I need to come back to work, in order to relax. Ever feel that way? This week actually hasn’t been that bad. I took some time off to catch up on honey dues. It’s more like spring cleaning. April in Texas is the time to get the yard in shape before it gets hotter than hell. You certainly don’t want to schedule major yard duty in June, July or August unless you want a stroke.
With that said, my pool is open for business. The trees are trimmed. The lawn program has been established with weed killer and fertilizer. We’re rocking and Mommy is happy. She’s having a party this weekend so everything is ready to go. Margarita time.
So what else to do?
I also used this week for some personal training. I installed and used Ubuntu, Red Hat Enterprise Desktop Workstation w/Multi OS v5 (RHEL 5), Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 (SLED 10) and some other stuff (Parallels). The goal was to look at the installation, configuration, application mix, etc. This year (I do it every year), I added virtualization to the mix to see how well I could run Windows Vista on Linux. I figured if it’s so easy on a MacBook Pro, I might as well see about living on linux for a week or more.
Linux Install Impressions
As usual, Linux continues to improve the installation process. Ubuntu was the quickest and easiest. Actually, I installed Kubuntu since I prefer KDE over GNOME. Kubuntu installs quick because it’s a small distribution. It will also run just from the CD so you don’t have to install it on a PC hard drive. Very Knoppix like. The RHEL 5 distribution is large but they didn’t supply me a .ISO DVD image. The actual install from the CD’s wasn’t bad but it did kind of freak me out when it broke into text mode for a few minutes. In this day and age, I fully expect GUI installation unless I’m cloning and doing scripted installs. SLED 10 was an absolute breeze to install (as usual). I’m not sure my Mother-in-law could do it, but it’s getting better.
Operating systems are interesting. When you install an unknown OS, you tend to want the OS to have everything so you don’t have to hunt for the missing parts. Linux is certainly no exception to that, nor is Windows for that matter. Kubuntu had the lightest mix of applications. This is one of the reasons installation was fast for them.
RHEL 5 and SLED 10 both have a very comprehensive mix of applications for office, home and development. This year, I went looking for a blogging application. I didn’t spend a lot of time looking but I didn’t see an app that was installed on any of these distros that would allow me to post to this Community Server based site. In order to do that the tool would need to support the Metablog API. I’m sure there are Emacs or Firefox plugins but I just didn’t have time to look this week since my time was very short.
I didn’t really spend a lot of time in the usual applications (web browser, email, document creation). I will over time look more closely at OpenOffice, media tools, phone sync, etc. I shifted that allocation of time to looking at Linux virtualization.
Virtualization on the Desktop
I approached the virtualization topic like any other app. I figured as popular as it’s become, it should just be a check mark in the distro setup or a simple download and install. I am comparing this to what would be needed to install Virtual PC or Virtual Server on Windows.
Virtualization was only tested on RHEL 5 and SLED 10. Xen on RHEL 5 was a bit too crude in my opinion. Even though I was using the graphical Virtual Machine Manager, it seemed primitive. I also didn’t realize at first the virtual disk image must be located in a specific directory. RTFM! Of course linking the image to a high speed disk farm is pretty easy on Linux, but the key here is that you can’t just create the virtual disk where ever you like via the GUI. After getting past that, I was disappointed to watch the VM I was building disappear on the setup reboot. At that point, I decided to shift gears to another virtualization product technology. I had had enough of Xen for the moment. I’ll probably come back to it later after I’ve had a chance to study the RHEL 5 Xen Virtualization Guide more.
VMWare Virtual Server
After using the crude administrative tools for Xen, I decided to see what VMWare had to offer on the Linux platform. Low and behold, they have a Virtual Server for both Windows and Linux. I downloaded the binary, rpm package (which I didn’t use), the management interface and client packages.
This time, I decided it would be prudent to follow the documentation for installation and use. The server, management interface and clients all installed with minimal fuss. I pretty much took the defaults although in practice if this wasn’t a test laptop, I would have probably done some things different for image storage location, binaries, etc.
The VMWare Server Console is similar to the VMWare Workstation interfaces you might find running on a Windows machine. The GUI is pretty straightforward although I ended up turning off the toolbars after I got comfortable with the hot heys. I installed Windows Vista Enterprise from a DVD and although it took some time, it didn’t seem like it was any worse than some of the installs I had done on Virtual PC 2004. Windows Vista installs much quicker on Virtual PC 2007. The virtual machine I created was bound and bridged to the host wireless network card so I pulled updates from windowsupdate.microsoft.com and installed them in the VM.
I’ve seen the vm lock up temporarily on a couple of occasions. On one occasion I was flipping in and out of full screen mode and the laptop froze. I could not recover from that one. I have to hold down the power button on the machine then boot back up. Fortunately SLED 10 replayed the transaction logs and booted fine. The vm booted as well so I am still messing with it. See the screenshot above and click the image for a full blown view. I’ll probably see if I can establish a VPN connection from the vm to our corporate lan and possibly join it to a domain. That gets a bit tricky, but I’m a tricky guy.
So what did I learn?
I guess I need to get my hands on a Apple MacBook Pro and run Parallels for another data point, but it would appear we still have the edge in a few areas on the Windows platform (as far as virtualization is concerned). I thought the installation of the operating systems was easy enough for any IT Pro, but installing configuring and using the virtualization technologies wasn’t a cake walk. VMWare made it a lot easier because they have good instructions. So even if you aren’t familiar with downloading, unpacking and installing Linux archives or RPMs, you’ll probably have few issues getting up and running.
Would I run for an extended period of time in this manner? Probably not. I’m far too busy keeping up with our own products but it might be fun to try to do an event with PowerPoint running from a Linux hosted Windows Vista vm, and the usual demos running from other vms. I’m not real comfortable with the stability of the platform at the moment, so it’ll probably be a cold day in you know where, before that happens. Enough fun for now.
Back to my chores around the house…