[nSLUG] Virtual PC 2007

George N. White III gnwiii at gmail.com
Sun Mar 4 12:58:27 AST 2007

On 3/3/07, Stephen Gregory <nslug at kernelpanic.ca> wrote:

> On 3-Mar-07, at 11:36 , Preston Smith wrote:
> >
> > I see MS has released Virtual PC
> > Is this a good medium in which to run Linux to try it until such
> > time as one might cut over 100 % to Linux?
> Virtual PC does mostly work, but VMware is better for Linux. The
> VMware driver for X11 makes Linux in a VM useable. In the past I ran
> Linux in a VM as my primary workstation. (It started out as a test to
> see if it was usable, but ended up as a more permanent solution when
> my Linux HD died and I was waiting for the replacement.)

I use VMware player for testing a "mission critical" app with various
versions of linux (in a "Windows+legacy unix" only environment).  I've
used X11 in VMware and also XP-hosted X11 server (XMing).  The
advantage of the latter approach is that you can cut and paste between
linux apps and Windows apps (e.g., to copy error messages or
configuration details into MS Outlook).

Since VMware player is just another Windows app, it is often
acceptable at sites that require all PC's to run a managed Windows

> VMware Player is free, but it can't create virtual machines. VMs can
> be created in VM Server, which is free, or VM Workstation which is
> not free. You can get a VM Workstation 30-day trial key which is
> enough to create the VM. (The VM won't expire.)

There are quite a few preconfigured VMware players for various linux
distros, or you can take one and do a fresh install (booting the VM
from a CD) just as if you were installing on dedicated hardware.  Many
of the preconfigured players lack the VMware tools, so you have to do
that yourself (and again each time you update the kernel).   There are
web sites that give step by step instructions for creating VMware

> Once you have installed Linux on the VM you can optionally install
> the VMware guest tools. The tools enable shared folders, clock
> syncing, and maybe something else. The VMware video driver is already
> a part of X so you don't need to install the guest tools for improved
> video. I have installed the .tar.gz version of those tools on several
> version of Debian without problems. I suspect that the tools will
> install on most Linux distros.

I think the free player lacks shared folders, but you can mount
Windows shared drives using CIFS.  You can also mount .iso images on a
Windows disk as if they were cdrom devices in linux.

I've used debian (etch), gentoo (but didn't install the tools), and
Fedora Core 4, 5, and 6.  On a P4 2G with 1G RAM linux in a VM player
has very adequate performance for web browsers, mail, and simple
software hacking, about on a par with a P-III 600.   The biggest
drawback with using a Windows host is that WIndows needs too many
reboots (installing security patches and software updates) so you end
up waiting first for WIndows to reboot and then for the VM appliance
to boot.

Another drawback relates to virtual disks.  WIth VMware you create a
virtual disk that looks like a big file to Windows (and are subject to
AV scans).  VMware player grows the file as required file up to the
predefined size (my mission critical app needs over 6G bytes, so I a
20G virtual disk ends up using about 12G with linux+application+data).
 Mine live in an 80G partition, which is badly fragmented with 60G in
virtual disks.  Windows defragger doesn't help.   My impression is
that I/O using virtual disks is quite a bit slower than a native
install on the same hardware.  Benchmarks for an I/O intensive task
take 5x longer (clock time) than a native linux on similar hardware.

George N. White III <aa056 at chebucto.ns.ca>
Head of St. Margarets Bay, Nova Scotia


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