Run desktop environment on guest VM in cloonix network simulator

August 3, 2014 — 1 Comment

The Cloonix open-source network simulator uses the Spice remote desktop system to provide a virtual desktop connection to quest virtual machines that run a graphical user interface, such as Microsoft Windows or a Linux desktop environment.

To use a graphical desktop user interface on a guest VM, we access the VM using the Spice desktop console.

Guest VM requirements

We must be running a guest VM that has a desktop environment installed and the Spice server installed.

We already upgraded a root filesystem with the XFCE desktop in a previous post. So, in this example, we will use that filesystem, which is named jessie-networking-xfce.qcow2 and is saved in the cloonix bulk directory.

Start the guest VM

Start the cloonix graph interface (see instructions for starting cloonix). Configure the VM object to load the jessie-networking-xfce.qcow2 filesystem.

Configure VM to use filesystem with desktop already installed

Configure VM to use filesystem with desktop already installed

Then drag the VM object onto the graph interface so it starts up.

A Cloonix guest VM is now running

A Cloonix guest VM is now running

Use Spice to connect to the guest VM

Right-click on the VM and select the Open Spice desktop menu command.

Open the Spice desktop console on the guest VM

Open the Spice desktop console on the guest VM

The Spice console will start. Press return to get a prompt.

The spice desktop console

The spice desktop console

To start the XFCE desktop environment, type the following command in the spice console:1

# startx

Click on “Use default” when asked which setup to use. Now the spice console will show the graphical desktop environment.

Cloonix VM and the spice console

Cloonix VM and the spice console

We can now run any program in the virtual machine that requires a graphical user interface such as a web browser, Wireshark, or a network management application.

Managing the Spice console

Note that the title bar of the Spice console window shows the name of the guest VM.

If you need to return control to the host computer, use the Shift-F12 key combination to free up the captured mouse, or to escape from full-screen mode.

Conclusion

We can use Spice to run GUI programs on a guest VM running in a network simulation. This would be useful for testing a Windows client in a network simulation scenario. It would also be useful for running a GUI program such as a network management program in a Linux desktop environment.

On my laptop computer (a 5-year-old Lenovo T400), I found performance to be a bit slow, but still usable.


  1. From https://wiki.debian.org/Xfce#Run_Xfce 

One response to Run desktop environment on guest VM in cloonix network simulator

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