DAT Stuff

Random thoughts and observations from DAT

Archive for the tag “Linux”

Virtual windows, but no Xen

I couldn’t get Xen to work on Fedora. I was following a quick start guide, but the computer failed to start with the Xen kernel.

I downloaded VMWare server and registered for a free license. During installation, it needed to compile a module; I didn’t have the compiler or kernel headers installed, so I had to dig around for the right packages to install. But once it was compiled and running, I installed Windows XP in a virtual machine on top of Linux.

I confirmed basic functionality (opened Internet Explorer and browsed to an external site), but the next step is to apply the all of the patches (including XP SP2). Then I’d like to clone the image and set up one for general use (Quicken, etc) and another for programming (compiler, debugger).

The Fedora Experiment

I noticed recently that Fedora Core 5 includes Xen (or at least makes it easier to install). I hadn’t used my Debian installation for a while, so I decided to wipe it and install Fedora. After I found the network install (boot.iso) and struggled a little to figure out the full URL I needed to enter for it to find packages, the installation was off and running.

Similar to Debian, it installed some packages I didn’t want, but the installation was fairly painless. It ran a long time, but I’m sure a large part of that was downloading packages. I actually started the installation twice, but the first time I entered a location in Norway (mostly because I had a better idea what path I needed to enter) and the downloads were taking forever. On the second attempt I found a server at NC State, and the installation went much quicker. It would be nice if the installer provided some assistance in identifying a fast mirror and the necessary path.

I did encounter two small problems:

  1. When it installed the grub bootloader, it incorrectly identified the windows partition, so windows would not boot. After digging around on the internet, I figured out how to modify the grub commands to make it work.
  2. After booting to Fedora and logging in to the Gnome UI, I ran the software update tool. Surprisingly, there were tens if not hundreds of packages that needed to be updated. I kicked off the process and it ran for at least an hour before I left for work. When I got home I was able to reboot and everything ran fine, so at least the update ran smoothly

More observations to come…

Rescue me!

I continue to be impressed with the Windows tools in Helix, but have decided that it is really geared more toward criminal forensics than data recovery (it’s even got a chain of custody PDF).

I went back to DistroWatch.com and discovered a different category in the distribution search that appears more appropriate: Rescue. See my wiki for more details.

Helix & Knoppix

Well, I’m not sure where I got the previous information, but Helix is based on Knoppix. What really surprised me, however, is its windows support. After burning the CD, I stuck it back into my computer running Win XP, and it launched an application that could be used to research (and hopefully fix) a problem. I did have a problem shutting down the application — it repeatedly asked me whether I wanted to write a log file, but it finally quit after I said no 5-10 times.

I also booted from the CD, but didn’t do much there. I browsed around and saw that the forensics tools were very prominent; I launched Autopsy, but quickly discovered that I needed to RTFM before I went much further.

Linux Forensics

I stumbled on Knoppix STD, and since I had used Knoppix (Linux that will run from CD), I was curious what the STD stood for. Don’t worry, it’s not contagious. It is a variation of Knoppix designed for security & forensics. I searched DistroWatch and discovered a few more distributions designed for forensics:

All but Helix are derived from Knoppix, but they’re all live CDs, so they can be used without installing anything on the computer, and they include tools to analyze (and hopefully fix) an ailing system.

Linux Distributions

I never realized how many Linux distributions there were until I saw DistroWatch.com. Recently I found a Distribution Chooser — it only includes 14 distributions right now, but most of the top 10 are in there.

Debian Observations

Ok, so I’ve had it installed for less than a day, and I’ve got very little actually installed on it, but I’ve noticed a few things:

  • Grub is very cool. Not something the average consumer would want to mess with, but a great geek tool for controlling startup.
  • I may not have noticed this if not for Grub, but the brand new stable release of Debian, named sarge, uses a Linux kernel that’s a year old instead of a newer stable kernel. I’m sure they’ve got their reasons; I know that just because the 2.6 kernel is considered stable doesn’t mean it won’t cause problems in the Debian distribution. Or it could be just fine; true stability takes time to discover. I was just surprised…
  • Knoppix seemed much better at identifying hardware and installing appropriate drivers. I never had to tell it what type of video card I had or when I was attaching my external firewire drive. When I booted, it just recognized them and got them running. (I haven’t tried the firewire drive yet, but on my first installation I was asked what video chipset I had. I took a guess but based on the fact that XWindow support couldn’t start, I guess I got it wrong).
  • Installing Debian

    Well, Debian 3.1 (sarge) is up and running, with a dual boot to Windows XP Professional. This post is pretty long and detailed, so read more only if you want that kind of detail.
    Read more…

    For my next trick…

    The hard drive on my Dell died (which is a whole separate story that I had hoped to tell, but may never get around to it). For the past few weeks, I’ve been running Knoppix on that computer. I started using Knoppix in an attempt to recover some of the data from the hard drive, but last week I even disconnected the drive and have been using the computer without a hard drive (the last time I did that was before Windows 3.1, I think).

    Today I bought a new drive (an 80 GB Seagate for $36 after rebates) and just finished installing it. It went rather well, considering it was only the second time I’ve attempted such a feat. The first time (many years ago) ended with calling in a professional to do the job, but this time seemed much easier; technology must have improved dramatically since that failed attempt.

    One thing I hope to do this time around is set up a Linux server. I chose Debian, partly because that’s what I have at Dreamhost, partly because it’s free and has tons of packages available. I’m going to start with a dual boot configuration, because I have some tools that I need to run on Windows (until I find a Linux equivalent). Once I get things set up, I hope to run Linux almost exclusively. I’m also planning to implement Xen virtualization. I’m mostly doing it just to learn it, but I hope to have one virtual “production” server visible on the internet and another as a playground. More details will follow…

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