Controlling multi-boot systems

#1
This question is possibly out of the context of this forum, but as there are a lot of smart people here, maybe someone can help us.

Situation: we have a training centre where a group of (unpaid) volunteers teach seniors to work with computers. Finances are very tight.
We have 11 systems (10 for the students, one for the teacher) that are all triple-boot (XP, Vista, Win7) as we have to instruct all current operating systems. We use Deepfreeze so that after rebooting all changes made by our students have disappeared.
The hardware of all systems is identical.

Problem: practically, we have 33 systems to maintain: Windows updates, Virusscanner updates and new (and changed) programs for classes etc. This takes an enormous amount of time and is not much fun, either.

Of course, having an additional server could solve the problem, but non of us has any expertise with servers and it feels like shooting a mosquito with a bazooka. Also, only after booting and manual selection would the individual PC's be at the correct OS. This could maybe be solved by reinstalling all systems under VM, but again, this is unknown territory.

The reason that I am posting this here is that we tried cloning; i.e. updating one system and then copying (we used TrueImage 11), but this would lead to ruined master boot records and possibly to licensing problems.

Any suggestions?
 

mqudsi

Mostly Harmless
Staff member
#2
Hi PH-RVG,

I really recommend re-deploying with VMware Workstation instead of a triple-boot.

The correct solution would be set up a server whose job it is to push Windows Updates and Virus Definitions to the networked clients, but, as you said, perhaps it is overkill for your needs.

If you instead deploy Virtual Machines in your network, you can create a machine for XP, a machine for Vista, a machine for 7. The 11 PCs can either access the 1 image and load a copy of it locally on their end, or you can copy the machine to the 11 workstations manually. And when you need an update, just change your master machine image, and push it out again.

VMware supports deepfreeze-like auto-revert and snapshots, and is *really* easy to configure and deploy. It also comes in free flavors, too.
 

mqudsi

Mostly Harmless
Staff member
#3
Hi PH-RVG,

I really recommend re-deploying with VMware Workstation instead of a triple-boot.

The correct solution would be set up a server whose job it is to push Windows Updates and Virus Definitions to the networked clients, but, as you said, perhaps it is overkill for your needs.

If you instead deploy Virtual Machines in your network, you can create a machine for XP, a machine for Vista, a machine for 7. The 11 PCs can either access the 1 image and load a copy of it locally on their end, or you can copy the machine to the 11 workstations manually. And when you need an update, just change your master machine image, and push it out again.

VMware supports deepfreeze-like auto-revert and snapshots, and is *really* easy to configure and deploy. It also comes in free flavors, too.
 
#4
Thank you for your advice. I have not found the free flavors, though.
Given our situation and our budget, which VM system would you advise and would you know a good on-line learning facility for it? Although we teach computer skills,none of us are IT-professionals, so we need a lot of help.
 

JustinW

Super Moderator
Staff member
#5
Microsoft's SteadyState may be a better solution then DeepFreeze, where you can customize the rules to allow updates by program. Its free and should be easy to deploy via Active Directory. This should tell you everything you need to know and than some about how it works.
 
#6
Thank you. I have downloaded the SteadyState manual for study and evaluation. Our Deeepfreeze licenses run until early 2011 so that we have plenty of time to decide.

As to the original question: as a test I have installed Windows Virtual PC and Windows XP mode under Windows 7 and this works OK, but noticeable slower than XP stand-alone (on the same hardware). Is this normal? Would memory be the bottleneck?
Also, it does not allow me to change the screen resolution at all, but it should be lower to obtain larger characters. (Remember, we are teaching to older people (avg = around 70).
Then, it show 5 "yellow question" mark devices as Virtual PC Devices which I am not sure how to handle.

Finally, I do not know how I should load Vista in Virtual PC.
Please advise.
 

mqudsi

Mostly Harmless
Staff member
#7
Take a look at the DPI settings.
 

JustinW

Super Moderator
Staff member
#8
As you can see how slow things are running, thats one of the major drawbacks with VMs. With SteadyState and proper deployment you shouldn't need virtual machines. Depending on how resource intensive the programs are (like ZoomText for example for those that don't see well), the greater chance that some of them may not run so well in a VM.
 

mqudsi

Mostly Harmless
Staff member
#9
Hey, I don't know about that.... I'm running Windows 7 x64 + a XP virtual machine + an Ubuntu virtual machine *and not feeling it* all on 4GB of RAM. But that's with VMware, not with Virtual PC.
 
#10
Ok, I am making great progress. And, considering the target group, we may be able to live with the low performance and not having to buy VMWare.
But could you please answer my previous questions:
1) How do I get rid of the Yellow question marks in comfiguration management for "Virtual PC Integration Device" or is that normal?
2) More important. Can I also install Vista under Windows Virtual PC?
 

JustinW

Super Moderator
Staff member
#11
1) Install the guest additions. You can do this from one of the menus (can't remember its been awhile since I used VPC).
2) Yes... W7 maybe, but XP and Vista yes

If you really do want to go the VM route, perhaps you could get better performance out of VirtualBox then you are getting from VPC. As CG highlights, the more RAM the machines got the better the VM is going to perform.
 
#12
Thanks Justin, but what menu's?
I cannot get at the virtual PC screen, only at XP.
(when I do start>all programs>windows virtual pc it opens with the programs that I have installed in XP-mode, but there is no entry for virtual pc itself; actually not for xp-mode either, but I have retrieved that entry via the search option)
 

JustinW

Super Moderator
Staff member
#13
When you boot the VM, the window it appears in has a few menus with options for working with the VM. I'm not sure if you can directly boot the XP VM you're using in XPMode though...
 

mqudsi

Mostly Harmless
Staff member
#16
XP Mode isn't a virtual copy of Windows XP in the sense that you can't use XP itself. You can only run applications that are sandboxed into the virtual machine.

You can download a full copy of VPC and install a copy of Windows XP with your Windows XP setup CD, or use a free download of VirtualBox or VMware Player instead.
 
#17
I have downloaded VPC and XP-mode in Windows 7, and it is all working and I can even use my scanner again that did not work in Win7 (no drivers for Vista/W7 available) but are you suggesting that this VPC version is not complete? If so, where do I find the complete version?

Could you explain in layman's terms why VirtualBox is so much better than VPC?

Anyway, thank you all for your support. I will probably try VirtualBox one of these days but nor right now (other priorities).
 

JustinW

Super Moderator
Staff member
#18
VPC is somewhat limited, paticulary the version you have installed. Its only enough to virtualize XP for older apps in Windows 7. I wasn't too happy with VPC when I tried it out, but that's just my opinion. The bridged internet connection I had worked half the time in my XP VM, and I was having some performance issues. VirtualBox is a lot more flexible feature wise, and supports installation of *nix OSes as well. Of course, its just a recommendation. Whatever would suit your needs best is the solution you should choose.