

Thanks, love the show!

Answer: VMWare Fusion has a setting you can check to automatically connect USB devices. If you want to take a crack at some scripts for automatically connecting USB in VirtualBox take a look at this: http://blog.montana.edu/acg-sysadmin/2009/04/10/automatically-attatching-usb-storage-to-virtualbox/

Rafe: I used VMWare on my Mac to program my Logitech Harmony remote control with Windows software via USB. Works fine. It’s a simple setting.Be sure you plug in the usb device with Fusion running in front.

Dear Tom & Rafe-
I remember learning (in the days before we had really good spam-blocking software) that you shouldn’t click on the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of a spam message because that lets the spammer know that they have actually reached an active email address. However, as a power user I am drowning in Bacn, email that comes from the millions of Web services I belong to. What is the best way to minimize unwanted bacn? Should I be filtering, unsubscribing, or what?

Thanks for the great show!

ANSWER: It’s all about knowing when to unsubscribe and when not. If it’s someone you know and trust, you can safely hti the unsub link.
Or use Gmail’s awesome spam filter
Or redirect BACN email to an alternative inbox. Otherinbox is pretty good for that.


Hi Tom and Rafe,

I recently attempted to reinstall vista on my home built pc. However, it seems as if my vista disk has been scratched and won’t install. Is it safe to buy a used copy on Ebay? Will I run into issues with product keys and activation? Or should I just wait for 7 and live with Ubuntu for a few months?

Love the Show,

Eric in Arizona

Answer: This may be one of the safer ways to proceed. Buy the used disk but use your previous activation code.


Hello Tom and Rafe,

Last week in your discussion on GPSs (Real Deal #173) you focused on their use in a car. While the main purpose of any GPS I purchase would be for use in my car, I would want one that is versatile enough to use while hiking and boating.

Do you have any thoughts on the features I would be looking for? Any recommendations?


-Gary In Indiana

Answer: You can get topographicand marine map downloads for many GPS devices like garmins. They cost extra though – about $100!. But you may not get durability or other features. For example, hiking-specific GPS device have batteries designed for day-long treks and some have two-way radios with location data transfer so you can find your buddies.


Dear Tom and Rafe
I am a regular listener to the pod cast and visitor to your sites.
I have searched google and forums to get an answer to this but can’t seem to find one.

I have just built a new pc and have purchased vista 64 home premium and loaded it on it. It came with a win 7 upgrade code and I have already submitted this to MS. I have access to the win 7 RTM and would like to custom (clean)upgrade now before this new computer gets full of stuff. Can I do so and then just activate in oct after I get my license key?
I am already aware of the way to extend activation until 120 days are up. If I can’t do a claen upgrade then can I do an in place upgrade?

On a similar note I have pre ordered 5 copies of the win7 HP upgrade and would really like to load the RTM on my 3 kids vista laptops before they go off to college.

Jim Lawless

Answer: It depends. If the code is legit, activate it now but be aware that if it’s MSDN or Technet bits, you may not be eligible for full support. If you want full support, use retail bits.

Full details from microsoft…

So I'm assuming the reader means he has an MSDN, TechNet, etc. kind of subscription, since the RTM downloads for those subscribers went live earlier this month on the 6th, and enterprise customers have been able to download it since the 7th. He should be able to activate and register his copy online right away. He doesn't have to wait until he gets the upgrade fulfilled, if he has a genuine copy of Windows 7. Though if he's installing a copy from those sources, he should be aware that they don't come with same tech support options the way the PC he likely bought with Vista did. So if he needs tech support, he'd need to go through his usual tech support options as an MSDN or enterprise customer, etc. (Most enterprises have tech support contracts, etc.)

The only reason he'd need to wait to install and activate his copy of Windows 7 is if he didn't actually have a genuine copy of the RTM build of Windows 7 and needed to wait for the 7 upgrade code along with his product key to install it, which is what he'd be getting as part of his fulfillment package from MS that he's sent away for.

If he's talking about a version he happened to find on the web, he shouldn't install it, because Microsoft can't guarantee that it is the RTM code, never mind the question of when to activate his copy of Windows 7. Often times hackers will distribute bits with special "surprises" installed - during the RC timeframe for Windows 7 for example, someone added a special Trojan to an RC build they leaked to the web. (The Genuine Windows folks talked about it when they were discussing how Windows 7 works with its activation technologies - see here for more.)

Helpful? Or did I just confuse you? J

One confusion... If he activates an MSDN (etc) copy of Win 7 with his retail upgrade coupon code, will he get retail support? Or am I confusing activation and registration here?


Here's basically how it works:

- OEMs and retailers who sell copies of Windows Vista that qualify for the upgrade to 7 can either give their customers a coupon to fulfill it through MS, or in some cases they're fulfilling it themselves. (Like if a consumer wants help upgrading, they can ask the geek squad, etc. to help them upgrade when the time comes, etc.)

- Those upgrade fulfillments where customers actually get the bits to upgrade happen around October 22nd when Windows 7 hits retail shelves.

- When you get the bits for 7 (whether through a free upgrade as part of the fulfillment process described above or through MSDN, TechNet, etc.), there's a product key you use to install (25 digits).

- The copy of Windows will check itself to see that the key is valid during install and the user will see a prompt asking if they want to activate now or later. If you say later, it goes about its merry way. You'll just see balloon prompts in the bottom right part of the task bar to activate over time with a black desktop to draw attention to it if you haven't done it after 30 days. (The link I sent described it a little more and there's also some screen shots.) But if folks have been testing with beta or RC, it's the same balloon prompt they likely noticed then. J

- If they choose the option to activate now, it will go up to Microsoft's activation servers to register the copy of Windows. And you won't get balloon prompts after that. (Enterprises have a way they can do this for multiple PCs, so IT can do it themselves vs. asking their users to do it. But that's a topic for another day. J)

The tech support part is different in that when you call in to tech support, you get asked for the Product ID number (under My Computer in Windows' case - it's a number the software randomly generates from the product key you used to install it, so it's specific to your copy of the software you installed). And from that, the customer reps can tell what type of support you qualify for. (They activate that ID number as part of setting up a case but in activating it, it can tell how you got your copy of Windows - like did it come with your PC, from MSDN, as part of an enterprise agreement, etc. J)


yet more…
So assuming he had 64 bit on Vista Home Premium already (he didn't say in his note to you below), he can do what's called an in place upgrade. If his Vista Home Premium was running in 32 bit mode, however, he needs to do a clean install (because you're changing from 32 to 64 orientation). But you can do a clean install with an upgrade version. It's just choosing a different option from the dialog box when you're installing. J



I work for Verizon Wireless and I love watching your shows everyweek. Just got done watching EP. 173 and have two comments on the show. First was about navigation. VZ Navigator, while Rafe doesn’t like the price, is fast and accurate and even if you lose cell phone signal will continue to show turn-by-turn navigation. Only problem is if you miss a turn. The system will try to recalculate the route and won’t have signal to do so. Might want to give it a try sometime as all of you at CNET seem to be Verizon fans, minus the WiFi issue that is being addressed with most upcoming models.

Second was for Bluetooth headphones that are not in ear. Found several other models by Motorola and LG that allow for 7hrs of Music and 8hrs of talk time that are over ear and behind head bluetooth stereo headsets. Of course both are available through Verizon Wireless and verizonwireless.com.

You guys are great and Love the show


Hi Tom and Rafe,
After listening to your last episode about using GPS on vacations, I thought I’d chime in with a little trick using Google Maps in areas without coverage. I use a Blackberry 8310 on AT&T and I just got back from driving LA to SF to Nor-Cal. My hotels usually had coverage while the dirt roads through the redwoods and most of Highway 1 had no coverage. To get around this I would scroll over the areas I wanted to visit that day, and the maps I saw in the morning would be available throughout the trip. While I couldn’t get directions or look up POl’s, I could at least see street names, where they intersected each other and where I was in relation to them. You can’t zoom in/out unless you’ve loaded the specific zoom levels, but for a free app you can do a decent amount even in areas without coverage. I greatly enjoyed this hidden feature on my trip, and I thought some of your listeners could benefit from it as well.

Patrick Schacht

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