Marc Andreessen

Marc Andreessen, father of Moziac and Netscape, (his Wikipedia bio is here) has started a blog. And what a blog.

He is now deep into the new Apple architecture, and has a great paradigm for creating Windows virtual machines (plural!) underneath.

Virtualization is the biggest thing to hit the operating system world since protected memory.

Why?

Virtualization — in the form of software like Parallels and VMWare Fusion — lets you deal with an individual operating system as if it were an application.

You can install it, copy it, back it up, revert it, and (critically) delete it just like you can do those things to applications.

This is incredibly useful when dealing with normal operating systems like Linux.

This is invaluable when dealing with an operating system like Windows XP that can become easily corrupted or degraded over time.

It’s hard to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it how much better life gets when you can create one virgin installation of Windows XP and then clone it into multiple instances — for example, one for work, one for play, and one for experimentation — and then toss them around like they were apps and revert or delete them any time they start acting funny, instead of having to reinstall the core OS on the computer itself.

Finally, the answer to Windows rot.

Heaven.

To say nothing of his extended review of science fiction since the year 2000. Below is his comment on Vernor Vinge.

Vinge, a retired San Diego State University professor of mathematics and computer science, is one of the most important science fiction authors ever — with Arthur C. Clarke one of the best forecasters in the world.

First, if you haven’t had the pleasure, be sure to read True Names, Vinge’s 1981 novella that forecast the modern Internet with shocking clarity. (Ignore the essays, just read the story.) Fans of Gibson and Stephenson will be amazed to see how much more accurately Vinge called it, and before Neuromancer’s first page cleared Gibson’s manual typewriter. Quoting a reviewer on Amazon:


When I was starting out as a PhD student in Artificial Intelligence at Carnegie Mellon, it was made known to us first-year students that an unofficial but necessary part of our education was to locate and read a copy of an obscure science-fiction novella called True Names. Since you couldn’t find it in bookstores, older grad students and professors would directly mail order sets of ten and set up informal lending libraries — you would go, for example, to Hans Moravec’s office, and sign one out from a little cardboard box over in the corner of his office. This was 1983 — the Internet was a toy reserved for American academics, “virtual reality” was not a popular topic, and the term “cyberpunk” had not been coined. One by one, we all tracked down copies, and all had the tops of our heads blown off by Vinge’s incredible book.

True Names remains to this day one of the four or five most seminal science-fiction novels ever written, just in terms of the ideas it presents, and the world it paints. It laid out the ideas that have been subsequently worked over so successfully by William Gibson and Neal Stephenson. And it’s well written. And it’s fun.

So what? Well, he’s done it again. Vinge’s new novel, Rainbows End (yes, the apostrophe is deliberately absent), is the clearest and most plausible extrapolation of modern technology trends forward to the year 2025 that you can imagine.

Stop reading this blog right now. Go get it. Read it, and then come back.

I’ll wait.

It’s that good.

I’m busy now setting up base virtual machines for Windows XP and Vista. I can’t contain my glee.

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