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Thin Client and Virtual Machines Thread, Virtual PC startup boot in Technical; Hi It may be difficult for me to explain what it is I am trying to achieve here, so all ...
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    Virtual PC startup boot


    It may be difficult for me to explain what it is I am trying to achieve here, so all questions regarding what I am trying to accomplish are welcomed and I will answer as clearly as I can.

    The school i work at runs XP Pro througout our school with some servers for the domain, gp etc etc.

    Me and my colleague have discussed the idea that a PC will load it's OS as normal, and when you logon via the logon screen it launches the virtual PC required. We realise that the virtual PC will take longer to launch and we're happy with that, and we're also happy to devote all the PC's resources to the virtual PC on each machine.

    The idea behind the virtual machine is for a few reasons. One to deliver a different experience depending on which area of the school you are from, example: Primary, High School, Staff. And two, the ability that a single file has everything pre-loaded and will make for an easier fix should any problems arise, not affecting the main computer itself. (i.e. we can just transfer the original virtual machine easily to fix any problems).

    In addition we are aware of ghosting, for instance we do have a FOG setup which we are having problems with which is why we're considering alternatives.

    My overall question would be does anyone think this could be accomplished? Has anyone used or tried anything similar and what were the results? Also can anyone see any possible flaws to the idea that we may dislike?

    All responses appreciated.


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    There's nothing wrong with the basic idea but the VM files can be huge (my "standard" Linux VM is 7.5Gb and doesn't really have very much in it; a Windows VM with a batch of apps could be 3-4 times the size). If your problem at the moment is that it takes too long to renew an image using FOG then it might also take too long using the VM method to repair problems.

    Not sure if you can do what you want with Virtual PC but you can certainly do it with VMWare Player and Virtual Box (both free products).

    How would you stop users from just ALT Tabbing to the host OS? I'd guess you could reasonably easily configure the start menu etc to give no access to any applications but it won't stop people fiddling ...

    I'm guessing you're probably doing this with a budget close to zero; that always makes things harder but you might want to have a look at the various VDI solutions which are designed to do what you want but without having quite so much on the client.

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    Darryl_Wilcox (14th January 2010)

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    Running it automatically is easy enough to do, as Virtual PC associates it's VMC files with the application - just bung a shortcut to the relevant VMC file in the startup folder, and it'll launch after the user has logged in.


    Performance . . . . . Virtual PC will inevitably run slower than the host, and you'll 'lose' some of the RAM through running the host and guest. Depending on what you're doing and what your hardware specs are, you could just end up annoying your users. You could try this out of course - try running this way yourselves for a couple of weeks with your applications, on one of the slower machines, and see how it goes.....

    Accessing peripheral devices will be a problem, as Virtual PC won't connect to USB - so no memory sticks, local printers etc. VMWare does USB, but requires the user to fiddle with the interface to connect the device to the guest.

    There will also be the overhead of supporting the users, who will probably be quite confused when they accidentally break out of the VMs . . .

    Refreshing the image to a machine is one thing,but if you want to update the virtual machine image for some reason, you'd need to get it round to all the network stations somehow - and if the VMs are to be domain members, then you'd need to configure them . . . .

    I hate to be negative, but all in all, I'd fall on the side of working through the problems you're having with automated builds. I think the users would end up cross with you and you'd still have problems, just different ones.

    The one time I *have* seen VM's used in a similar manner successfully is on tech training courses, where you need a self contained trashable environment.

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    Darryl_Wilcox (14th January 2010)

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    Hi Have you tried Citrix XenDesktop? with this you can have numerouse desktops, which after a user logs in can run a desktop on a server, such as XenServer.

    the advantage of this is that you can give a user loads of desktops IE, Win 7, Win XP, Win Vista, Unbuntu and the user can just click in to which ever OS they want etc, or just have one of them auto run at start up ....

    i have plaid with this in detail but on on 30 trial software....

    also there is a XenDesktop version thats free for 4 Desktops IE Virtual OS's, basically the PC starts up and you then ALT TAB or something in to which ever OS you want .... etc....

    Let me know if you need any help with this as i love XenServer, XenAPP and XenDesktop... i mainly love XenServer though.... lol

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    Darryl_Wilcox (14th January 2010)

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    Thank you for the replies...

    The reason for having given up on FOG is that we hit a problem with "RNFR command failed", tried every suggestion i have found, or been told but still not luck, even tried reinstalls.

    Thanks for the heads up on the sizes of VM's and also possible peripheral devices problems. I didn't know about the peripheral device issue with VIrtual PC, however i know VirtualBox does work with USB devices as I have used VB before.

    In terms of citrix, i have seen it used in a sixth form college on a small scale, it was mainly used to remote in from home by some of the students doing IT. We don't have the capacity to run Citrix here or any other types of servers as we're on a very small budget this year. But thanks for the suggestion, maybe we'll look at that in the future.

    Thank you for the information this is very helpful.

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