For a while, I kept an old 733MHz computer in my rack to use as a test box, where I could play with various software without needing to worry that what I was doing could cause problems for my desktop. I have not used it in a while, but I decided that having a physical test machine is unecessary for what I generally want to test. So I decided to create a set of Gentoo virtual machines in VirtualBox (version 2.2.2) so that I could run software in an isolated environment and easily be able to start again from a clean state if necessary. Following the article on the Gentoo Wiki was helpful, but was not complete.
The first issue is the naming of the hard disk block device. The minimal live CD detects the drive as /dev/hda however, using the driver suggested in the wiki will detect the drive as /dev/sda. This is not a big problem so long as you make sure to use sda in /etc/fstab and in the GRUB configuration. I’m sure there is a reasonable explanation for why this happened, but this was the simplest solution that I could think of.
Now that I have a basic, clean Gentoo install, I make two copies. The first is a backup of the virtual machine without any extra programs installed. This will let me install any program from the state of a brand new Gentoo install. The second, copy is the same as the first, but with the addition of X and XFCE, so I can play with graphical programs without compiling X every time. Virtualbox supports creating snapshots of the virtual machine hard drive, so I can revert the machine to the last state before the software I’m testing was installed.
Now that everything is working, it’s time to start testing. First up will be XFCE 4.6.