Evaluate Windows 8 in VirtualBox running on openSUSE Linux

Being a die-hard Linux user I have tried to eliminate Microsoft products from my life. Unfortunately I've not been totally successful, and I still have recourse to using a few software packages that are only available on the Windows platform. Therefore I have three options - (1) Use a second machine to run the Windows apps, (2) Reboot my Linux machine into a Windows partition, (3) Run a VirtualBox in Linux, and in that VirtualBox have a copy of Windows running. Clearly option (3) is the best solution, and this tutorial provides the steps required to install Windows 8 in a VirtualBox under openSUSE, my own particular favourite flavour of Linux.

The beauty of VirtualBox is it quickly allows an evaluation of an operating system to check whether it matches requirements, and since Windows 8 costs real money it is not a decision I'll take lightly. So my requirements are Windows 8 in VirtualBox must be able to:

  • Connect to my local FreeNAS server which is my central repository for all my personal data. My own cloud computing in my spare room
  • Accept input from my USB barcode scanner for when I scan books into my BookCAT collection
  • Apropos the above, be able to run the Windows apps BookCAT (for my book collection) and Photoshop

I have promised myself that should all those requirements be met, I'll invest in my own legal copy of MS Windows 8. So, on with the tutorial!

Install VirtualBox
Firstly, you will need a copy of the GPL licensed VirtualBox on your machine. I am undertaking this tutorial using openSUSE, and one of the reasons for this is I like the very user friendly Yast utility for system administration. It is a breeze to install software and all its dependencies. The VirtualBox images are held in the standard openSUSE repositories. Couldn't be simpler!

Download Windows 8
An evaluation copy of MS Windows 8 is available for 90 days before it expires. There are all sorts of restrictions to this, primarily the evaluation copy cannot be upgraded later and thus any post-installation configuration will be lost. No matter for me. Also worth noting is you will need a Microsoft account somewhere before you are allowed to download Windows. It can be downloaded from http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-gb/evalcenter/jj554510.aspx. Once you have downloaded it, the file (which is an iso image) will need to be burnt to DVD. I used the KDE application k2b for this, although there are many utilities to do this.

Run VirtualBox
Next start up VirtualBox since we are ready to start the build, and you will see the screen on the right.

Run VirtualBox
Click on New and add a name to your virtual machine. I tried Windows 8 and rather cleverly the selection boxes underneath selected the correct options for me Smile

I adjusted the memory slider to share the available memory between Linux and Windows. I'm tempted to buy additional memory for my laptop now - maybe an upgrade to 8GB could be in order?

Here I am saying I would like to configure later an amount of disk space reserved for this installation.

Disk choice
The type of disk required may vary depending upon your circumstances, but I went for a Virtual Hard Disk

Disk size
I elected to set a precise amount of disk space.

Disk location
Here you will need to specify the location of the disk drive and how much you want to allocate. Unless you are planning on installing loads of apps for your evaluation, there isn't much point in overstating the size. I went for 25GB which will be more than adequate.

Here's the summary screen so be sure to check everything matches your needs before clicking create

The VirtualBox instance will now be created and you'll see it listed down the lefthand side

first Run
Click on Start and the Windows installation is under way! The first time wizard dialog will be presented

Select media
Select the drive which has your DVD iso image. In my case, there's a choice of one!

Summary media
A pre-flight summary screen before you light the blue touch paper

Select Country
The Windows 8 installation starts and you will be presented with the country select options. As usual, there is no English (United Kingdom) language option. Shameful, Microsoft!

You can of course read all the Terms and Conditions before you accept Smile

Next you will see a compatibility report. Treat this as an aide memoire - you will need to remove the installation disk once the install process is completed or else it will attempt a second install over your previous one

Install Disk
Remember that 25GB we allocated for our hard disk? This is where we select it.

Copying files
The installation process commences and all the files are copied over to your hard disk. This will take some time so go and put the kettle on

Give your Windows 8 installation a name. It took me a couple of attempts to invent one that was valid and fitted in the character limits and restrictions

Express Settings
I couldn't see a compelling reason for doing anything other than Use Express Settings here. Your mileage may vary, if so you may wish to experiment with . If you do and stuff up, you can always delete your virtual machine and go again

Sign-inI guess this is the way operating systems are going, but I can't say I'm particularly comfortable about it. I needed to sign in using my Microsoft account. I took a couple of goes to get it right as you can see

Installing appsA rather pleasing colour changing screen now appears as the apps are installed on the machine.

StartAnd here we are - Windows 8 starts up. The odd thing is the system knows I am UK based and sets the contextual news correctly, but rather goes adrift with the weather!

Click on the Desktop and you will duly arrive on the desktop! Smile

For those following this tutorial with the intention of getting Windows up and running, you have succeeded! Smile I however have other criteria - I need to connect to my FreeNAS server on my local network. To do this, click on the folder icon and once the files / folders come up and right click on the Network and then click on Map network drive

Map network drive
Empirically I noticed that no matter which configuration I went for, Windows 8 simply would not discover my FreeNAS server in the workgroup WORKGROUP and show a clickable icon. So I had to put the IP address and the share name in manually. If you don't have permissions to log onto this share, you will be presented (as I was) with a further dialog box requesting a user name and password.

Mapped network drive
Yippee Laughing out loud I have now connected to my FreeNAS server and I can see my directory listing. So, one of my criteria has been met!

I now installed BookCAT - the Windows book cataloguing software and the primary driver for this entire exercise. The next test was to plug my USB barcode scanner and scan the barcode of a book into BookCAT. All being well it will recognise the code as a valid ISBN and download the book details from Amazon. This went very well with only a minor problem - the first scan from the device issued an addition '9' at the front of the ISBN. Subsequent scans were ok. I have no idea why this is the case, but it is such a trivial inconvenience I am more than happy to forget about it. No point in wasting time investigating.

And here is the final image - Windows 8 happily sitting in its own window in a VirtualBox running under openSUSE Linux. It's Alchemy!! But it's also an excellent tool to enable for instance cross browser compatibility for web developers such as myself.