Virtualization struggles

I have to admit that I'm remaining quite enamored of OpenSUSE and have really been putting it through its paces. So far, every bit of software I've needed has run flawlessly, with the exception of Google Docs and Spreadsheets that remain incredibly slow in Firefox.

I have to admit that I'm remaining quite enamored of OpenSUSE and have really been putting it through its paces. So far, every bit of software I've needed has run flawlessly, with the exception of Google Docs and Spreadsheets that remain incredibly slow in Firefox. I haven't looked too hard for a solution here, but if anyone has one, let us know. Overall, however, this is an OS that, like Ubuntu, I would be glad to recommend to friends, colleagues, and students. Unfortunately, as is often the case in our setting, I'm running into some Windows-only software for a new physics book I'll be using this fall. I refuse to give up Linux, although I'm itching to try Fedora on my laptop (my oldest kid loves it on his desktop). This leaves me with dual-booting or running Windows in a virtual machine.

Dual-booting is a bit of a pain; the last thing I want is to have to reboot my machine to run a demo for a class. My laptop, and most modern computers, are certainly fast enough to run virtual machines, though, and these are great isolated environments for testing, new operating systems, and running Windows. Parallels provides the same functionality to Macs while a number of applications allow virtual machines to run in Linux.

Under Ubuntu, Vmware (a particular virtual machine manager) was a no-brainer. It was an easy install and setting up virtual machines was incredibly straight-forward. There were a few niggles in terms of stability, but overall, running Windows in a window was no problem. SUSE comes with the seemingly spiffy "hypervisor" Xen, an environment capable of running many virtual machines. When you boot OpenSUSE, you have the option of loading Xen, which looks just like your non-Xen environment, all the way down to your restored Firefox sessions.

Sounds great, right? It even has a GUI for creating virtual machines, although all functions can be accessed via the command line. However, my first few attempts to start virtual machines (and boot the machines from my Windows CD) errored out. I found some decent, if dated instructions for firing up Windows from the command line, so I gave them a shot, too, but hit the following error

Error: HVM guest support is unavailable: is VT/AMD-V supported by your CPU and enabled in your BIOS?

UGH. I have no doubt that some extra digging will yield a fine solution to this problem, but this is the first time that I've missed the utter simplicity of Ubuntu since I installed SUSE.

This will have to wait for now, but talk back below and let us know the best experiences you've had and/or best distros for virtualization of Windows. Like it or not, the occasional bit of Windows software crops up; while this hardly means we should give up on open source in education, even fully Linux or Mac shops need access to a few machines that can handle the software. Virtualization is a great answer, if you can get it to work without jumping through too many hoops of fire.