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  1. #1

    Question Proposed OS Setup: Light Host + Xen/VMWare + XP + Suse

    Let me state this first and foremost: I am a far cry from a newbie, but I also would not consider myself an expert. I have played with various distributions of Linux enough to know and understand it fairly well, so feel free to get techie in your advice. On the other hand, try not to get too terribly esoteric, just so that we can avoid any unneeded obfuscation. Now on with the proposal . . .

    I will be getting a new laptop within the next couple of days (already ordered and on its way, so hardware suggestions would be useless at this point), that will come default with Windows XP Professional. As a college student, I must retain Windows for the odd office application I will need or whatnot, but there is no way that I could survive without a Linux desktop (my personal choice is openSUSE 10.3). I have had enough experiences with dual booted machines to know it is not worth the hassle--I boot into windows to use some app, then wind up staying there because it's too much trouble to reboot into Linux just to have to return to MSW again 10 minutes later--so I am opting instead for virtualization.

    First, my plan, then, my questions.

    The Plan:

    I would like the machine to boot quickly to a minimal Linux OS, equipped with a web browser and one or two other necessary/useful apps/services. From there, I wish to be able to load XP and Suse as VMs, with optimal performance.

    I plan to use Xen or VMWare to simultaneously run XP and Suse. However, I also very much like the idea of having a quick-booting machine, in case all I need is a quick email check or such, without all the needless bulk. And, since a light OS seems to be the best choice for hosting VMs anyways, I'm hoping this might work well.

    The Questions:

    1. Is this even feasible? It sounds good in my head, but then again, it's easy to convince yourself that something is a good idea if it's your idea (or has someone already accomplished a similar setup?).

    2. If it'll work (or even if it won't), which is better to use? Xen, or VMWare? The consensus seems to be that Xen is faster, but less mainstream and harder to use. My primary goal is to have the VMs running as close to native speed as possible, so should I go with Xen, then? (BTW, if you absolutely must say that I should instead be using X app for VMs, please provide or at least point me to some evidence beyond a "IMHO..." ultimatum)

    3. Any suggestions on which OS to use as the light host? Possible candidates are Yoper, DSL, Puppy, stripped Slackware . . . but further recommendations are greatly appreciated.

    Sorry for the lengthy post, but I like to be clear in my aims. I thank you all profusely in advance for your advice.

    Oh! And before I forget, the laptop specs:
    Dell Latitude (dual-core), 2GHz, 2GB RAM, 120GB hard drive @ 7200RPM, 128MB NVidia graphics (don't recall exact model), DVDRW+/- . . . just tell me if I'm leaving out anything significant.

  2. #2
    I've been doing this for ~2 years now. I don't mess with 2 VM's tho. I usually run openSuSE on the desktop, install VMWare, and run an XP instance virtualized. I only give the XP VM 384-512MB RAM.

    I run this with Compiz Fusion and anything else I want on the Linux "host." SuSE doesn't take very long to boot, so I don't see any point to running 2 VM's.

  3. #3
    Compared to native performance, how efficient is the XP VM in this setup?

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  5. #4
    Near-native - I really don't have any issues.

    I have done this on desktops and laptops. This ultimately depends on your hardware and how hard you're pushing each OS. If you have some video encoding running in Linux, you will likely see a slowed response in the VM. It's just a "common sense" thing. If you have a single disk and both OS'es are doing something disk-intensive, they have to share the available bandwidth.

  6. #5
    Wonderful! Thank you very much for your advice. I've heard reports of up to 30% slowdowns using VMWare, even without disk-intensive activities. But if it runs as smoothly as you suggest, I probably don't have anything to worry about.

    One other question: Do you suggest running XP as a VM under Suse, or vice-versa? I suspect it would hang entirely on which I plan to use as my primary OS, but perhaps there is some other issue I'm not considering? (e.g., unnecessary bulk / background processes that makes one a better host . . .?)

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