Installing Linux on Virtual PC

In my pursuits to rid myself of the Microsoft beast, I’ve added a book to my collection (Setting up LAMP: Getting Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP Working Together), and decided to install Fedora Core 4 on a virtual machine, using Microsoft’s Virtual PC.

I’ve used Virtual PC in the past with no problems, but this was my first foray into using it to run a non-Microsoft operating system. It was intriguing, to say the least…

  • I downloaded the DVD ISO for Fedora. Virtual PC can capture ISO images — but not all ISO images — only CD-ROM ISO images. No problem, I was going to burn it to a DVD anyway.
  • I decided to run an integrity check on the DVD (this is a feature of the Fedora installer). It took about 16 hours. Fortunately, it passed.
  • The rest of the installation actually went smooth. (Note that I installed in text mode, not in graphical mode.)
  • The X Windows session wouldn’t render properly in Virtual PC. It resized the VPC window to a wacky resolution like 1600×800, and the graphics were garbled and unreadable. No amount of tweaking my monitor settings or Virtual PC’s settings fixed this.

In searching for a solution, I stumbled across What Works and What Doesn’t in Microsoft Virtual PC 2004, which turned out to be a valuable resource of information, even though none of the suggested solutions worked. What did work (and I submitted this tip to the operator of the aforementioned Web site, Jonathan Maltz) is the following, which essentially tells Linux to boot into text mode instead of GUI mode (i.e. X Windows).

  • Download the Fedora Core 4 recovery CD.
  • Boot your Fedora virtual machine with the recovery CD.
  • Let the recovery CD mount your Fedora system.
  • Edit the file /mnt/sysimage/etcinittab, by changing the line which reads id:5:initdefault: to id:3:initdefault:. The 5 tells Linux to load into GUI mode; changing this to 3 tells Linux to load into text mode. (For more information, read How do I start in text-only mode (no graphical environment)?)

I haven’t tried messing with X further on this installation, but will post more notes when I do.

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