Using VMs in vCloud


Using Virtual Machines in vCloud

Purpose: To help students interact with their virtual machines (VMs) in vCloud.

Note: If this is your first time using vCloud, please see this article for instructions on accessing vCloud and making sure your system is configured correctly. For information on using specific browsers with vCloud, please see this article. For an overview of virtual machine terminology, see this article.

I. vCloud Basics: The vCloud portal allows CIS students to use VMs from any computer with an Internet connection. Once you have successfully logged into vCloud, you will see one or more vApps for you to choose from. A vApp is like a folder that contains your VMs for each CIS class.

To work with any of your vApps, you can either click the My Cloud button near the top of the window, or simply double-click the gray area surrounding the miniature screens for each vApp. Once you are within a specific vApp, you can interact with individual VMs by clicking the Virtual Machines tab near the top of the window. You will now see each VM listed separately.

II. Starting and Stopping VMs: When you use vCloud for the first time, all of your VMs will be in the Powered Off state. You can power on a VM by clicking once in the blank space on the VM's line and then clicking the green Power On button at the top of the VM list.

After a few seconds, the VM's status will change to Powered On, and you will be able to see a miniature view of the VM console in the black box on the left side. The other buttons at the top of the VM list allow you to Suspend (like sleep or hibernate), Power Off (like shutdown), and Reset (like restart) your VMs. Although you can power off and reset your VMs in this way, it is recommended that you perform such actions by interacting with them in the console (see section IV below).

III. VM Options: Each of your VMs can be configured individually. To access a VM's settings, simply right-click anywhere on the line for the VM. The context menu that appears provides VM-specific options.

Students will most often use this menu to insert virtual CD/DVD discs into their VMs. To insert a virtual disc into one of your VMs, open the VM context menu (shown above) and select Insert CD/DVD from Catalog... The Insert CD window pops up, showing a list of all the virtual CD/DVD discs available to your class. Select the desired virtual disc and click the Insert button to load the disc into your VM. You will now be able to use/install the contents of the virtual disc within a VM's console (see below).

IV. Using the VM Console: In order to actually use your VMs like real computers, you will need to open their console screens. The easiest way to do this is to click on the miniature console for any VM in your VM list. This will bring up a new browser window showing the actual screen of your VM. (Note: If you receive any error messages when you attempt to open a VM console, please see this article for assistance.)

Notice the VM Action Buttons in the upper-righthand corner of the console window. These buttons allow you to change the state of the VM (Power On, Suspend, Power Off, Reset), send a Ctrl-Alt-Delete command, and enable/disable full-screen mode. You can hover your mouse cursor over each button to discover its purpose. Enabling full-screen mode allows the console to fill up your entire monitor, which can make interacting with your VM easier. (Note: once you have clicked inside of the VM console, you may need to press the Ctrl-Alt keys on the left side of your keyboard together in order to draw the focus out of the VM console and back to your normal desktop.) 
To exit full-screen mode, move your cursor up to the top of the screen and click the small square icon on the blue bar. This will return the console to the size it was before you enabled full-screen mode.

You can close the console at any time by clicking on the X button at the top-righthand corner of the console window. This will close the window, but leave your VM running.
V. Taking Screenshots in vCloud: Taking screenshots in vCloud can be tricky, but it is possible. If you are using Windows 7 on your computer, the easiest way to take a screenshot is to use the Snipping Tool. You can open this tool by clicking on the Start Button and typing "snip" into the Search box. The snipping tool icon will appear, and clicking this icon will open the tool. The Snipping Tool has four different modes, as you can see in the screenshot below. The easiest way to get a screenshot of a specific part of your screen is to use the Rectangular Snip mode.
If you use another version of Windows, or you simply want to capture your entire screen, you can press the Print Screen (PrtSc) key on your keyboard and paste the image into your favorite imagine-editing program.

VI. Leaving vCloud:  When you have finished working with your VMs in vCloud, it is important to power them off. This helps reduce the amount of work that the vCloud servers have to do, and also allows your Windows VMs to install any Automatic Updates that may be waiting. The best way to power off your VMs is to shut them down in the console, just as you would with any physical computer. The next time you want to use your VMs, simply power them on again.