Silent Archimedes

Archive for May, 2008

It’s settled – The Great Escape

Posted by silentarchimedes on May 31, 2008

It has been four months since Super Bowl XLII in Phoenix when the vastly underdog New York Giants upset the conceited New England Patriots. It has also been four months since (I think) the greatest play in the history of the Super Bowl, … when Eli Manning escaped four linemen to throw a desperate pass to David Tyree, who caught it with his helmet. That play was all anybody could talk about the week after. And it became the one unresolved issue from the Super Bowl. What do you call it? The Play? Taken. The Slip and Grip? Too long and gimmicky. Catch 42? Hmm, what about Eli’s escape? Phoenix rising? Again, what about Eli’s escape?

Well, four months later, it still hasn’t been resolved, but I have noticed some of the big websites, such as nfl.com, all referring to it as “The Great Escape”. When I first heard this name, I thought well, it only refers to one-half of the play, Eli’s. But now, I kind of like it. In leaping into the air against the vaunted Patriots secondary and catching the ball with his helmet while Harrison had his arm in there is in itself a great escape. Plus, the way the Giants came back on that drive to sneak out a 17-14 victory is also a great escape.

On a totally different area, The Great Escape with Paul Newman is one of the best war movies ever made in America. Although in this game it was the Giants escaping the Patriots and all-too-American Tom Brady…

The Giants received their humungous Super Bowl rings a couple of days ago. Each ring cost over $25,000 to make, but Tiffany’s only charged $5000 for each of them? Why? Because they had a huge press conference with Tiffany logos all over the place. It was a good trade, expensive rings for cheap while corporation gets free advertising. Gotta love capitalism. In any case, the next day the Giants had their first OTA, organized team activities. The turning of the page to the 2008 season.. That means football is almost here!

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Book Review: The Coming Economic Collapse

Posted by silentarchimedes on May 25, 2008

How You Can Thrive When Oil Costs $200 a Barrel

Author: Stephen Leeb, PhD with Glen Strathy

Wow, so where to begin…

When I first saw this book at Barnes and Noble for $5.98 (Bargain Priced) I was very skeptical of its title. Even the three-toned cover art seemed amateur. A quick glance at the Table of Contents and words such as disaster, collapse, collision, blind, madness, dangerous, crisis, havoc, and armageddon are interspersed in the titles! Although I had become an avid follower of the bull markets in gold and commodities, and understood the problems facing America, my first thought was, “This book must be an extreme contrarian’s attempt at scaring the public and consequently helping him profit on the sales.” However, as I was reading this book, with the understanding that the information in there was 2+ years old, I could not help but realize how so many of his predictions have or show strong signs of coming true.

WHY I READ THIS BOOK

As someone who is in his early 30s, I still remember the days of $.80/gallon of gas and the dot com indulgence in the late 1990s when I was in college. Things seemed so perfect. It was my first taste of real life, and boy, was it good. Since then I have seen America slide into a quick descent towards decadence. I won’t say who is to blame, as I think many groups are, but nonetheless, I have seen myself becoming more of a contrarian, more disenamored with our future. I wanted to see how this came to be… I started reading James Turk and his gold escapades, Warren Buffet and his beliefs, and the whole Federal Reserve role in society. I realized I had to start looking out for myself, because I didn’t know how much the government would. That’s when I accidentally came upon this book in Barnes and Noble.

THE AUTHOR: STEPHEN LEEB

I had never heard of Stephen Leeb before I picked up this book, but he did publish an earlier book in 2004, The Oil Factor, that predicted the rise of oil prices due to increasing demand and vague supply. In 2004, crude oil was ~$30/bbl, which in an of itself was not that out of the ordinary. He was obviously not alone in that prediction, but was nonetheless in the minority. Leeb has a PhD in Psychology and that definitely plays a role in his analyses.

SHORT SUMMARY

Leeb claims in his book that once global peak oil (when daily global production of oil begins to decrease) occurs, the price of oil will skyrocket and economies around the world, especially the highly oil-dependent United States, will have a very difficult time coping with it. In his worst case scenario, he sees large-scale violence and civil wars that could lead to the collapse of society and the return to self-subsisting 19th century lifestyles. In his best case scenario, governments and industries tackle this massive problem of dwindling energy and dependence on oil by gracefully transitioning society to alternative energies, such as wind, coal, and others. He doesn’t really expound the most likely scenario, but he alludes many times to how it might already be too late, or how dire the situation is. It is apparent that he believes we are closer to the worst case scenario, and it is best for individuals to take actions before it rapidly deteriorates.

REVIEW

The biggest positives about this book is that a lot of what he preaches are coming true. I can’t say how much I would have believed his book if I had read it when it was first published in 2006, although it would have still been an interesting read. As a background, in 2006, crude oil was about $60/bbl, unleaded gas was about $2.00 to $3.00 per gallon. In his 2004 book, he predicted oil would rise from the then $30/bbl to $100/bbl in the next few years. In this book, he predicts $100 oil is now conservative and $200 is likely by the end of the decade! Today, May 25, 2008, light crude oil on NYMEX is over $131/bbl and my local town’s gas just hit $4.00 for unleaded.


Price of light crude oil – [2000-early 2008]

In the first part of the book, he uses his psychology and economics background to show that past civilizations have failed due to exactly the same problem we currently face, decreasing resources coupled with lack of leadership by the government and lack of open-minded thinking by the masses. He uses the word groupthink many times throughout the book. Although this part of the book is hard to disagree with, it is not all that groundbreaking. It is shown many times that the actions of the mass are quite different than the actions of an individual, albeit the difficulty in being a non-conformist. It is also not new to realize that the government and corporation do not act in the best interests of its people and its survival. One can argue that a benevolent leader does not exist.

The second part of the book, lays the oil problem entirely on the table. The high price of oil is here to stay. World supply will reach peak production soon, and demand continues to increase. A lot of good analogies are used to describe the illogical actions of many in society. He compares the U.S. government’s propensity to give Big Oil lots of subsidies as akin to a person stranded in the Arctic in wintertime with only two weeks’ worth of firewood, deciding to burn it all the first night. Then he talks about the repercussions and likely scenarios for a post-oil world. By comparing the current situation with the 1970s oil crisis and the Great Depression, he hopes that we have learned from the past.

In the final part of the book, he offers suggestions on how individuals can capitalize on this increasingly dire situation. This is the part that really seals it in. Although his predictions on oil prices have rung true, the investment ideas he offers greatly supports his hypothesis. For example, he suggests the buying of gold. At the time of his writing, gold was $460/oz. Today, as of May 25, 2008, it is over $925/oz. and breached a high of $1020/oz a few months ago. Then he suggest buying oil service companies, such as Schlumberger (SLB). In 2006, SLB was ~$60/shr. Today it is over $100/shr. There are numerous other investment suggestions he offers, and a quick finance check shows many have rung true. I leave it up to you to read. The only major suggestion that fell hollow was his belief that real estate would remain a viable investment. As we know, the bubble has burst, and real estate has been one of the worst investments the past few years. However, what is interesting is he didn’t think the bubble would burst because he believed the government would chose higher inflation over the more dangerous real estate crisis.

VERDICT

This is a very easy to read book. It offers a lot of historical comparisons, psychological explanations (groupthink, I tell ya!), and blunt analogies to support his hypothesis. It can sometimes feel like he is repeating the same things, and I’m not sure if he is reaching for things to write or if he adamantly wants you to understand the urgency. However, no one can really argue with the facts. The oil crisis is indeed an immense problem facing the world, especially the United States. This book does a good job at laying it all on the table. I recommend picking up this book to read. At best, you become really wealthy…

Rating: 8 out of 10 oil barrels

POLL: How severe do you think the upcoming economic collapse will be?
1) Hah! There won’t be one!
2) Ehh, stop freaking out. It’ll be small.
3) It’ll be a regular recession. Like the early 1990s.
4) This is a long recession, but we’ll be back.
5) Lower quality of life is here to stay.
6) End of society…

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Posted in Books, Economics, Reviews | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Ken Griffey, Jr., the forgotten super hero…

Posted by silentarchimedes on May 23, 2008

Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports raises an interesting observation in his sports column today, Griffey and the silent 600 – how there is absolutely no buzz about Ken Griffey, Jr. reaching 600 home runs for his career. However, he only mentions one reason – the negative influence of the steroid era. To me, as a big Yankee fan, it is much more than that reason that Griffey has completely slid into my baseball subconscious. Here are my reasons, in order of influence:

1. Steroids and other performance enhancing drugs – Yes, McGwire, Sosa, Clemens, and the whole Mitchell Report has changed the way we look at home runs forever.

2. Never met expectations – When Griffey was at his prime in Seattle, he was heralded as the one that would break Aaron’s career 755 home run record, and Maris’ single-season 61 homers. He came into the league at 19 years old. From 1989-1992, he hit 87 homers, and averaged 21.75 per season. Then, from 1993-2000, he hit 351 homers and averaged 43.9 homers/season. By the time he was 31, he had already hit 438 home runs, and averaged 36.5 per season in his career! He was staying ahead of the curve that everyone projected he needed to beat Aaron’s record. All he needed to average the next 10 years was 31.7 homers to tie Aaron. He was in his prime in 2000 at 31 years old. Everything was in his favor as he chased the record in his home town. It never happened… From 2001-2007, he hit 155 home runs, and only average 22.14 per season. People lost interest in him… they wanted to forget how a super hero came back down to earth.
Courtesy of GoCubsGo.com


3. Injuries – One of the main reasons he dropped so precipitiously from 2001-2007 were the injuries. They weren’t just typical injuries related to aging, they were just weird and frustrating. And he was still young. He would come back from one injury, only to have a freak injury a couple of weeks later! From 1989-2000, he averaged 140 games per season. From 2001-2007 he averaged 99.7 games.

4. Where are the ESPN highlights? – We were so used to seeing regular highlights of Griffey in the 1990s, either of his hitting prowess or his amazing centerfield plays. The only things we saw of him afterwards were of his injuries. It became gut wrenching to watch him play centerfield or steal a base. We were so afraid he’d tweak his hamstring or have another freak injury.

5. Cincinnati – This was probably his worst move ever, in hindsight. Everything seemed perfect for him in Seattle. He was doing well, he had a young A-Rod hitting in front of him, and Randy Johnson was lights out. The fans adored him, more than A-Rod at that time. Cincinnati is a small baseball city, with limited exposure. They have not competed for the pennant in years. Brown also questions why Cincinnati fans aren’t celebrating more for his reach to 600. The thing is his greatness era was with Seattle. He’s given nothing but heartache to the fans in Cincinnati.

Courtesy of Reds Enquirer


6. Never broke single season home run record – Even though Griffey will not break the career home run record, he also never broke the single season record during his great period. He hit 56 home runs two years in a row. We so wanted him to. Then, the second time he did it in 1998 was during the McGwire-Sosa season. He was over-shadowed forever. So close, yet so far…

7. Other players have taken over spotlight – The truth is, when Griffey started having injuries, younger stars simply took over the spotlight, A-Rod, Pujols, Ortiz, Ramirez, Soriano, etc etc. He seems forgotten, from a period long ago.

8. In historical perspective – So in the end, what can we say of Griffey? His career average is now below .300 (.289). He has less than 3000 hits (2601), less than 500 doubles (480, only 24.9/season), less than 2000 RBIs (1723, 90.6/season). Great numbers, but nothing like we thought it would end.

KEN GRIFFEY JR CAREER STATS – as of 05/22/08

SEA TM G AB R H 2B HR RBI AVG OBP OPS
1989 Sea 127 455 61 120 23 16 61 .264 .329 .749
1990 Sea 155 597 91 179 28 22 80 .300 .366 .847
1991 Sea 154 548 76 179 42 22 100 .327 .399 .926
1992 Sea 142 565 83 174 39 27 103 .308 .361 .896
1993 Sea 156 582 113 180 38 45 109 .309 .408 1.025
1994 Sea 111 433 94 140 24 40 90 .323 .402 1.076
1995 Sea 72 260 52 67 7 17 42 .258 .379 .860
1996 Sea 140 545 125 165 26 49 140 .303 .392 1.020
1997 Sea 157 608 125 185 34 56 147 .304 .382 1.028
1998 Sea 161 633 120 180 33 56 146 .284 .365 .976
1999 Sea 160 606 123 173 26 48 134 .285 .384 .960
2000 Cin 145 520 100 141 22 40 118 .271 .387 .943
2001 Cin 111 364 57 104 20 22 65 .286 .365 .898
2002 Cin 70 197 17 52 8 8 23 .264 .358 .784
2003 Cin 53 166 34 41 12 13 26 .247 .370 .936
2004 Cin 83 300 49 76 18 20 60 .253 .351 .864
2005 Cin 128 491 85 148 30 35 92 .301 .369 .945
2006 Cin 109 428 62 108 19 27 72 .252 .316 .802
2007 Cin 144 528 78 146 24 30 93 .277 .372 .868
2008 Cin 46 170 20 43 7 5 22 .253 .340 .722
Total 2424 8996 1565 2601 480 598 1723 .289 .373 .923

You know, I didn’t even know Griffey was on the doorstep of 600. As a matter of fact, for the past few seasons I never heard about him, except during trade deadline when rumors of Griffey coming to the Yankees appear.

It is sad that he seems a forgotten man. The beautiful swing, the beautiful catches, the Kid… I think MLB should be doing more to remind people of Griffey and 600…

Congratulations Griffey!

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The Mirage of the Martingale

Posted by silentarchimedes on May 17, 2008

Like all those people looking to find the edge in Roulette at the casino, I fell into what I call “the Mirage of the Martingale“. The Martingale’s premise is in putting money only on 50/50 bets, like the flip of a coin. In Roulette, the closest to this is the RED/BLACK bet, ODD/EVEN bet or 1-18/19-36 bet. It is not a full 50/50 bet because the two green slots (0 and 00) reduces each bet to a 47.3684% winning probability instead of the 50% winning probability in 50/50 bets. (Remember, American Roulette has 38 slots, 18 for RED, 18 for BLACK, and 2 for GREEN. This creates a 2.6316% for landing on any specific slot. The house edge is the two GREEN slots, or 2*2.6316 = 5.2632%)

Standard American roulette table

The basic strategy of the Martingale is when you lose a 50/50 bet, you double your bet on the next spin. That way, if you win, you cover your last round’s loss and also gain your initial bet’s amount.

For example, let’s say you bet $5 on BLACK in round 1. The spin turns up RED. You are down $5. In round 2, you now bet $10 on BLACK. If the spin turns up black, you cover the $5 you lost in the first round, and you also make $5. If you lose, you are now down $15. In round 3, you now bet twice the last round’s bet, or $20. And so on and so forth… Assuming you lose 5 BLACK bets in a row until winning on the sixth, your betting sequence is 5, 10, 20, 40, 80, 160, … and your profit sequence is 0, -5, -15, -35, -75, -155, 5.

In short analysis, this sounds like a fool proof idea because you assume that if you keep betting on black, at some point it will land on black, and you will cover your losses.

Upon further analysis, there are some obvious problems with the Martingale. The problems are both in the mathematics, and in the practicality of using such a strategy in a casino.

1. First, the mathematics. At first glance, the probability of a losing streak of 5 seems very small. For every spin, there is a 1/2 probability of winning or losing. Five in a row has a 1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 = 1/32 = 3.125% likelihood. If someone asked you if you would bet $5, and the chance of you losing is 3% and the chance of you winning is 97%, you would take that bet in an instant. However, this 3% is nice when you are talking short term (although you might be unlucky). For example, if you stay at the table for 5 rolls, your chance of hitting that losing streak is a small 3%. However, the longer you stay at the table, the more you are exposing yourself to the Law of Large Numbers and the Central Limit Theorem (see images below, courtesy of Wikipedia).

(a) fewest trials

(b) second fewest trials

(c) many trials

(d) very many trials

As the number of trials increases, the output plot starts to resemble a bell curve. Even the unlikely outcomes eventually occur, based on their respective probabilities. In gambling, unwanted outcomes will eventually show up if enough bets are placed.

.

Eventually, that 3% will show its ugly face. This is also true for losing streaks greater than 5, such as 6=1.56%, 7=0.78%, 8=0.39%, etc. On a positive note, as the length of a losing streak increases, the probability decreases and you can stay longer at the table without fear of the two above theorems/laws. For example, the chance of a losing streak of 8 is only 0.39% for any 8 straight rolls. However, a losing streak of 8 means you would have to wager $640 on the 8th round, and this is all an attempt to get your original $5 back!! A person with a limitless purse would not care, because they know eventually they will break this losing streak and cover however big their loss is. Unfortunately, the casinos know this! Which leads to our second problem…

2. Every casino has a minimum bet and maximum bet on the roulette table. A typical “cheap” table usually has a minimum of $5, and a maximum of $100 or $200, or for short (5,100) and (5,200) table. When I started going to casinos at 18, I always wondered why the maximum bets are so low. Now I know. The maximum limit of a (5,200) table would limit a person using the Martingale strategy to a maximum losing streak of 6. That means if you bet $160 on that sixth spin and lose, you lose $315. You cannot bet $320 to potentially cover your losses because that is over the max limit of the table. You must carry that $315 loss with you!! All for an original $5 bet! That risk proposition doesn’t seem so good now.

These two problems might not fully convince some people to not use the Martingale strategy. The first thought is I will make enough money before I hit a losing streak of 6. Now we talk about how to bet on winning streaks and why they are not practical to overcome the odds of hitting a losing streak. The most common method is the Anti-Martingale Strategy:

The Anti-Martingale Strategy – The betting strategy is the same as the Martingale except you double your bet when you win. However, you must have winning streak level where you bank your profit, and then begin betting at $5 again. Let’s say you make your level at 4. So when you win 4 in a row, you bank 5, 10, 20, 40 = $75. Not bad huh? The problem is a winning streak of 4 only occurs 1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 = 1/16 = 6.25% Remember, a (5,200) table only allows a max losing streak of 6. If it happens, you lose $315. As mentioned, these losing streaks occur 1.56% of the time. That means win streaks of 4 occur exactly 4 times more than losing streaks of 6. Both of these are the only two instances in which non-even money is exchanged. All other streaks are break even for you. So, for every time you lose $315, you only make 4 * $75 = $300! You are still short $15. And all these computations above don’t include the house edges on the greens. Which would mean a slightly larger loss on your end! No matter how you change the length of the winning streak when you bank your money, you are on the short end. For example, say you bank every time you win two in a row = $15. This occurs 25% of the time. This occurs 16 times more than your losing streak of 6. That means for every time you lose $315, you make only (16 * 15) = $240!

Our LS6-WS4 Martingale/Anti-Martingale Strategy on a (5,200) American Roulette Table looks like this:

I tried modifying the Martingale and Anti-Martingale and even ran simulations in Matlab. The numbers never ever add up. In the end, it still comes down to luck.

Anybody disagree or have ideas about at least slowing down your losing in a mathematically dependable way? I apologize if the math is somewhat off, as I did this on the spot, but I think no matter what, it’s impossible to use the Martingale effectively in a casino.

**Update 05/21/08 ** – Yesterday’s NBA lottery draft is a perfect example that anything can happen, even with the probability against you. Probability is simply that, the likelihood of something happening and not happening. If something has a nonzero probability (even if it’s 1.7%), it can still happen at anytime. That’s what happened last night. The Chicago Bulls, had a 1.7% chance of landing the #1 pick in the draft. Eight teams were ahead of them (in terms of probability). Miami had the highest probability to land the top pick, with 25%. So guess what happens? That 1.7% happens, and the Bulls get the top pick!! (As a Knicks fan, I was rooting for the Knicks 7.6% chance, but instead of picking even 5th, they ended up 6th)

Related link

When is poker gambling? Analogies to investing in stocks.

Posted in Science and Math | Tagged: , , , | 25 Comments »

10 things that really annoy me right now…

Posted by silentarchimedes on May 14, 2008

In no particular order:

  1. NFL Rookie Pay Scale – I hate how NFL first round draft picks get sooo much money without playing a single down in the NFL. They make way more than proven veterans. For example, JaMarcus Russell, first pick of the 2007 Draft, a six-year $60 million ($30 mill guaranteed) contract… without throwing a single pass in the NFL! Meanwhile, dependable veterans can’t even find a job or have to fight like hell to get a little of the pot. Baseball and hockey have fairer systems when it comes to rookies.
  2. America’s Political System – It’s hard to call our system a democracy, when only candidates from the two main parties have a chance to win any political seat. Of course, you have to be somewhat rich as well. It’s also hard to realize that the lobbyists and corporations control so much of what happens in America. For example, how can anyone seriously disagree with global warming with any real logic? Even if global warming is harmless, we as humans still need to take care of the earth we are soo lucky to live on. And the whole electoral college (hear of the 2000 Presidential Campaign?) thing reaks of unfairness.
  3. Capitalism and Globalization – Speaking of corporations, Thomas Friedman is exactly right in The World is Flat. The Corporation is in essence a Super Human with one goal, make money at any cost… with little consequence to the well-being of society. Enron, Worldcom… Companies that do a lot for society and their employees need to be rewarded.
  4. Indulge, Indulge, Indulge, … Debt, Debt, Debt – Everything in America at every level is about right here, right now. So few people care about what happens to America 20, 50 or even 100 years from now. At the personal level, credit card debt is through the roof, home equity is borrowed against more than ever. At the government level, trade deficit and national debt are higher than ever (and to think that the government had a surplus just 8 years ago!)!
  5. Practicality vs Ideology – We have spent the past 20 years arguing about capital punishment, abortion rights, religion, democracy, gun rights, terrorism, etc etc. Meanwhile, our infrastructure is crumbling (bridges collapsing), our middle class is disappearing, the US dollar is at its lowest ever, our jails are overcrowded, our healthcare system out of control, our education system one of the worst in the industrialized countries, our population getting fatter and more sedentary. When are we going to have a strong leader that is practical and works on domestic issues for a change?! What happened to leaders like FDR and Lincoln?
  6. Where’s the Cable A La Carte? – First, I hate how if you want cable TV, you are stuck with whichever Cable operator is in your area. That means your choices are at the whim of the operator. When cable companies fight with individual networks (NFL Network, YES Network, etc), the consumer always loses. Second, because of this localized monopoly, we are forced to buy packages containing networks we could care less about but have to pay for. This is America, and it should always be about choice. A La Carte service should have been available a long time ago.
  7. SPAM – Do the people that send spam actually think people click on them? Then again, people have been known to be stupid. There’s so many things in modern life where it’s a competition to one-up each other. Spam and anti-spam software is one. Radar Detectors and Jammers is another. Terrorism and Anti-terrorism. Media and other media. Telemarketers and that No-telemarketing list you can sign up for. Junk mail and … Hmm… But email spam is the most annoying one. Can’t we all just live in peace?
  8. Gasoline Prices – I used to love taking random trips to Home Depot, the library or the supermarket, just to get out of the house and feel like I’m accomplishing something. Now I can’t even do that because gas is so high and it’s not worth it. Plus, the way American communities are built, it’s not like Europe, where it’s conducive to walking around and visiting your local shops.
  9. Reality TV and Game Shows (or the lack of Sitcoms) – I actually don’t mind reality TV that much. I have my favorites, such as The Apprentice, The Real World and Fear Factor, but for every good one, there are 20 bad ones. The Moment of Truth and Deal or No Deal are horrible. They drag it out much longer than necessary. And where do they find these people? Actually, what I really miss, are good funny sitcoms like King of Queens, Seinfeld, Frasier. I guess they are too expensive to make now and there are no more funny people on earth.
  10. Computers taking over the world – This one is weird because I’m in the computer industry and I use it prodigiously, but maybe that’s why it annoys me. I don’t like how I’m addicted to it, and when the occasional outage of my DSL makes me feel like the world has ended and there is nothing left to do. I miss my childhood when I went outside all the time because I was bored inside. Then Game Boy took over, then the 386, then the Internet… Sometimes technology makes you go nuts…

Ok, there are many more things that bother me, but those are right off the top of my head right now. Most of them have to do with the American way of life. When I spent 3 months last summer in Germany and Europe, I realized that American society is totally headed in the wrong direction. Unless we either get a really strong leader that unites us all and bring us Americans back to the strengths we were founded on, or us as the middle class wake up and be more responsible, we will (and already are) falling behind the rest of the world. Fareed Zakaria’s new book The Post-American World and Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat should not be taken as insults against American way of life but as a wake up call for us to regain our role as a country that the rest of the world admires and believes in.

Enough ranting for today…

Posted in List, Opinion | 2 Comments »

How I got Vista working in Ubuntu 7.10

Posted by silentarchimedes on May 9, 2008

What info are you interested in?

1. I want to install Vista on Ubuntu
2. I want to install Ubuntu on Vista
3. I am looking for a Vista img or VMWare software
4. I am getting Vista img or ACPI errors
5. I am getting VMWare errors
6. I am getting KVM or QEMU errors
7. I am looking for Soundblaster drivers
8. Other

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Please vote so I can add information that people are looking for!

Background:

I bought a Dell Optiplex 745 early 2007 loaded with Vista Ultimate for my research. However, since I am more of a Linux person, I dual booted my computer with Ubuntu 6.10 Edgy Eft. I didn’t upgrade to 7.04 because I wanted to keep using Apache 1.x for my web server (pre-forking support). When I took down my webserver end of last year, I finally updated my Ubuntu to 7.04 and then 7.10. I have not updated to Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron yet.

In any case, I realized I hardly boot up in Vista because it requires a physical reboot and I usually have a bazillion windows and workspaces up in Linux. As I started missing my Windows games and apps, I thought about purchasing another computer, strictly for Windows. But that was too pricey. I had used wine (a Windows emulator on Linux), but that seemed unreliable at times and doesn’t support all Win apps. Then I started investigating about virtual machines, and this article will talk about how I got Vista working in Ubuntu 7.10 using QEMU and then VmWare.

What is a virtual machine?

In short, a virtual machine (VM) is a software implementation of a machine (computer) that executes programs like a real machine. For example, I can run Vista or XP as a VM inside Linux. It also allows me to test out other Linux distros without creating a whole partition for it, since VMs run as a single file in an existing partition. VMs are faster and run more natively then emulators. See the virtual machine wiki page for more info.

My Computer:

Dell Optiplex 745 Core2 Duo 2.13Ghz, 2Gb RAM, 2x250Gb WD HDD, ATI Radeon x1300, Windows 32-bit Vista Ultimate, Ubuntu 7.10, Dell UltraSharp 2407 LCD, Linux Kernel 2.6.22.14

What I Needed:

Microsoft Vista installation DVD
VMWare Workstation or VMWare Player+VMTools
QEMU (I tried this first)
CreativeLabs Soundblaster PCI (ES1371, ES1373) Windows driver

How I got Vista working in Ubuntu 7.10:

This is not a step-by-step path that you should follow if you want to get Vista working on Ubuntu. This is the step-by-step I went through to get it working. You can decide if you need to do them or not. For example, you can go straight to using VMWare software instead of trying open-source software like QEMU. And I’m not sure how much upgrading my BIOS had to do with the process. Maybe it’ll help you if you get stuck.

There are also other ways to getting Windows to work in Linux. Websites such as EasyVMX create virtual machines online for you. However, I have never tried that and don’t know how well they work.

1. Upgraded my BIOS

What led me to upgrading my BIOS was in regards to whether my computer supported virtualization and ACPI (Advanced Configuration and Power Interface) or not. Most tutorials first ask you to turn it on in your BIOS. As I went into my BIOS, the only option I had was to turn on Intel’s Virtualization Technology option. Before going any further, I decided to upgrade my Dell to the latest BIOS. I suggest doing this as it can’t really hurt. I did later find out that my BIOS and computer naturally supports virtualization and there was no need to turn anything on in my BIOS.

Another way to check if your computer supports virtualization, the following command in Linux should be a non-empty result:

grep -E ‘^flags.*(vmx|svm)’ /proc/cpuinfo

Links:
Emulating Vista under QEMU
How Windows Determines ACPI Compatibility
The BIOS in this system is not fully ACPI compliant

2. Install QEMU/KQEMU

Even though I ended up using VMWare software, I still used QEmu (with kqemu as the acceleration driver) along the way to do useful things (such as creating an .img and installing a Vista .iso into it). I also tried just using Qemu for my virtualization. So, go ahead and install QEMU.

  1. Follow steps 1-9 of the Ubuntu Tutorial – Running WIndows XP under QEMU.
  2. I also installed qemu, kvm,kqemu-source, kqemu-modules-2.6.22-15-generic and any other dependencies they have.

Links:
QEMU
Installing QEmu, KQEMU and patches
QEMU (KVM) and Vista (very useful)
Running WIndows XP under QEMU (very useful)

3. Create a vista.img

In QEMU, the VM will reside in a .img file “drive”. I first created a .img file in my ~username/vm directory. Then I installed a Vista OS into the .img file. The one main option in creating an “empty” .img file is the format, raw or qcow. In raw, you specify a set size that is not expandable. However, you can mount the VM in Linux using ntfs-3g. In qcow, you specify an initial size (Vista requires atleast 6.8Gb minimum), and the VM will expand in 2Gb increments when necessary. However, it is not mountable.

If you are going to use VMWare, I would suggest using the fat format. We will convert the .img file into .vmdk format later anyways, so don’t worry about size now. If you are going to use just QEMU, then you can try the qcow format, but when I tried that, I had a lot more of the errors below than when I used the fat format.

In any case, you create a .img using the following command. What is bold can be changed by you. Then change the permissions to be writable.

qemu-img create -f fat vista.img 9G
chmod 660 vista.img

4. Install Vista into the vista.img file

The next step is to install Vista into the newly created img file. First thing is to have your Vista DVD ready. I used the DELL reinstallation DVD that came with my computer. There are two options here, installing directing from the DVD into the Vista.img file or first create a Vista.iso file. The latter option is faster, since it doesn’t require continuous DVD access. To create an iso file, use the following command:

dd if=/dev/cdrom of=vista.iso

If your cdrom device is not cdrom, just change accordingly. You can check by seeing where it is mounted, or check the /dev directory. My cdrom is mounted in /media/cdrom. Remember, in Linux, cdrom device refers to both cd-rom and dvd-jrom drives.

Now to install the Vista.iso into the Vista.img file, use one of the following commands. I’ve had varying luck with all of them. First a new window opens up that has a progress bar and “Windows loading files” text. Then Vista attempts to load up for installation. If you skipped creating the iso file and want to install directly from dvd, replace vista.iso with /dev/cdrom.

qemu-system-x86_64 -boot d -m 512 vista.img -cdrom vista.iso

  • The qemu-system-x86_64 command can be used for 32-bit machines also since kvm does not differentiate between the 32-bit and 64 bit machines.
  • The -m specifies how much memory to use.
  • I ran into the following errors and was never able to overcome the second error:
  1. A write to read-only memory blue error screen. This is because the img file does not have write permissions. Use chmod 755 vista.img to allow the current user to write to it.
  2. A PAGE_FAULT_IN_NONPAGED_AREA blue error screen. An old forum had some ideas regarding this error.

kvm -m 1024 -localtime -net nic,model=rtl8139 -net user,vlan=1 -cdrom vista.iso -boot d vista.img

  • -localtime forces QEMU to use the local time of the host Ubuntu computer.
  • -net nic,model=rtl8139 sets the networking to the Network Interface Controller (nic) interface, with model of Realtek PCI Fast Ethernet rtl8139 driver
  • If you get the following error in your xterm when you run the command, ignore it for now:
    open /dev/kvm: No such file or directory
    Could not initialize KVM, will disable KVM support
  • The troubling thing with this method is I kept getting the PAGE_FAULT_IN_NONPAGED_AREA blue error screen over and over again. If you keep trying, you might get lucky. For some reason, after like 10 tries, it gets past it and the Vista Install Window shows up (see below). I still don’t know why and when it does it. One interesting possibility might be because Vista does not produce valid boot sector information. This person installs XP on the img first, before installing Vista over it. You can try that but since I didn’t have an XP iso available I couldn’t verify it. If you do try and it works, please let me know.
  • Go ahead and install Vista now.

qemu -m 384 -localtime -cdrom vista.iso -boot d vista.img

  • This command actually had the most luck for me, at least getting into the Vista installation process. However, I still would sometimes get the PAGE FAULT blue error screen when Vista has to reboot during installation. If anyone knows why this happens, please let me know.

5. Run Vista in Ubuntu using QEMU

If you’ve gotten this far, you are almost there. You can actually run Vista in Ubuntu right now. The following command would boot up Vista in barebones QEMU-style:

qemu -localtime -m 512 vista.img

  • If you use the following options, you will need to install the drivers for them first.
  • -soundhw es1371 emulates the Creative Labs ES1371 sound card.
  • -net nic,model=rtl8139 treats your ethernet card as a Realtek PCI Fast Ethernet rtl8139 driver
  • -usb -usbdevice tablet treats your mouse like a tablet, so instead of clicking on the Vista window to enact it, you can simply move the mouse into the window.

6. Installing VMWare Player/Workstation

QEMU has some shortcomings that I couldn’t resolve. One was getting the sound to work (although I didn’t try that hard in installing the sound driver). The other was that it only has a VGA graphics adapter, which forces the Vista window to be at max 1280×1024. This was a big deal to me since my LCD native is 1920×1200.

So I moved on to try using VMWare’s free virtualization software, the VMWare Player (and eventually VMWare Workstation). It’s actually a nifty little GUI and tool, but what makes it annoying is that it requires you to load a virtual machine that is created in other VMWare software (all of which are not free). However, this is more of a technalicality, since all it requires is a VM in .vmx and .vmdk formats. We can convert our .img VM to these formats using QEMU’s utilities.

Download VMWare Player from VMWare’s website.

7. Convert vista.img to vista.vmdk

After installing the Player, we have to convert the .img file to vmdk format, which is VMWare’s hard disk format.

qemu-img convert vista.img -O vmdk vista.vmdk

8. Create a Vista.vmx – the VMWare vm configuration file

Finally, we create a vmx file that configures the virtual machine vmdk. We can specifies settings for sound cards, memory, etc in here. However, you can leave the vmx file barebones and use the VMWare GUI to add to the file. Use this link to create a barebones vmx file.

Links:

How to create virtual machines using VMWare Player

9. Success and Beyond

Once you’ve created the vmx file, it is pretty straightforward at this time. Just start VMWare Player and open the virtual machine specified by your vmx config file. There is plenty of info online on how to customize your virtual machine. Some things you might run into is getting your sound to work. Try rebooting sometimes. I remember nothing working and a simple reboot gave me sound for good. I also had to install the Soundblaster PCI 128 (ES1371) driver directly in Vista. Since that driver is way out of date, you won’t find the link directly from the Create Labs website. You’ll have to search the web for it. I’ll put a link up here when I get around to it.

Additionally, the main reason you want to possibly move up to VMWare Workstation is the VMTools it comes with. The VMTools contains the SVGA graphics adapter driver that allows higher res VMs. Some people have gotten around this by downloading the free trial for the Workstation, using the VMTools, and then downgrading back to Player.

Finally, I list some websites below of related information that might makes things even easier for you.

Create virtual machines online – http://www.easyvmx.com/
VMWare Player
HOWTO – VMWare-Server 1.04 and Kernel 2.6.23.1 on Gutsy…
VMWare How to

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