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My Ether Installation Method

I've gotten a few emails from people asking questions about how to install Ether. I thought I would put some very rough notes together for my general method to install it. Artem Dinaburg and crew have some good notes at the official Ether website but there are a few more things I do to get things rolling.

Here goes:

  1. Download the Debian AMD64 5.x net installation ISO and install it. Get your network card and configuration working.
  2. Install ONLY the linux-image-2.6.26-*-xen-amd6 package. You just want the kernel for this one. This is where I've gotten myself into trouble by installing the kernel source that comes with the patched Xen system.
  3. Download the Xen and the ether_ctl source and patch as described on the Ether installation instructions page.
  4. Install the Debian packages necessary to get the system up and running. I recently installed a system and this is the output of dpkg --get-selections command: ether_install_packages.log
    Hint: grep '[[:space:]]install$=' ether_install_packages.log| awk '{print $1}'| xargs aptitude install
  5. Start compilation of Ether in the following directories not the main xen-3.1.0-src directory
    1. cd xen ; make && make install
    2. cd ../tools ; make && make install
    3. cd firmware ; make && make install
  6. Edit the /boot/grub/menu.lst to have an entry that looks something like this (be sure to substitute your information):

    title Debian GNU/Linux, kernel 2.6.26-2-xen-amd64
    root (hd0,0)
    kernel /boot/xen-3.1.0.gz dom0_mem=1G
    module /boot/vmlinuz-2.6.26-2-xen-amd64 root=/dev/sda1 ro quiet
    module /boot/initrd.img-2.6.26-2-xen-amd64

  7. Reboot. You should see a Xen logo then your system will start up and look like normal.
  8. Make a Windows VM and follow the modification instructions on the Ether website.

That should be all it takes to get a working system up and running. While you're playing with Ether be sure to check out Vera as well.


  • 10/9/2009 - I've heard from a number of people that you may have to disable NX protection in your motherboard's BIOS to get this to work correctly.
  • 10/27/2009 - Updated to not need compilation of libdisasm, updated installed modules list

Making the VM

I should point out that I had a vicious time getting an XPSP2 CD to boot on the ether modified XEN. It would lock immediately every time. However, if I built the VM in a newer XEN and disabled all the PAE and NX options it would boot in the ether-XEN install.

Does the SP2 CD attempt to turn on PAE and NX in the installer? Or am I chasing ghosts....

Hey traetox, Could you share

Hey traetox,
Could you share your vm configuration file. I am having trouble with starting up the vm. It just terminates immediately and I can't even install XP. Thanks.


I had to install using a separate machine with an updated Xen.
Mine did the same thing, sometimes it terminated immediately sometimes it hung at installing scsi devices.

So, my advice to you is build the image in an updated XEN environment using one of the standard tutorials/configs. Then boot the disk image on the older and modified version of XEN.

I just talked with someone

I just talked with someone who said that you might have to disable the NX protection in the BIOS too. He's supposed to be getting back to me with the exact problem he had to fix.

When I got it working I just

When I got it working I just followed this guide:

The config file listed (the default one) is what I used. The big trick is to make sure you have only SP2, disabling multiple CPUs, DEP, and PAE. After that you should be good.

In your BH talk, didn't you

In your BH talk, didn't you state that you installed Debian Sarge? The ether install page says it has tested with Lenny and Etch. Can you recommend one over the other? (more stable, etc)

Use the latest version of

Use the latest version of Debian. That seems to be the most useful and stable version for me. By default stick with whatever the Ether page says to use.

If censure is applied in

If censure is applied in this site it should be said somewhere to be aware of it.

Why not "apt-get install libdisasm0"?

The tutorial mentions that libdisasm should be compiled "manually".

Just wondering: there are packages "libdisasm0" and "libdisasm-dev" in Lenny - any reason why compiling is prefered over using the packages?

Will there be any degraded functionality when I use "apt-get install"?

You can install it manually,

You can install it manually, that should work ok. I just didn't check for the package in Debian first but I should have.

I updated the instructions

I updated the instructions to install from the Debian source. Thanks.

Bluescreen on virtual machine?

Following the hints on the page I got Xen and Ether setup on two machines:
* First is a server with a Xeon CPU, RAM, HD and nothing extraordinary
* Second is a "home pc" with a Core Duo CPU and additional stuff like sound, USB, etc...

Xen/Ether works on the server, however on the home pc I get a Bluescreen of Death whenever I start a systrace for a specific program ("notepad.exe") and start that particular programm on the virtual machine.

In terms of software the setup is identical on both machines (even the Windows XP SP 2 image).

I´m really lost here why I get this Bluescreen with IRQ_LESS_OR_EQUAL nonsense on the home pc.

Any idea what might be going wrong or how I can troubleshoot?

Wild stab in the dark

I've heard from various people that turning off the no execute CPU feature in the BIOS helps with this. I haven't seen this issue on any systems I have installed so I haven't verified it.

Hmmmm ... did not work

When I enable "NX" in BIOS, the virtual machine does not start at all. So I had NX disabled all the time.

The bluescreen can not be prevented by toggling that setting.

In my despair, I even tried updating my mainboards BIOS to see if a BIOS bug might have been the problem.

So much about wildly stabbing in the dark :)

How old is the home machine?

How old is the home machine? Do you have the exact model number of the CPU?

Also in the bluescreen does it say what module it crashes in?


Here come the details

# cat /proc/cpuinfo says:
model name: Intel(R) Core(TM)2 CPU 6420@2.13GHz

Not even overclocked! :)

According to the prerequisites for Xen/Ether are OK.

There is no info on a module during the bluescreen (like for instance nvidia.sys), just DRIVER_IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL.

If you'd be willing to let

If you'd be willing to let me ssh into your box and look at things, I could check it out. Beyond that I'm not sure why it's working.

This problem was finally

This problem was finally worked out on the host system. Enabling NX in the main BIOS seemed to make things work.

I believe I have an Idea ...

Ether prerequisites state that Intel VT must be supported on the CPU.

According to my CPUs specs, the CoreDuo does have VT capabilities.

However: VT is not VT! According to only certain combinations of CPU and mainboard *truly* support VT.

Seems I have the wrong chipset on my mainboard.

Just for verification: Danny, what is the result of "xm dmesg | grep -i vt" and "xm dmesg | grep -i iommu" on your system?

Mine says:
- Nothing for "grep -i vt"
- Nothing for "grep -i iommu"

Seems I need new hardware :(

Nothing for both

snoosnoo:/var/log/xen# xm dmesg|grep -i vt

snoosnoo:/var/log/xen# xm dmesg|grep -i iommu

Here's my CPU info for one of my CPU's. Do you see vmx in your CPU flag?

snoosnoo:/var/log/xen# cat /proc/cpuinfo
processor : 0
vendor_id : GenuineIntel
cpu family : 6
model : 23
model name : Intel(R) Core(TM)2 Duo CPU E8400 @ 3.00GHz
stepping : 10
cpu MHz : 3000.012
cache size : 6144 KB
physical id : 0
siblings : 1
core id : 0
cpu cores : 1
apicid : 0
initial apicid : 0
fpu : yes
fpu_exception : yes
cpuid level : 13
wp : yes
flags : fpu tsc msr pae mce cx8 apic mtrr mca cmov pat pse36 clflush dts acpi mmx fxsr sse sse2 ss ht tm pbe syscall nx lm constant_tsc arch_perfmon pebs bts rep_good pni monitor ds_cpl vmx smx est tm2 ssse3 cx16 xtpr sse4_1 lahf_lm
bogomips : 6002.69
clflush size : 64
cache_alignment : 64
address sizes : 36 bits physical, 48 bits virtual
power management:

another tip for those with problems!

Regarding my failure to get xp booting on xen.... and I'm sure this is documented somewhere, but here was MY issue. Even though xend-config.sxp says that the default bridge name value is "xenbr0" it actually seemed to name mine "eth0". A simple "brctl show" lists the bridges on your machine, and this value should be the same as that in your 'vif' line in your config file. This cost me 3 days.

I don't know if the default value changed in some version update, but every config file out there had the value 'xenbr0' in the vif value but it only worked when I made mine 'eth0'.

For whatever it's worth to those out there..

Thank you for the few people that tried to help me out.

I have no scripting skills,

I have no scripting skills, but Danny's script to install packages up there wouldn't work on my machine until I got rid of the '=' character to result in:
grep '[[:space:]]install$' /home/user/quist_install_log.txt | awk '{print $1}' | xargs aptitude install

Freakin xp sp2 won't boot on my xen either.. 'xm create config' seems to work fine and my vm is listed in 'xm list', but no vnc screen ever appears and I have no way of seeing if anything is actually happening.. here is a snippet from my config:
cpus = "1" # all vcpus run on CPU1
vif = [ 'type=ioemu, mac=aa:cc:b0:00:00:11, bridge=xenbr0' ]
disk = [ 'file:/root/xpdisk.img,hda,w', 'file:/root/xp2.iso,hdc:cdrom,r' ]

Anyone want to throw me a bone? I guess I'll try building it on a newer version of xen like mentioned above in the meantime..


For WXP installation, current version of Xen is needed

Hi Yermak,

I tried to install Windows XP on Xen 3.1 but never got it working. I even messed around with the installation ISO of Windows and changed some boot.ini to contain "noexecute=alwaysoff" etc. ...

Don´t bother.

You definitily need to do the Windows installation on a more current version of Xen.

The installation can than be used for playing around with Xen/Ether after you do the downgrade to Xen 3.1.



Couple of things to try

Do you see your VM in the running VM lists? (specifically when you run "xm list" as root) The time should be increasing.

Could you paste a complete copy of your config screen? There are a couple things when omitted that will cause problems. Specifically for some reason Xen will compile without the hvmloader present and not really tell you that it's missing. If that's the case then be sure to compile the boot loader tools from above.

The other thing to check for is in the /etc/xen/xend-config.sxp you should have the two lines:

(vnc-listen '')
(vncpasswd '') # Set a password here

You might want to try troubleshooting with the log /var/log/xen/xend.log to see if there is anything there indicating an issue too.

Mailinglist ether-devel


I don´t know if you have noticed but there is an ether-devel Google Groups available know for discussing Ether stuff:

It´s been linked from



Zen under VMware?

Unfortunately, I have a primary environment of Windows XP x64. Is it possible to run Zen/Ether/Vera in this environment, either directly, or under Linux in a Vmware virtual machine? Or do I really need to dig up separate hardware?

You can run Vera in XP 64,

You can run Vera in XP 64, but you'll need separate hardware for Xen and Ether.

Startup freeze

Did anyone experience the problem, that after a successful win xp pro sp2 setup (on a 3.4 XEN - seperate machine) the startup on the ether machine freezes at the "If a previous startup attempt was interrupted ..." screen.

Are there some known solutions for this problem ?

OS: Debian Lenny
Hardware meets the requirements.
2 physical Machines (one with ether patched xen kernel, one with "normal" xen kernel for creating xen images)
PEA and NX off (and tried a lot of combinations), Multiple cpus "1"

Thx a lot