Fedora Core 6 (Zod) in Virtual PC 2007

Another day, another *nix in Virtual PC post, and today's entry is brought to you by the letter Zed.

Er… Zod. (like the Presidential Candidate?!?)

Last week I installed Ubuntu in Virtual PC, and shared the installation workaround here: http://blogs.technet.com/seanearp/archive/2007/03/06/ubuntu-edgy-eft-6-10-in-virtual-pc-2007.aspx

Today I will cover my experience with installing Fedora Core 6 in Virtual PC 2007. Right off the bat, I ran into the exact same problem that I had with Ubuntu. Virtual PC supports 16-bit color, but Fedora Core has a default 24 bit color depth. This leads to a wonky boot screen that is completely unreadable.

The resolution (no pun intended), as it was with Ubuntu, was to change the x.org config file to have a default color depth of 16 bits. As the process is slightly different than it was with Ubuntu, I wanted to share the steps.

  1. Boot to the FC6 install DVD
  2. Install in text mode by typing linux text at the boot prompt
  3. Walk through the various options in text mode, and reboot when prompted.
  4. When you finish booting, you will be at the incredibly exciting DOS (er… Linux command line) screen that looks like this:

Fedora Core release 6 (Zod)
Kernel 2.6.18-1.2798.fc6 on an i686

localhost login:

  1. Log in with the account that you specified during setup.

  2. Change the DefaultDepth from 24 to 16 in the xorg.conf file under /etc/X11/xorg.conf. There are several ways to do this, but I did the following (feel free to share your solutions in the comments):

    sudo sed -e 's/DefaultDepth.*24/DefaultDepth 16/g' -i /etc/X11/xorg.conf
    To save yourself typing, copy the light above, click in the Virtual PC window (so that it has focus) and hit Right Alt + V to paste in the text.

  3. Hit Enter.

  4. Fire up the Xserver by typing startx and hitting enter.

  5. Voila! You should be at a usable Fedora Core 6 desktop.

Now… as I mentioned in my last post, I am a fan of eye candy. In that regard, Fedora core is MUCH prettier than Ubuntu was. By default, Fedora boots up into gnome, although you can also use KDE if you would like. For the most part, things look fairly similar in both windows managers.

After booting into ANY OS for the first time, it is important to download Security updates. In Fedora, I clicked on Applications à System Tools à Software Updater, which opened up Package Updater. (I would assume that Software Updater and Package Updater are the same tool despite having different names). Unfortunately, this gave me an error message of "Another application is running which is accessing software information." Same thing when I retried. After leaving FC6 at the desktop for a few minutes, Fedora popped up a window letting you know that there were a mere… (drumroll please!) 226 updates available. I'm not sure if these are security updates or not… the dialogue box says:

Security Updates Available

There are 226 package updates available

I hope it's not 226 security updates… Fedora Core 6 was only released on October 24th (a month before Vista RTM'd). To get a similar listing of downloads on a Windows box, you'd have to install a copy of Windows XP Gold (not SP1 or SP2), and that was released in October of 2001. 5 ½ years ago! Good times…

One interesting problem I ran into while using Fedora in Virtual PC was that keys would occasionally repeat themselves.  It happened just often enough to bug me, but not often enough for me to do anything about it.  This issue has not occured in any of the other Linux distros I have tried, and certainly does not happen in Windows (which means that my keyboard itself is not defective).  Fortunately, it turns out that Ben Armstron (AKA "Virtual PC Guy") ran into the same problem, and found a fix: http://blogs.msdn.com/virtual_pc_guy/archive/2006/08/08/692395.aspx.  According to Ben:

After a bit of poking around it turned out that this was an extreme case of KB918461 ( http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=918461 ) "The system time runs too fast on a Linux-based virtual machine that is hosted in Virtual Server 2005 R2".

What is happening here is that the 2.6 kernel is using the TSC (time stamp counter) to provide a higher level of accuracy for time over just using the PIT (programmable interrupt timer). The problem is that the TSC is highly unreliable inside of a virtual machine - and this results in all sorts of timing oddities.

The resolution proposed by this KB is to configure Linux to just use the PIT for timing - which solved my problem nicely.

All in all, not a bad experience, and I am getting pretty good at modifying .conf files to change the color depth. The first two Linux distros I have tried work fine in Virtual PC (after tweaking the color problem). Next up… OpenSuse 10.2. Wish me luck!