Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Recently I have tried using "virtual computing" and I'm very impressed really. Although I have tried to do this before, using a computer that wasn't quite up to the specifications needed to handle it, this time it has been far more successful.

I am using an Alienware computer with 6gb of memory and an Intel i7 processor with 8 threads, so the horsepower and memory are already there, this time around.

Using a free, for-home-usage product called VmPlayer (a tool in the VmWare product line), and another tool from a web page (known as EZY-VMX) I was able to generate several virtual machines to run on a single computer. I tried a few different arrangements, including using multiprocessors, large memory space to single processor, small memory space, and then running virtual systems using Linux.

So first I made a system for Ubuntu 8.04 (using an existing Ubuntu boot CD I had.) No problems there -- everything worked flawlessly and the virtual machine hardly made a dent in the Alienware's Vista system. What was even more impressive was rebooting Alienware into an existing Ubuntu Linux OS, downloading VmPlayer for Linux and running exactly the same virtual machine from there as ran in Vista. I was a little troubled that I had done so much work for an older version of Linux, however.

Next, I found a pre-built "appliance" for VmPlayer, where someone else had already booted OpenSuse 11 into a virtual machine and stored it as a compressed blob. All I had to do was download the blob, decompress it and run it in VmPlayer. It worked flawlessly as well. And it also ran at the same time as the other virtual machine with Ubuntu. So I had all three running at once, Vista, OpenSuse Linux and Ubuntu Linux. The machine was happily humming along. I decided to get a more up-to-date version of Ubuntu (9.04) by downloading an appropriate blob for that.

So, anyway, this has been a good experience with virtual machines, but I have to admit that I did it all out of curiosity rather than necessity. If I was a business, howevehr, I would probably go ahead and shell out the bucks for a total VmWare package so that I could tweak things and get all the proper updates, etc.

I then updated them with the latest and greatest open source software, especially for software development and word processing, etc. And once I got everything working good, I compressed the disk files that comprise each virtual machine on Vista and backed them up as single blobs of my own. So if I blow something up I can just retrieve the backed up machine and proceed from there.

Now, I'm not advertising any of this, I don't make a dime off anything I'm saying here, it is just my personal experience with these systems. For all I know there might be just the same abilities using other virtual machine software out there, it just so happened I tried this combination first. I'm also not easily impressed, but this is good stuff.

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