Virtual? Actual bloody difficult.

I guess virtualization just isn’t all that yet.

I want to do something that seems fairly simple to me. I want to turn my dual-boot Linux/Windows machine into a single boot Linux+Windows or Windows+Linux machine. The trouble is, I want bare-metal performance on both. Fedora, Ubuntu (or Gentoo or Debian) don’t run nearly as well under VMware Workstation (or Virtual Box or …) as they do when you boot straight into them.

I looked at VMware ESXi (free) which sounded like the ticket, except you need a remote machine to configure it, and it it didn’t like my Ethernet (Realtek PCIe GBE): ESXi is more server oriented. So, I’m guessing that it probably wouldn’t get the graphical performance I’d be looking for.

For a while, the Xen live CD had me hopeful. I failed at setting up a Windows 7 machine with it. I got a Windows XP box sort of running, but it wasn’t good for much more than web browsing and email because, of course, the graphics hardware was virtualized.

I looked at Parallels, but it didn’t want to know about operating systems on the local machine :(

That said, Parallels Workstation Extreme sounds like a future possibility. But it’s probably cheaper to bring my spare-parts box home from the office and set that up.

I have a spare GeForce 8800 or something lying around somewhere. That ought to be good enough to run a Linux. But it looks like Workstation Extreme is the only solution at the moment capable of dedicating graphics hardware to a machine, and I don’t want a second monitor.

In my ideal little dream world, something out there would give me an Amiga-like system for switching “screens”, so that I can have both OSes running in full screen mode.

I think what I’m gonna do is just install VMware server, run Ubuntu at init level 3 (non-graphical), install XMing and send the GUI apps I use to my self via X.

Shame … Because Ubuntu as a desktop really kicks ass … But I’ve gotta have native access to some Windows stuff like Visual Studio etc, and Wine just isn’t all that yet either :)

6 Comments

I have Windows xp and Windows 7 running on Virtual Box (http://www.virtualbox.org/) under Ubuntu. Performance is ok but I have not even considered a graphical application. yet. I guess I have kept my expectations low. I ordered a i7 system last week with 9GB ram in the hope I can get some seriously decent performance out of the box and the virtual machines. When it gets here my next task is to try installing OSX on it under Virtual Box.

With my current box, an older Intel quad core w/ 4GB ram, I always reboot to Win7 for gaming. I am pessimistic about being able to play any flight sim under a VM at the moment. Maybe CIV5 when it comes out :-)

Have you tried colinux (http://www.colinux.org/)?

David:

I’m running an i7 system, with 6Gb of RAM.

I tried VMware server, but it starts apache and tomcat for its interface during system bootup. So the first reboot was painful. Second boot up wasn’t so bad, but I don’t like long boot times. Caveat: I’m already jaded against VMware Server at that point.

So I imported my virtual Battleground Europe cluster and made a quick Ubuntu 10.4b2 virtual machine. By now, I have getting a Ubuntu box up and running down pretty well :)

So I decided to take a gamble on setting up the box and went with persistent disks instead of managed drives, and I told it to optimize the drives for performance rather than safety. After all, it’s using a journaling filesystem…

BOOSH!

I’m pretty sure that if I go ahead and add nodiratime to the ext4fs entries in fstab, it’ll really zing.

The downside to using VMware server is it doesn’t provide facilities for vmfs shares. Of course, I can just samba mount volumes but… Meh.

So – I went back to VMware Workstation. I think I’ll post that separately. :)

Cool! I’ll have to give VM Workstation a try when the new PC arrives (in a week or so). I hate having to reboot in my current dual boot setup. I’ll have to do a bit more research but I am sure I’ll be giving VM Workstation a try.

I have read reports that Virtual Box (SUN/Oracle Virtualization solution) had ‘some’ performance benefits over VMWare solutions but I have never really gotten into trying anything graphical – I guess I have been too pessimistic about performance to even try – but this is giving me some serious encouragement to try.

Good to read about your results!

One other factor you might want to consider here…

Windows isn’t great at being a guest operating system if you’re going to be looking for graphics performance for games etc. That’s the very layer which Windows has developed best.

Linux, on the other hand, makes an awesome guest operating system. There are guest-OS optimized kernels.

So you very likely want to consider making Windows the host OS.

It’s going to be the path of least resistance, and Microsoft are unlikely to do anything to ease that up because it ensures that your Linux experience isn’t quite the best it could be :(

I tried Virtual Box, but it started blue screening my machine under Windows and hard locking my system under Linux (frankly, when it’s a choice between a blue screen and total nothingness, I’ll take a blue screen).

That was some time ago, and by the time there was a patch that sounded like it might have fixed it, I’d renewed my VMware license.

I was really hoping I could get Xen working with Windows as the host OS.

I’m going to download Parallels for Windows and give that a shot, see how the Linux runs under that. But I think the “Exclusive” mode under VMware might be the ticket.

I think that Nvidia themselves are attempting to address the problem of hardware graphics in virtualization, some of their newer Quadro graphics cards have Nvidia OS support, and that allows hardware graphics shared out between virtual machines, with the card doing switching between the VM that needs it the most. Hopefully this will make its way down to graphics cards affordable by us mere mortals and non-pros, but for now it’s a Quadro feature only. It does however sound pretty promising, but only time will tell.

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