Thursday, August 1, 2019

Emulation as a Service

I've written before about the valuable work of the Software Preservation Network (SPN). Now they have released their EaaSI Sandbox, in which you can explore the capabilities of "Emulation as a Service" (EaaS), a topic I discussed in my report Emulation and Virtualization as Preservation Strategies. Below the fold I try EaaSi for the first time.

Via our slow 3Mb/s home DSL and using Chromium on Ubuntu 18.04 (Bionic Beaver), I started at the EaaSi Sandbox page on the SPN website:
Powered by the EaaS emulation-as-a-service system, the Open Source Software Sandbox provides free, public access to emulated computer environments featuring operating systems and software from over twenty years of open source development. We’re offering this version of the EaaSI service to show how it makes access to emulation possible at the click of a button.
There are of course some restrictions. The sandbox only offers open source environments, for the copyright and end user license agreement issues I discussed in the report. And:
you won’t be able to save any changes you’ve made to an environment or export the files you interact with. We’ve also restricted access to the internet, so you won’t be able to surf the web or download anything to the emulation environments. Emulation sessions are time-limited to 30 minutes so do not attempt anything too time-consuming.
The first 10 environments
I clicked on "LAUNCH SANDBOX" and was presented with the first 10 of 39 possible environments, including:
  • 12 releases of Ubuntu stretching back to 2004's 4.10 Warty Warthog, some with multiple environments featuring different applications.
  • Fedora 1 (2003) and 7 (2007).
  • Red Hat 6.2 (2011), 8 and 9.
  • Scientific Linux 3.1.0 (2004), 4.0, 5.0, 6.0.
Breezy Badger booting
From the third page I chose Ubuntu 5.10 (Breezy Badger), released nearly 14 years ago, and selected "Run Environment" from the pull-down "Choose action" menu. The page changed to one with a black rectangle in which the nostalgic Ubuntu boot sequence gradually appeared.

Breezy Badger's vital signs
Eventually it was replaced by the familiar brown desktop. Left-clicking on it switched the mouse to controlling the emulation's cursor. Tracking was rather slow, but manageable. I navigated to Applications->Accessories->Terminal and started checking out the environment. ESC returned the mouse to my Bionic Beaver's control.

Creating a slide
Then I started OpenOffice 2.0's Impress and created a slide:
OpenOffice 2.0 on Ubuntu 5.10
  • Things just work:
    • But they're slow
    • And you can't access the Internet
  • It is very simple to use:
    • Just one click to start it up
  • Overall, pretty impressive
Kudos to the SPN!

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