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Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)

Q: How can I import a Virtual Machine to the Userful host?

To import a VM image, you must first export an existing VM. This can be done directly in VirtualBox, preferably on your personal PC. See VirtualBox's documentation on the topic.

You can then copy the exported .ova file to the “/shared-files” folder of the Userful host (configured via the Control Center), then open Control Center > VMs, click the “Import VM image” button, and wait for the operation to complete.

Q: What is an OVA file?

An OVA is a Virtual Appliance, or virtual machine, complete with all customization and settings (including memory allocation and network configuration). The most common file format for virtual appliances is Open Virtualization Format (OVF), which is not specific to any system architecture. An OVF package is a directory containing several files; for ease of copying and redistributing, OVF packages are often compressed with the tar utility into a single .ova file.

Q: How can I clone a Master VM?

A key advantage of Userful's design is that cloning is automatic and quick; clones are copied from "known good" virtual machine master images known as Golden Masters. When a Master virtual machine is mapped to a display, a clone is created automatically for each display. Cloned VMs can be viewed and managed within the Oracle VM VirtualBox Manager. For more information, please visit Virtual Machines.

Q: Can I use Windows® 10 in the VDI solution?

Userful has tested and certifies the following operating systems for the VDI solution:

  • Windows® 7
  • Windows® 8
  • Windows® 8.1
  • Windows® 10

Q: Can I virtualize Windows 95 and Windows 98 with Userful?

While we don't provide official support for these, depending on your use case and peripheral needs it should be feasible to run the full list of "Community Supported" Guest OSes supported by VirtualBox.

For more info, visit Virtualbox Guest OS Status Page and Forum Virtual Box Veiwtopic. Please note that there are no Guest Additions available for Win95/98, so USB keys and USB pass-thru won't work and you will need to manually set the display resolution of the Windows guest OS to match the selected display size. Other than this, it should likely work for keyboard/video/mouse/audio. If the customer downloads and tests their application running under Win95/98 in VirtualBox (a free download from VirtualBox.org) and it works, then it should work fine using our infrastructure too.

Q: I want to copy file from VM environment to a USB key. How can I achieve this?

USB devices plugged into the zero client device will be automatically passed through to the virtualized Windows environment, but the process is not instantaneous. Please be patient, and avoid repeatedly (and rapidly) plugging and unplugging USB keys as this can cause system instability.

Q: My VM is sluggish and unresponsive, can I recreate the Master VM to improve performance?

Absolutely, as the user who owns the VMs, log onto the Userful host.

  • Launch Control Center and navigate to the VMs tab
  • Delete the master VM by clicking the "Delete VM" button under Master Virtual Machines Summary
  • Recreate the master VM by clicking Import VM Image button under VM Images in "/shared-files" folder

Once all the displays power back on, the system will begin re-cloning VMs from the recreated master.

Q: How do I install Guest Additions after creating a Master VM?

To install Guest Additions, you must work within a running VM. Login to Linux Desktop as "userful-vdiuser". This is the user account who owns the VM.

  • Launch Applications > System Tools > Oracle VM VirtualBox Manager
  • Select the Master VM and click "Start"
  • Use the VirtualBox Menu Bar and go to Devices > Install Guest Additions
  • Follow the on-screen prompts to complete the installation. For detailed help installing Guest Additions, please see VirtualBox documentation.

For a complete list of Guest OSes with supported Guest Additions, visit the VirtualBox Guest OS Status Page.

Q: Can I install Userful on a system with Windows Server as a base OS?

Though this might be technically possible, this is not currently a supported or recommended configuration.

Q: Do I require a separate license for the integrated Hypervisor (Oracle VirtualBox)?

No, the VirtualBox Hypervisor is included and seamlessly integrated into Userful. You don't need to purchase, install, license, or manage it separately. VirtualBox is open-source and licensed under the GPL. Since VirtualBox is cross-platform and available freely, you can download and install a copy of VirtualBox on your Windows, Mac or Linux desktop to create and manage your golden master virtual machine images.

Q: Do I require a separate license for the optional Oracle VirtualBox Extensions?

The VirtualBox extensions are optional but are licensed and distributed directly by Oracle. We link to these extensions within the Control Center, but these are not distributed or included with Userful software appliance. These extensions are covered under Oracle's PUEL license and as clarified in this FAQ. The PUEL enables free Personal, Educational, or Evaluation use. The details are spelled out in the license. Personal and Educational use is quite clear, Commercial evaluation is a bit of a grey area, but basically commercial customers can evaluate the extensions without cost or complexity for a "reasonable period", after which they will need to purchase a commercial license. If you would like to purchase a license for a large commercial deployment you can purchase these either from Userful or from Oracle.

Q: What VDI features depend on having the VirtualBox extensions?

All of the native sources (Browser kiosk, Signage player, Cloud Desktop, etc.) have no requirement for the extensions. The VirtualBox extensions are only helpful when you are running VDI sessions. The features that require the VirtualBox Extensions include:

  • Dynamic Desktop Resizing automatically resizes the Windows desktop resolution to match the detected monitor size. Without the VirtualBox extensions, administrators will need to use consistent monitor sizes across all their displays and also manually set the correct display size within their golden master image.
  • USB Pass Through Enables USB devices to be accessed directly by the Windows virtual machine. Other USB devices (flash drives, some touch screens, etc.) would not be accessible from within Windows without the extensions.
  • Userful Shared Files Storage forwarding enables virtual machine users to access the shared files feature from within Windows. This is useful if you want to automatically enable both Windows and native desktops to read and write from the same shared storage area on the Userful host and manage this storage from within the Control Center. However again administrators who prefer not to use the extensions after the evaluation period can still manually mount the network share within their golden master image.

Q: Can I successfully implement the VDI solution without buying the optional VirtualBox Extensions?

Yes, While the extensions are strongly recommended during initial evaluation, many commercial virtual desktops deployment scenarios work just fine without the extensions. Educational and Personal use customers have free access to the extensions, for commercial customers the decision really comes down to if you need USB key access from within Windows.

Q: Do I need to allocate an IP address for each VM as well as each zero client?

No. Userful can be operated while consuming as few as one IP address within your network for the Userful host. There are several ways of running the zero clients within your network. The Userful host needs to be part of your network, and would require its own IP address. However, it is recommended that you isolate all zero clients to their own subnet. This can easily be done by using a 2nd NIC in the Userful host, and plugging that directly into a dedicated switch that connects all the zero client. The Userful host transparently handles all IP address generation required for operation of the virtual desktops (most of our deployments do actually use NAT for the VMs and it works quite well). With this setup, VMs are isolated from the main network. Of course, from your main network all user-generated Internet traffic for all users will appear to be originating from the single server IP address of the server, but this is typical of most thin client deployments. There are numerous approaches to network setup, but this one is arguably the simplest and cleanest and is the one we recommend for customers who are concerned about minimizing network bandwidth and IP address space.

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