OS evaluation with Virtual PC

I’ve been playing around with Virtual PC a bit lately (see previous posts re: nothing better to do with my time) and have decided it’s pretty neat. I already had a Windows 2000 installation for the purpose of testing web stuff with IE6, and recently installed a Debian VM to test a dist-upgrade before doing it on my real server. There’s a vague temptation to install every OS I can get my hands on just to try them out, but I’m really not that bored. I decided to just try a couple that interest me. I’m installing each of these on a 2 GB virtual drive, with 256 MB RAM (plus 16 MB VRAM) allotted.

First, I decided on SuSE with the Ximian Desktop. Novell’s purchase of SuSE and Ximian, in addition to their decision to base their next Netware release on a Linux kernel (but not quite to the extent that Apple based OS X on Mach/BSD), puts them in a great position to help corporate networks migrate over to Linux from Windows. Toward this end, they need to be able to offer a nice desktop OS as well as a server. I’ve never used either SuSE or Ximian before, so I figure this is a good time to try them both out. My experience with Novell products is extremely limited: my friend Mike is an old-school Netware admin and I’ve hung out at his office and looked around his network on occasion, but that’s about it. From what I have seen their stuff is pretty nice and I’m interested in seeing what they come up with for this new approach of theirs.

I originally installed SuSE 9.1 but realized that the Ximian Desktop will only install on certain Linux versions, up to 9.0 but not 9.1. After spending too much time looking for a 9.0 ISO on their FTP site, I settled for a network installation, which took forever. Once the OS installation finished, I began the Ximian installation which, sadly, could have been much better. After three failed attempts I’ve given up for now. I can get through the package selection and the download and installation will begin, but it fails while installing, giving me errors about free disk space, which is nonsense because I have plenty of space available. Unless, of course, their basic installation wants more than 750MB, in which case I’m kind of glad it didn’t succeed, as those requirements are ridiculous for a desktop system and office suite. That would be fine if it was a self-contained system, with it’s own OS, but it isn’t. The only way to change the size of a Virtual PC drive is to create a new one and reinstall the guest OS, and I’m not going to go through that a third time just to install this thing. Maybe another time, maybe not. Maybe I’ll wait for an official Novell Desktop (or whatever they end up calling it) release.

That said, SuSE with KDE is pretty decent. I’ve only had it a couple days now, and I really haven’t used it for anything other than just poking around checking it out, but it seems pretty good. It’s nicer than Redhat, which is what I was using at Earthlink. I especially like their system configuration and package installation tools (if only I could install Ximian via YaST). Truthfully, it’s running so slowly it’s difficult to actually use for much of anything, but that’s the fault of Virtual PC, not the guest system. At this point, I’d seriously consider running SuSE if I were installing a regular Linux desktop system.

Next up is Gentoo.


Hey that’s funny. I was playing around with virtual PC last night also. I’m setting up my test environment network. I need to get my Microsoft certs and it’s a perfect test environment. It might actually be worth to me to buy it. How odd. To actual pay for a Microsoft product.

kchrist says:

Between being able to test web stuff in Win/IE without easy access to a Windows machine and having an identical copy of my real mail/web server to test major changes on, VPC is totally worth the money. Testing other OSs is just an added bonus.

I’ve never used it to simulate a network, just single machines. I don’t have any real need to, but it would be interesting to experiment with different configurations. Too bad it limits you to x86-based systems and you can’t throw a virtual OS X system into the mix.