Windows, OpenSolaris and VirtualBox

Over the weekend (as I knew we were going to have some network stuff going on) I installed Virtual Box on my notebook on the Windows disk (I have nevada on the other disk [yes I have a notebook with two 250gb discs]) and then installed a release candidate ISO of OpenSolaris 2009.06. I copied a backup of my punchin credentials and the two packages I needed onto the FAT32 partition of the windows disc from within nevada and then got to work setting things up.

Gotcha #1, don't try to do the install with only 512mb memory, it looks like it's working, but it just sits there doing precious little. I used up about an hour of battery on the train trying this. I got off the train at Tuggerah and went to McDonalds to both get dinner and finish the install, which then went along happily (I chose McDonalds mainly because they also have free wifi).

Installed the punchin packages and restored the credentials. It actually took a bit of research to find out how to use sharing. Doing it from the Windows side with Virtual Box was relatively straightforward, but doing it from the OpenSolaris side was not so obvious. I ended up finding it after hitting the User Guide. I'd called the directory I wanted "share", from OpenSolaris I had to do

$ pfexec mount -F vboxfs share /mnt

Once I'd done that it just worked fine. Everything looked great, except I'd now run out of battery with no power points easily in sight. Oh well headed home.

Once connected to the power everything seemed to work. I dropped the memory back to half a gig (as I run a few things in windows that are kinda memory hungry), and it worked fine for me all weekend just on the notebook.

Arrived at work today to find that for reasons that I won't go into today, the workstation that I normally run my Sun Ray IIFS from was off the internal network, making my Sun Ray useless to me.

I ran up Virtual Box on the notebook and then started the OpenSolaris that I had to start working. A little into the day it occurred to me that I have two 22" screens and a full sized keyboard and mouse sitting next to the notebook, currently doing very little. The keyboard and mouse are in their own unpowered usb hub plugged into the Sun Ray. OK they are now plugged into the notebook. That made a huge difference to productivity.

I then unplugged the digital connection from the screen and attached that to the notebook. Now I have a mirror of what's on the notebook and it is also easier to read. Productivity goes up again.

You know, I could go one step further by instead of mirroring the screens actually going dual screen, such that I have the windows session displayed on teh notebook and then I could go full screen (1600x1200) for OpenSolaris.

Once I arranged things that the mouse moved in the correct direction between the two, this is wonderful and surprisingly usable (well more so once i upped the memory for the OpenSolaris part to 768mb).

Gotcha #2, don't install the VDI files on a FAT32 filesystem, which is what I did because that's where I had the most free space. Everything worked wonderfully until the size of the dynamic disc that I had allocated hit 4gb. Then I started getting errors about full disks from Virtual Box. OK moving the VDI file to the NTFS wasn't that hard. I had to first physically copy it, then release and remove it from within Virtual box, then attach it again from the NTFS disc.

And that's how I ended up getting my job done today. I'm pretty happy with how it worked out.

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* - Solaris and Network Domain, Technical Support Centre


Alan is a kernel and performance engineer based in Australia who tends to have the nasty calls gravitate towards him

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