I’ve been spending a lot of time playing with the Parallels Desktop for Mac virtualization software (see Parallels Desktop for the Mac and (Short Cuts PDF) Windows for Intel Macs) recently. So, I decided to pay some attention Microsoft’s Virtual PC 2004 which recently became a free downloadable product. I installed Windows XP Pro SP2 and Ubuntu Linux 6.06 on the Intel Mac, so it seemed like an interesting idea to install Ubuntu Linux using Virtual PC too.
The MacBook running Parallels Desktop for Mac is a 2GHz Core Duo box. My Windows Media Center PC uses an Athlon 64 3400+ processor. Not a Core Duo, but still a reasonable CPU. Both boxes have 1GB RAM. I configured Parallels Desktop for Mac to provide 192MB RAM to Ubuntu. Linux in general and Ubuntu in particular is not a resource hog. The installation went fine and Ubuntu Linux runs pretty well as a Guest OS on the Mac.
So, I decided to let Virtual PC 2004 also give 192MB RAM to Ubuntu Linux. Ubuntu Linux installed without any special settings using Parallels Desktop for Mac. But, according to a great website (http://vpc.visualwin.com/) that provides Virtual PC Guest OS compatibility infomation, Ubuntu Linux needs to be installed using Safe Graphics Mode. So, I selected from Ubuntu’s install memu. I first tried it on a Dell Lattitude D600 notebook with 1GB of RAM and a 1.4GHz Pentium M. The Ubuntu installer seemed to choke everytime it reached the graphical world map used to set the time zone. I tried it a couple of times there and then decided to move it to a faster box (my Athlon 64). Same problem? Huh? A bit of chin rubbing. Hmm, Ubuntu Linux first boots as a Live CD. So, it finally dawned on me that it might need more RAM booting in Virtual PC (compared to Parallels Desktop for Mac). And, yep, a second attempt on the Athlon 64 box with Virtual PC giving 256MB to the Guest OS seems to have done the trick. Ubuntu’s installer got past the time zone setting screen fine and the installation seems to be progressing nicely now.
It will be interesting to see how the next version of Virtual PC handles resource requirements.