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EXPERT To Answer - The Best of Linux (and Windows)

Link to this post 06 Dec 09

Hi, I have the following situation and proposed solution:

SITUATION

I have a notebook computer. The manufacturer ships the hardware with a Windows OS (either XP Pro, Vista or Windows 7). They provide support only for a Windows OS.

Also, I am not sure how fuss-free it is to use any Linux distro on this notebook hardware, whether due to switchable graphics, device drivers, or trackball / trackpoint / trackpad issues/complications.

Also, I have software such as MS Office 2007 and Adobe Acrobat which is meant for installation on Windows OS.

But, a Windows OS is vulnerable to virus/spy-ware/mal-ware/trojans/worms and other malicious code. (Is this true for Windows 7 too? I am presuming so). Also, the Windows registry degrades and corrupts over time, and coupled with the need for strong anti-virus software, would mean that the performance I get will deteriorate rapidly.


PROPOSED SOLUTION

Therefore, to get the best of Linux (and Windows), I propose the following solution:

(1) have the Windows OS run as the base/host OS on the notebook hardware. So I don't have to deal with device drivers and other hardware issues, including support from manufacturer.

(2) Install virtualization software. (Not sure if Windows Virtual PC is good enough? Which is the best virtual machine software? (Classify into free and non-free virtualization software))

(3) Install a Linux distro within this virtual environment. (Which is the best Linux distro for installation within a virtual environment? Does Windows Virtual PC support such Linux guest OS installation? If no, which virtualization software should I use to be able to install a Linux guest OS)

(4) Work within the Windows OS ONLY when using MS Office 2007 or Adobe Acrobat (since they have to be installed in a Windows OS environment)

(5) ALWAYS work within the Linux OS when connecting to the Internet.

(6) Work within the Linux OS for other purposes.


QUESTION:

(A) Because I ONLY connect to the Internet from within the virtual environment running the Linux OS distro, does it mean that any malicious code/software (virus/malware/spyware/trojan/worm) coming from the Internet WILL NOT GET TO THE HOST/BASE Windows OS?

That is - is it the case that ALL malicious stuff will be contained within/repelled by the Linux environment, and therefore I will be safe?? =) ==))

(B) Will my Windows OS Registry still degrade, given that I am only using the Windows OS minimally for either Office 2007 or Adobe Acrobat only (Everything else is within the virtual Linux OS)?

=) ==)

You should get the drift of my query from the above. So you can post any other comments relating to getting the best out of the situation I have!!

Thank you!!!!!!

Link to this post 07 Dec 09

As long as you're running windows, the registry gets written to.
Why don't you install linux on its own partition?

You could
1. use a tool such as gparted to shrink/move your windows partition(s)
without losing your windows system
You could use a linux live system such as partedmagic (http://partedmagic.com/)
partedmagic could be run either from a cd or a usb stick

2. in the remaining available space create partitions to install
a) a linux swap partition
b) several linux partitions (so you could try different distributions)
That way your linux would be more effective. You wouldn't have to rely on Windows.

All linux distributions have the necessary software to read pdf files so you don't
really need Adobe Acrobat Reader
I don't use word processors (I'm a TeX user) but I heard that openOffice is a good
alternative to Microsoft Office.

When I bought my laptop it had Windows Vista taking up most of the hard drive space
and a recovery vista on a second (smaller) partition. I have successfully used gparted
from partemagic (and from a usb stick) to do operation 1.
The recommended way of doing it is to
a) shrink/resize the partitions
b) reboot on the windows system so that it will launch a check disk
before proceeding to creating new partitions

Now I'm exclusively using linux (slackware most of the time, a few linux live systems).

Link to this post 07 Dec 09

Lets go through your questions.

1. People always look out for their manufacturer support, but you have to question the value of it, how many times have you called them and got a proper resolution? it is worth the maintenance that you will have to perform on windows?

I recommend trying a Live CD of a distro you wan to use to test for hardware compatibility, in most cases all hardware is auto-detected and no drivers are necessary, the exception is when you are using a proprietary wireless card/adapter, I recommend posting the make/model of the notebook so we can help you to reseach for potential problems.

If possible (based upon question above) install a linux distro as the primary OS and use windows in a virtual machine to reduce the time that windows is active.

2,3. VirtualPC in my past experiences was quite flaky running Linux based distros, you should look at virtualbox as a good neutral alternative.

4. That can help the windows host to reduce changes, but you can look at Linux based alternatives so you are not longer dependant on those apps. If you decide to go with a Linux based host system you may find adequate alternative to complete all the same tasks.

5. Windows will still be active and will still be vulnerable to threats of it's own, the results of you actions in the Linux VM will not effect the windows hosts, but the problems in the windows host can effect the Linux based VM.

A. As long as any operating system is connected to the internet it is open to web-page based drive-by attacks, hackers, zero-day exploits and the underlying issues of the operating system itself. Linux has much better resistance to most of these issues, but with windows running as the host it will be vulnerable as long as it is running.

B. The registry will degrade from software installation, software updates, windows updates and the viri/spyware that will get into your system, it is unavoidable. The longer it runs and the more you use it the worse it will be . Additionally you will also be experiencing issues with drive fragmentation. Just because you are using a VM with another OS within windows does not mean it won't be effected by it's native issues when it is running in the background.

Link to this post 15 Dec 09

A. You will still have your Windows OS directly connected to internet. And I think there is no way around this if you want the virtual machine running through Windows.

Doing the other way around having Linux as host and Windows as guest is a much better solution it seems. That way your Linux OS will not have to operate through the Windows kernel. Tough the slowness of Windows will not be as noticeable if you have a processor which has direct support for virtualization. Tough that is probably not supported by your nettop cpu.

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