Xen and Ubuntu vs Ubuntu

I’ve been running a virtual Ubuntu under my Windows 7 install for a while now, and I’ve been really pleased with it. Honestly, I get a little warm fuzzy feeling when I boot Windows 7 up, I’m really pleased with it.

I had a 280Gb partition spare and a 4Gb USB drive. So I installed Ubuntu 9.10 32bit onto the partition, and used the “Advanced” box at the end of the install sequence to tell it to use the USB drive for GRUB. The benefit of this is that to boot windows without fiddling around trying to catch the boot selector, I just reboot without the USB drive.

Building the Battleground Europe game servers under VM Ubuntu takes about 2-4 minutes with -j3, which gave me the best time. Building them under native Ubuntu with -j4 or -j8 takes 1 minute 24 seconds.

Best of all, most of my important stuff is on my Windows 1/2Gb “Common” drive, in particular my ThunderBird profile files (Start -> Run > ThunderBird.exe -ProfileManager). I mounted the common drive as /windows/common, installed TB 3.0 under Ubuntu, ran thunderbird -ProfileManager, pointed my profile at /windows/common/ThunderBird/ and bingo: both oses comfortably share my mailboxes!

There’s no getting around the fact that Ubuntu still looks like a Linux, and doesn’t have the elegant polish of MacOS or Windows. Somehow Windows XP still looks more welcoming than Ubuntu. I find the answer is to autohide the task and menu bars; but the dialog for authorizing an application to root permissions still looks … cruddy.

So my desire to run Windows is not going to go away. But dual booting is such a pain… And running Windows under a virtual machine is going to be painful, unless I could maybe use Xen and Wine. Battleground Europe players can quit smirking this instant.

So I installed the Xen packages. The Ubuntu/Xen documentation is way out of data, and googling for Xen/Ubuntu/Karmic doesn’t help.

I reboot, selected the pae kernel… And… Well, nothing really. It boots, it seems just as fast. And none of the Xen tools work. /proc/xen is missing, etc, etc.

Xen uses the concept of “domains”. “dom0” (dom-zero) is the “host” environment. “domU” refers to a guest machine (why not domN?)

So I’m thinking: Maybe I should reinstall before getting attached, and this time roll with the 64-bit build.

But I’m also wondering: Is this 32-bit Ubuntu already a guest machine? Is that why it can’t seem to see Xen? But no, “imvirt” tells me “Physical”.

Sigh.

Well I’m going to try reinstalling the 10.4b1 64 bit and see if installing the xen packages for that helps. If not, no big loss.

Obviously the other option would be to use my Windows 7 64 as the host. Is that even possible? How do I convert it – either to a host or a guest? Maybe this would be a good point to get a nice big 128Gb SSD drive, make that my primary and just reinstall both OSes onto it.

Why Xen, you ask?

It seems a cleaner solution for having the two OSes side-by-side. Wine; well, I could use that. But I’d rather not be installing a ton of stuff under it (visual studio, etc, etc) and running the client in an IDE under Wine … Just sounds like pain, especially if I’m working with Intel performance tools.

And ultimately, I want to replicate what I do here at work: i.e. have Linux and Windows running comfortably on one machine so I get performance on which ever platform I’m running, without the headache of rebooting or having one OS inside an obvious VM.

I’m also thinking about running a virtual BE cluster at home so I can play with it on weekends, and Xen seems like a good way to get realistic performance results from individual cluster machines. I also like the cloud aspect for the concept of being able to on-the-fly move Xen machines between hardware…

2 Comments

You trying to run ubuntu as the host of the DomU? I just went through getting 10.04 beta 2 x86 up as DomU on XenServer.

Well, I was until I realized that Windows would only get virtual access to the graphics card :)

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