[Remember that even though I work for IBM I am an individual with my
own thoughts and ideas. Anything I write here may not necessarily
represent the views of the IBM Corporation or its partners... though I'm
hoping that's only a matter of time before they catch up.]
A while back I turned my router over to dd-wrt. So far I
really have nothing to complain about. It just works. I had
a power outage a while back and it came back with no surprises.
We do multiple laptops and Netflix streaming all together and it seems
to be fine.
It's gotten me to thinking about other sorts of dedicated Linux
possibilities. Now, I'm not looking to do some sort of embedded
project. That's cool, but just not where I tend to spend my
time. However, I do have some little projects that would be nice
for a dedicated system and I just don't have a spare computer.
Fortunately there are a few ways for me to deal with this. Let me tell
you what I'm doing.
Virtualization with kvm
I run Linux full time on all my computers. It does what I need
and I seem to find more things that it can do every day. I'm very
satisfied with a Linux environment. However, in the corporate
world, I still find people who have a half-finished glass of Microsoft
Kool-Aid in front of them and create situations where I must have
access to a Windows system. I'm also finding that as Windows
moves further and further away from what it was when I used it
regularly that I can't help people in my head any more. If
someone wants help with something and they're on Windows, I have to get
a version in front of me so I can find the right ways to configure
things. (I suppose I could just refuse to help, but I've always
wanted people to be able to use technology, especially if they are
motivated and just need some advice.)
So, I don't have a machine that I'm willing to set aside running
Windows, waiting for me to need it. I'm also not willing to do a
dual boot, because it means that I have to stop doing the productive
things that I'm doing to go into this other environment while I fullfil
this other requirement. The answer is obviously virtualization.
I've been a VMWare user for some time. I used it for many
different situations. For example, I had a lab where we were
using Symantic's Ghost as part of our solution to image systems.
I had a Linux server set up with a file share which worked fine for
copying images. However, the mulitcast imaging only worked on
Windows. (*sigh*) I ended up setting up a thin Windows
virtual environment. It talked to the file system with Samba and
allowed me to do the multicasting. It seemed a long way around,
but it prevented me from dedicating an entire new piece of hardware to
run a single program, or from having to find Windows equivalents to all
the other things that this server was doing simply because of one
However, being an open-source kinda guy, I've wanted to have a freer approach to virtualization. I knew about qemu and kvm, but had only fired
them up a little. I already had working virtual machines and just
hadn't devoted the time to figure out how to recreate things in a new
environment. Then, poking around in some forums, I found a simple set
of instructions to convert aVMWare image to a kvm image:
qemu-img convert "Windows XP Professional.vmdk" -O qcow2 Win_XP_Pro.img
That was it. I ran that command, waited a while for everything to
copy and I had an image I could fire up with kvm or qemu. (Essentially
they are the same. kvm includes kernel elements such as hardware
I found that Ubuntu had a nifty little front end called aqemu (see the screenshot below).
It seems to do what I was used to through the VMWare workstation
interface. There are several things that I'm not used to yet. I still
need to learn how to tweak devices, boot from CDs and create
snapshots. I know it can be done, I just need to figure out the
methodology. However, simply running the converted image has worked
just fine. It's lean and mean. Next I'm going to see how it works on
a server. I currently run a machine with similar requirements to the
lab machine I described above. (This one services a church's
infrastructure and I loaded VMWare Server to run their antivirus
management software without having to dedicate a whole new machine.)
I'm hoping to replace it with a simpler kvm approach.
I also want to tell you about my little flash-drive solutions... but
I don't have time to finish this right now. I found out that through
Amazon I could get 16GB flash drives for less than $20, so I've ordered a few. They
should be in tomorrow, so I can tell you more about what I've actually
done, rather than the idea. So, this is is to be continued...