Puzzled over using a virtual machine

Discussion in 'sandboxing & virtualization' started by djg05, Sep 9, 2007.

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  1. djg05

    djg05 Registered Member

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    I keep reading posts about using virtual machines and think it maybe a good idea to use one until I come to do it and wonder if it worth all the effort. The issues I have are as follows.

    1. Firstly it seems sensible to run it off some form of Linux - which one is not important.

    2. For me the only apps that would be appropriate running native in linux would be browsing, newsreader & possibly email.

    3. All the other programs I use are windows based and I don't think an alteranative for such as
    Quicken
    OE Dictionary
    Pageplus
    Turbocad
    Word
    Excel
    and a few others.

    4. As I understand it you have to reinstall Windows within the VM and then have to do all the updates, unless you can install an image. Then have to install your programs within that install.

    5. You will then surely have a slowdown in running these apps.

    6. Can you run several programs within a VM or is there a separate VM for each one?

    7. What happens to the f/w. Do you have to install your f/w and other security apps within the VM to keep protected or does the Linux one suffice, but if so would it be aware of Win progs calling out?

    There are a few other issues but those will do for starters.
     
  2. wilbertnl

    wilbertnl Registered Member

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    Hello David,

    Most people use a virtual machine for test/evaluation purpose. Some people use it for security purpose.

    For example, it's easier to install a program in a VM and then later undo that. That is because a VM is able to save disk snapshots and restore them.

    Some people need to use a program that runs on a incompatible operating system (for example a older Windows version), it's easiest to have that older version installed in a VM.

    Most people just want to play with software, try something new or unknown, try something scary. In a VM it's more secure to take risks. (for example for testing disk partitioning software, the VM has it's own harddisks!)

    Slowdown of applications in a VM is less of a concern that you would expect. It runs surprisingly well. And just like a regular Windows installation, you can install and run as much as you please in a VM.

    Was this helpful?
     
  3. djg05

    djg05 Registered Member

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    Thanks - that puts a better perspective on it.

    I did think that some were using it as a sort of sandbox effect.
     
  4. Mrkvonic

    Mrkvonic Linux Systems Expert

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    Hello,

    Furthermore, most if not all of the software you mentioned has an alternative.
    Thunderbird email client has its own dictionary. OpenOffice can replace the MS Office - with superiority, I might add. Not sure about the others at the moment, but I'm positive you can find suitable solutions with a bit of patience, googling and foruming.

    Virtualization is extremely convenient, because it allows you to run a multitude of virtual computers without ever worrying what happens on your host. You can have several guests running, share them in a LAN, test, make and destroy partitions, run a variety of programs etc - and as said, it works fast. Of course, you should have more than 128MB RAM ...

    As to the firewall, no need, really. You can run the virtual machines as part of a LAN, with your host as gateway. Linux will handle the traffic.

    BTW, you can run any combination - win linux, win win, linux win, linux linux, and anything else.

    Mrk
     
  5. Peter2150

    Peter2150 Global Moderator

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    Hi djg05

    I run virtual machines for a variety of reasons. There is no need to run linux. Just a personal choice. How well the machines run depends on the resources you have available. My box has 4gb of ram so I give my VM machine a full 1gb of ram, and it runs just great. The new vm workstation 6. utilizes dual processors, dual monitors, and I can have several things running on the host, open the vm machine, and you'd never know it wasn't the real computer.

    You just have to weigh resources, vs, need.

    Pete
     
  6. eniqmah

    eniqmah Registered Member

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    1. Firstly it seems sensible to run it off some form of Linux - which one is not important.
    You can run it off whatever OS. The sensible choice would be to run it off that OS that you use most.
    2. For me the only apps that would be appropriate running native in linux would be browsing, newsreader & possibly email.
    The only aspect of doing this that seems appropriate would be to surf questionable sites or open attachments in emails...that is...unless you intend to do this type of thing, it would be better to use your normal OS instead of firing up the VM and spending RAM just to read email.
    3. All the other programs I use are windows based and I don't think an alteranative for such as
    Quicken
    OE Dictionary
    Pageplus
    Turbocad
    Word
    Excel
    and a few others.

    4. As I understand it you have to reinstall Windows within the VM and then have to do all the updates, unless you can install an image. Then have to install your programs within that install.
    You can use VMConverter to convert a ghost image to a VM. Then you can have an exact copy of your host OS in there.
    5. You will then surely have a slowdown in running these apps.
    Of course...you're spending more RAM when you're running the VM. My machine slows down when running intensive things in the VM. Notice how Virtualization is all over the news now that multicore technology is more prevalent? If you have a multicore box, you should be good to go though.
    6. Can you run several programs within a VM or is there a separate VM for each one?
    Running multiple programs in a VM is like running multiple programs in your host OS...it's a question of RAM availability.
    7. What happens to the f/w. Do you have to install your f/w and other security apps within the VM to keep protected or does the Linux one suffice, but if so would it be aware of Win progs calling out?
    F/W in the VM is only necessary if, when you configured the VM, you chose to let it access your NIC and assign an IP to it. If you use the host FW in a shared connection, you wouldnt need it in the VM.

    Hope that helps.
     
  7. lucas1985

    lucas1985 Retired Moderator

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    Your best option would be dual-booting XP and a Linux distro of your choice.
     
  8. wilbertnl

    wilbertnl Registered Member

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    Here is a list of software that replaces more or less their Windows equivalents.
    I do like MS Money myself, but Moneydance 2007 might be a decent and nag-free linux alternative.
    Correct, and when you store the VM (which is actually a couple files) in a safe place, you can always grab that backup and there is no need to reinstall again. It would be like this:
    1. install Windows in VM
    2. backup the VM on DVD
    3. play and mess up the VM, to the point that it becomes useless.
    4. restore the backup from DVD and startover.
    There are more options, but this is basically the idea. And while you mess and mess more, your linux host continues to function with a smile.
     
  9. djg05

    djg05 Registered Member

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    Thanks for all the feedback - it has made the subject much clearer.

    I can see that if you maybe just have a couple of Win apps that you cannot do without then running Linux and a VM for them maybe makes sense since you have the added security of Linux.

    For me there are too many apps that I have invested in over the years to make it a practicable solution. I am sure that the Linux apps are just as capable but you get into the way of working with the ones you have and do not really want to have to adapt to another for no real benefit. There is also the speed of loading in Linux. For instance Openoffice takes 20 secs as against 3 secs for Word and that is not with the fast load option engaged.

    Maybe a fast good spec m/c would make a difference but that is not what I have or can afford.

    Thanks for all the info.
     
  10. polocanada

    polocanada Registered Member

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    Vista supports Virtual Engines, so that gives you an anormous boost for running Virtual Machines. If you have Vista installed and you have a Win XP Virtual Machine, Windows XP will run like if it's nativelly installed, at 100% speed. You should have a modern computer, with updated Bios. The setting is in Bios "Enable Virtual Machine/Engine support"

    VM machines is the way to go and future versions of Windows will include and even encourage using VMs.

    Having Linux installed as VM will give you as much protection as Win XP VM plus the fact that it's Linux.

    Linux will protect you against viruses, advare, scamware, spyware etc... But linux will not protect you as a firewall. Unless it is set up as/or with a firewall.

    So Linux VM will still depend on the Windows firewall you have unless you set up Linux firewall within VM.

    Alternatively, you could run a clean secondary operating system from a USB flash drive, without the VM machine.

    Hope this helps...


    Polo.
     
  11. djg05

    djg05 Registered Member

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    Thanks Polo.

    I have no interest in Vista and am still with 2k until there is some compelling reason to change.

    As I understand it, installing Linux as a VM inside Win does not give you the safeguard of Linux since it is still dropping down through Win. Installing a Win VM in Linux will give you more safety - however I could be wrong :)
     
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