Computational Freedom


Software development is one of the great bastions of capitalism, and intellectual freedom. Compute power is almost free, as are many operating systems along with much application software. The Internet is making good on its promise to connect everyone and everything. EMC Corporation, with the release of VmWare Player, brings the infinite malleability of software to the masses across diverse operating systems, for free, today. Yet another triumph of human action through the spontaneous action of thousands of free wills, across every continent, cooperating in the absence of government.

Few products have benefited from the economy of scale, and the entrepreneurial creativity inherent in capitalism, like the computer software business. The stunning increases in compute power and decrease in cost that have been seen since the introduction of the microprocessor are without peer, as both storage and compute costs asymptotically approach zero. There is no better proof of the promise of capitalism and its fundamental assertion that the economy of utility from the division of labor produces prosperity.

What does the VmWare Player do? The VmWare player allows operating system images, which are disk files to be run inside the VmWare "virtual machine". These disk files can be large from a few hundred megabytes to a few gigabytes. The platform runs on both Windows and Linux. The virtual machine is a shell or cocoon that isolates the operating system from the underlying hardware and software which becomes a virtual device, a black box. The user of the virtual machine can now enjoy the benefits of the particular environment chosen, without the pain and expense of proprietary hardware, or the complexities of system installation and administration. It also allows a single hardware platform to run multiple software platforms simultaneously.

The VmWare web site has a virtual community where customers provide virtual machine images pre-built for download and usage. Usage instructions are often provided along with getting started tips. Novices should try the VmWare Browser Appliance. Most of these "appliances" are completely free; a few are free of charge but only for a limited period of time for product evaluation. Using virtual appliances for product demonstration is a stroke of genius as vendors like Oracle, Novell and MySQL can get their powerful products in the hands of users at near zero cost.

Most flavors of Linux, at least all the big distributions, run. Solaris 9 and 10 both run. Novell NetWare runs, as do most flavors of Windows. Novell and Microsoft must be licensed so there are no free virtual machines of these products. Many fringe operating systems like Hurd, Plan 9, Inferno, BeOS and ReactOS run, and some are available as free virtual appliances.

Business users can find completely configured office productivity desktop environments under the virtual community. System administration, web, e-mail, and security suites are freely available. Expect full-blown software development suites, CAD systems, and ray-tracers for computer graphics animation soon. A free virtual server is also available for the truly dedicated.

The diversity and depth of this community grows with every passing day, another hallmark of successful human action. This is one of the finest examples of the speed with which human action can turn demand into supply for the greater prosperity, and not a taxpaying dollar consumed!