Update 2: Stumbling all over the place




First off, I wanted to say I was thankful to spend the Thanksgiving with my fiancée and my future in-laws. They treated me well with their salivating cooks. I’m a big fan of turnip/collard greens, ham and sweet yams. Those are my favorite Thanksgiving side dishes every year.

Since my last blog post, I have been kept busy, playing with several different Linux flavors using Virtualbox on my Windows host. I’m sure  you are reading this, wondering why the heck I’m still using Windows. Well, I can confess at least one reason. It’s ubiquitous. I know the reason alone is lame, but I also got tired of not being able to put my system to sleep effectively under Linux. It becomes unstable and buggy each time I try to resume it from sleep. I’m trying to conserve electricity. Although, I’ve only encountered this with Ubuntu, but I’d need to test this other flavors when I get a chance.

I downloaded Debian Wheezy, CentOS 6, Arch Linux, and Linux Mint 17. I also threw in FreeBSD in the mix just for fun. So far, I only got to play with Wheezy and Arch Linux. Wheezy didn’t impress me so much, but I was rather surprised they haven’t moved to systemd init process. I had to look up why, and it turned out they’ll be adopting it late in the next major release. I suppose this is good news as I need to learn the sysvinit and upstart to work with older Linux systems if I ever run into one. I’m already aware CentOS 6 is still using sysvinit unlike its successor. I’m solely playing with those distributions for learning purposes. I purchased a Sybex Linux+ study guide last year, and I still kept my bulk RHEL6 certification guide by Michael Jang. I wanted to read them thoroughly before my first born arrives in spring.

On the night before Thanksgiving Eve, I played with Arch Linux for the first time, and I have to admit, it was quite a fun challenge. I was already comfortable with the command line, and the only real challenges I faced with it were the systemd command, systemctl, and Arch Linux package manager’s command, pacman, as they were foreign to me at first. I managed to learn very quickly. I was able to follow the ArchWiki’s Beginners and Information guides with no issue. They were very concise. However, my only gripe with the guides is the lack of warning for VirtualBox users when it comes to setting up graphical environment. I spent the majority of my Thanksgiving break at my in-laws, reinstalling and rebuilding the system several times in VirtualBox on my Macbook Pro. I had to resort to snapshots as well which made the task a lot easier, but I still couldn’t set up GNOME.

I’m embarrassed to say that I had no real experience with IRC chat up until that weekend, I had to ask the people over at #archlinux on Freenode  via the web. I had to painstakingly watch all the conversation for several minutes, learned the proper etiquette to avoid ticking off others. I was annoyed by the spooling JOIN/LEAVE message, but I managed to figure out how to enable the option to filter out those useless messages. I learned that I had to register and identify before I can participate in the chat and ask for help. So, once I got the IRC thing down, I reached out to the others for help, but I didn’t get my answer right away. Go figure since I wasn’t the only rookie online. I had to try again another hour to get my turn. I was told to use a paste bin to paste the output of my command. Realizing that there was no way to copy the text from the getty terminal in the initial set up, I had to install SSH on my Arch guest and use my Macbook terminal client to connect to it, so that I can copy the outputs. As soon as I figured it out, I asked again. No luck. I was still persistent. I gave it one more try! Finally, someone answered, but I ignored all other solutions until someone suggested that I need to install VirtualBox guest-add-on in my Arch guest. After reading that suggestion, the feeling that I had felt as if I got punch in the stomach. I was feeling so humiliated as I knew that was the definite answer without even having to test it first. So, when I installed it, I finally got the GUI running! It was THAT simple to use Arch Linux even though it may scare away many Linux newcomers! I just wish I was told right off the bat that I also needed to install the guest-add-on. There was no explicit mention of this in the Beginners guide at the time of this writing.

Earlier this week at work, after my Thanksgiving getaway, I was researching a way to install VMware ESXi on my rig. I’ve attempted this before, but it failed due to an incompatible network driver. I didn’t know any better, but it was a learning experience. I didn’t anticipate buying new hardware as I couldn’t afford to with new baby on the way. I regretted the poor decisions I made on the CPU and motherboard purchases a few months ago, which costed me about $220. At first, I knew I couldn’t afford a new complete build as I had assumed it’d cost me about $1k to build a decent rig for virtualization lab server. So, I tried to explore other viable alternatives to see if I’m able to upgrade my now-obsolete rig. I saw that I can replace the Intel Core 2 Duo for a Core 2 Quad Q9550, which has 4 cores and it supports VT-x and VT-d. So I took a chance and spent $125 on it. I tried to install it on my motherboard, but I was foolish enough to try on the stock heatsink as well rather than using the aftermarket one I had all along simply because it was tarnish from the previous thermal application. I figured, using a stock heatsink would be a good idea, since it came with the thermal compound pre-pasted on it. WRONG! I tried it, then the darn thing didn’t get installed properly. The fasteners didn’t stick well to the board. It was half-installed. So I tried to remove it, but I was unable to release the remaining two pins from the board. So I had to resort to removing the motherboard from the chassis and force the pins out on the underside of the board with a nose pliers. Then my worst nightmare happened. I accidentally nicked the bus lines near the pin holes. It was hard not to. I panicked but still had hoped it’d work anyway. Unfortunately, it didn’t boot. Of course, I was extremely furious. I was so upset that I deliberately smashed the new heatsink into pieces. That day I learned a really hard lesson: Don’t ever attempt stock heatsinks! Especially the ones with poor fastener design. So I looked on Newegg for a replacement motherboard, but then I felt sick to my stomach when I realized I could do away with the latest AMD quadcore CPU and mobo for less than or about the same cost as the CPU I bought. It was the hardest feeling for me to get over at the time. I purchased the replacement board for $95 and was able to boot up the new processor this time.

Since I’m stuck with my old rig, I tried to find a way to experiment with ESXi without getting additional hardware. I came across several posts that mentioned I can run a nested ESXi host in VirtualBox. So I thought… Why not! If VMware allows ESXi guest to run in VMware Workstation, then I don’t see why VirtualBox can do the same. I gave it a shot. And then it worked, and I was elated. That didn’t last too long. I struggled with the SCSI and SAS storages in VirtualBox. For some reasons, ESXi can only recognize the SATA and IDE controllers. I can only create a local datastore with available disks attached to either controllers in ESXi guest setting in VirtualBox. That didn’t bother me too much until I learned I cannot virtualize nested 64-bit guest OS. I looked up for an explanation, and then I learned the hard way that my CPU, I wasted my good money on, lacks SLAT (Second Level Address Translation) support for MMU (memory management unit). It turned out only Intel i3 processor or greater has EPT (Extended Page Tables), which is Intel’s proprietary SLAT feature. I’m extremely disappointed with several documentations I came across that only mentioned that I needed VT-x, when I actually needed EPT as well. I believe the virtualization community needs to stress more on SLAT feature being one of the hardware requirements as well.

This concludes my rant. Looking back, I see I’ve made a lot of mistakes within the last couple of months. But if it weren’t for those mistakes, then how else can I learn to help propagate good advice to others not to make those same mistakes I made? I was told that many successful people have dealt with multiple failures in their early years. I just hope this remain true as I can see I’m already on the right path. Tonight, I was setting up few more Linux flavors in VirtualBox in preparation for intensive self-training the coming weeks as I was recently notified I’m officially registered for a 6-7 week long VMware VCP5 online training starting in mid-January, and I can’t wait to start soon.


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