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Running Fedora Core 5 Under Windows XP - Tips and Tricks

For one thing XP is extremely widespread and your clients and/or users probably have it installed on theirs PCs

For one thing XP is extremely widespread and your clients and/or users probably have it installed on theirs PCs. In fact, most PCs come with XP pre-installed. And makers of peripheral devices and high-speed Internet providers adapt their products and services to work with XP. In most cases it's enough to simply plug a peripheral into an XP computer or to subscribe to a high-speed Internet service to start use it immediately.

For many IT professionals it makes sense to work with both Windows XP and Linux.

On the other hand, Linux is stable and the Linux community provides you with free high-quality Open Source software. A number of companies also offer non-commercial versions of their products for free that you can try before buying to make sure it's exactly what you need. An example of one such product will be given later in this article.

Virtualization Versus Multiple Boot
Rather than invest in two different computers (one for XP and another one for Linux) and network equipment it's convenient to have both operating systems on one PC (these days even on your laptop). There are several options on how to do that so you can try multiple boots (usually dual boots) with free or commercial products. Alternatively you can try virtualization.

Traditionally under virtualization there's a distinction between the host (the operating system under which the virtualization software runs) and the guest (the operating system or systems that run in the virtualization software). Virtualization has advantages over multiple boot in the following ways:

  1. Reliability. In a worse case scenario of virtualization software failure even if you will loose the guest operating systems you'll most likely have the host operating system up and running, while in the case of a multiple boot failure it's possible that all the operating systems will be lost.
  2. Flexibility. There's no need to make multiple partitions for multiple operating systems on your main hard disk drive. Moreover, it's possible to use an external USB2/FireWire HDD with multiple operating systems that can be easily plugged into your PC.
  3. Data exchange "on the fly" between the host and guest operating system (or systems). By the nature of the multiple boot solution only one operating system can be up and running at a time. So the process of data exchange will involve rebooting. It's possible with virtualization to exchange data between several operating systems without any rebooting delays.
For these reasons, virtualization is recommended for running XP and Linux on the same PC.

VMWare Workstations, Fedora Core 5, and XP
The best-known virtualization software is VMWare's Workstation 5 family, which currently includes versions 5.0 and 5.5. On the other hand, Fedora Core 5 is one of the best Linux free Open Source distributions.

Which operating system to make the host - Linux or XP - and which the guest is a matter of personal preference. If your PC comes with XP pre-installed and your peripherals and Internet provider are tuned to XP it's convenient to keep it this way (without spending time on operating system and/or driver reinstallation) and run Fedora Core 5 as the guest operating system under VMWare 5 using XP as the host.

VMWare 5 is very easy to install on Windows. A convenient mechanism is built into VMWare 5 for data exchange "on the fly" for officially supported operating systems.

Unfortunately VMWare doesn't officially support Fedora Core 5 and googling the Internet with inquires like "Fedora Core 5 under Windows XP," or "Fedora Core 5 under VMWare" won't produce an easy answer on how to make the exchange. This article will introduce a simple technology that will let you to do it.

The technology won't require any changes to a single configuration file. All you'll have to do is install Fedora Core 5 under VMWare 5 with certain options and use free Open Source software.

Fedora Core 5 Installation under VMWare 5
First download the .iso images from the Fedora Core 5 CDs or DVDs from the Fedora download site or order CDs or DVDs from Fedora distributors. Although it's possible to install Fedora Core 5 under VMWare 5 from the .iso images, you may want to burn CDs or DVD anyway just to have a backup.

The following options have to be chosen from your VMWare 5 installation wizard settings for the data exchange:

  • Linux - other Linux 2.6 kernel
  • Use Network Address Translation (NAT)
  • The USB controller should be present
The end result is shown in Figure 1.

You may want to read your VMWare 5 manual for further configuration details or for how to make the choices described. You may also want to select 20GB-30GB of virtual HDD space and as much RAM as you can (700 MB or so) for the virtual machine (VM) where you'll install Fedora Core 5.

After a VM is created, you can install Fedora Core 5 under VMWare 5. The Fedora installation is described in the Fedora FAQ and there are several tutorials available on the Internet.

Now you have a couple of options on how to exchange data between Fedora Core 5 and XP "on the fly".

Using Apache FTP Server for Data Exchange "On the Fly"
The idea is to use the FTP server on your XP host running simultaneously with Fedora Core 5.

Several FTP servers are distributed for free, however the simplest and most reliable one for our purposes is the Apache FTP server. The stable version is currently 2.0, but you may want to visit Apache site for the latest updates. The good news is that installation per se isn't needed. The only configuration you'll need to do to run the server is to set up JAVA_HOME in your environmental variables. You'll also need a JDK. If you're a Java developer you already have that. If you are new to Java here are easy steps to install.

  1. Download and install the current JDK (probably jdk1.5.0_06) from http://java.sun.com. It's easy and the installation process is well documented.
  2. After that go to Start | Control Panel | Performance and Maintenance | System | Advanced | Environmental Variables | System Variables | New. Put JAVA_HOME under Variable Name and path to your JDK (for example, C:\Program Files\Java\jdk1.5.0_06) under Variable Value.
As soon as you have the JDK and JAVA_HOME set up, you can download the ftpserver-dev.zip file with the Apache FTP server and unzip it in some folder (say C:\Apache FTP Server). The important thing is that you don't want this folder to be "too nested." C:\My installations\Apache installations\Apache Servers\Apache FTP doesn't work. We'll assume you unzipped the file under C:\Apache FTP Server.

After unzipping a new folder ftpserver-dev a set of subfolders will be created. In our example the path is C:\Apache FTP Server\ ftpserver-dev. Go to C:\Apache FTP Server\ ftpserver-dev\bin and double click ftpd_ui.bat. Wait until the Swing window appears and click Start. Now click users. Give the anonymous user the ability to read and write under C:\Apache FTP Server\ftpserver-dev\res\home (it will be in shared folder on the Windows XP side).

That's it! The Windows XP side is ready to exchange files with Fedora Core 5 on-the-fly.

The only thing you have to do now with XP is to figure out what the IP address of your host is from a VMWare 5 prospective. To do this, go to the command prompt and issue an ipconfig command. Locate the line "Ethernet adapter VMware Network Adapter VMnet8:"

You'll need the first IP after this. We'll assume you use You have to use your own, which you can get using ipconfig as we said. Please note that the said IP address will remain the same while running VMWare so there's no need to repeat the ipconfig.

Preparing Fedora Core 5 for Data Exchange "On the Fly"
A simple ftp command in the terminal window won't work (try it to see for yourself). Here are two ways to get around that obstacle:

  1. From the Gnome 2.14.0 main menu (we assume you're running a Gnome session) select Places | Connect to Server. In the window select service type - Pubic FTP server. Then type IP address you got in the previous section (we're using If you want, you can call this connection anonymous but it's optional. Click the connect button. The connection will be mounted like a typical folder with all the file operations available (copying to and from the folder, deleting, renaming, etc.). Note that by default this folder will be automatically mounted each time you start Fedora Core 5 assuming that you start the Apache FTP server on XP side before running VMWare 5. So you need to describe these activities only once.
  2. From the Gnome main menu select Applications | Internet | Konqueror.
In the Konqueror location type ftp://[email protected] Type anonymous in the user name of the dialog. You'll be connected to the folder. All the usual Konqueror operations open to files will be available. You may want to create a bookmark to the FTP server in Konqueror.

Options 1 and 2 are available simultaneously and you can use both of them at your convenience.

To sum up, although Fedora Core 5 isn't officially supported by VMWare due to the steps outlines we got the same functionality for a shared folder as for officially supported systems. And only free and Open Source products were used besides VMWare 5 and no configuration files were changed.

What If You Want To Exchange Big Files This exchange won't be done "on the fly" by using a shared folder, but you can do it without rebooting any operating systems.

If you invest under $100 in an external USB 2 HDD (say 40GB-60GB) and you have a free USB2 port available (or buy a USB2 hub), you'll be able to exchange really big files between Fedora Core 5 and XP. Suppose you use, say, a 60GB USB2 external HDD for data exchange together with another external 200 GB USB2 HDD in which VM with Fedora Core 5 resides. Here's how to do it.

Plug your 60 GB USB2 external HDD into a free USB2 port. For it to be captured by XP click on the Safely Remove Hardware icon. After you see the message "Safe to remove hardware," unplug it, make VM capture the cursor, and then plug the device in again. Now Fedora Core 5 will capture it and you'll see the icon that represents the device under the computer folder. To let Windows capture it again one has to unmount the folder that represents the device and unplug it. Then you have to release the cursor from VM to XP and then plug the device in again. When the device is captured either by Fedora Core 5 or by Windows you can work with it as you usually do for these operating systems (copy files to and from device, delete, and rename files, etc.).


More Stories By Anatoly Krivitsky

Anatoly Krivitsky has a PhD in computer science and has more than 24 years of working experience in the IT field. He's the author of 20 published papers and books and five patents. For more information, please visit http://www.myjavaserver.com/~akrivitsky/index.html.

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