View Full Version : Linux/Windows and VM's

7th September 2007, 04:46 PM
After repeatedly dealing with having to re-format numerous PC's in our office every 6 months that run Windows, I have decided that it would be a good idea to setup each PC in one the following manners:

Option 1:
Format with XP, Remove IE and create a VM with Linux that would allow users to browse and receive email. Basically all outside access. In doing so, I would like to know if there is a small footprint that anyone could recommend, such as DSL (Damn Small Linux) that could run FireFox,Thunderbird. Any other suggestion on this?

Most of the users like/require M$ Outlook, so this is looking like more of a problem using this option.

Option 2:
The other option is to have all the PC run Linux as the base OS and create a VM for XP and each user would just run a VM. If it becomes polluted with crap, I can just install copy a clone VM back for the user and they are up and running. The problem I see with this is that I am not sure all the PCs can run efficiently. Most of the machines are < 2 years old, but they are not dual core.

Since most of their customers operate in the Windows world, moving to an all Linux world is not an option. I finally got approval to introduce Linux, but I would like suggestions which approach would perform the best as well as not shock the end user. I originally proposed Option 1, but I think Option 2 is starting to look much better.


7th September 2007, 05:10 PM
if the users really need windows and you just want to cut back the hazzle of reformatting, why don't you just create images (using norton ghost, acronis or similar) of the harddrives? this way, you just need put the image back if you want a clean windows..

(this would in effect be the same as restoring a VM snapshot)


7th September 2007, 05:20 PM
Thanks for the good suggestion. My immediate thought is that though this would work, there is still down time to restore the image back to the HD, vs copying over an VM snapshot. I presume the HD image could be up in a hour or 2, it could end up taking half a day and require onsite attention.


7th September 2007, 06:15 PM
1. puppylinux is a sweet little 2.6 distro, while dsl is on the 2.4 kernel. OTOH Neither fully supports MS-orifice.

2. You could Win on LIn or Win on Win or use the freebie VMware stuff - but you take a performance hit as only recent hardware supports the pae & vmx features needed.

The ulimate problem with VM is that these guys will still trash their disk images and need to have them reset. It's only margibnally easier to copy a VM image as a real disk image.

What you really need to do is analyze how/why they are regularly trashing their disk images. That is that strange part. Do these people have admin privledges and they are loading garbarge in the system ?

7th September 2007, 06:38 PM
The idea of saving off an image is good, *but* anyone familiar with Linux who even considers for a moment using "ghost" isn't thinking straight. Ghost doesn't do anything more than (dd if=/dev/hdxn ...) or (dd of=/dev/hdxn ...). Paying for a utility that just does a 'dd' should be a crime.

If you want to go that route - just make a compressed copy of a known good ntfs partition and either jam it in a "secret" partition or else see if it fits on a dvd (probably will). Then you have a lot of choices abt how to re-install, but it's trivially easy to put something like puppy or knoppix on a dvd and have it (gunnip reallybigfile | dd of=/dev/hda1 ) or whatever automatically. ou can'should save and erstore the MBR, probably the first 10 blocks too.

BTW there are some faster compression/decompression methods for huge serial operations like 'lzop' comes to mind but there are others specifically for this sort of operation.

7th September 2007, 07:15 PM
I will have a look at puppylinux if I decided to go this route (option 1). I am really not looking to run linux and have wine installed to run M$ apps. If I load Linux at all, it will be the host and run XP in a VM.

That was my thought on the VM image. If they trash the image, I can simple copy over a saved snapshot and they are up and running. Most of the data will be saved a ReadyNAS drive so the PC will only house the apps. I believe this is also a simple enough solution to where if I am not available, copying over a VM image is simple enough for someone to handle if there is a problem.
(or I can call in remote and copy the snapshot)

The HD image on the other hand is not something that can be handled unless you are a tech who knows what they are doing and requires hands on support.

As for the reason for the problems, users will always install and load crap on their PC. Either by will or behind the scenes via email or website crap. The network is just piece meal and I need to get all the PC's back in optimal working order. I usually find that if i lock down Windows, I spend more time playing admin than I really care too. Same with enabling the security in IE. (Access to website issues)

I figured if I install linux and lock it down, they can have access to the VM image of XP. If it breaks, copy a new image and move on.

I was just curious to know if anyone else had used this approach or if I am overthinking the problem.