Virtual Server: Guest can't see External Network

This was a weird one.   I’ve just built the new x64-based VM server, and moved a number of my VMs onto it for testing.  A few of those VMs run under a local (to the host) service account so they can be automagically started by the server.  For some reason, the VMs which had been set up like this couldn’t see the External network.  I reinstalled the VM Additions, removed and reinstalled the NIC in the Guest and generally scratched my head because this same setup worked just fine when it was a 32-bit box and it was exactly the same… wasn’t it?

Well no, actually, it wasn’t.  Turns out the user I’d created for launching the VMs on the x64 box wasn’t exactly the same as the user on the old box.  It wasn’t a member of the Administrators group.  So note to self: if you want them to be able to access the NIC, start your VMs in a user context that has Admin rights.   I’m sure with a bit of testing I could find the URAs that would lock this down with a little more granularity, but the Administrator right blanket fits for now!

Why my primary Windows XP machine is still a Dell

MacBook ProThe MacBook Pro is great running XP; but has several flaws which mean it probably won’t become my primary machine just yet…


  • No Audio Routing
    If you plug headphones into the headphone socket audio continues to come out of the speakers. This is known (and documented by Apple) but is still irritating. If I’m in the office I quite often listen to mp3s/the radio on headphones. Also, when I play games I nearly always do so with headphones on for the immersive experience…
  • Limited Bluetooth Support
    I use my phone’s Bluetooth headset as a headset in games that support it (UT2004, CounterStrike) and for Skype calls. Either the driver in the MacBook doesn’t support the headset profile, or the hardware doesn’t support it. Either way, it’s an annoying limitation.
  • Heat
    This is the real killer. The MacBook Pro runs hot… Even in OS X – when you push the CPU – it gets very hot. Running in XP though, without the advanced power management, it gets hot quickly. So hot in fact that the grill to the left of the keyboard becomes painful to touch. That’s no good for prolonged periods of typing!
  • The Trackpad
    In OS X there is a tickbox for trackpad settings that “ignored unintended input” – so if you knock it with your wrist while typing it knows to disregard it. Not so for XP. Try typing for any length of time and you find the cursor jumping all over the place as you accidentally click all over your document. Grrr!

I imagine that further updates to the beta will fix some of these niggles, but for now I’m still using the Dell for day to day work and games.

One thing I did manage to do with the MacBook Pro was remap the keyboard. Now \ is in the correct place (next to left shift) as is the back tick (next to the 1 key) and I’ve given myself a right-alt key (the right command key) and a del key (next to the left cursor). So I can hit ctrl-alt-del and I have a right-alt to control MS Virtual Server properly now!

It’s a fantastic games machine; HalfLife 2, UT2004 and RoN all perform flawlessly… I just worry about the heat. I hope Apple issue a BootCamp driver update for APM.

The Best Windows PC is… a Mac?

Windows XP Installing on a MacBook Pro

Some of you will know of my odd status as a PC and Mac user.  I switch between both depending on where I am and what I’m doing; you’ll also know of my weakness for shiny Apple hardware and my purchase of a MacBook Pro within hours of their release.  So I followed with interest the competition to get Windows XP running on the MacBook, and even tried out the open source effort that resulted; eventually giving up on it when I realised that driver support just wasn’t there.

Until now.  Apple just officially sanctioned dual booting on their Intel-based machines with “Boot Camp”.  A preview for now (apparently of Leopard code) it creates a driver CD and then allows an XP SP2 CD to boot and install.  Of course I had to try it within hours of finding out about it.  Here’s how I got on….

Luckily last night I’d already downloaded and installed the latest OS X update (10.4.6).  This whole “Boot Camp” thing explains why the update for the MacBook was considerably larger than the same update on my PPC based G5.  The only thing left to do was download the MacBook Pro firmware update, and the Boot Camp assistant itself.  With the firmware updated I could go ahead and run the assistant.

After accepting the dire warnings that this is preview software and shouldn’t be used in a production environment it allowed me to burn a CD with XP drivers for all the MacBook Pro hardware.  (Well, nearly all the hardware – see later on for what’s not included.)

After building the driver CD, you must choose how much of the OS X drive to partition for Windows.  I chose to give up about 25Gb for Windows – that should be adequate for testing and installing games.  Also, with MacDrive I should be able to access data on the Mac partition from Windows.  This was a very simple process – drag the slider around until happy and then click the button, it had finished in less than 60 seconds.  Then, stick the XP Pro SP2 CD in and reboot the MacBook…

The system booted from the XP CD into a standard setup screen.  No sign of any behind the scenes magic (patching system files on the fly) like in the open-source effort, it just worked… I may dig out my Vista DVD and see if whatever Apple have done will allow that to boot. :)

Unfortunately the first try failed at the partition selection screen when the system hung – to the point where I had to power off.  I unplugged all the usb devices I had in, and started again – this time it worked perfectly.  I selected the partition to format and it started copying files across.  Checking the FAQ reveals that there is a known issue: the Mighty Mouse can’t be plugged in during the first install of XP.

After the usual thrashing about, and a little over an hour after I downloaded the file I was looking at an (admittedly low res) Windows XP desktop.  Success!

I put the Apple created driver CD in and let it unpack everything.  The entire install runs unattended – it does the Intel Chipset, then the ATI graphics.  I didn’t notice the network install happen, but all of a sudden the icons popped up for wireless and LAN in the system tray.  After that came the audio install and a reboot.

When it came back up the panel was running at its native resolution.  One more new hardware found wizard later (BlueTooth) and the entire system was working.  Just over an hour from a machine with just OS X on to a machine running a fully patched copy of Windows XP Pro SP2.

Hardware that doesn’t work:  the IR remote, the iSight camera, the sudden-motion-sensor, the ambient light sensor.

The next important things:

  • How fast can it run Microsoft Virtual Server R2, and with how many concurrent virtual machines.
  • And, perhaps most important: can it run UT2004, Rise of Nations and Counter-Strike: Source ?

More info to come…

We're beyond baby steps now…

The wizards (nay, geniuses) over at the Max OS X Internals Blog have developed what they’re calling BAMBIOS – software that allows legacy booting on Intel-based Macs. From their post:

For example, a regular (that is, non-EFI) version of Linux can be readily booted using this software. […] Linux works fine, and we have made good progress with booting an unmodified Windows XP installation.

They have a mini presentation which explains a little about what they’re doing, but basically they’re leveraging the Bochs BIOS as a way to give Windows XP (or any other “legacy” X86 OS) something to talk to. Oh – and you just know that Apple love being able to refer to Windows as legacy! I’ll save the rant about the EFI-less Vista release for another time…

Anyway, this is fantastic news, and a huge step towards the dual booting Holy Grail a lot of us early-adopters have been seeking. – are you ready to pay out?

Update: It appears that they’re not the only team to have made good progress. This guy has got XP booting – he says by patching the NT bootloader/kernel.  That sounds like a less elegant solution than building a fake BIOS, but since neither group has made their solution available yet it remains to be seen how easy either of them is for the rest of us to achieve.