[ltp] Switched to Linux guest on Vmware running on Windows host

Mike Heroux linux-thinkpad@www.bm-soft.com
Mon, 4 Feb 2002 12:03:44 -0600

I have been a Windows/Linux dual-booter for 3+ years, but I am migrating to
a different model and thought some people on this list would be interested
in my experience.

This summer I purchase a Thinkpad A22p, a great machine.  Rather than go
through the effort of setting up a dual boot system or replacing Windows
with Linux and making it handle all my multimedia needs, I keep the native
Windows installation and used Vmware to build a Linux guest machine.

First of all before I go on, I am not trying to start a religious war, or
convince someone that my configuration is the best for everyone.  At the
same time, I see many new users post to this list describing their woes
while trying to get Linux to do things that Windows does so well, e.g.,
support the latest devices, suspend/hibernate well and handle multimedia
applications well.

For people (like me) who want to use Windows for what it does best and Linux
for what it does best, I think the following approach is becoming very
attractive, especially as laptops have reached GHz speeds, have huge disks
and up to 1 GB memory.  All three of these developments make the inherent
performance hit of a virtual machine more acceptable.

Here is what I did:

- Kept the native Windows 2000 OS as host.
- Installed Vmware (evaluation license was free for 30 days, paid $300 for
full license)
- Installed Redhat 7.1 as a guest OS.
- Gave the Linux machine 256 MB of the 512 MB on this machine (new machines
have 1GB memory sizes).
- Created a 10 GB drive for the Linux virtual machine (in addition to the
standard 2 GB drive that it created automatically), out of the 30 GB on my
- Set up a Samba server in the Linux virtual machine so that Windows and
Linux could share files.

The positives of this approach are:

- It took 30 minutes to install Vmware and Linux combined, X windows even
worked right the very first time.  This is much better than the 2 or 3 days
that it took me to work out all the kinks of a dual boot machine in the
past, when I had to search the net for someone's hacked up drivers that
would work on my latest, greatest laptop.  It went so quickly because Vmware
present a fairly simple machine configuration to Linux, so Linux didn't have
to deal with any unusual devices.

- For all practical purposes, my Linux virtual machine is very fast.  There
is some apparent slowdown for file I/O (compiling seems a little slow), but
computational kernels run at near peak and X-windows is fast enough for my
needs.  When my Linux virtual machine is in full-screen mode, it is almost
impossible to tell that it is not a native Linux installation.

- I have all the great features of my laptop: suspend/hibernate, CD/RW, DVD,
Ethernet card, modem and the software to run them available to me at all
times with no extra effort.  If I had a dual boot configuration, I would
have to reboot in Windows, or figure out how to get Linux to drive all these
features.  Making Linux do all these things seems to be one of the primary
purpose the linux-thinkpad email list, and the main source of trouble for
Linux non-experts.

- I recently purchased a new Thinkpad A30 running Windows XP for another
employee.  In order to get Linux up and running all I had to do was install
Vmware for Windows and copy the virtual machine files from my other laptop
to this one.  I fired up Vmware and, without any modifications, my Linux
virtual machine from the old laptop fired up perfectly on the new one.
Total time for the process was about 25 minutes (22 of which was copying the
12 GB of files from the old laptop to the new).

Bottom lines:

- I can have the best of both Windows and Linux, up and running at the same
time on the same machine.
- I can seamlessly migrate my virtual machine from one laptop to the next.
In fact, I am starting to think that I should create and run both a virtual
Windows machine and virtual Linux machine so that when I get a new system,
the only application I have to install is Vmware.

Of course there are some issues with this approach:

- I had to buy Vmware.
- I need a lot of memory, disk space and a fast processor.  Do not try this
on an old machine.
- I cannot get the full memory resources of my machine in Linux.
- If I had Linux applications that need Linux to support high-end
multimedia, I am guessing that the virtual machine would not be sufficiently
fast (but I use these kinds of apps on the Windows side).

Beyond these things, I have no complaints and I thought others might be


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