View Full Version : Virtual Computing

14-09-2006, 03:58 PM
What are members opinions of virtual computing?
We've recently seen the availability of Microsoft Virtual PC, plus some talk about vmware and in the most recent PCWorld, in letters to the editor there was mention of Altiris; which appears to be quite compelling, the way it was put.
I wonder, if any of these solutions was to be used, and to get most benefit, if it would be best to start with a clean install.
The whole concept, seems to me, to be a way, as the man said "to escape from dll conflict and registry rot".

14-09-2006, 05:01 PM
I like it, I use MS Virtual PC and it does the job, and VMware is great...

I mainly use it for testing purposes etc... good for not damaging you real PCs install

14-09-2006, 05:13 PM
I've tried three solutions to virtualisation. These are MS Virtual PC 2004 (running on Windows XP), VMWare Server (running on Suse Linux host) and Xen (runs on bare metal, managed from Suse Linux).

Microsoft Virtual PC was tested on my father's recently purchased, top end PC which was running Windows XP Media Centre Edition. I can't remember the processor speed but it is one of the new Intel Pentium D processors. The computer has 2GB of memory and uses two 300GB disks in a RAID-0 array. The other two were tested on my own computer, a 1.5 year old Compaq Presario notebook with a Celeron M 1.4GHz processor, 768MB of memory, and a 40GB hard disk.

First for MS Virtual PC. I found it to be very easy to use and it seems to have all the basic features. You can create virtual machines easily, install extensions to accelerate Windows hosts with a couple of clicks and it allows you to add and remove hard drives, use disk images to create a simulated CD drive, and change all the essentials really easily.

The main limitations I noticed were that it is awfully slow without the virtual machine extensions even on a top end machine (installing Windows took forever). Once the extensions are installed (Windows only) it seems to speed up to a near-native level. The configuration is also a little limited - following the typical Microsoft style it never provides you with potentially confusing options.

When I first tried VMWare Server (the latest) on my notebook a few weeks ago I was amazed to note that the virtual machines run at least as well on that machine as MS Virtual PC did without extensions on my father's much more powerful machine. VMWare was a little more difficult to install, although the Windows version may be simpler as it has less diversity to account for. Once installed the interface is poweful, intuitive, and allows you to set up new machines extremely easily. It can run virtual machines from a physical partition on your computer or using disk files which can be set to expand at need and can be split into 2GB chunks for easy backup of entire VMs.

The final option is Xen. Xen has the best performance of any of these and is also the most flexible of all. The problem is that is is an absolute nightmare to set up and use. I am extremely lucky in that my Linux distribution has installer packages, but some configuration still needs to be done manually by altering text files to get everything working smoothly.

Xen virtual machines ("domains") can only run modified operating systems except on CPUs with virtualisation support (The Pentium D range has this support. It's a pity I can't test this on dad's PC :) ). This makes installation an absolute nightmare and means that most platforms cannot run closed systems like Microsoft Windows at all. I eventually gave up on networking with this as it wouldn't work with NetworkManager, a rather convenient tool on a notebook where I use wireless networks a lot.

I hope this gives a decent summary of my experiences with these three solutions. Microsoft Virtual PC and VMWare's various products would be suitable for a reasonably advanced user, while VMWare server and Xen would both be very useful for an IT professional or a geek. On my Linux notebook I have decided that VMWare's option seems to be the best as it provides good speed without imposing restrictions or requiring changes to my normal usage. I currently have Windows XP installed in a virtual machine for the rare occasion on which I need it.

14-09-2006, 05:33 PM
I managed to go back to the days of Windows 95 with MS VPC, without affecting my hard drive! :D
I also have Windows XP Pro and Windows 98 installed on a host of XP Home.

14-09-2006, 06:00 PM
Hey, virtual computing is good if you need a certain piece of software to run, however using virtual computing for general things eg, gaming, bluetooth, burning cd's, printing, design s/w - you will run into huge issues - also it is very slow to run, even if you have a well spec computer

14-09-2006, 11:11 PM
Thanks for all your responses.
I've downloaded vmware player and am now playing around with the Browser Appliance.
Pretty cool:cool:
Steve Gibson calls this stuff "deep voodoo".