Post by John Wallace
Are you familiar with virtualisation, at least as the x86 stuff goes?
Have you tried it and rejected it, in which case please accept my
I've found VMware Player (zero cost) hosted under Windows satisfactory
most of the time, both at work and at home, with both Linux (Suse) and
Windows as guests. It's also available hosted under Linux, but I've
not yet used that (there are more obvious candidates). Not sure about
bsd as guest under VMware but it's trivial to try. With the Linux
guest under Windows host there is the odd occasional irritant (losing
my left mouse button, for example). I've also got a limited bit of
experience of VMware ESX (again, zero cost version) and really am
puzzled by some of the unexpected and unpleasant observed behaviours
(ridiculously slow IO, no explanation?) and consequently won't
recommend that. YMMV.
I have tried both VMware Player and VMware Workstation on both Windows
and Ubuntu hosts. Both resulted in the disk activity light on solid for
prolonged periods of time, and monitoring file activity on the host
revealed that VMware was hammering the pagefiles it creates for the
client. This is a "feature" of VMware; it can support more client
memory than you have RAM, but with today's RAM capacities ad prices, I'd
rather throw more RAM to the problem.
"Top 10 things you can do with VMware Fusion and your Mac
Reduce, reuse, recycleyour RAM. VMware pioneered memory page file
sharing. So running a VM in VMware Fusion takes up much less of your
Mac¹s memory than other virtualization products. And it gets better the
more VMs you¹re running at once. Five Windows XP virtual machines at a
time doesn¹t mean 5x the memory of a single XP virtual machine. By
sharing the sections of memory that are common between the VMslike with
common OSs you can ³over commit² memory."
I did come across a suggestion that you can turn VMware's paging off,
but I didn't find that until my 30 day trial of VMware Workstation had
Using Ubuntu as the host had me going back to Windows 7 as a host. A
combination of I/O and the scheduling system wasn't up to the job. My
trial period clock was ticking at that point so I'll admit I took the
easy way out.
I have since been using VirtualBox (the PUEL version from Oracle rather
than open version (PUEL stands for Personal Use and Evaluation License)).
Unlike VMware products I have to stick with the physical RAM, but with
4GB I can run 3 or 4 guests* under Windows 7 (64 bit FWIW). The end
result is satisfactory performance for the most part. Intensive I/O
does kill, so I try to avoid using the clients while a host backup is
running, for example.
I don't see any of the irritations with losing mouse buttons etc that
When I started with VortuaBox a year or so ago you had to install the
Guest Additions package on the client to enable copy and paste, folder
sharing and mouse movement outside the client window. At some point
since then, certain Linux distributions recognize the host as VirtualBox
at installation time and do this for you.
(* Windows Server 2008 runs like a dog with 512 MB RAM allocate, but
nicely with 800 MB. Likewise, Debian Server ran nicely with 512 MB
until I loaded Drupal, whereupon it turned into a dog; raising it to 800
MB solved that problem.)
Post by John Wallace
Are you ever likely to need to max out more than one of the x86 boxes
at any one time? If not, why not pick one box to keep, park the rest,
and try virtualising? Lots of preconfigured guest systems are freely
downloadable as ISOs or whatever from the VMware appliance marketplace
at www.vmware.com/appliances. Pick one close to your needs and take it
from there. Re-install over the guest just like you would on a real
machine if you don't like it. Or pick something small like Damn Small
Linux, have a bit of a play till you know what's what, and then re-
I haven't used any off the shelf appliances, but it reminds me of
another niggle with the VMware products. They assist during the
installation of a client by filling in some of the dialogue for you, but
sometimes this is "too helpful". The scripting for that is done in
Perl, so unless you are already familiar with it, you have another
The VNware products also neatly eject the CD/DVD image after an
installation for you, but in the case of Debian, which wants to access
the installation media to install extra products, it's a devil of a job
getting access to it back. You really need to burn a physical CD or
DVD. VirtualBox has an advantage here in that you can change the CD
media device on the fly to point to an image file or physical device.
Post by John Wallace
I never thought I'd be seeing *me* suggest using a HYPErvisor, but in
this case it may be worth a look.
Have a lot of fun (as they say in SuSe).
My latest trial is with openSUSE (they keep changing the capitalisation
of the name), and so far I like it. It's the only Linux distro I have
come across so far which gives me my desired combination of date and
time formats, perhaps not too surprising given that it started out life
as a German product ;.) I'm not too keen on the time it takes to
rewrite a bunch of configuration files every time you change the setup,
but that's something I recall from using it a decade ago, when you did
that stuff from the command line (after manually editing config files).
I can live with it.
Oh, I nearly forgot. I couldn't get the driver for ODS5 to install here,
so downloaded the preconfigured Tinycore 3.2 to run i a virtual machine
Thanks to virtual machines, I no longer have to deal with multiple boot
systems, nor GRUB, nor GRUB 2. Hooray for that!