Salckware under VirtualBox - remarks on a user experience
I'm running several virtual boxes on W$ host - WInXP Professional SP3 32 bit, hardware: AMD Athlon 2 455 4-core processor, MSI 760GM-P33 mainboard, ATI Radeon 6850 graphic, 4 GB RAM. Using VirtualBox I'm running systems spreading from UNIX v7 (1986) x86 port, Caldera OpenLinux (kernel version 2.03), Haiku OS (BeOS based system), OpenBSD and last but not least Slackware 12.2 and 13.37. I'm using VirtualBox v. 4.1.18.
Now I'm describing only my experiences using Slackware and mainly 12.2. In fact it is a copy of my long existed installation on my Fujitsu-Siemens notebook.
VBoxGuestAdditions installs without problems provided the kernel source is installed on the virtual guest. So Xorg server is using 'vboxvideo' video driver and sharing folders works. So for example I can mount the 'My_Documents' Windows directory in Slackware with the command 'mount -t vboxsf My_Documents /mnt/hd'. To allow some additional graphical tricks you have to start an application 'VBoxClient'. Simply look at '/opt' directory - there resides all VBoxGuestAdditions suite. What kind of tricks? Read more.
I've got two network interfaces - one is working in bridged mode - Slackware virtual guest connects directly with a network and is visible for any machine on the network - the other one in 'HostOnly' mode - this is done to allow all virtual machines to connect to each other.
Sound system - all oss plugins work, alsa plugins don't work. This suggest that probably it is better to install oss sound system - because some application are doing autodetecting. If for 'audacious' audio player doesn't work - probably you have to switch to the oss plugin. And then it should work. At least for me it works. The same XMMS. Xine media-player works fine. MPlayer has an issue - there is no image only sound. But MPlayer was compiled from the source on the another machine - which may be a reason - cause as I remember MPlayer is doing an optimization for microprocessor when compiled. So solution may be to recompile MPlayer on the virtual machine.
Having these issues oss/alsa I think that it is a good idea to add the oss sound system by default to Slackware. As an option for alsa. Or to add a slack.build script to slack.builds script repository.
Now some candies. Once you have properly installed VBoxGuestAdditions and 'VBoxClient' is running you can put your virtual machine is a so-called 'seamless mode' view. There are several view modes - fullscreen, windowed and seamless. With the 'seamless mode' of view enabled a background of a virtual host is suspended and all windows opened by the virtual client are displayed next to host windows. It is very tricky and I must say very useful. By default I'm using 'fvwm' window manager under Slackware (precisely its configured version 'fvwm-themes'). All functionality of 'fvwm' is preserved in the 'seamless mode'. I can shade windows using a wheel mouse, iconify - to de-iconify I'm using a fvwm module 'IconBox'. In the 'seamless' mode the virtual client is transparent to the user. You have a bunch of windows on the host-desktop - some of them are provided by the host, some by the virtual client - the mouse is traversing from a window to window - and the experience is like all windows are run by a common system.
KDE4. I don't expect that plasmoids will be visible in the 'seamless' mode. Although I didn't verify this. Plasmoids as I know are pieces of software which are running under plasma-desktop. So once you suspend virtual-guest desktop - plasmoids disappear. A possible solution I'm thinking about is to run KDE4 desktop using different window manager than 'kwin'. I think that it should be a window manger which runs KDE4 desktop in windowed mode - that means that KDE4 desktop is displayed within a window - not in the 'background'. KDE4 desktop running in a separate window should be now visible in the 'seamless' mode and thus all plasmoids.
Final remarks: now I'm thinking that VirtuaBox matured enough to be an option for dual boot configurations - Windows/Linux. Say you have someone who wants to try Linux. The common scenario is that Windows is already installed - so you have to shrink the Windows partition to make free space - but doing things correctly you should do a backup - yeah but when the hard disk is as large as 1000G then backup is really challenging. The another problem is a bootloader - it is not about to install the bootloader but to de-install - particularly badly behaves GRUB. Once you remove Linux - GRUB won't boot. So before removing Linux one has to recover the native Windows bootloader. All these problems disappear in virtual installation. Scenorios for an installation Slackware virtually? You bought a new box with Windows installed - but such install offers not much more than to start the computer. Now it is a time to buy or download and to install additional application - say firefox, VLC etc. But instead of doing all this manually - you can pick up VirtualBox, Slackware install-DVD - to install it on VBOx - an voila - you have a really great set of applications ready to use.
Nice piece, thanks for sharing it.
I go the other direction -- VirtualBox installed on a Slackware 13.37 64-bit host, XP and Win7 in virtual machines (plus a test I'm running on Qimo for Kids -- pretty nice). My machines have stock Intel graphics and sound and I have found that the OSS Audio Driver works best with VirtualBox so that winders stuff makes the noises it's supposed to (ALSA didn't work, may work now, don't know).
Your next step would be to move up to a 64 bit host and add in 4 or more gig ram.
I have used VM's for a very long time. I still have an old box with Windows 2000 and P4 processor running vm's. My only regret is buying virtualpc for over $120.
Virtual machines on well supported systems are very good ways to use two OS's at the same time. VM's offer many advantages.
One look at the VMware site gives you some ideas as to the future of how one might be using a desktop in the future.
Thank's for feedback. The Windows is mainly used for playing games. This is why Linux clients are installed on the Windows host. I have only a basic set of applications installed on WinXP: VLC, Foobar (audio player), Seamonkey, Firefox, Winscp, 7-Zip archiv manager, Avira Antivir, of course VirtualBox, Iamge Burn, Daemonn Tools - thats all.
But I never felt that I'm mising somethin running Linux (except games). All my serious work is done on the Slackware-guest. WinXP host is almost barebone system - it remains unchanged since the time it was installed. And there is no reason to install any additional stuff on WinXP. So it stays empty and clean (except games).
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