Jun 14 2010

VirtualBox on my Laptop

Category: SoftwareTeknovis @ 7:05 pm

Last week I finally got my new laptop! I did get a Dell, but I did not get the Studio that I was considering in Virtualising my Laptop. The laptop came with Windows 7, and for the moment I have decided to leave that as my host operating system. However, I am already hating it, but I will leave that for another blog post…

After reading the articles described in VMware Workstation Versus VirtualBox I decided to try using VirtualBox, and I installed version 3.2.4. It installed perfectly.

I then tried to create my first virtual machine. This is where I had a few problems, that I will describe here:

  • I was unable to assign more than 1500MB of Memory to my virtual machine :( After some research online I discovered this is a limitation of using a 32bit host operating system :o
  • I assigned my virtual machine 2 processors since my laptop is dual core. However, when I tried to start the virtual machine I got an error code (VERR_VMX_MSR_LOCKED_OR_DISABLED). It turns out that this means that the required hardware support for virtualisation is disabled in the BIOS. It was a bit tricky, because after changing this BIOS setting a hard reboot is required for it to become active – the normal soft reboot is not sufficient.
  • I needed to install the Guest Additions in order to get the guest operating system to correctly identify and use my monitor resolution.

Since then everything has been working perfectly, and so far I have been very impressed!

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Mar 14 2010

Virtualising my Laptop

Category: Hardware,Linux,WindowsTeknovis @ 2:41 pm

I want to buy a new laptop for myself. I need it! My old one is too big and heavy, the screen is losing its contrast, and the battery lasts for approximately 30 seconds :(

In the past I tended to buy high-end laptops on the basis that they would last for longer. This worked to a certain extent, but this time I want to try a new approach. I am going to buy a relatively low-end laptop, but replace it more frequently. The disadvantage of this approach is that it is very time consuming to setup a new computer.

Last year I started experimenting with using Ubuntu within VMware as my main desktop operating system on and old computer. I was very impressed with its speed and stability. So I have decided that I am going to virtualise my entire desktop on the new laptop. The advantages of this approach are:

  • Moving my computer from one piece of hardware to another becomes trivial. This is useful for when I want to upgrade my laptop in the future. It also means that I can put my computer onto an external hard disk.
  • Backing-up my computer also becomes trivial. I am thinking about backing it up automatically every night!
  • Snapshots can be taken before I install any software on a test basis. I can then roll-back my computer if I do not like the new software.
  • It provides my computer with a lot of extra security from network based attacks.

My overall requirements for my new laptop are that it supports three different virtual machines:

  • I want to start using the Ubuntu based virtual machine as my main computer. I am waiting for Lucid Lynx 10.4 LTS.
  • I am currently using Windows 2000 as main my operating system. I think it is great ;)
  • Unfortunately, I have one program that I need to use regularly, and this program requires Windows XP (or later) :(

I will use NAT to network all three virtual machines most of the time. However, sometimes I will need to use the Windows 2000 virtual machine in bridged mode so that it can be a first class member of my domain.

Therefore, the overall architecture of what I am trying to achieve should look like this:

Laptop Virtual Architecture

Laptop Virtual Architecture

Now that I know what I want to achieve, I just need to find the best way to realise this!

Hardware

I am currently considering buying either a Dell Inspiron 1545Inspiron 15 Intel Core i, or a Studio 15. I am a Dell fan, and a 15″ screen is the best size for me. I will get 4GB of RAM, and either a 350GB or a 500GB hard disk.

I will get one of the cheapest processors available. I am currently considering either the Intel Pentium Dual-Core Processor T4400 or the Intel Core i3-330M. I will probably choose the latter, because it seems to have better support for virtualisation because it supports VT-x according to its specification. In practice I do not know if this will provide a noticeable benefit.

In terms of form-factor, I dislike the idea of a number keypad on a laptop. Therefore, I will probably go for a Studio 15.

I am going to have to buy an external card reader, because none of these laptops support Compact Flash cards :( My cameras all use Compact Flash :o

I wonder how the host operating systems sees the integrated web camera. I hope that it appears as a standard USB device, so that it can easily be shared with the virtual machines.

Host Operating System

My requirements for the host operating system are:

  • It must be very secure, because I will use my laptop in a lot of public networks.
  • It must be easy to connect to file servers. This is important, because I will need to back-up my virtual machines.
  • It must have a software based firewall that is very easy to configure precisely.

I think that the clear winner here is Ubuntu with Firestarter. If my Linux skills were better I would use Debian instead :o

The only question I have is whether I should use the 32bit or the 64bit version of Ubuntu?

Virtual Machine Software

The two options that I am considering for this are VMware Workstation and VirtualBox. My main requirements are that the virtual machine software is secure, and that it supports VT-x. I think that both do!

However, there are still some issues that I have not resolved:

  • Should I use the 32bit version or the 64bit version?
  • Which offers better performance?
  • Will they both support my hardware equally well?
  • Is there a risk of becoming locked into one of these products?
  • How is Hyper-threading supported? Presumably, the virtual machine software would think that it has four cores to distribute to the virtual machines. However, in reality it would only have two. This makes me think that I should disable Hyper-threading.
  • Does the virtual machine file format change with each new release of the virtual machine software?

Cost is not really an issue here.

Guest Operating Systems

As I wrote above, I will use Ubuntu, Windows 2000, and Windows XP on my virtual machines.

My questions relating to the guest operating systems are:

  • Should I choose the 32bit or the 64bit version of Ubuntu?
  • Will the OEM version of Windows XP that I got with a previous Dell computer install into a virtual machine without lots of registration issues?

If anybody has any opinions, experience, advice, or answers relating to any of this then I would love to read them!

Thanks!

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Aug 09 2009

Ubuntu Netbook Remix Display Resolution on Dell Inspiron 10v

Category: Hardware,LinuxTeknovis @ 9:29 am

I bought a Dell Inspiron 10v last week because I was really impressed with its weight and size. It came with some version of Windows XP, but I removed this and I installed Ubuntu Netbook Remix 9.04 instead. I decided to try this because I liked the user interface, and I thought that it might extend my battery life.

Everything appeared to installed correctly, except the display driver :( The maximum resolution that I can specify is 800×576. However, the 10v has a native resolution of 1024×576!

This is driving me mad! I posted a comment on the Ubuntu form (see Ubuntu Netbook Remix Display Resolution on Dell Inspiron 10v), but I have not got any responses yet :( I would love to know if anybody has got a 10v to work at this resolution! At least then I would know it is possible!

Unfortunately, if I do not find a solution soon I will have to revert to Windows :(

I will keep my blog updated with any progress that I make.

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Jul 15 2009

Download Dell Drivers Using HTTP

Category: InternetTeknovis @ 5:38 pm

I had to download some new Dell drivers for an old desktop computer last weekend. I have always thought that Dell is the best computer manufacturer in terms of obtaining drivers. I simply love the way that you can enter the Service Tag number and you immediately get all of the relevant drivers! It is so convenient!

Dell has changed the download options since the last time I downloaded drivers. You must now choose between using the new Dell Driver Download Manager or the Internet Browser option. The former is a .NET application that must be installed before any files are downloaded. I think that this is a great way of making a simple process unnecessarily complicated! It appears that I am not the only person thinking this according to Dell Driver Download Manager and Dell Driver Download Manager is Optional.

So without any hesitation I chose the Internet Browser option. This tries to use FTP to download the drivers from ftp.us.dell.com. That would be fine, except that the firewall protecting me does not allow FTP :( Thankfully, Dell also allows access to ftp.us.dell.com using HTTP!

Unfortunately, it is impossible to correlate the drivers on the download page with the files on the FTP server using the file names :( At least I could not!

However, I did find another way:

  1. Click on the File Title or the File Details of the driver to get more information about it.
  2. Click on Installation Instructions to expand that section.
  3. The name of the driver file appears in the first sentence!
  4. Find the file on the FTP server in the appropriate directory, download, and enjoy :)

Knowing this last weekend would have saved me a lot of time!

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Feb 05 2009

The Irish Knowledge Economy

Category: BusinessTeknovis @ 11:03 pm

The Irish economy is in a very bad condition at the moment, and significant numbers of job losses are being announced every day. Indeed, January was the worst month for job losses in the last 40 years according to Jobless rate could hit 400,000 – Cowen. In a frighteningly short time Ireland has gone from having one of the best economies in the EU to having one of the worst economies in the EU.

Initially the job losses were mainly in the property sector, and the associated sectors. This was mainly due to the Government inflated property bubble bursting. Job losses then quickly spread to associated sectors such as banking, construction supply, and household goods.

Next some of the companies involved in the information communication technology sector started announcing job losses. One of the main reasons behind these job losses was the loss of competitiveness due to the high cost of doing business in Ireland. The failure to adopt the Lisbon Treaty has also been quietly mentioned by some multinationals as a reason for losing confidence in the Irish economy. For example, Dell is moving 1,900 jobs to Poland (see 1,900 jobs lost at Dell in Limerick), and IBM is moving 120 jobs to Singapore (see IBM seeking 120 voluntary redundancies). Although these job losses are unfortunate, they are not surprising given that they appear to be very labour intensive.

Today Ericsson announced 300 job losses in Ireland. The truly shocking thing about this is that these jobs are all very skilled Research and Development jobs. Furthermore, Ericsson is moving these jobs to a country with a lower cost of business. For more details about this see 300 jobs to go at Ericsson.

This raises some very important questions. Why did this happen? How does this reflect on the Irish knowledge economy? How secure is the Irish knowledge economy?

Contrary to all of this bad news, I also read today that Irish companies raised more venture capital in 2008 than they did in any other year since 2002. The total amount raised was over 240€ million by 93 companies, and the most successful sectors were:

  1. Drug delivery and medical device sector (16 companies raised 46€ million)
  2. Telecoms sector (9 companies raised 38€ million)
  3. Pharmaceutical and biotech sector (23 companies raised 42€ million)

For more details about this see Private funding for tech firms on the rise in 2008, survey shows.

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