Testing around

After reading a new offer about root-servers in german news I thought again if I could fford it to buy a server to test around.
But if I face reality, than I have to admit that I do not really need this, and that it is a little bit expensive to rent a good root server.

I then started to check what I would do with such a server – I thought if it would make sense to test one for some weeks or for example 3 months only. And at this point I realized that I would use such a server only for testing, nothing else – and that means that I do not have to have such a server really at some other place. It’s ok when I have something to play around here at home.

But, unfortunately, I don’t have a second computer here at my study place, and so I don’t have the possibility to build up a local network to test around.

But: there is always a solution 🙂
This time the solution is called virtual machine – setting up a virtual machine in inside of this virtual machine would solve my problem.
The best thing is that there is quite good virtual machine software out there: qemu for example.
But qemu is still in development and needs a little usability in several ways.
Another virtual machine is VMware – an enterprise product for an enterprise price. The performance and the usability are much better than qemu, but you can’t afford it – it would be cheaper to rent a root server for a year 😉

But there is a way around this problem: vmware offers a vmplayer, a nice piece of software which can start different virtual machine images, but can not create them. On the other hand we have qemu, which can create several different virtual machines…

So: As Lorenzo Ferrara posts in his blog, something like
qemu-img create -f vmdk hda.vmdk 5G
gives us the needed disk image.
There is still a configuration file missing, but you can get a good example at the mentioned blog post.
Optimize it according to your needs (maybe you want to change “other24xlinux” to “other26xlinux”), check if it points to the right iso file of the linux distribution you want to install, and install vmplayer.

Point to the vmx file, and start it – after that, you have a nice working virtual machine, and you don’t have to bother around with things like networking and all the stuff. And you don’t have to pay a lot of money for VMware if you want to have a windows running quite fast in a virtual machine.

Sure, you could argue now that virtual machines are not longer interesting anymore because we have Xen now, and that it will soon make all virtual machine software needless. And maybe you are right – but that’s not the moment: at the moment if you want to test something quick and easy, virtual machines are the best way.

And it works like a charm, and therefore I am testing and installing around at the moment without fearing that I could destroy something.
So, if you like to test for example if you are able to set a web server up on a special distribution, or if you want to have a secure look at the newest Fedora Core (like me): just do it, it can’t brake something 🙂


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