The still-in-beta Windows XP Mode and Windows Virtual PC for Windows 7 needs hardware virtualization assist. However, many (most) Intel's low-end processors (even quad core models) do not support Intel VT-x. I recall spending a lot of time checking various comparison tables before buying my Dell quad-core PC last year to make sure its CPU supported VT-x.
When I thought my old PC running Windows XP died (or so I thought - see previous blog for its revival) a few weeks ago, I went to Costco and bought the cheapest PC they had - an eMachines (yes, I know I swore off them a while back, but $340 is a good price) PC with an Athlon X2 4050e processor. Generally speaking, none of the sub-$400 PCs with Intel Core Duo or Core 2 Duo processors I looked at a year ago supported Intel VT-x. So, I didn't expect this ultra-cheap AMD based one to provide AMD-V hardware virtualization. But, a quick check of its BIOS configuration shows that it does have that feature and that it is turned on by default.
I still haven't gotten around to installing Microsoft's in-beta virtualization products under Windows 7 RC yet. But, it is nice to know that I can since I didn't expect to do be able to test it for a long while.
Moblin is a Linux distro developed by Intel and Novell that is tweaked for netbooks. I decided to test it out in a virtual machine first to see if I liked it or not. If you use the free (for personal use) VirtualBox 2.2.2 like I did, you need to make two simple configuration changes to the VM before starting to install Moblin. If you look at the screenshot above of the VirtualBox General-Advanced settings, you can see red arrows pointing at the two configuration options that need to be selected: APIC & PAE/NX.
The screenshot above shows Moblin 2.0 Beta running in VirtualBox. I'm not very impressed with Moblin 2.0 Beta so far and probably won't try it on a physical netbook. I think Ubuntu 9.04 Netbook Remix (UNR) is better suited for my netbook Linux needs.
Microsoft's Engineering Windows 7 blog has instructions for upgrading from Windows 7 Beta to the upcoming RC.
The primary advice is to reinstall Vista and then upgrade to Windows 7 RC. Um, ack! My Asus Eee PC 1000HA came with XP. So, their primary advice is a no-go for me. And, here's their slightly less ugly alternative instructions.:
Here’s what you can do to bypass the check for pre-release upgrade IF YOU REALLY REALLY NEED TO:
- Download the ISO as you did previously and burn the ISO to a DVD.
- Copy the whole image to a storage location you wish to run the upgrade from (a bootable flash drive or a directory on any partition on the machine running the pre-release build).
- Browse to the sources directory.
- Open the file cversion.ini in a text editor like Notepad.
- Modify the MinClient build number to a value lower than the down-level build. For example, change 7100 to 7000.
- Save the file in place with the same name.
- Run setup like you would normally from this modified copy of the image and the version check will be bypassed.
I could never figure out which AMD processors have the AMD-V virtualization assist feature. Search AMD's website for this information proved futile. Fortunately, I read a Microsoft newsgroup post where a Virtual Machines MVP provide a link to a Wikipedia entry that provides this information. Here's the link to that Wikipedia page...
I've been using VMware Fusion on a Mac to play with Fedora 8 (Linux). However, I just learned about this blog entry that gives step-by-step instructions (with screen caps) for installing Fedora 8 under Virtual PC 2007.
The important screen cap to pay attention to is the one change during the grub reboot to add i8042.noloop (mentioned in my CentOS/RHEL blog entry) to deal with the mouse problem.
One of the reasons I'm using Virtual PC less and less is that VMware and Parallels does a much much better job of installing and running Guest OSes.
I'm looking forward to trying Hyper-V under Windows Server 2008 as soon as I can get a PC with the specs to run it properly.
Windows Vista is just too big and slow to run comfortably in a Virtual Machine (VM) unless you have a really fast PC with a really fast hard drive. I've found running Vista as a VM on a notebook with a hard drive less than 7200 rpm (which is the norm for desktops) is just a bad idea. It doesn't matter if you have a reasonably decent amount of RAM (2GB on the host) and a fast processor (Core 2 Duo). I've even found Vista slow installed as a VM on a big server (10GB RAM, dual dual-core processors with 10000 rpm RAID-5 drives). The Windows Server 2008 (full GUI, not the Core version) seems to run reasonably well as a VM. But, I will reserve judgement on it until I get the RTM release and install it under both Virtual PC 2007 and Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1.
If you are looking for a relatively resource friendly version of Windows to run as VM on a relatively slow host PC, take a look at Windows Server 2003 R2. I'm running it on an old PC: Athlon 64 3200+ (2.2GHz) with 2GB RAM. I gave Windows Server 2003 R2 512MB RAM and it is running fast enough for me to feel comfortable when using it. I've run it with 384MB RAM (if you are on a PC with less than 2GB physical RAM) and it felt decent in that reduced configuration too. The base Windows Server feels lighter and faster than either XP or Vista in a virtualized environment. I may even use it as a virtual desktop PC instead of XP or Vista going forward. Since Windows Server 2003 R2 should remain under standard support until February 2010 (two years after Server 2008 debuts), it should be a reasonably secure Windows test environment for at least the next two years.
According to this ZDNet blog item...
...Microsoft is going to formally announce that it is ok (license-wise) to install Microsoft Windows Home Basic and Home Premium Editions as Guest OSes on virtual machines. Home Basic and Home Premium cost less than the Business and Ultimate Editions. So, this is good news for those of us who need to run Vista in a virtualized environment for testing and other needs.
The official Microsoft press release on this topic is found at...
...and the pertinent paragraph is: Increased licensing flexibility with Windows Vista. For businesses, Windows Vista Enterprise Centralized Desktop provides unique licensing and flexibility to run Windows in virtual machines on servers and access them from either PCs or thin clients. The annual subscription to Windows Vista Enterprise Centralized Desktop is now an estimated retail price of $23 per desktop for rich clients covered by Software Assurance for Windows Client. For consumers, Windows Vista Home Basic and Windows Vista Home Premium are now licensed for use in a virtual machine environment, and the updated end-user license agreement is available at http://www.microsoft.com/about/legal/useterms/default.aspx.
Parallels Desktop for Mac and VMware Fusion (Mac)/Workstation (PC) don't seem to have issues with the current generation of Linux distros. But, Microsoft's Virtual PC and Virtual Server do not, unfortunately. And, since most of my work is using Virtual Server, I've been spending a bit of time hunting for information and asking questions. Most of my information has come from reading Ben Armstrong's (Microsoft Program Manager in the Virtual Machines group) blog. But, I haven't seen all the information I've collected there and elsewhere collected in one place to help others trying to run current generation Red Hat Linux distro derivatives (RHEL5, Fedora, CentOS) under Virtual PC and Virtual Server. So, here's what I've found so far to get these Red Hat based distros working. I've tested all these items using CentOS 5.1 and one or two using RHEL5 or Fedora. Make a backup of your working (or semi-working) VM/VHD before trying anything mentioned below.
- Degrade color depth from millions of colors (32-bit) to thousands of colors (24-bit). This is due to an issue with the S3 graphics chip emulation. If you need to make this change after the fact, use SSH to get to your odd looking (display-wise) VM and use system-config-display to change color depth from 24-bit to 16-bit. This change will be reflected in /etc/X11/xorg.conf
- Add the following kernel parameters:
- clocksource=pit (this is to help deal with the clock sync issue)
- i8042.noloop (this is to allow using a mouse in X windows) You can read more about this solution in this article this article and this Red Hat bug thread.
- If you need to apply the two kernel parameter changes after the fact, you can edit /boot/grub/menu.list and add both parameters to the kernel line
The clocksource option helps but does not entirely solve the clock drift issue. I end up having the clock resync with a time source once an hour as an added workaround. I hope this collection of findings help's others run current generation Red Hat related distros under Virtual PC and Server.
Although I have a Core 2 Duo notebook and Dual-Dual Core (4 processors) Xeon and Opteron servers at work, I don't have any dual core Windows PCs at home. So, I found the HP Pavilion a6120n with Core 2 Duo pretty interesting at $400. However, I noticed it used an unfamiliar processor model: E4400. So, I headed over to the Intel Processor Number summary web page to check out the specs for various Core 2 Duo chips. I learned there that the entire 4000 model family does NOT have the Intel Virtualization Technology (VT) feature. I also learned that with the exception of the T5600, the entire 5000 Core 2 Duo model line also lacks VT. Since I run Microsoft Virtual PC and VMware Workstation at home, it is pretty important to have a VT enabled processor. The lesson here is that if virtualization is something you use, check the processor model before buying a new PC or notebook. I know I'm glad that I did before clicking the buy button.
VMware Worsktation 6's WMware Tools provides both binary RPM and a source code level tar.gz installation files. The RPM installation doesn't work with Fedora 8 (Linux) because it isn't recognized in its list. The code extracted from the tar.gz file (a Perl installation script) doesn't recognize Fedora 8 either. However, it offers the option of compiling the source code for the unrecognized Linux distro. This seems to result in a functional VMware Tools installation. At least VMW6 reports VMware Tools installed successfully in the bottom border after rebooting Fedora 8.