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newbie01.linux 01-09-2013 11:56 PM

Need Advise on various Linux Install
Hi all,

First off, Happy New Year.

Just recently bought a Gateway/Acer 16GB laptop that comes pre-installed with Windows8 and 500GB drive. I also bought a 1TB external drive.

I need to install several Linux Distros on it, Ubuntu, CentOS, Oracle Linux, Fedora, SuSE, that's just for starter. This is because I have several customers that uses different distros and I need to install Oracle on them. Besides the Linux distros, I also need Oracle on Windows running :(-

Can anyone please advise if this is achievable? I've read several blogs of issues installing Windows8 and Linux'es. I am looking at re-partitioning the Windows 8 HD and create another partition there for the Linux Distros but a bit anxious whether that will break Windows 8.

Performance is not an issue at the moment. Will using the 1TB external hard drive be a better option? Can I create boot partitions for each distros on the external drive and then boot off the external drive? Does the boot partition need to be ext or they have to be FAT32?

I want to be able to explore this option first before going to using a VirtualBox on Windows8 as the last option.

Any advise/feedback will be much appreciated. Thanks in advance.

ukiuki 01-10-2013 02:08 AM

Give some serious thoughts on Virtualbox, why? You don't have to mess with disk partition, you can have several virtual machines running at the same time, also you don't have to reboot the computer every time you need to access different distro. Besides that, you mentioned 5 distros to start, that means about 5 different partitions for every distro, things will get really complicated, what else can get in the way? Does that machine have secure boot? If yes then more problems to deal with.


Originally Posted by newbie01.linux (Post 4866691)
...Does the boot partition need to be ext or they have to be FAT32?...

If you are asking this you probably don't know much about GNU/Linux and it is probably better stick with VirtualBox, things will be way easier for you.

You can use the external drive to store the virtual disks, set the virtual disks with dynamic allocation starting with 5Gb size that will probably do for most distros, but depends on how much you intent to install. It is going to be easier to maintain and to keep things organized.

Now if you really up for a challenge, up to learn an entire new system, then you need to start read about several things.
Start learning about partitions and how to manage then, learn about console commands, learn about the distros what each one is aimed for,
And yet, Virtualbox is one good start point. If you have other computer set there one single distro to have a feel about GNU/Linux.


273 01-10-2013 06:13 AM

I would second the recommendation of using VirtualBox.
I may be wrong but I don't think it is yet possible to install any distribution of Linux alongside Windows 8 in dual-boot at the moment without manually installing your bootloader and GRUB/LILO.

jefro 01-10-2013 09:09 AM

I also will agree that the system may support some form of a virtual machine.

It may also be possible to use usb flash drives or external usb drive.

snowpine 01-10-2013 09:17 AM


DaneM 01-11-2013 01:28 AM

It's *possible* to install all those OSes one just one hard drive (use the 1TB drive!), but keep in mind that each and every one will need at least one partition--and probably several. This will mean you'll run out of physical partitions with the very first OS, and depending on your partition table's capabilities (use GPT?), you might even run out of logical partitions! So, if you intend to install like 8 OSes on a single 1TB hard drive, that will mean installing them each on a total of about 100GB (give or take), with each of those split into whatever partitions the OS thinks it needs (/, /boot, /home, /opt, whatever). This is really messy!

PLEASE do yourself a favor and don't do this! You're thank yourself for the forbearance! :-)

A better solution, as mentioned, is to use virtualization software running under whichever OS you are most familiar with (and preferably which uses the least resources for itself). Sadly, even this has its own problems if you want to run these OSes simultaneously: your host OS will need at least 2GB of RAM (unless it's especially lean), and each guest OS will only get about 2GB each of what's left (given 8 OSes, for example). This is doable...until you reach the CPU requirements and hard drive IO-wait.

Each OS will need a CPU all to itself to run smoothly (and may even need two or more, depending on what they're doing), so you'll need ~8 cores to pull this off well. More troubling is that your hard drive has a VERY limited capacity to pull data from multiple sectors, simultaneously, so with just your host and one guest OS running, you'll probably run into having to wait for our drive to read THIS bit of data, then seek for THAT bit of data, read it, come over to the OTHER bit and read it...etc. This will cause some serious lag with more than 2 OSes running at once.

If you only want to run one at a time, this simplifies things a lot, but will still be slow. Also, if any of these OSes require hardware graphics acceleration (like Ubuntu for compiz/Unity, as well as anything running Gnome 3!), virtualization can have some major problems with this. I'm trying to run Ubuntu 12.10 AMD64 in a virtual machine right now, and the mouse jumps all over the place; the menu takes around 30 seconds to load when I click on's atrocious! Even installing guest additions (a necessary step) doesn't help this problem--nor does the fact that I'm using a GeForce 560ti with 1GB of onboard RAM. (Virtualbox free edition only supports 128MB of video RAM...which is pitiful).

So, here's the bottom line:
Don't install more than about 3 OSes on your hard drive via multi-booting, or you'll run into some serious complications. Just installing two can be tricky with boot managers, filesystem types, and such. It can certainly be done (and done well!), but please try just two for starters until you learn how to handle that well. Please note that Windows can't write to Ext4, and Linux doesn't write perfectly to NTFS (but does a pretty good job). You can get ext3 writing to work from Windows, but this will endanger your data to some degree. Other Unix-like OSes (Oracle and similar) tend to use their own special filesystems that aren't compatible with many other OSes (especially not Windows, and often not even Linux), so be careful with that, too. Also, many Unixes have trouble writing to filesystems that they don't use, themselves (though older Linux filesystems usually work fine).

Alternatively, you can use virtual machines--but only if you have a really fast computer. Don't try to run too many at once or you'll get hangs, freezes, and crashes. It will be slow in any case, and 3D/compositing effects probably won't work right for the guests. Use non-compositing window managers to avoid the latter. Using virtual machines will let you share the data between OSes as if on a network--but only while they're all running. Sharing the data offline is nigh unto impossible unless you really read up on it--and even then might not be possible for some filesystem/virtualization types.

I hope this helps. I'm not saying "don't try it," but I'm strongly urging caution and some personal experimentation until you determine what you're willing and able to deal with.


273 01-11-2013 10:19 AM

Oddly I don't have any problems with Ubuntu (or didn't at least, must try when I get home) under VirtualBox. I'm running an "8 core" Athlon with 16GB of RAM though but only an NVIDIA GT 640 DDR3.
My old system used to creak a little but that had an old dual core Athlon, it wasn't all that bad though. That was with a GeForce 9800 GTX+.
As far as I know the memory used for video by VirtualBox is taken from your RAM not the memory on your video card. Oddly though I think some of the 3D acceleration functions of your card are exposed to the guest OS. I'd love clarification if anyone knows exactly what's going on though.

DaneM 01-11-2013 02:59 PM

That's interesting, 273. It's possible that my settings are somehow "off" for running an Ubuntu guest.

About the video RAM: I strongly suspect it's using your card's RAM, but I could be wrong. I'm not really sure how to test this reliably. Perhaps measuring host memory availability with different guest video RAM settings?

Having 8 cores certainly would help things along--but I doubt that anything more advanced than a GeForce 6xxx or so (from the 1990s) can be fully utilized in Virtualbox. :-(

273 01-11-2013 03:06 PM

I'd try it but, I hate to admit, I'm not entirely sure how to check exactly how much RAM I'm really using at any point.

DaneM 01-12-2013 04:11 AM

LOL, no problem. Use the "top" command and press "q" when done.

...but we digress... :-p

TobiSGD 01-12-2013 09:10 AM

Virtualbox does not use video-RAM, it uses the systems's memory (having not more than 128MB available is not really a downside, since Virtualbox is not meant for gaming or systems that need fast 3D acceleration anyways). Having a powerful video-card also does not really help, since the Virtualbox (by the way, there is no "free edition" anymore) video driver does not use your card to its fully extend anyways.
Having said that, I had never problems running multiple VMs at the same time, not with my older Core 2 Quad CPU and not with my "real 6-core" AMD CPU. The main thing you have to watch in my opinion is RAM usage, but with 16GB of RAM the OP should be on the safe side and should have no problem with running 3-4 VMs at the same time, if they are configured reasonable.

In a scenario described by the OP I would also use Virtualbox, instead of several native installs. But I would not recommend to use the external disk for storage of the VMs, unless it is an USB 3.0 disk and your computer also has an USB 3.0 port, otherwise you will get serious performance impacts.

273 01-12-2013 09:39 AM

I feel I ought to add that more than 128MB can be set as video RAM, but it has to be done by editing the config file rather than through the GUI unless the VM is for Windows 8 where 256MB is available through the GUI.
A strange quirk I find is that with 3D acceleration enabled modern desktops (Windows and Linux) fail to refresh when they're full screen and another window is brought to the forground, meaning they become invisible until the desktop is right-clicked.

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