Friday, December 31, 2010


I used some (actually most) of the money I got for Christmas to buy a copy of Windows 7 to replace the version I had accidentally wiped from my hard drive trying to set up a Linux dual boot. I did this so I would be able to run Windows-only software without worrying about the quirks of Wine. Since the firmware for my Belkin router only runs on Windows, this move also gives me the ability to modify the router's settings, which would really come in handy!

Tonight, when I tried to install Windows on my laptop, thinking to set up a dual boot, I found out that the Windows installer won't format a drive or partition that is already set up in a non-NFTS format. Just one more annoyance from dealing with Microsoft products. I was going to put in a Linux live CD (any live CD) just to use Gparted to format the hard drive, but something I read in the Windows 7 EULA gave me another idea. In the middle of all the ridiculous terms and conditions defining your ability to install only each copy of Windows on only one computer, on pain of having Paul Allen send a goon squad to your door to break your kneecaps, there was a provision spelling out your right to install the OS on one virtual machine.

"Aha!" I thought. "Virtualbox is in the Ubuntu repositories, right?" Sure enough, I was able to track down that program through the Ubuntu Software Center--no need to use Synaptic. After downloading the manual and reading about what the various settings mean, I was able to create a virtual machine and install Windows on it in a relatively short time. The quickness of the install probably came from my decision to use a dynamic hard-drive allocation so the initial virtual disk size is only 20 gigs. So far, everything's working well. In fact, I'm typing this post on Internet Explorer 9 on my virtualized Windows 7.

Only one minor thing annoys me. Apparently, Virtualbox can only display guest OS's in a "square" (4:3 aspect ratio) resolution, no matter what shape your monitor is. So I'm stuck with a 1024x768 block of Windows, with wide vertical stripes on either side. It's like a vertical version of the "letterbox" effect you get when viewing a widescreen movie on a square TV. Unfortunately, I can't get a screenshot because the Windows 7 screenshot tool only grabs the screen area covered by the OS. However, this is a minor annoyance, and so far all the software works, and I've successfully downloaded two programs.

All in all, this looks like a great way to keep all the good features of Linux while still having Windows at my fingertips.

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