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For numerous good reasons (you know them best ;-) ) I am willing to switch my Notebook's OS from Windows 7 to Linux very soon. However since I am an absolute Linux beginner I am not committed to any distribution in particular yet (I use Debian at the moment).

I will have to work in a corporate Windows-environment so a reliable virtual machine is vital for my daily work. My work includes GPU-intense tasks on the windows system.

I would like to run Windows 7 64 Bit inside a VM on Linux preferrably with gnome desktop. What would be the best choice when it comes to the distribution and the VM application?

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Good question would be why do you switch from Windows. Both systems (Windows, Linux) have their positive and negative sides, and both are dissapointing, both are half-baked. Currently there is also a problem with DM on Linux -- you mentioned Gnome, but I hope you realize in what direction Gnome is going -- for many (including me) in wrong one. (The same applies to KDE). – greenoldman Sep 1 '11 at 5:18
up vote 0 down vote accepted

The distribution

Choosing the right distro for yourself is not an easy task but it is even more difficult to give help in this task to someone you don't know - there are simply too many variables involved. Unfortunately even if you ask people that are experienced Linux users, almost everyone will recommend to you the distro he/she uses him/herself - it is too individual.

I believe the best way is to take some online quiz like this one (or find other for comparison).

Based only on the factors you mentioned (speed, stability, beginner-level) the first thing that comes naturally to my mind is "not easy". All those factors more or less contradict each other. So you'd need to find a balance - based on what learning curve you are willing to accept and how you prioritize your needs. So just take some quiz(es) or shoot.

The VM

At this point, the choice is easier because there are only a few of those. If you want (like I did) a one that is free and easy to use - I'd recommend VirtualBox. Reading that you already used it on Windows, I see it is just an obvious choice.

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Thank you very much for pointing it out. I was afraid there wouldn't be a final answer on the distro side of things, so I'll stay with Debian and most likely will use VirtualBox. – Morris Aug 31 '11 at 20:02

Keep using Debian. It's considered to be as stable as Linux-based distributions get, and its development suites (Testing and Unstable) aren't too bad either.

I personally only ever used VirtualBox, and it's quite featureful and easy-to-use, but not exactly as stable as I hoped it would be (maybe because I'm running Unstable :). That it has a snapshot feature makes the complaint almost moot, unless you are going to be running an important server. Perhaps someone else would suggest a superior virtualisation option.

Note that more recent versions (4.x) of VirtualBox are available as backports, but I'd recommend you stay with the Stable version (3.x) since I've had better stability issues with it.

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I use VirtualBox a lot with Windows as host OS. I never had it running on Debian but I certainly like it for the nice GUI and ease of use, os I might go with this one… – Morris Aug 31 '11 at 10:41

I am not entirely sure, what did you meant by "GPU-intense tasks", but if you meant CAD and other 3D apps that require no higher than DirectX 9 or OpenGL 2.1, then the latest VMware (Workstation or Player) could be a reasonable choice. Regarding the distribution, OpenSuse is suitable for beginners, features the Gnome desktop that you mentioned, and installing VMware on it is quite easy.

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There is no 3D involved, ist is mostly OpenGL features that will be used. – Morris Aug 31 '11 at 10:39

I think it is very hard to recommend something here. If you feel fine with Debian stay with it. For the right virtualization solution I would recommend KVM because it is well integrated into the kernel and it works in the same way as many other Linux tools. I have no idea how good it is when it comes to GPU related tasks. I'd just try it out.

Please also be aware that stability of an OS depends a lot on the hardware and the drivers for it.

BTW I am using KVM on openSUSE 11.4 without any issues.

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I would not recommend OS 11.4 to anyone -- I am long-time user of OS, but with this version something went terrible wrong, it crashes on copying files on big disks (over 2TB), and mplayer crashes a lot. Both bug reports are still open (meaning the bugs are not fixed): bugzilla.novell.com/show_bug.cgi?id=684752 and bugzilla.novell.com/show_bug.cgi?id=687894 – greenoldman Sep 1 '11 at 5:15
Just a wild guess: this sounds like a driver or hardware issue. – klapaucius Sep 1 '11 at 13:20
what can I say, I have smile all over my face -- in short you said it was software or hardware issue :-D So your "guess" by definition is correct. – greenoldman Sep 1 '11 at 17:11

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