Virtualization Options

If you’re thinking of creating a virtual machine on the OS of choice, there are quite a few options to consider. In addition to having a powerful computer with lots of memory to be able to run multiple hosted operating systems, there are several virtualization software to consider. Which one is for you depends on your budget, your expertise and preference. Some virtualization software are free to use, others you have to purchase. Here are your options:

  • VMWare’s vSphere
  • Redhat’s KVM
  • Microsoft’s Hyper-V
  • Citrix’s XenServer
  • Oracle’s Virtualbox

VMWare is the 800 pound gorilla. It dominates the virtualization market at 56%, but it has been eroding over the years. There’s stiff competition from Hyper-V, XenServer and KVM. My personal favorite however, is Virtualbox. It runs on multiple platforms, Windows, Mac and Linux. It’s relatively simple to use. Others may find Virtualbox a bit slower and some find it technically challenging, but to each his own. As they say, your mileage may vary. It really depends on your preference.

Multi Boot vs Virtual Machine

When I bought a 1TB hard drive last year, I had a decision to make. How would I slice up the new 1TB drive? I was running multiple operating systems on my computer desktop. I was using Linux 95% of the time and the other 5% on Windows, if at all.

So, I partitioned my drive and gave Windows 160GB. The rest went to Ubuntu. Knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t do it the way I did it. I would format all 1TB for the Linux partition. What about Windows? From hindsight, I could easily install Windows as a virtual machine instead of having a multi boot setup.

There are several advantages to using virtual machines over multi boot.

  1. You can easily launch a virtual machine without rebooting your computer.
  2. You can have both Linux and Windows running at the same time.
  3. You can clone as many instances of Windows.
  4. You can easily delete a virtual machine and free up the partition.

These are good enough reasons for me to prefer virtual machines over a multi boot setup. Knowing what I know, I would rather install Windows in a virtual machine using Virtualbox. So, if you’re at the same juncture of trying to make a decision whether to partition your drive. Don’t. Use virtual machines instead.

Increase Disk Space Of A Virtual Machine

One of the cooler technologies to arrive on the desktop the past  ten years is virtualization. With virtualization software, desktops are able to run multiple virtual environments on a host computer. You can easily run Windows on top of Linux and vice versa. Two of the most popular virtualization software that come to mind are VMWare and Virtualbox. I use the latter because it’s open-source.

My host system is Ubuntu 11.04 and I run several Linux distributions on it, as well as a single instance of Windows XP. Unfortunately, I’ve only allocated a 10GB for my Windows XP virtual machine, which is the default size when you create a new virtual machine or VM. After several weeks of normal use, I found out that I needed more disk space.

Increasing the disk space on the VM is not quite the easy as I thought it would be. In fact, the process was more elaborate than first conceived. I’m not going to write every detail of what I did, but I will explain the high level process. Hopefully, you’re able to get the idea. The process was trial and error, but the result was successful. I was able to get results twice now, on two different systems.

Tools

5 Step Process

  1. Clone the Windows XP virtual machine to a USB hard drive.
  2. Create a new virtual machine with a bigger disk space.
  3. Use GParted to create a new partition. NTFS in this case.
  4. Restore the Clonezilla image to the new virtual machine.
  5. Run GParted again to allocate the increased disk space.

Step 1.

Clonezilla a free software disaster recovery and disk cloning utility that you can readily download online. Choose the latest stable version from the website. Make a bootable CD from the ISO that’s provided on the download. Boot Clonezilla on your old virtual machine. You may need to disable the hard drive from your boot up options to make the virtual machine boot from Clonezilla. Make sure you are able to add the USB drive to the virtual machine. Follow the instructions how to clone your old partition to the USB drive.

Step 2.

Create a new virtual machine with a bigger disk space. I used 50GB this time around. I assume you are familiar with Virtualbox how to create a new virtual machine. Don’t load any OS just yet. Just leave it blank.

Step 3.

Boot the GParted on the new virtual machine. Just follow all the instructions on how to create a new partition. Allocate all 50GB to the new partition using the NTFS file system. NTFS is the native file systems for Windows.

Step 4.

Boot Clonezilla on the new virtual machine. Restore your Clonezilla image that you stored on your USB drive. Just follow the instructions how to restore a Clonezilla image.

Step 5.

Run GParted again. The current OS (in this case, Windows XP) is still using the older and smaller partition. It doesn’t recognize the new and unallocated partition on the drive. So, run GParted again and increase the size of your current partition. Use all of the unallocated disk space on the partition. Reboot. Windows XP ran a Chkdsk on bootup, and then rebooted. I checked the disk space and sure enough, it says 50GB.

Done

There you have it. How to increase drive space of your existing virtual machine.

Update Virtualbox on Ubuntu

This article documents how to install or update to the latest version of Virtualbox in any Ubuntu release. In my case, I’m still using Ubuntu 10.04 LTS. The current Virtualbox at the time of this writing is version 4.1.2. With my Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lucy install, my default Virtualbox version with the repository was 3.1.8 — which is pretty old. In Ubuntu 11.04, the default Virtualbox version is 4.0.6, which is rather new, but certainly not the latest.

The following instructions will walk you through how to install or update to the latest version of Virtualbox in any Ubuntu release.

  1. Make sure Virtualbox is powered off (if installed).
  2. From the Terminal, remove the old Virtualbox (if installed)
  3. sudo apt-get remove virtualbox-ose
    sudo apt-get remove virtualbox-4.0
  4. Download Virtualbox. Choose your Linux distro and CPU type.
  5. Open the deb file with GDebi Installer and install
  6. Once installed, start Virtualbox.

That’s it.

Virtualbox Broke After Kernel Update

I wanted to test out Fedora 10 released just a couple days ago. Instead of dual booting, I tried Virtualbox to run another Linux distribution on my Ubuntu powered desktop. The installation of Virtualbox requires downloading the OSE modules for the current Linux kernel. The installation of Virtualbox was straightforward. I have done it before. No sweat.

I went ahead and installed Fedora 10 without a hitch. No problems were encountered. I even figured out how to increase the display resolution from 800×600 to 1024×768. Then, last night I saw a large red arrow pointing down on my menu panel. It means a Linux update is available. I clicked on it to initiate the update. It turned out to be a kernel update.

A reboot is necessary after each kernel update. After the reboot, Virtualbox no longer works. What happened! I realized the OSE module installed was for the previous kernel. I searched for the new OSE module. It’s not available. I went to the message boards and saw this instead. It looks like the kernel module has to be recompiled each time a new kernel comes out.

The new OSE module is not in the repository. In the meantime, if you run Virtualbox and you just received a kernel update. Your out of luck for a few days. Not until a new Virtualbox OSE module is made available. I wish Ubuntu fixes this issue. Each time a kernel upgrade is required, the Virtualbox OSE module should also be compiled and updated along with the kernel upgrade.

Installing VirtualBox in Ubuntu 8.04

Installing Virtual Box in Ubuntu should be an easy endeavor. I have come across several how-to documents that were confusing to say the least. This document will try to simplify the steps involved in installing Virtual Box in Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron. Ok, let’s get started.

1. First, determine the current Linux kernel you are using. Click on Applications > Accessories > Terminal. Type the command:

$ uname -a
Linux penelope 2.6.24-19-generic

The result shows I’m running the Linux 2.6.24-19 kernel.

2. Next, install Virtual Box using the apt-get command. Substitute your current Linux kernel for virtualbox-ose-modules-generic.

$ sudo apt-get install virtualbox-ose virtualbox-ose-source
virtualbox-ose-modules-2.6.24-19-generic

3. Add yourself to the vboxusers group using one of the 3 commands. Choose only one command. I ran the first one.

sudo gpasswd -a `whoami` vboxusers
sudo usermod -Gvboxusers -a `whoami`
sudo adduser $USER vboxusers

4. Log out of your desktop session by hitting CTRL-ALT-Backspace. When you log in, your group membership will be updated.

5. Congratulations. You have successfully installed Virtual Box.

To install another OS, refer to the documentation Using Virtual Box.

The screenshot below shows the gOS 3 running on my Virtual Box.

VMware Fusion

VMware Fusion brings another virtualization product running on a Mac. With VMware Fusion, Mac users can run Windows, Linux or any other operating system seamlessly on their systems. Maybe it’s a PC game or an application that you want badly running on your Mac. No sweat. There is no need to switch computers or create a dual boot system, just install VMware Fusion and create a new virtual machine. You can even run multiple virtual machines all running different operating systems as long as your Mac has the available memory and the disk space. On top of that, VMware Fusion has a snapshot feature that gives you the ability to rollback to your last saved state.

Features

  • Support for Mac OS X Leopard
  • Use even more Windows 3D applications and games with experimental support for DirectX 9.0 accelerated 3D graphics (without “shaders”).
  • English, French, German, and Japanese versions all in the same download
  • Unity in VMware Fusion 1.1 makes Windows on the Mac even more seamless with:
    • Support for Windows Vista 32-bit and 64-bit editions
    • Support for Windows XP 64-bit edition
    • My Computer, My Documents, My Network Places, Control Panel, Run, and Search now appear in the Applications menu, Dock applications menu and Launch Applications window
    • Option to show/hide the Windows taskbar and Start menu in the VMware Fusion View menu
    • VMware Fusion “Launch Applications” window now only appears when you choose
    • Improved performance when resizing and dragging Unity windows
  • Boot Camp integration even better with VMware Fusion 1.1:
    • Use Microsoft Vista Boot Camp partitions in VMware Fusion virtual machines
    • Automatically remount the Boot Camp partition after Boot Camp virtual machine is shut down
    • Improved support for detecting and preparing Boot Camp partitions for use as virtual machines
  • Other improvements:
    • Ability to sync iPhone with Outlook in Windows virtual machines
    • Eject key now ejects the optical drive when attached to a virtual machine
    • VMware Shared Folders created with Windows Easy Install now defaults to “Read Only” access of the Mac’s home directory for maximum security
    • Option to hide the VMware Fusion status bar to take advantage of more screen real estate
    • Installation status and “out of date” status for VMware Tools made more obvious on status bar
    • Necessity to power off virtual machine to modify virtual hardware settings made more obvious.

Minimum Requirements

  • An Intel-based Mac (to run 64-bit operating systems, an Intel Mac with a Core 2 Duo or Xeon processor is required)
  • 512MB of RAM (1 GB or more recommended)
  • 275MB free disk space for VMware Fusion
  • 1GB free disk space for each virtual machine (10 GB or more recommended)
  • Mac OS X version 10.4.9 or later

Guest Operating Systems

VMware supports 32-bit or 64-bit guest operating systems. Here’s a list.

Where To Buy

VMware Fusion is available for purchase online directly from VMware or from the Apple store, Apple’s retail stores, Amazon.com, Buy.com, CompUSA, MicroCenter, and from over 3000 VMware partners worldwide. VMware is priced at $79.99USD.

Test Drive

You can also test the latest VMWare 1.1 for 30 days trial period. In addition, VMware Fusion 2 Beta 2 is now available for testing as well. Just remember it’s beta and that it may contain a few bugs. Fusion 2 is scheduled for release in a few weeks. If you are looking for open-source equivalent, check out VirtualBox by Sun Microsystems.