In my linux+astro wiki I explore the various tools that run under linux for astronomy, primarily being interested in telescope control and astro-photography. Because there is still not a comprehensive suite available, and INDI the an alternative to ASCOM not being complete yet, I turned to Wine to look at running those Windows tools on Linux that were still indispensable. Wine however, doesn’t work well with everything, especially not obscure soft-and-often-freeware. It is odd how so much free and cheap software is available for Windows, and yet for an open-source platform there is so little. Somebody suggested I looked at something like VMware instead. I ended up settling for VMbox, and have never looked back.
This is a screen-shot I took a year ago when I first installed VMbox onto this laptop, running under Ubuntu 11:04. I still use this, as it is the last version that had the vanilla Gnome 2.32 desktop, and I have no intentions of moving beyond that until a clear contender has emerged from the debacle Gnome forced us into in the form of Gnome 3, Unity, Mate and Cinnamon – and if none does, XFCE is a pretty good alternative to Gnome, and I suspect will only get better now.
So, why write this now? Well, I wrote about this on FB at the time, last year, before I started the blog properly, and thought I ought to say something about it here.
In the image left, you will see two Windows sessions, both running on ubuntu, using VMbox. On the left is Windows XP, and on the right is Windows 7. Using these two, I found I could run all the available astro-software I was using on XP before, and also test what did and didn’t work on Windows 7. It is not integrated into the desktop in the way Wine is, but that is no bad thing, and better than running Windows natively, this runs in a protected space within Linux, so is a pretty safe way to run what is – ultimately – potentially – a very dodgy OS. I also found that I could run the applications I couldn’t do without, such as MS.Office’s Word, with the EndNote bibliography manager. At this time, although Open/Libre-Office was a good alternative to Word, none of the bibliography managers that plugged into it were anywhere near as good as EndNote.X.
The shot shows Windows 7 & Windows XP running side-by-side on Ubuntu (11.04) Gnome+Linux using VirtualBox VM manager. Dual-core CPU, 4GB RAM: 1 GB RAM assigned to each VM (leaving 2GB for linux host). 20GB HD filesystem assigned to each, /home folder in linux FS mounted to both VMs.
It is possible to run OSX 10.6 this way, apparently, but the Apple EULA restricts the use of OSX to apple hardware. It would not be able to run on my laptop, as the T4300 cpu does not support the hardware virtualisation that is necessary to run OSX in virtualbox. The only legal way to run an OSX VM under linux would be to get hold of an Apple with a cpu that supports hardware virtualisation, along with a legit copy of OSX, wipe the OS and reformat the filesystem, install linux, install Vbox, then install OSX as a VM that way. Then you could also install any Windows version you want, and run them as well. The above are 32-bit versions, which apparently cause a greater performance-hit on the host 64-bit system. I tried to install the 64-bit version of W7 (which is what originally came with the laptop), but the VM wouldn’t work with it – which I guess is back to the cpu not supporting hardware virtualisation. I can always dream of getting hold of an Apple with 4-core cpu, 16GB RAM and 500 GB disk… so I can install linux and run OSX side-by-side Windows!
Licencing for Windows is an issue – but as the laptop was originally a Windows 7 supplied PC, I found I could use a Windows 3-PC upgrade disk, take the new installation option, and insert the relevant code for my laptop’s W7 software underneath the laptop. For XP, I had an installation copy, and the key for a redundant/broken XP PC I have worked on the install.
I subsequently also installed Open Solaris, Open Indiana, Debian, Fedora, PCLOS, Mint, OpenSUSE, MeeGo, and Android 3 to test out as VM’s.
VMbox is a very useful tool, both for running copies of Windows so you can run software that isn’t available for Linux distro’s, and for testing out other Linux distributions and emulators.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.