Hardware drive selectors

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lotuseclat79

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ROMTEC, in Santa Fe Springs, CA used to make the TRIOS hard drive selector. It could run 3 different OSes and just by switching (hardware switch) you could instantly be in the other OS of your choice - i.e. all three boot up independently.

Anyone know whatever happened to them and their products? Did they get bought up, or go out of business, or are they still in business?

Anyone know of any other good hardware oriented drive selectors?

-- Tom
 

JohnWill

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There would have to be more than simply a hardware switch to have three O/S versions running for an instant switch. VMWARE and Virtual PC are software products that offer the functionality.
 

lotuseclat79

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JohnWill said:
There would have to be more than simply a hardware switch to have three O/S versions running for an instant switch. VMWARE and Virtual PC are software products that offer the functionality.
Hi John,

Basically, as I understand it, you load up three different OSes to three different disks, and connect the disks into your tower via the ROMTEC TRIOS (or other hardware switch), and when you power on your system, you select which OS you want to run (by default, or otherwise), i.e. before you power on.

So, in fact, you are right about needing more than a simple hardware switch to have three OSes (don't need to be same OS different versions) running for an instant switch. This is so, because on the ROMTEC TRIOS to go to another OS, you would have to shut down the computer to make a new selection.

The softwares you cite are just that - i.e. software approaches, but in this instance, the hardware selector switch allows you to separate the OSes onto separate disks (a requirement) , and boot up one separately when power to the system is turned on.

I am not familiar enough with VMWARE and Virtual PC to know whether what you are saying is equivalent to what I am asking about.

-- Tom
 

JohnWill

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OK, you actually don't need any more hardware to boot from separate disks, any boot manager will do that for you. Also, there are inexpensive drive drawers that have a power switch that will allow you to stick in the drive in question. I just interpreted "instant switch" to mean that you could just SNAP and be running in the other environment. The ability to simply select one of three disks is a lot more simple. :)

FWIW, VMWARE and Virtual PC actually allow the multiple environments to run simultaneously and you can switch between the running operating environments with a keyboard shortcut. I'm in the process of building a dual core system with 2gig of memory to put together my first Virtual PC system so I can dual boot multiple systems, should be an interesting experiment. :D
 

lotuseclat79

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JohnWill said:
OK, you actually don't need any more hardware to boot from separate disks, any boot manager will do that for you. Also, there are inexpensive drive drawers that have a power switch that will allow you to stick in the drive in question. I just interpreted "instant switch" to mean that you could just SNAP and be running in the other environment. The ability to simply select one of three disks is a lot more simple. :)

FWIW, VMWARE and Virtual PC actually allow the multiple environments to run simultaneously and you can switch between the running operating environments with a keyboard shortcut. I'm in the process of building a dual core system with 2gig of memory to put together my first Virtual PC system so I can dual boot multiple systems, should be an interesting experiment. :D
Hi John,

I am interested in what you described as "instant switch" which would really be handy. I really am not a great fan of multiple OSes on a single disk, but prefer, for obvious reasons, to keep them separate. In fact, I have grub configured to load either WinXP Pro SP2 (default), or Linux RH FC3. However, the use of a boot manager (any, really) like grub, does not cleanly allow the different OSes to be 100% fully separated, i.e. at least one of them depends on the bootloader of the other or an independent boot loader.

Do you recommend any driver drawers that would do the trick of the "instant switch"?

What I would like is for each disk to be able to be its own separate and independent instance of the OS that would get booted, and not be dependent on any other boot loader than its own - and be able to switch between them, i.e. on power up, each would independently boot up on its own disk.

Unfortunately, this cannot be done with a single motherboard - single memory approach, unless there is a way to first separately boot up one OS, and store its running image to Virtual disk as in a hibernate mode, then start up the other and do the same. Of course, this assumes that both or all OSes would have the functionality to hibernate. Switching between the two would activate a separate boot load of the full image (hibernated) on original boot up to the memory, and both or more OSes could then be switched back and forth. Shutdown, of course, could be either simple or complex - the simple shutdown would be to simply re-hibernate the image and orderly shutdown the disk, etcetera. Power On would be a simple power on spinning up the disks and using the hibernated images. By contrast, a complex shutdown would be more like a normal shutdown for each OS, and power on afterwards would be like the orginal startup of each.

Or, so my current thinking goes...

Further comments are appreciated!

-- Tom

P.S. I'm still interested in whatever happened to ROMTEC company.
 

JohnWill

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I think technology has passed by the method you're advancing, since VMWARE and the like are so much slicker and more useful. Many large companies use them to run several servers for different uses on a single piece of hardware. Imagine having 98, ME, 2K, XP, Vista, and Linux, all running together. In addition, when one O/S crashes, it has no effect on the other running versions.

I have a friend that uses VMWARE to run a Linux "sacrificial lamb" process that he deliberately tries to get infected to attempt to track how they attack the machine. When things go south, he just nukes that virtual partition and restores the backup copy and goes again.
 

lotuseclat79

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JohnWill said:
I think technology has passed by the method you're advancing, since VMWARE and the like are so much slicker and more useful. Many large companies use them to run several servers for different uses on a single piece of hardware. Imagine having 98, ME, 2K, XP, Vista, and Linux, all running together. In addition, when one O/S crashes, it has no effect on the other running versions.

I have a friend that uses VMWARE to run a Linux "sacrificial lamb" process that he deliberately tries to get infected to attempt to track how they attack the machine. When things go south, he just nukes that virtual partition and restores the backup copy and goes again.
John,

I knew there was something I wanted to say in response to you msg, and it took until now to trigger. In my previous msg to which your quote here was in reply, it wasn't the case at all that I was "advancing" any one method, it was just that I was trying to find the "right" words and wound up using a model (however poorly thought out) that came quickly to mind.

VMWARE looks more interesting than Virtual PC, but not the price. Of course, they both remind me of MVS back in the day. What I would really be interested in seeing is MS getting off their butt, and developing their research OS, which BTW has no connection to Windows, named "Singularity" into a product (off topic wishlist item).

-- Tom
 

JohnWill

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I have Virtual PC for free with my MSDN subscription, so it's probably the one I'll try first. :)
 

lotuseclat79

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JohnWill said:
I have Virtual PC for free with my MSDN subscription, so it's probably the one I'll try first. :)
Hi John,

I'd be interested to hear your assessment and evaluation (Pros and Cons) of using Virtual PC, so please keep us apprised of your experience.

Thanks,

-- Tom
 

JohnWill

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I have my AMD 64 X2 system with 2gig of memory waiting for me to load it. I'd like to have a number of different Windows versions available, as well as Linux, that seems like the way to do it.
 
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Just curious of one would go to the extent of keeping one system away from another by different drives and regarding sharing the same boot loader undesirable would be happy to pile all the systems together to be managed by VMware or virtual PC. Seems to be going the opposite direction as the idea of going virtual is to have the data accessible by more than one system at the same time.

The boot loader is always exclusive of any filing system.

MS systems do not support Linux and wouldn't know how to read its partition.

Main stream Linux also do not mount MS partotions by default. In any case one can always arrange a 100% total separation of one system from another by just disabling any MS partition mounting. If one wants it to be bomb-proof unwant partitions/disk can be made hidden too.

Therefore I don't see any technical reason of isolating different systems electrically by the hardware method.

From my experience this type of hard disk selectors make money out of the poor ability of MS boot loader to handle multple systems not originally designed to coexist together in the same disk or box. Any Linux user can confirm the switching between systems and disks are standard facilities available in every Linux boot loader.
 

JohnWill

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There are also tons of 3rd party boot managers, no need to use the Windows boot manager. :)
 

jiml8

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JohnWill said:
FWIW, VMWARE and Virtual PC actually allow the multiple environments to run simultaneously and you can switch between the running operating environments with a keyboard shortcut. I'm in the process of building a dual core system with 2gig of memory to put together my first Virtual PC system so I can dual boot multiple systems, should be an interesting experiment. :D
VMWare is substantially superior to Virtual PC.

I run VMWare in a production environment every day. The native OS is Linux and I run VMWare so that I can have multiple copies of Windows running simultaneously. Usually I run one and occasionally two copies of Windows 2000 in VMWare. I also occasionally fire up Knoppix in VMWare when I am feeling perverse; my kids get a kick out of me having "Linux running in Linux".

My Windows development environment is a Win2K system running in VMWare on Linux, and I have another Win2K environment that is called Win2KClean, which is nonpersistent and always starts as a fresh install. I use this copy for testing of new software installs, or any time I am doing something that could hose an OS. I also can, and do, start WinNT and Win95 in VMWare for testing purposes when it is necessary.

Virtual machines are very cool. I remember the "old days" when I didn't have this capability, and it seems so inflexible and downright dangerous now.
 

jiml8

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Just curious of one would go to the extent of keeping one system away from another by different drives and regarding sharing the same boot loader undesirable would be happy to pile all the systems together to be managed by VMware or virtual PC. Seems to be going the opposite direction as the idea of going virtual is to have the data accessible by more than one system at the same time.
The real idea here is to avoid the need for multiple computers or rebooting to go from one OS to another. Also, by virtualizing a system, you can do things such as the honeypot that John described and, when the system gets torn up, just shut it down. If it is defined as nonpersistent, then all the damage done to it vanishes when it is shut down.

I use my environment as a "network in a box" allowing me to test for vulnerabilities, test client/server behavior, and any number of any things all without going outside of my single box. Sharing data between OSs is a definitely secondary consideration, although of course I do that. My Linux /home is shared to my Windows development environment virtual machine, and the Windows virtual machine drives (which mostly are physical partitions) are shared to Linux - and the sharing is done via SMB, running Samba on the Linux side.

I can in fact simultaneously mount any of my partitions on multiple OSs, but none of the file systems support this and by doing it I can easily corrupt a partition. Far safer to share them as network drives even though they are all in the same box and in fact could be (and are) different partitions on the same physical drive. This box has 4 hard drives in it, but the partitioning is all mixed up, with ext3, FAT, and NTFS partitions scattered willy nilly on all the drives.

With VMWare I can copy/paste using the clipboard from a Linux app to a Windows app and from a Windows app to a Linux app, which is quite handy.

Virtual PC follows Microsoft's concept of heterogeneity, which means it will handle multiple versions of Windows and not anything else - and it has some limitations. VMWare is truly heterogeneous; I have in the past simultaneously had Win2K, WinNT, Win95, Knoppix, and DOS all running at the same time in the same box, hosted in a Linux environment.
 

lotuseclat79

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jiml8 said:
VMWare is substantially superior to Virtual PC.

I run VMWare in a production environment every day. The native OS is Linux and I run VMWare so that I can have multiple copies of Windows running simultaneously. Usually I run one and occasionally two copies of Windows 2000 in VMWare. I also occasionally fire up Knoppix in VMWare when I am feeling perverse; my kids get a kick out of me having "Linux running in Linux".

My Windows development environment is a Win2K system running in VMWare on Linux, and I have another Win2K environment that is called Win2KClean, which is nonpersistent and always starts as a fresh install. I use this copy for testing of new software installs, or any time I am doing something that could hose an OS. I also can, and do, start WinNT and Win95 in VMWare for testing purposes when it is necessary.

Virtual machines are very cool. I remember the "old days" when I didn't have this capability, and it seems so inflexible and downright dangerous now.
Hi jiml8 and JohnWill,

Thanks for your replies.

Have either of you heard about or plan to investigate Xen?

Doug Fisher, General Manager of Core Sofware Division, Intel stated "Intel Virualization Technology coupled with Xen 3.0 will deliver the benefits of Intel's market leading hardware virtualizaion to both client and server markets from the get-go".

Ok, what is Intel's Virtualization Tecnology?

What is Xen, and what is modified about the OS - i.e. what OS are they talking about?

* Software to let a computer run several independent OSes same time
* Open source Virtualization: Univ Cambridge project XenSource

Xen: Uses paravirtualization, i.e. modified OS, faster than VMware which completely simulates a machine in software, and higher level software does not need to be modified (VMware??? on this point); with Intel's VT it means unmodified OSes will run on Xen, i.e. Windows! even though open-source programmers will still not be able to change Windows itself.

XenSource: http://www.xensource.com/

-- Tom

P.S. Found this article on Intel's VT: http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/263
 
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