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Fedora 9 and VirtualBox

For a job I have been hired to do now, I have the need to keep a virtual machine with the development environment. The reason for this is that there are a few quirks in that environment which caused me some headaches before.

As it’s not like the other virtual machine (on the laptop), requiring a perfect Windows support, I decided to go with VirtualBox again. Which by the way forces me to keep GCC 4.2 around. But oh well, that’s not important, is it?

The choice of distribution inside wasn’t difficult, I thought. I didn’t want to rebuild system on a vbox, no Gentoo. I avoided Debian and Debian-based, after the debacle about OpenSSL I won’t trust them easily. Yes I am picking on them because of that, it’s because it was a huge problem. While I found openSUSE nice to install on a computer last month, it didn’t suit well my needs I thought, so I decided to go with Fedora 9.

I used Fedora a couple of times before, it’s a nice development environment when I need something up quickly and cleanly. Unfortunately I found Fedora 9 a bit rough, more than I remembered.

I wasn’t planning on giving it Internet access at first, because of my strange network setup (I will make a schema as talking with Joshua made me think it’s pretty uncommon); but then the package manager refused to install me the kernel-devel package out of the DVD, it had to use the network. So I tried to configure the network with a different IP and netmask, but this didn’t work cleanly either, the network setting interface seemed to clash with NetworkManager. I admit I didn’t want to spend too much time looking for documentation, so I just created a “VBOX” entry on NetworkManager which I’m selecting at each boot.

After this was done, I updated all the packages as the update manager asked me to do, and tried to install the new kernel-devel. This was needed by the VirtualBox guest tools, which I wanted to install to have the “magic” mouse grab. But VirtualBox refused to do so, because Fedora 9 is shipping with a pre-release Xorg 1.5 that they don’t intend to support. Sigh.

I’m not blaming Fedora here. Lots of people blamed them for breaking compatibility with nVidia’s drivers, but they did give enough good reasons to use that particular Xorg version (I know I read a blog about this, but I don’t remember which Planet it was in, nor the title). What I’m surprised of is that VirtualBox, although being vastly opensourced, seems to keep the additions closed-sourced, which in turn cause a few problems.

Different Linux distributions have different setups, some might use different Xorg versions, other different kernel building methods, and I sincerely think the answer is not LSB. Interestingly, you can get the VMware mouse and video drivers directly from Xorg nowadays (although I admit I haven’t checked how well do they work), but you cannot get the VirtualBox equivalents.

If any Sun/ex-Innotek employee is reading me now, please consider freeing your guest additions! Then your problems with supporting different Linux distributions would be very much slimmed down: we could all package the drivers, so instead of having to connect the ISO image of the additions, mount it, install the kernel and Xorg development files, and compiling modules and drivers, the only required step would be for the distribution to identify VirtualBox like it was any other “standard” piece of real hardware.

I hope the serial device forwarding is working properly as I’ll need that too, and it did throw me a couple of errors since I started installing Fedora… I haven’t tried it yet though. I hope there are picocom packages for Fedora.

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