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Windows in a Linux Box

My company handed me a copy of MS Project, of which I now must learn to use. I was going to write about how I was using Planner under Linux (which is what I started this project on), but since they are going to be getting the Project Server, and I am the first person to use this software, its my job to make the most of it.

One problem is that I no longer have the laptop I was borrowing, and my laptop is not due in for another few days. So my personal computer is in the office, and that is where I am working from now, for all my project needs. So how am I to install MS Project?

I could boot into Win2k, but I really can’t function for very long in that environment, and my desktop machine is really driven by Linux (Debian to be precise).

First off, I tried to just install Project under Linux with Wine. It got about halfway through the install process when it died of an error. I figure there are some underlying pieces that it just isn’t going to find in Wine. My next idea was to get a Virtual Machine (VM) going.

I have used VmWare in the past, but I don’t have that installed on this system. Neither do I have Win4lin, but my experience there says, its really good for running Win98, and not much beyond.

What I do have, and what I have played with most recently is Qemu. Using the programs that come with it, I created a 4gb disk image: qemu-img create WinXPPro.img 4G

Put in the WinXP Pro CD, and then “booted” the system: qemu -m 512 -cdrom /dev/hdc WinXPPro.img

After that, the install process began, and before long XP was installed and ready to go. Next, I installed MS Project, and it went in without error.

Now, the only problem I have encountered is that for some reason my License for XP Pro will not work. I will likely have to call up MS to correct the issue, but I will deal with that when I move this image to my laptop.

Initially, the VM was running a bit sluggish, but after installing the kernel modules (Qemu Accelerator), XP was running pretty much as fast as if it wasn’t under a virtual machine.

The interesting thing to consider here is that I can use this image, install applications, etc, under Linux. But just as easily I can copy this file to another computer, and use Qemu to run it just the same. Even still, I can use the Windows version of Qemu and run this same image in someone elses Windows machine. I am strongly considering installing all of the engineering software I need in this VM, and just carting it around with me. Put it on a >4GB USB drive, and I will have a complete portable workstation that can be run from just about anyones computer.

Believe me, this is not an original idea. The first I’ve seen of this was in Damn Small Linux, which is meant to be a portable linux distribution you can fit on a usb key. Actually, DSL is the first time I had seen Qemu.

Its amazing this things we can learn when we just play.