Although I use Gentoo Linux on my desktop and I’m happy with it, there are times when my employer requires me to use the Leading Operation System™, mostly to write detailed instruction on how to use their system.
I don’t want to reboot my desktop machine, because I have a lot of open applications and terminal sessions. Closing them and setting them up again would consume too much time. I have a laptop, but since my girlfriend uses it, I have to take it away from her when I need it. I want a virtual machine on my Gentoo.
I’ve tried QEMU. I managed to start it and install the system. Setting up the network took me some time, mostly due to lack of examples in the QEMU documentation. Finally I got the system running, with network support and Internet Access.
The speed of the guest operating system is fair, but there’s one thing that is slow and causing problems: the mouse. It sometimes stops on the way just as if there was an invisible fence. I have to go to the opposite side of the screen and return.
Why use the emulated mouse? I could connect to the guest OS with rdesktop and have native mouse. The problem is that QEMU doesn’t allow TCP connection to the guest OS. I tried to create a reverse SSH tunnel with Putty, but Putty won’t start on the guest OS, displaying an useless error message which suggests reinstalling Putty. A friend of mine suggested the commercial SSH client. I tried it and managed to establish a reverse tunnel to the host OS.
Unfortunately, the proprietary SSH client couldn’t handle the tunnel, because the after logging in, the window of rdesktop remained black. I finally found a Windows port of the OpenSSH client, which created a tunnel and worked correctly.
Summarizing, what I’ve done was:
- Install QEMU
- Run the guest machine
sudo modprobe tun
sudo chmod 666 /dev/net/tun
qemu -net nic -net tap -hda xp.img -net user xp.img
(please note that my Windows system image is named xp.img)
- Install Windows on the guest machine
- Install OpenSSH for Windows on the guest machine
- Guest machine: open a command-line (DOS?) window and:
ssh -f -N -R 13389:127.0.0.2:3389 firstname.lastname@example.org
(10.0.3.254 is IP number of the host machine)
- On the host machine, run the rdesktop client
rdesktop -u Mywindowusername -E -a 16 localhost:13389
Through rdesktop, the guest system works at the same speed, but the mouse is more responsive and it doesn’t get imprisoned inside the QEMU’s window.