Monday, May 28, 2012

Virtual Solutions

Continuing in the troubleshooting theme today, here are a couple of solutions I worked out playing with some virtualization software and machines this weekend.

Tip # 1 - Microsoft Tester VHD images still available

When I moved to my “then new” laptop, I ended up discarding a lot of virtual machine images I had been keeping around to testing and lab-work. One of which was an XP tester build in Microsoft’s Windows Virtual PC.

While Virtual PC on XP had been pretty easy to use, the “embedded” operation of it in Windows 7 is a bit more of a headache. (Note: I wonder if Windows 8 will retain an “XP Mode” feature? Anybody know?). So I had dumped them when I started using Oracle VM VirtualBox.

Last week I needed to do some work in XP again and decided to grab one of Microsoft’s IE App Compat VHD’s over at the Microsoft Download Center.  I snagged the tiny (by comparison Windows_XP_IE6.exe) package. They also have some larger Vista/Win7 VHD packages also.

While these do time out/expire (they can be “re-armed” following the instructions on the download page above), they provide a quick and easy way to grab and run XP for testing purposes.

Tip # 2 - Converting other virtual disks to VMware format

(Alert: dead-end coming)

While I was able to get the XP VHD working just fine in Virtual PC on my Windows 8 system, I wondered if the performance would be better in VMware Player. It also has slick support for “Unity” which is a “XP Mode” feature that doesn’t require you to be using Windows 7 in Professional/Ultimate builds.

So I figured I would just convert the VHD file and convert it to the VMWare format and roll on.

First I tried StarWind Free V2V converter. Downloaded and installed OK with no fuss, however when I tried to launch the converted VMDK file in VMware, it bombed out.  That said, I’m still keeping it around as I suspect something else was going on and it wasn’t an issue with the software.

Next I read about WinImage which per a handy post from VMpros, can convert VHD to VMDK. However since it is trial-ware, I decided to skip that option.

Finally, I settled on the free VMware vCenter Converter. Download requires registration with VMware but it was painless and the application was a breeze to use. In no-time it converted my VHD file to VMDK format and I had it running in VMware Player. For a good walkthrough check out this AddictiveTips post Convert & Use Your Physical Machine In VMware, VirtualBox & Virtual PC.

Well…not really.  See as I found out (and should have remembered but it has been too long) the Microsoft IE Tester images are set up only for Virtual PC specific “hardware”. By that I mean while you can convert them to another virtualization platform, XP will then see that your “hardware” has changed and require re-activation and require you to put in a fresh product key from scratch to activate it.  I suppose a clever person could work around it and get it working in VMware, but that would seemingly violate the EULA agreement for these packages.

Like I said, this lead to a dead-end, but it was fruitful in finding the Microsoft IE Tester packages are still available for use and (for a bit longer) still offer XP as an option.  Also, I found the VMware vCenter Converter software to be wonderful to use and am sure I will rely on it more in the future.

Tip # 3 - Don’t Forget your old install media

After the dead-end above, I remembered I still had an old XP Home (SP1a) install disk and license I had bought when I built my first small-form-factor desktop. Since that time, all the newer systems we bought came pre-loaded with Vista/7 so eventually that SFF system (and the XP load) were wiped clean and while the SFF box patiently waits re-purposing to FreeNAS one day, the XP Home OS has not been used since.

So I used it to build/activate a fresh install directly in VMware Player and got it fully patched/updated and running smoothly for all my XP testing needs.

Tip # 4 - Getting ChromiumOS (Hexxeh’s Vanilla builds) running in VirtualBox

After all the fun I was having getting these virtual systems tweaked, on a whim I decided I wanted to check out Chromium OS.

I decided to take the easy way out and use a “Vanilla” build of the Chromium OS builds by Hexxeh. I downloaded the VirtualBox file, got it configured in VirtualBox and launched away.

Only while it ran fine, I couldn’t get though the first-launch setup landing page I because the “network” was unavailable and no networks were offered. I was using “NAT” setting but no dice.

I did some digging and found that there were a number of folks with Questions Tagged With network - CrOS QA in the forums.

Took a while but I finally figured out the trick (at least if you NAT for network connection on VirtualBox).

Go into the Network settings for your ChromiumOS virtual machine. if you NAT by default it should look like this.


Next click the “Advanced” triangle (as shown above) to expand it.

Change the adapter type to an appropriate "Intel PRO” interface. Your options may appear differently from the one I selected below.


Save your settings and re-launch the virtual machine.

This time the network was available and I was able to complete the setup and running of Hexxeh’s ChromiumOS build with no issues.

I need to play more with it before posting my opinions but it worked just fine.

Tip # 5 - VirtualBox supports Windows 8 “natively” now.

In my recent Windows 8 GSD blog post I bemoaned being able to successfully install the VirtualBox additions into my Windows 8 Consumer Preview build in VirtualBox.

Thanks to the comments of a kind anonymous tipster, I realized many older “how-to” instructions on the process on the web recommended selecting “Windows 7” as the OS type during the creation process, then running the VirtualBox Additions in “Compatibility Mode” to install. The newer versions of VirtualBox now offer “Windows 8” as an OS type during the virtual machine setup process and if done so, you can just run the Additions “as-is” with no need to do so in Compatibility mode. They go on just fine.


Anyway…by the time I had already figured this out I had since followed an Install Windows 8 Consumer Preview on VMware Player that worked so seamlessly I don’t think I’ll use VirtualBox for Windows 8 testing at this time. YMMV.

Tip # 5.5 - VirtualBox now out

On 2012-05-22 Oracle released a new version of VirtualBox: Changelog – Oracle VM VirtualBox

Get the Download – Oracle VM VirtualBox along with the matching VirtualBox 4.1.16 Oracle VM VirtualBox Extension Pack that is also on that page.

Tip # 6 - More Virtualization Tippage sites/blogs

By no means complete, these sites seem to have great tips on virtualization platforms.


--Claus V.

1 comment:

Miles said...

Hi Claus! Here are two options (the first manual, the second automated) for getting Microsoft’s IE VirtualPC images running in VirtualBox:

How to run Microsoft’s IE VPC images in VirtualBox

ievms - Automated installation of the Microsoft IE App Compat virtual machines