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VirtualBox is terrific

Posted by jrswift on January 30, 2008

Seems like most discussions about virtualisation in Linux focus either on VMWare or the Xen project. I do not claim to fully understand how these programs work but I have tried them both. I have to say that I could never get Xen to work at all. I’m sure that it is probably very good but I can’t say. VMWare seems nice enough. I downloaded the server from the website a few weeks back and was able to get it working reasonably well though it also had a few hiccups. Began to hear a bit about VirtualBox online so I decided to try it. I’m glad I did. Not going to make this into a full-fledged review but did want to make a few comments.

I just point out that my interest in virtualisation, at least at this point, is using it to try out various operating systems without having to fully install them on my hard drive. Not only did I have a lot of trouble getting Xen to work (I never did) but it seems to support a very limited number of different OS’s. VMWare does not have that problem and, in fact, has many prebuilt “appliances” on their website. If you don’t find what you want there, the VMWare server can create new appliances from a simple iso file. It is a pretty slick application but, while you can download it for free, it is not free and open-source software.

VirtualBox is open source software or at least most of it is. It is available in the Debian repository and the installation is pretty simple. There are a few tricks to getting it working smoothly and maybe I’ll talk about those in another posting but it really works well and I’ve had few glitches. Have used it to install Mandriva2008, gOS Beta and Windows2000 and the install process has gone more or less flawlessly. You’ll want to install the “guest additions” to make the guest installations work more easily. Once it is set up, it is easy to forget that you are working in a virtualised environment. Of course, you’ll need a decent amount of RAM but I am only running 1 Gig and it works fine though you wouldn’t want to try and run Vista this way. If you’ve never tried virtualisation before, you might want to give VirtualBox a try. It is a great way to try new distributions without wasting time burning all those CD’s and without repartitioning your hard drive. It is also a nice way to beta-test new distros without having to worry about messing up your computer. Oh yes, there is also a version for Windows so it is also a good way for you Microsoft types to get to know Linux. Try it. I think you’ll like it.

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