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My ramblings on the stuff that holds it all together
I’ve been playing about with Windows 7 in a VM for a while now in a VM, but now the beta is out I wanted to install it on a physical machine, I’m not ready yet to upgrade my main laptop to Windows 7 (although I have a cunning plan to p2v my Vista install and convert to a VHD so I can dual-boot that way which is a neat trick)
I have a Dell Inspiron 510m laptop that I use for testing things (I used it for my Patespin series) that I wanted to install Windows 7 on, it still gives pretty good performance and has 2Gb RAM – the installation itself went smoothly and quickly – less than 45mins from format to finished 1st boot, but it doesn’t detect the wireless or video card.
In my experience this isn’t that unusual for a Dell, although video did surprise me as Vista had a default driver for the Intel 855GM on-board video that worked well, there is no built-in driver in Windows 7 it would seem.
So, a bit of a problem – I’m stuck with 640×480 VGA mode which isn’t much use.
I tried several ways to hack the Vista version of the driver into my installation, all without success – it always defaulted back to the default VGA drivers, some discussion here if you are interested
In the end I came across a post suggesting that I use an application called DriverMax – this is capable of exporting and importing installed drivers, I’d not tried it before but decided to give it a go, I know Vista had a working 855GM driver so the plan was to export it from there, and import it into a Windows 7 installation as I was unsure of how to extract it from the Vista installation media.
This necessitated a format and reinstall of the Dell 510m with Vista, which was painless enough as I had an auto-install DVD that I’d previously built
Once Vista was installed there was a working video driver running – I used DriverMax to export the working driver from the running OS – no source or driver CD required via a couple of clicks in the UI to a .zip file on a USB drive.
I then formatted and reinstalled Windows 7 again and on the laptop and installed DriverMax again.
then I simply imported the driver from the .zip file
Note – it knows the driver I saved was a default Windows driver
Summary screen – important to note it can install unsigned drivers if required
After a reboot the Windows 7 installation is running with a working (full-res) video driver.
I did find one slight problem with DriverMax that I had to work-around, with the default VGA video driver the buttons on the dialog boxes were inaccessible and I couldn’t resize or hot-key around it to progress, so in the end I had to do the process via remote desktop to the Win7 machine from another machine on my network over a wired LAN connection!
It’s not an ideal solution as you have to have a working Vista installation to extract the driver from and is probably totally unsupported, this is essentially Windows 7 running a Vista video driver – but it’s a beta anyway, hopefully MS or Intel will ship an 855GM driver again when Windows 7 goes RTM.
My initial impressions are that Windows 7 seems a lot more responsive than Vista, although to be fair it’s a vanilla installation thus-far. I have high-hopes for the beta, by my reckoning the change in the code-base isn’t as fundamental as it was between XP and Vista so it’s more focused on incremental features and performance improvements. I ran beta copies of Vista on my main work machine from Beta 1 through to RTM without too many problems, maybe I’ll be confident enough to do that again this time around – the VHD booting feature is certainly compelling for what I do.
I’ve installed the updated build of 6.5 as Eric discussed here; first impressions Unity works much, much better – less screen jitter and flashes of guest desktop – performance definitely improved too and makes my multi Outlook setup much nicer to use.
Also noted that the unity icon has changed colour from red to orange..
I’m always impressed at how well VMWare Workstation uninstalled and re-installs between Beta versions.. works 100% every time for me.. impressive considering how many drivers and helper services it installs into the host OS.
Don’t think it will be long until RTM now…
Following on from my earlier post I upgraded my installation to the new build of 6.5. it un-installed the old build and re-installed the latest without a problem, took about 30mins and required a reboot of the host OS.
All my previously suspended XP/2003 VM’s resumed ok without a restart but needed an upgrade to the VMTools which did require a restart of the guest OS – all completed with no problems.
Now, onto installing ESX….
I used the settings from Eric’s post here to edit my .vmx file
ethernet0.virtualDev = “e1000”
monitor.virtual_exec = “hardware”
monitor_control.restrict_backdoor = “true”
Note – you need to select an x64 Linux version from the VM type drop down, if you have to go back and change it via the GUI after you’ve edited the .vmx file it overwrites the Ethernet card “e1000” setting to “vlance” so you need to edit again otherwise the ESX installer won’t find a compatible NIC and won’t install.
it was initially very slow to boot; 5mins on my dual core laptop with only one error – which was expected..
To improve the performance I changed my installation to run the non-debug version of the Workstation binaries (rename the vmware-vmx.exe to vmware-vmx-debug.exe)
note: this isn’t recommended unless you know what you are doing, VMWare will rely on the output from the debug version of the code if you need to report any issues)
It also seems to work for the installable version of ESX 3i… (although I’ve not quite figured out the point of that version yet :)).
it did fail with an error the 1st time round..
this was because I had specified an IDE disk as per the ESX instructions, I changed it to a SCSI one and it worked ok.
The ESX 3i install has a footprint of about 200Mb on disk, and ESX 3.5 uses 1.5Gb.
I’m going to keep the 3.5 install on my laptop and will try to use linked clones to maintain a couple of different versions/configs to save disk space.. I’m sure I could knock up a quick script to change the hostname/IP of each clone – if I do I’ll post it here.
Why would you want to do this? well because you can, of course 🙂 and its handy for testing patch updates and scripts for ESX management etc.
I will also try to get a ESX DRS cluster running under workstation with a couple of ESX hosts and shared storage over iSCSI using something like OpenFiler as shown here. won’t exactly be production performance, but useful for testing and demo’ing.
As a result of this post from Eric Sloof I note there is a new build of Workstation 6.5 available; I hadn’t noticed this as I haven’t had much time to follow the forums and my beta/RC (as used in this post and installed here is build 84113) hasn’t notified me there is a new release as all the previous 4.x/5.x beta’s have.
Oddly I checked this morning before I saw Eric’s post and it reported no new builds available – assume this is because its still a beta programme.
Anyway – if you downloaded the previous build before 14th May then go to this page and you can update your registration for the new build (below).
I’ll be trying this out in the coming week and hopefully will be able to get ESX running on my laptop under VMWare Workstation (very handy mobile demo platform).
I use a single laptop for my day-day use, it has all the stuff i need, I run Vista and Office 2007, for our corporate mail we use Exchange like everyone else and I use Outlook Cached Mode to work online/offline..
My own personal email is also an Exchange mailbox – provided by fasthosts (why – well, because..ok?) the problem with this is that I can’t have a single copy of Outlook connected to more than one Exchange server at the same time or run multiple instances of Outlook (I’ve tried all the hacks and Thinstall etc.), and to be honest even if I could it would probably violate the security policies of all the involved organisations as it would be quite simple for an Outlook-aware worm to try to propagate itself across multiple organisations or harvest confidential details.
The problem is further compounded by the fact that I often work on long-term customer projects and have to have a mailbox on their Exchange system as well… which leads to multiple diary sync nightmare, maybe I’ll blog about that some other time).
So at present I have 4 Exchange mailboxes that I need to keep track of, auto-forwarding mail between them is a no-no, I used to be an Exchange admin and I’ve lost many bank holidays due to corporate->Hotmail NDR mail loops!
So, up until now I’ve had to run one full Outlook client and multiple OWA clients in a browser, which is ok as long as I’m connected to the Internet, but no good if I’m on a train unless I want to close and restart Outlook with multiple profiles, which is a pain especially when you are collaborating on a project between multiple organisations. To be honest as good as OWA 2003 is it’s no substitute for a full outlook client. (still waiting for Fasthosts to go to Exchange 2007, oh and enable EAS!).
So, anyway a solution – VMWare Unity, this is a feature like Parallels for the Mac which lets you “float” an application window out of a guest VM to the host desktop meaning you can use the applications without working within a single VM’d desktop window.
VMWare Fusion also has the same feature, but Workstation 6.5 is the 1st time its been available on the PC platform.
To use Unity you need to have upgraded the virtual machine to 6.5 “hardware” by right clicking on the VM in the sidebar pane (below) and install the latest VM Tools – it also only seems to support XP at present, or at least it didn’t work on the Server 2003 VM I had.
Boot the VM… and install the latest VM tools.
VM Workstation Screen – note VM is set to “Unity mode”
My Vista desktop (yes, I have the start bar at the right hand side – widescreen laptop!) with the popup menu for the VM, showing all the start menu for applications installed within in it.
the following screen shot is Calculator running from inside the XP VM but in a single window on the Vista desktop – note the red border and the icon, denoting that its presented via Unity.
It even shows up on the start bar with the correct icon; although this doesn’t seem to work until its been run a couple of times; I assume it needs to cache an icon or something.
it also seems to respect the window snapshots you get whilst Win-Tab between applications, even for pop-up windows
Technically I can use this to run n x Windows XP/Outlook 2003 VM’s presenting Outlook through to my Vista desktop and comply with all organisations security policies, as each VM and its respective copy of Outlook runs in isolation from each other with the relevant company-specific AV client (or at worst, the same level as if I were using a machine connected to a public network in that they all share a vm network) – I don’t enable shared folders between the VMs.
It’s still a beta feature at the moment, and there seem to be a few bugs particularly when resizing windows sometimes it doesn’t work properly and double clicking to expand to full screen overlays the start-bar on my vista machine.
And it does seem to get confused sometimes and not allow keyboard input, so you have to flick back to non-unity mode and then back to continue, and sometimes a reboot of the guest VM but it is an early build so I would guess this will be resolved.
As an added bonus VM Workstation seems to allow the Vista host OS to go into sleep mode even whilst VMs are running, this is something I’ve not had much luck with in the past – it would generally refuse to sleep when I closed the lid (but thats not a scientific comparison… it may have just been bad luck!)
So, the pay-off – 2 copies of Outlook (2003 and 2007) seemingly running on the same desktop, alt-tab works ok and you have access to all the functionality of both without having to switch between or run multiple OWA sessions and from a security perspective it’s not really any different from having 2 physical PCs in front of you (slight memory overhead, but my laptop has 4Gb RAM, so not a huge issue).
Opening attachments is obviously going to be a bit of an issue, as you’ll technically need an individually licenced instance of Office 2003 in each VM as they can’t (yet) exchange data between them… and that would compromise the security principal.
As of 1st April (not an April fools joke!) you can register for, and download the VM Worksation 6.5 beta programme here..
Main new features are;
I’m most looking forward to being able to use Unity… very cool, have used it on the Mac with Fusion and Parallels equivalent, maybe now I will be able to run 2 instances of full-fat Outlook 2007 side by side, plugged into different Exchange mailboxes and orgs (maybe a bit overkill – but I have my reasons!)