My Favourite VirtualBox Settings (as of 2.2.2)

VirtualBox improves with every release, and is now seems to be at a stage where it can be more than a mere curiosity for DICE users, as proven by our LCFG release test VMs, the ongoing Desktop Virtualisation project and my use of a VM as an emergency standin for failed server hardware.

Configuring the virtual machines is a process of trial-and-error, and not all settings suit all guests.  However as of version 2.2.2, this is my annotated list of my current ‘best’ DICE-on-DICE configuration:

Basic Settings:

OS Type: Linux -> Red Hat (32/64-bit)
Base Memory: (>= 384Mb ample for low-load commodity servers, but >= 1Gb apparently required for 64-bit guests)
Video Memory: >= 8Mb (for full-screen X on a DICE Host)
Boot Order: Hard Disk (with PXE on-demand only)
ACPI: Enabled (allows safe unattended shutdown, if nothing else!)
IO APIC: Disabled (causes massive clock skew if enabled)
VT-x/AMD-V: Enabled (provides some performance improvement, if mainly to host)
Nested Paging: Disabled (not yet supported on our hardware, but no harm in enabling)
PAE/NX: Enabled (of course PAE is not applicable on 64-bit, but there’s no reason to disable it on either arch)
3D Acceleration: Disabled (but worth enabling if you are using the Guest as a desktop, with Guest Additions)

Sound:

The SoundBlaster 16 device is detected, and can be used, by a DICE guest.

Note that any sound device will cause problems if you plan on running your guest ‘headless’.

Network:

Both Intel Pro (Desktop) and PCNet-Fast III devices work, providing 1Gbit and 100MBit network connections, respectively.

I’ve noticed that on Optiplex 755 hardware (on either virtual device), for each PXE boot request made by a guest, two requests are sent by the host: the first with the hosts’s MAC, and the second with the guest’s.  Clearly not ideal but I’ve not made any more detailed investigation into this: my DICE-install PXE boots are necessarily attended, and therefore easily restarted on failure.

Details on the specifics of bridged-mode network configuration can be found on the official DICE VirtualBox wiki page.

Hard Disk:

The standard ATA controller works very well. DICE + SATA will be tested soon.

Expect me to change my mind over time, not least because I note that 2.2.4 is already available…

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