Folks, this is how it’s done.
Oracle may not be our favorite company, but this is one thing you will not want to miss: Oracle’s Virtual Box VM. It’s free.
You will need to install the
kernel-devel package and all the dependencies. You’ll also need the
dkms from EPEL, so be sure to enable that respository. What
dkms does is allow kernel modules to follow updates to newer kernels.
Download the correct version of Virtual Box; it will list CentOS 7 with a link to the RPM. You’ll need your root credentials to install using Yum on the CLI. What happens is that the package builds itself on your machine and creates several kernel modules. It will take a good long while as the system is quite busy in the background.
I got errors from SELinux about attempts by ldconfig to write to some directory. You’ll have them show up in little GUI popups and on the console after it’s installed you’ll see this:
Trying to register the VirtualBox kernel modules using DKMSldconfig: Can't create temporary cache file /etc/ld.so.cache~: Permission denied ldconfig exited ungracefully ldconfig: Can't create temporary cache file /etc/ld.so.cache~: Permission denied ldconfig exited ungracefully ldconfig: Can't create temporary cache file /etc/ld.so.cache~: Permission denied ldconfig exited ungracefully
So far as I can tell, it has no effect on the outcomes, so just be aware that this represents how strongly SELinux protects you from unwanted changes to your system.
Also notice the message about adding your user account to the
vboxusers group. While still logged in as root, simply edit the file
/etc/group. Scroll down to the last item on the list, which should be
vboxusers and simply add your user account name at the end of the line.
Launch from the main menu: System > Oracle VM Virtual Box. Upon first running the thing you’ll discover this is a very intelligent tool and much easier to use than Qemu.
You create the machine first and get it running before you install. I didn’t think 192MB was enough RAM for Windows XP. Depending on your system, you may not be able to give your VM multiple cores on the CPU. If you can’t, you’ll get errors about not having AMD-V enabled in the BIOS. My Win8 laptop was like that. However, I was able to link the machine to my own home folders right from the start; I selected the automount option and browsed to a Projects folder where I need to use MS Office. You really need to take your time and explore the various options in this manager window.
The display is considerably less laggy than Qemu. Once you install the Guest Additions, it becomes even less so. You can fix a lot of niggling issues like display, making your VM respond automatically to window resizing and such. Under the VM menu, see “Devices” and select the last item at the bottom to automatically mount the virtual ISO image and get those extra drivers so that everything can be smooth and unified in use.
A very handy feature is the row of icons across the lower right side of the window when the VM is running. You can connect and disconnect from the host USB, CD/DVD drives, etc. with ease. From the menu, you can elect to connect or disconnect things like the network connection. So you can, for example, keep your vulnerable XP VM from the Internet.
It’s pretty easy to export your VMs and reimport them on other machines running Virtual Box.
Install a Windows VM on CentOS/RHEL 7 using QEMU — this is the hard way.
VMware won’t build properly on CentOS 7 and all of the suggest fixes failed. The simplest answer is using the included virtual machine, QEMU.
See this quickstart guide first. Sadly, they don’t tell you to install libvirt:
yum install libvirt
Then, turn on the libvirt service:
systemctl enable libvirtd.service
systemctl start libvirtd.service
It still won’t run properly, so reboot!
Whatever OS you wish to install, extract an ISO image from CD/DVD. This way you won’t have to fight permissions. This is true of everything you want to use with your VM. There are various ways to pull off the CD/DVD into an ISO.
Sine I’m running KDE, it’s simplest to use K3B. Select the option to copy your CD/DVD and on the “Options” tab, check the box for “Only create image.” Also, click the “Image” tab because you may want to move the image from the default location up in the
/tmp/ directory. Click the folder icon button and select someplace like your home folder.
When you open the Qemu manager (in the main menu under “System > Virtual Machine Manager”) you’ll be prompted for root credentials. It won’t run in user mode.
I didn’t have much luck installing XP; it kept hanging and entering a race condition. Win2K worked fine for this experiment.
Click the button for a new machine. Give it a name like “win2k”. Select to install from “Local install media” then on the next tab choose “ISO image” and navigate to where you had K3B save it. Select OS type and version. I had to tell Qemu to show me all the options for Windows before it listed “Windows 2000″.
The defaults for RAM and CPU are okay, but you can double the CPU if your machine actually has two or more cores and you think you’ll need it. The defaults for storage are probably fine unless you know you need a big storage space.
The rest is a matter of having installed Windows a time or two. There may be some errors flash on the screen at times, but unless they persist, they don’t mean anything. Play with the settings; I found the Cirrus display gave me a lot more screen real estate.
Qemu is downright cranky and sometimes cryptic. I had to manually tell it to add a USB passthrough option so I could connect a jump drive to the VM. Unlike other VMs, Qemu will not make it easy to link the VM to your host file system. You’d have to run a file server (Samba for Windows VMs) and connect through the virtual network link. Worst of all, it takes lots of system resources to run any 32-bit VM and it’s quite laggy, so if you intend to use it a lot, you’ll have to be ready for that. I don’t recommend Qemu for Windows VMs.
CentOS is a lot smarter than you might expect. It knows when it is connected to a home router. The new firewall quickly adjusts and generally does the right thing.
However, it won’t automatically allow you to link to the other computers on your home network. It’s defensive by nature and pretty tight. Once you tell the firewall things are okay for this or that, it will relax just a bit.
Let’s say that you have at least one other computer on your home network running Windows. This is not about Windows, so you’ll have to research how, but your Winbox can share files and any peripherals attached to it with your CentOS 7 machine (start by reading this for XP/Vist and this for Win7). The nickname for the protocol Linux uses to talk to Windows is called “Samba” which is taken from the abbreviation SMB (server message block). By default, it’s likely your CentOS machine is running a Samba client. It simply needs permission from the firewall to use it on the home network.
In your main menu, find the system administration tool for the firewall. It will demand your root credentials. The window that will open is pretty complicated, but we only need to worry about one thing: In the window pane on the left, select “home” — it’s the zone of operations CentOS knows comes from home networking traffic. In the window pane on the right, scroll down to find “samba-client” and select that box. The firewall immediately opens that channel for traffic only inside the router network.
Now test it by opening your file browser window. Look for something that indicates the Network connections and click that. Find the icon for Samba shares. Click and it should offer you a list of the Windows networks. By default, Windows computers will be set up to use “workgroup” as the name for this. Click that icon and you should find a list of Windows computers within that default workgroup. If you attempt to connect to any Windows “host” listed there with whatever name you gave it when you set it up (like “winbox”), you’ll need a name and password for any of the accounts on that machine. You can have your file browser window remember the password so you can log on at will. Once logged in, you can browse the file system as if it were your own on CentOS.
I’m not going to detail here the chase to find printer drivers for Linux; it’s pretty complicated. CentOS 7 comes with most of those available. You can find more at this page. Also, note that several major printer manufacturers have begun offering their own special Linux drivers, so do your own research. So let’s assume for now you know you have a Linux driver for a printer connected to your Winbox.
When you run the printer setup tool on CentOS, one of the options is a network printer using Samba (SMB). Click that option and fill in the information as required for your Windows Samba share. This assumes you’ve set up things on your Winbox to share and have given the printer share a simple name — I used “winprint.” Thus, it was a simple matter of
smb://winbox/winprint for me. Then I chose the appropriate driver and set it up using the tool on CentOS. I was able to print a test page in just a couple of minutes.
The key was simply getting the firewall to open up for the samba client.
Where computer technology is concerned, my whole mission is enabling the transmission of truth. Anything that hinders that is my enemy, and anything that helps is an ally. That doesn’t make any part of computer technology itself evil or sacred, only useful or not.
So using Windows isn’t evil, but it does bear a measured risk. It’s bad enough that none of us can really stop the NSA if they are determined to tap into our systems. Yes, your choice of OS and software will determine how easily they do that, but unless you write your own OS and make your own hardware from scratch, they already know enough about what’s out there to crack in one way or another. Most of the time, simply scooping up the transmission once it’s on the Net is enough for their evil purposes. Windows just makes it simpler for them to actually create a presence on your system.
But Windows is the dominant OS and for any number of reasons also the easiest to crack. So while the average user prefers it, so does the NSA and the crooks. The point here in my computer ministry is to make sure you are aware of the risks, and to encourage folks to opt out of the dominant ecosystem if possible. It really depends on how much effort and resource God allows you to invest in the issue itself.
It’s been a quiet few days. I spent the time upgrading my laptop to stronger network diagnostic and recovery tools, starting with installing CentOS 7. It’s currently all 64-bit, with none of the typical 32-bit support for now. This is a first among the Red Hat clones. The CentOS team is working on the 32-bit stuff, but some of the packages are tricky. They’ll announce the release of the 32-bit version (“i686″) as soon as it works.
Debian is still the very best way to learn Linux. However, some folks need the shortest path to something that works with lots of hand-holding, and that would be Kubuntu. I still like OpenSUSE, but it’s a little tougher. For serious work among Westerners, I recommend CentOS. You can use my introductory book on CentOS 6, the previous release. I don’t think I’ll be writing a new guide to cover 7, but will post a few notes here.
If you haven’t chosen an AV client for your Windows computer, I am now favoring BitDefender Free. For a malware cleaner, I’ve been experiencing trouble with Malwarebytes lately, and I’ve found that Super Anti-Spyware catches things the others missed.
Finally, Revo Uninstaller is a great tool for total removal of anything the spyware removers miss. What happens is most of this crap gets bundled and when you remove the critical gatekeeper package, the other junk won’t uninstall cleanly, if at all. Revo can wipe it all away and remove every trace of it, including Registry entries.
Remember, if it has “toolbar” in the name, you don’t want it.
I was hoping something interesting would happen during the past few days, but I must have missed it.
We got one of those scam calls from someone claiming that our Windows computer was sending out bogus data, or something like that. You know, voices that tell you they are in some call center in Pakistan, India or some other similar place. My wife turned it over to me in case I wanted to have some fun. I told the fellow we didn’t run Windows, only Linux. He said he was switching me over to their Linux department but I hung up because I was too busy to test the idiocy of the caller.
Meanwhile, for lack of anything better to do I’ve been reading about computer forensics. That’s mostly trying to identify and preserve data on a computer as evidence, but the skills can be applied in all kinds of interesting ways. Some parts of what I do overlaps into forensics, but I’m mostly identifying how the victim’s system was abused. I had to get really aggressive with this last client, chasing down running processes and deleting entire software directories. Normally I stop with running an appropriate malware scanner, but this time I had to make sure every trace was gone. Then I still had to fight with the router.
It turns out Windows 8 isn’t that much harder than Windows 7 for that sort of thing. The big problem is that the interface defaults to that stupid cellphone layout, but I’m figuring out how to avoid that crap. Otherwise, most of the chores are the same when cleaning up a system.
CentOS has released their clone of RHEL 7 this week. I’m waiting to see if someone packages XFCE or Mate for it. Otherwise, it won’t be on any of my systems.
But I’m praying I can expand my computer ministry to cover more folks. In the past, typical advertising did nothing, so whatever I do has to be different from that.
And here I was thinking I might start pulling out of the computer ministry soon.
I’m a low-level amateur technician. Not an expert, just a guy in the neighborhood who knows a little more than you do. Because of this, I tend to do quite a bit of computer fixing. Since I generally managed to do well enough and actually help people, I started working it as a computer tech support ministry.
After reading up on what the professional technicians do, I found there wasn’t a really big difference. I try to keep up with this stuff because I can’t see people spending hundreds of dollars when I can do the same thing. I’ve referred people to the professionals often enough when it was something I couldn’t fix, so I don’t pretend to be a real expert.
Today was pushing my limits. A friend called and had some pop-ups. We uninstalled some stuff I knew was advertising and tracking spyware. Then the fight got started. There were alerts from her anti-virus. While it had not identified the source of trouble, it was catching stuff that the “gate keeper” was pulling in to keep all that infestation alive.
So I ran Malwarebytes and it found some 1200 harmful items. Upon reboot there was some freebie junk popping up from when the client had run the ISP’s connection wizard. That had not been visible before, so we uninstalled it and I noticed some more stuff that had been previously hidden. More removals, plus I installed CCleaner because it has some interesting tools. Wiped the browser cache and did a Registry clean, too (saved the Registry backup, of course). Found some more stuff to uninstall.
Upon another reboot, she couldn’t connect to the Net. Seems she had been hijacked into an internal proxy and that had been removed. Disabled the proxy setting, but then I found out her router had also been fiddled with, so I did a factory reset. But to fix it required I connect her system directly to the Net through the cable modem, something generally risky without a good firewall. Found all the details on the router — nobody keeps the boxes and paperwork, of course. Performed the reset and changed all the passwords and settings and ran the cable modem reset again.
Finally, it’s all up and running as it should be.
This is just what happens from a rather pedestrian drive-by download of malware for someone who simply does business online from her home office. No porn, no games or media downloads, just ordinary business stuff.
The malware was a collection of crap I’ve been seeing lately: We-Care, Systweak, Conduit, 24-7 PC Help, and a few others I can’t recall right now. When you see one, the others are usually there. I saw that same collection on a laptop recently, so I recognized it. More and more people are being hit with ever more serious crap. The stuff she noticed bugging her was bad enough, but the worst part was the unexpected hijackings of everything. The icon for her browser had a malware link as the default page on opening, so I had to edit the icon itself.
It’s getting crazy.