JP Vossen on 4 May 2008 23:17:26 -0700

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Re: [PLUG] Microsoftian Encephalitis & failure to WindowsUpdate

 > Date: Sun, 4 May 2008 19:56:00 -0400
 > From: Art Alexion <>
 > Sometimes its seems that we can get 3 new machines from Dell with the
 > same model number in the same shipment, and there are still some
 > variations in the hardware drivers.

As Michael Leone said, it depends what you buy.  The Optiplex line is 
intended for corporate environments and so, *in theory* the same model 
is the same model for the lifetime.  The cheaper Inspiron line, OTOH, is 
whatever was cheapest that week and/or in the top of the bin on the 
assembly line.

 > To solve this, we've tossed around the idea of installing a
 > lightweight Linux and having Windows run in a VM.  The image might
 > then be less hardware dependent if I understand the virtualization
 > correctly.

I do that now, with Win2KPro in VMware server on Ubuntu and it works 
great!  Disclaimer--at home, with me supporting it.  I usually run the 
console on the host machine connected to localhost.  But I can run the 
fat VMware console client from a different machine, full screen, over my 
10/100 *hub* (not switch) and I can't tell I'm not at the real machine. 
  But I've never tried to do streaming video that way and I guess 
graphic-intense web pages are a tad slower.

I'm going to implement this for my Mom's network, 2x Dell 
something-with-Ubuntu-Hardy-factory-installed desktops that I'll put 
xubuntu-desktop on.  They will boot into Xubuntu, auto-login, and 
auto-run VMware console in full screen, resulting in what looks to the 
user like a W2KPro box.  There will also be a 
something-with-Ubuntu-Hardy-factory-installed laptop that will be for 
browsing and GMail but also have the VMware console and thus be able to 
"remote control" either desktop.

Potential issues with this include:

* VMware Server 1 only supports USB1, and the current VMware Server 2 
betas have no USB at all.  (Presumably, they are re-writing the USB 
stack and it will re-appear later.)
* I've also not had luck with parallel ports, and since it's USB1 that 
can be bad for printing.  But you can host and drive the printer on the 
Ubuntu side and connect to it via IPP from the Windows side trivially.
* Sound can be a pain (I had to turn sound off on the Ubuntu Dapper side 
for it to work on the W2K side).  Possibly that's improved since Dapper. 
  (This is a production machine for my wife, hence the Ubuntu LTS.)
* Gnome Ubuntu isn't all that "lightweight."  Xubuntu is better, but 
also a red-headed stepchild in some ways compared to Gnome.  But I've 
also done a stripped down Xfce2 on CentOS-4 for this purpose, and either 
Ubuntu flavor is, IMO, much friendlier and more useful when you do need 
to do things on the "host" side.  I'm willing to take that hit rather 
than spend a lot of time fiddling for a more minimal host.  (Though you 
could run the host totally headless and console in from elsewhere; 
that's not a good solution in this context.)

JP Vossen, CISSP            |:::======|        jp{at}jpsdomain{dot}org
My Account, My Opinions     |=========|
"Microsoft Tax" = the additional hardware & yearly fees for the add-on
software required to protect Windows from its own poorly designed and
implemented self, while the overhead incidentally flattens Moore's Law.
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