Getting an iMac

Over the past year I’ve been thinking about getting a new PC for the family.  The current Dell Dimension 8200 (almost 10 years old) was having a hard time running Windows XP and all the patches and security to keep it mostly virus and malware free.  I installed Ubuntu 11.10 server on that Dell PC and turned it into a media server and backup storage device.

So what to get for the family?  I could go with another Windows 7 PC and have the option to have more virus and malware installed every time the kids go to one of their kid friendly sites.  My wife might need Windows 7 for remote access to work, plus it’s a familiar interface for everyone.

I could go with Linux OS such as Ubuntu 11.10, Linux Mint 12 (when it is available), or some other disto.  But the problem with Linux for the family, a whole bunch of kid websites just don’t work with Linux.  For example, Cartoon Network has some pretty cool games, but most of the games will not work in Linux.  Those games require different engines such as Unity (not to be confused with Unity for Ubuntu).  Also, many games that I like to play are not available in a Linux environment.  I tried running Windows XP in a VM, but the performance is terrible and the games require high-end video cards which you never see in a VM.

My buddy at work suggested getting an iMac.  The first thing that went in my mind, “How am I going to afford that?”  Turns out the entry level iMac is within my budget.  So I stopped at the local Apple Store and took a look.  Usually I’m in there for a few minutes with the kids to kill time while my wife is shopping.  Now I had time to shop.  As usual I was assaulted but several employees right away.  But I needed time to look over what they had and get some ideas before I would talk with someone.

Steve, the sales person, saw I was ready to have my questions answered.  After a few minutes of talking about my concerns and what I wanted to accomplish, Steve unlocked the iMac and let me install some of the games from Cartoon Network.  Out of all my years in IT, from selling to support, I’ve never heard someone say let’s unlock the computer and install the web apps you mentioned.  So I played some of the Cartoon Network games. I was hooked.  Just need to upgrade the memory from 4GB to 8GB.  The Apple memory is expensive.  Looks like I’ll be checking on-line for a better price.

Now, what am I going to do about some of the Windows only applications I need?  I will keep my notebook PC as a dual boot between Windows 7 and Linux (not sure about keeping Ubuntu).  Maybe I’ll install VMWare Fusion, VirtualBox, Parallels or Bootcamp for my Windows needs.  I doubt I’ll ever break away completely from Windows.  Too many applications I need for Windows for my job.

So this Christmas Santa will deliver a new computer for the family.  It will meet the needs of my family, address my concerns, and also give me a little education in the Mac world.

Now, what book should I get…

Moving On to a New Job

Today is my last day with my current employer and working for a fantastic client here in Delaware.  I made a lot of new friends in IT and on the production floor.  Some of them I will stay in contact with on Facebook or Google Chat, others I will see in the area.  But now it’s time for me to move on, to take care of my family’s needs.  Sadly the new job will not include Linux work, but there are high profile projects which are scheduled to begin shortly after my start date.

My notebook running Linux Mint 11 and my fart bank

During my two year stay, I really appreciate the client giving me a wide latitude to develop my Linux skills.  When I first arrived in 2009, my cube was filled with twelve PCs all running Windows XP or Vista.  Shortly afterwards I installed Ubuntu 9.04 to learn how to use Linux in a production environment.  Soon, I was running two Linux boxes; one as a personal file server with Samba and NFS, the other as a VM host for multiple Windows XP machines in multiple non-trusting domains.

By the time I left, I had four Linux PCs (one as a Linux Mint 11 notebook with a Windows 7 x64 VM, my original Ubuntu file server, a new Ubuntu 11.04 x64 file server with an external RAID 5 1.3TB disk box running Samba and NFS, plus a Linux Mint 11 PC running a Windows XP VM in the other domain for Active Directory support).  I’ve also deployed Ubuntu 11.04 to my manager’s Dell M4500 notebook, Linux Mint 11 to a colleagues’ notebook, and started training another colleague, on using Ubuntu 11.04 with NFS and Samba.

I also had the chance to deploy RHEL 6 workstation as a host with a disk box for off-site archive, and a introduction to ESX for creating new Windows Server VMs.

I wish all the best to previous employer, my manager, my colleagues (local and other sites through out  the U.S.), and to all the people I supported at the Delaware locations.  I will miss working with you, and hope to see you soon!

Deploying Ubuntu 11.04 onto a Friend’s PC

Unity

Last week I received a Facebook message from a friend asking for PC assistance.  Over the last 2 years, they have seen my PC running Ubuntu 10.x and heard me talk about how stable and secure my PC is.  When Ken’s hard drive failed a short while ago, he ordered a new hard drive from Dell (it was cheaper through Dell than other retailers here) and installed Windows XP Home Edition.  Unfortunately Ken was not able to install the drivers for his PC.  Ken brought his PC over to my place, and we talked about Linux while I installed the missing drivers and SP3 for Windows XP.

I had my work computer (Dell Latitude E6400) which runs Linux Mint 10 at home.  The Dell PC and my Sager PC were booted and I gave a demonstration of each OS.  After about 30 minutes, Ken wanted to run Linux Mint 10 on his Dell Inspiron1525.  So I used my Linux Mint 10 USB stick to verify this PC would run Linux without problems for Ken.  Everything worked except for the Dell wireless NIC.  Linux Mint 10 was unable to detect the card, and since I was running out of time and didn’t want to configure it manually, I shutdown the PC and booted from my newly made Ubuntu 11.04 x32 and x64 ISO USB stick.

Ken’s PC is several years old so I tried the 32-bit version.  For once I was pleasantly surprise with Ubuntu 11.04.  Unity worked, and it wanted to install the proprietary drivers for the Dell wireless NIC. So I started the installation as a dual boot system and went back to some house work.  I installed all third party codecs and drivers from the initial installation screen.

Afterwards I gave Ken a quick tutorial on how to use Ubuntu 11.04.  Although I am not a big fan of the Unity interface, I think this might be a great introduction to new Linux users.

So far I’ve nothing but happiness from Ken about Ubuntu 11.04.  He is using Facebook and has access to his e-mail.  I wish I could have installed a client that would allow Ken to use his iPod Touch to connect to his iTunes store.  If anyone knows of an application that will give Ken this ability in Ubuntu without using Wine, I would like to try it out.

Service Pack 1 for Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2

Recent PCs meeting the minimum hardware requir...
Image via Wikipedia

So Microsoft finally released Sp1 for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2.  I am going to wait on installing SP1 on my home notebook, and my three Windows 7 x32 and x64 PCs for at least a week or two.  Why??  I need to ensure SP1 will be stable before I install it on my PCs.  If someone asked me to install it on their PCs, I would recommend they wait.  And no matter what, ALWAYS make a full system backup.

Here are a few links which you may have already been to regarding SP1.

I am still amazed about the size of SP1 for x64.

Resize Virtual HDD in VirtualBox

Several weeks ago I created a VM of Windows Vista with SP2. It ran great on my Sager NP8690. Unfortunately when I created the virtual hard drive I made it a 20GB drive. After all the patches were installed, I was down to about 3GB free. So I read a few posts from VirtualBox Forums about how to resize the drive. Here are the steps I used from the post:

  • Close you virtual machine, leave VirtualBox running.
  • Create a new virtual hard drive with the new size (I went with a dynamic size with a maximum size of 80GB).
  • Download Gparted-Live CD ISO file.
  • Add the Gparted-Live CD ISO file as a new virtual CD in VirtualBox.
  • Adjust your virtual machine settings to add the second larger hard drive and the Gparted-Live CD.
  • Start the VM and boot from the Gparted-Live CD file.
  • Choose all the defaults and wait for Gparted to start.
  • Select the second hard drive and set the partition to msdos.
  • Select the first hard drive, right click on the graph and select Copy.
  • Select the second hard drive, right click on the graph and select Paste.
  • This will take some time.
  • Once completed, shutdown the VM.
  • Adjust the settings for the VM by removing the old hard drive and the Gparted-LiveCD.  Add your Vista CD or ISO file.
  • Boot the VM and press any key to start from the Vista CD.
  • Select the option to Repair the OS.
  • Once it repairs, reboot the VM and do not press any keys.  Vista should boot and run a check disk of the VM.

Now when I boot into Vista, I have a 80GB hard drive with plenty of free space.

Thanks to gushy and bwh1969 for the original posts.

Issues with VirtualBox between Ubuntu and Windows 7

My Sager NP8690 is one awesome notebook (except for the battery life).   Right now I have it configured for dual boot between Ubuntu 10.04 and Windows 7.  The only time I really use Windows 7 is to watch Blu-Ray movies and the occasional office document that down for display correctly in Open-office.  But rebooting the PC to go back and forth between the two OS’s is an inconvenience.

To resolve this issue I installed Oracle Virtualbox 3.2.4.  Currently I have one VM with Linux Mint 9 x64 which works well.  So I attempted to install Windows 7 x32 just like I did at work on an old HP D530 tower.  When the install reaches the point of Installing Updates the OS fails stating it’s unable to find the hard drive.

I searched for an answer but nothing really fixed my problem.  Then I noticed the HDD controller for my Windows 7 VM was set for AHCI with a blank check box.  Selecting the check box allows the VM to access the HDD controller directly.  Installation of Windows 7 is complete.

Everything in Windows 7 seems stable and running well minus the Aero effects.  I checked for updates and out of 21, only 3 installed.  That’s no good, time to reboot the VM and tried again.  None of the available updates would install.  I found this solution for Windows Vista and it worked on Windows 7.

And since I am setting up VMs, I decided to install my copy on Windows XP and Microsoft Vista.  Why Vista?  Because I got it for free and gives me an opportunity to learn something new.  Plus I have friends and family that run Vista and they call for help on occasion.

Unfortunately I made a small error when I installed Ubuntu 10.04.  Since I chose to dual boot, I kept the Windows partition at 2/3 total drive space.  Since I created four VMs I am down to about 7GB free on my Home partition.  If I can get my Windows 7 VM to play Blu-Ray I will copy off all VMs, backup all data files from both OSs, and then rebuild with Ubuntu 10.04 and import all data.  Looks like I’m in for a long weekend.

UPDATE:

After spending 2 hours reading posts about playing Blu-Ray in a VM, it looks like this is not possible.  I plan on moving forward with the migration since I’m out of drive space.  I read a solution in Ubuntu Forums that might work.