I originally installed VirtualBox when somebody suggested this could be a useful way I could still run some old XP programs I needed for astronomy on a Linux PC.
So, I have XP available to me as a VirtualBox guest on my Ubuntu 11.04 (Gnome 2.32) laptop host.
As well as Windows 7…
(one way of recycling the original licences…)
I also run Ubuntu 12.04, with Gnome failsafe, on an old Dell P4 PC in the garage that dual-boots XP. Ubuntu for Midi, Yamaha keyboard and Music Studio, XP for ASCOM telescope control. Ubuntu also serves to play my MP3’s held on an atom file server running Debian in the office. Rather than Unity, I installed gnome-fallback, which gives me a desktop very similar to Gnome 2.3.
I do use Unity on a little netbook, but it can also run XFCE, which I prefer.
I use Debian 6 (Gnome 2.3) on a 2GB dual-core atom-based file & print server. This also runs a 500MB XP VB guest (primarily so that we can print to a Canon multi-function Laser Printer that has no Linux drivers). The Debian file server runs NFS, CUPS & Samba (CIFS), to allow access to files, the HP scanner/inkjet, and the Canon A3 photo-quality inkjet. The workaround for the Canon MF printer is to have Chromium loaded up with GooglePrint, which means I can print from Linux+Chromium -> Chromium+Windows.
Back to VirtualBox VM’s.
Apart from Windows XP & 7, I run a copy of Debian 6 (Gnome 2.3) – which could be lost now I use it as a server as well, I guess.
I have a copy of Fedora 17 running Gnome 3.4, just so I can see what I am missing.
I have Mint 13 (Mate), which is a fork of Gnome 2.3, basically. Mint also allows me to look at their spin on Gnome 3.4 failsafe, looking like Gnome 2.32, called Cinnamon
I have Suse 12, running KDE 4.7, so that I can watch those irritating bouncy transitions when I select something to run, and look at KDE if I want to.
A recent addition was CentOS 6.3 (Gnome 2.28), because while I have Fedora, I wanted to see what the more stable Red Hat Enterprise Linux was like, and in itself as a potential alternative to Debian.
I did install OpenSolaris, but as work on that effectively ceased in 2009 after Oracle took over, I have been looking at OpenIndiana (Gnome 2.3). This is a ‘proper’ Unix derivative. I think of all the UNIX variants I worked on over the year, I was fondest of Solaris, which had many features from SVR4. I was quite taken aback the first time I loaded openSolaris, to find myself looking at Gnome rather than CDE/Motif.
VirtualBox has also allowed me to try out things like Moblin, MeeGo, ChromeOS, Android, JoliCloudOS etc.
The other ‘proper’ UNIX systems I wanted to try were pureDarwin and FreeBSD, unfortunately I could not get either of them to run as a guest, because my laptop does not support VTx or EPT.
So, I wiped Mint Debian Edition off my old Compaq Celeron Laptop, and managed to get FreeBSD running on that instead:
Darwin will boot from CD on the same laptop, but there is no obvious way of installing it from there, and so no way of installing any graphical libraries that would let me run Darwin Xmas, for example.
Apart from Windows, Fedora and Suse, these are all running variations of Gnome 2.3. Ubuntu I found works quite well in fallback mode, and Cinnamon is Mint’s version of a post Gnome 3 implementation of Gnome. All the older, stable, releases still use Gnome 2.3, including the UNIX variants. The good news from last month is that the Common Desktop Interface has now been released as Open Source, and Motif may well be soon to follow. So, once some work has been done tidying those up, no doubt we will see revitalised versions of CDS/Motif on the open UNIX systems they were originally the main X interface for – and may even some of the LINUX variants as well.
So, whoever it was put me onto VirtualBox, if you happen to read this, I’m really grateful. I’m also grateful to whoever it was I tried installing on my relatively new laptop, rather than consigning it 5+ year-old kit; I think that is what converted me to linux once-and-for all.
None of these PC’s & laptops is younger than three years-old, some nearly ten years-old. The newest PC is the atom file/print server – which cost the equivalent of US$120-130 from an online-auction site. In fact, that’s the only bit of this kit purchased in the last three years. While I am keen on recycling older equipment, there is a significant energy cost in doing this, which was the reasoning behind the atom server – it consumes up to 1/10 of the energy of even a modern tower PC. That represents a cost of $20-30 a year, rather than the $200-300 older equipment can cost. So, my focus is starting to shift from recycling older kit, to investing in more energy efficient kit in the future.
As a postcript, I had several problems running the Vbox guest additions updates to 4:20 on several distributions from a range of versions like 4.08 & 4.12 after updating the main system – CentOS being the trickiest. I had to drop into root at the terminal, install gcc and dependent libraries, then run the ‘autorun.sh’ from inside the /media directory that contained the updates. Debian, I had to drop into root, but the shell command didn’t work; in the end, I had to launch nautilus as root, and run thr autoprompt in the gui as root. With Mint, I had to log out and back into Cinnamon, and then it ran fine from the Devices menu. Fedora had to be run from a terminal, have gcc installed, then run with a ‘sudo sh autorun.sh’ command in the relevant directory. Suse involved much the same, installing the base C/C++ & kernel development in Yast before it would run properly.
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