Laptop With Virtual Issues

My 5 year old Tecra M2’s hinge gave out rendering it useless for travel and meetings so I started sourcing a new laptop.

I was surprised how complex buying a laptop can be these days, companies like Toshiba have dozens of models with minor differences in CPU speed and feature set.

I finally settled on a 2GHz Satellite Pro A300 with 4GB RAM, 320GB HDD and 15.4″ 1280×800 widescreen. I would have preferred something physically smaller but the high resolutions and smaller screens just wont work for me and my vision.

All seemed nice; I duly wiped Vista and “downgraded” to the provided XP32. I know I’m wasting 1GB of RAM with a 32 bit OS but I plan to take it to Windows 7 64 bit which Toshiba had better support!

Running Steve Gibson’s securable revealed something nasty. The 7350 Core2Duo CPU doesn’t support hardware virtualisation. ARGH! Something I never thought to check for, having assumed any recent Intel chip would support it.

Performance wise it didn’t worry me much, VMWare’s binary translation works fantastically for me. But it meant I would not be running 64 bit VMs on it.

Without hardware virtualisation support, you cannot run a 64 bit VM on any host – 32 or 64 bit – with either VMWare or VirtualBox.

The binary emulation layers simply haven’t been written for the 64 bit opcodes, not with the availability of hardware virtualisation on most modern CPUs. Except mine.

Fortunately I don’t need to do much in 64 bit apart from test 64 bit builds of Planimate®. I can compile them from a 32bit OS at least. I had partitioned the drive so I had a handy alternate OS partition. I did a test-install of XP64 on it and it works fine. So… if I’m on the road and really need a 64 bit OS, I have one available though none of the Toshiba tools will run under it.

Apart from that and the weight of the 15.4″ screen (and the chunky power supply) I’m happy with the laptop. It was well priced so I was able to get a second screen and extended warranty for it.