Programming, Software and Code

Computer Status and Virtualization

I mentioned a little while back that I was having computer problems. This is saying it mildly: After upgrading to Ubuntu 9.10 from 9.04, my system became completely unstable and mostly unusable. I spend several evenings rebooting my computer over and over because it was frozen up. I filed a bug with Ubuntu, received no fixes (though I did eventually get confirmation from another user that he was seeing a similar issue), and finally rolled back to 9.04.

When I say "rolled back", I don't mean that I had previously taken a faithful system backup image and was able to quickly and easily jump back to that without losing any data. No. I pulled out my external harddrive and began the arduous task of trying to scavenge all the data I should have been backing up regularly. It took me an entire evening because several times the computer froze in mid file transfer and I had to reboot, delete the partial file fragments and start over. I'm still not 100% certain that all the files I backed up are sane and faithful.

As much as I would like to give a stupid grin and say "Golly, I've sure learned my lesson!" I'll probably run into this same mess next time I try to upgrade my OS too. Even a monkey can be taught.

Recently I've been playing with VirtualBox on my work computer. Basically, I was trying to get access to a Linux environment from my work computer without having to deal with Cygwin. Say what you want to about the merits of Cygwin, I've simply never liked using it. Besides just wanting access to a real Linux environment, I also wanted to play around with new OSes. I really liked Ubuntu by 9.04 but my experience with 9.10 had me pretty sour for a little while, and I wanted to entertain a few more options first.

So I set up VirtualBox on my work computer, installed a few new Guest OSes, and things have worked like a charm. I tried Fedora 12, which was pretty cool. I hadn't used Fedora since version 7, and it's come a long way since then. I also tried OpenSolaris; it was nice, but it was hard to differentiate it from a Linux distro on my virtual platform and I was also having some strange stability problems with Xorg. I also tried FreeBSD and OpenBSD, but was inable to get either of them installed and running. If anybody knows the trick to getting a BSD variant installed on my VirtualBox, I would love to hear about it.

Once I got my personal computer back online, I decided to install VirtualBox here as well. I could test out a bunch of other systems, and maybe even get Parrot building and testing in those places too.

At least, that was the theory. I haven't really been able to get anything working on here as easily as I was able to get them running on my work computer. I even tried to get a virtual Ubuntu 9.10 installation set up so I could start doing some testing on it before I became brave enough to make the upgrade again, but wasn't able to get that working either. One of the big issues I'm running into is that my system doesn't support hardware level virtualization support, which is necessary for virtualizing 64-bit systems. This is a total bummer and I've become very unhappy with my computer since learning about that drawback. It's only been about a year though, so it's hard to justify buying a new replacement computer. Maybe I can look into it for next christmas.

I'm going to start compiling the things I've learned about VirtualBox and maybe write a blog post or two about using it to setup virtual test environments for Parrot. Could be very helpful for expanding our coverage on less-popular systems. I've already managed to post a smoke report for a platform that I cannot find any record of Parrot having a report for (OpenSolaris on i386), so that's a nice little bonus. There were a few failures in that report too, so maybe I can learn enough about the system to get those fixed. And everybody wins.

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