Demonstrating Virtual Machine and the Viability of Linux
It's a Dell Optiplex 745 with an Intel Core 2 Duo, 2GB of RAM, an ATI 256MB video card, 160GB SATA hard disk, DVD/CD burner, USB keyboard and optical mouse. The monitor it's hooked up to is my office Samsung 22" Widescreen LCD via DVI. In the picture, I also have an HHP IT3800 hand held scanner via a PS/2 to USB adapter, and a HP ScanJet 4300C flatbed scanner. On top of the CPU, you can barely see the iPod Nano and flash card reader. All the hardware you see in the picture worked with little configuration or requiring access to the command line.
Originally, I was going to do the demonstration on Kubuntu 7.10, but found that things had gotten a little too buggy for my taste (made worse when I ran a desktop eye-candy package called Compiz). On another computer, I had installed Fedora 8 to test out Bluetooth functionality (much better than Xubuntu or Kubuntu), and found it much easier to setup and use in regard to things like a firewall.
What you see on the screen is Fedora 8 running the Gnome 2 desktop environment, with Windows XP Pro SP2 running on Innotek Virtual Box. Please note to the Innotek people that I was using your software for evaluation purposes, and there are no plans to do a full-scale deployment at this time; when we do, we will be giving you a ring for the licenses.
That being said, the setup ended up being pressed into official use for a few hours when we had to get a copy of our yearly newsletter over to the publisher. The problem we had last year was that we create our publications on Microsoft Publisher on Windows XP while they only have Macs. Since the only format they could access was Adobe PDF, we had to export the publication as such. Unfortunately, though our bookkeeper has a PDF Mailer program that does the conversion, it never rendered pages from Publisher correctly--we had to print out the publication in color and have them copy from that. This degraded the print quality a bit.
This year, when I was polishing things for the demonstration (since it was a demonstration of what can be done and should have all features setup and working), I found that there's a free PDF exporter called Cups-PDF that allows you to export anything to PDF simply by printing. Since I also had a copy of Office 2007 installed in the virtual machine, we decided to put it to the test. Well, apart from some incompatibility problems between Office 2007's Publisher and the older version of Publisher, we did succeed in creating a correctly-rendered newsletter for the publisher. Later, I was able to refine the process further by sharing Cups-PDF to allow printing from inside the virtual machine itself--though it wasn't an elegant solution, it worked and was much faster.
Since then, since the hardware I was using is a Gates grant public access computer, it's been re-imaged with XP Pro and will be deployed to Standish this Friday. However, both the Director and Bookkeeper walked away impressed. While we may not switch to Linux, it is increasingly becoming a viable option over Windows Vista.
Another advantage over Windows is that I was able to copy the partitions from the Opiplex's hard disk to another drive, plug it into an older model Optiplex and boot it right up with a few minimal changes. Even with only 1GB of RAM, with half that dedicated to the XP virutal machine, the whole system still seemed responsive and very useable. In fact, I'm using that very system to type this blog; a Dell Optiplex GX280 with a Pentium 4 2.8Ghz CPU, 1GB of RAM, 80GB SATA, slim DVD/CD combo, Intel integrated graphics, 19" LCD and sound bar. Apart from a partitioning issue (due to the difference in hard disk sizes) and two configuration changes, it worked perfectly.
We're going to keep that particular system as-is to further evaluate the Linux/Windows Virtual Machine, since our next computer purchase may require us to get Vista.
Also, next week, I'm going to re-deploy an older public access computer as a secondary staff workstation using Fedora 8 or Ubuntu Hardy Heron Beta for one of our librarians. We're going the Linux route versus XP for this computer due to the fact that we have insufficient licenses for AVG and Office (that'll change later this year when we renew or purchase more licenses). Plus, the computer, a Dell Dimension 2400, runs slow (only 256MB RAM).