Apr 13 2011

VirtualBox Upgrade and Resumption Error

Category: SoftwareTeknovis @ 1:21 pm

I upgraded my VirtualBox to the latest version (4.0.4) last weekend. Everything seemed fine.

Yesterday afternoon I paused a virtual machine for the first time this week, and last night I tried to resume it. To my horror it would not start, and I kept getting the following error:

Failed to open a session for the virtual machine Windows 7. Implementation of the USB 2.0 controller not found! Because the USB 2.0 controller state is part of the saved VM state, the VM cannot be started. To fix this problem, either install the 'Oracle VM VirtualBox Extension Pack' or disable USB 2.0 support in the VM settings (VERR_NOT_FOUND). Unknown error creating VM (VERR_NOT_FOUND).

After a few minutes of panicking I discovered that this is a known bug, as described in Ticket #8182 Unexpected error about USB 2.0!. Luckily, the described fix worked perfectly for me :D

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Sep 20 2010

Goodbye Windows 2000 Server

Category: Linux,WindowsTeknovis @ 6:12 pm

I have been happily using Windows 2000 in my home network for many years. My setup was fairly simple – I had a Windows 2000 Server that acted as a domain controller with roaming profiles enabled, and as a file and printer server for approximately six computers and six mobile devices. It also doubled up as a workstation.

All of this worked very well in my home network, although it was starting to show its age and limitations. However, about two weeks ago the server refused to boot properly after it crashed :( Instead of getting the normal login screen, I got the following error message:

Security Accounts Manager initialization failed because of the following error: Directory Service cannot start. Error Status: 0xc00002e1. Please click OK to shutdown this system and reboot into Directory Services Restore Mode, check the event log for more detailed information.

It appears that the reason for this is that my Active Directory became corrupted due to the crash (see Directory Services cannot start” error message when you start your Windows-based or SBS-based domain controller and Err Msg: Security Accounts Manager Initialization Failed Because of the Following Error: Directory Service Cannot Start).

Unfortunately, I do not have a backup of my Active Directory. More importantly, I do have a complete backup of all my data :)

Rather than rebuilding everything in the same way I have decided to use the opportunity to do some upgrading :)

So now I am going to install Ubuntu Desktop on my server. I am then going to install VirtualBox. This will be my host server.

Next I will create two virtual machines to run on my host server:

  • The first virtual machine will be Ubuntu Server, and it will act as my domain controller (using Samba).
  • The second virtual machine will also be Ubuntu Server, and it will act as my file server (again using Samba).

My main motivation in doing this is that it will make backup trivial (just copy the entire virtual machine), and it removes my dependence on hardware!

Now all I need to do is start implementing this great plan :)

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Jun 30 2010

VirtualBox 3.2.6 Upgrade

Category: SoftwareTeknovis @ 5:26 pm

I updated my installation of VirtualBox to version 3.2.6 today. It was very straight-forward, and I have not noticed any differences yet.

I was also prompted to update my Guest Additions.

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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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May 16 2010

VMware Workstation Versus VirtualBox

Category: SoftwareTeknovis @ 5:39 pm

I previously described how I wanted to virtualise my laptop in Virtualising my Laptop. I have made some progress with this, but not as much as I would have liked :(

I heard some great recommendations for VirtualBox recently, so I decided to investigate it a bit further. I found the following articles the most useful:

I think that all of this is enough to convince me that VirtualBox is a real contender! The next step is to download it and try it myself :)

I also did some reading about how the virtual machine software handles multiple cores and Hyper-threading. It appears that it is able to distinguish between them, and it will always allocate cores before a Hyper-threaded unit. I understand this from reading the following two documents:

This weekend I also downloaded Ubuntu 10.04, although I have not had time to try it yet.

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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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