Virtual Box: VMs for the Rest of Us

A lot of my desktop time is spent in Linux, even though lately I’ve been trying out Windows Server 2008 as a desktop OS (as a side note, it’s pretty dang good). At any rate, being a full time web developer now, I need to be able to preview everything with IE. DeVry also requires me to use Office 2007 for my school work. So, there’s still a need for Windows. I can’t cut myself free of it yet. I’ve been trying for over 10 years.

There’s always the dual boot solution. I still do that on my main box. My secondary (I call it my server) runs Ubuntu Server OS only. My wife’s desktop boots to Linux all the time. She tried Windows 7 but wasn’t very impressed. All our laptops are dualboot as well.

This isn’t a great solution if I just need to check a few things in IE though. This is where a VM comes in handy for me. There are many other uses, but for the most part, in my daily life, that’s what I use a VM for. I also quite frequently use a Windows XP VM for writing Windows code.

Another handy thing about VMs is that they can be stored on an external storage device and carried around everywhere. It’s basically like having your computer on your thumbdrive. The only catch is you need VM software to run that virtual machine. The most popular virtual machine software is VMWare. This is, however, an open source solution as well, Virtualbox.

Now, I love VMWare. So, there’s no need to argue your points for VMWare. I know them. When I suggest Virtualbox, I’m only suggesting an alternative. I know VMWare server is free. BlahBlahBlah. I’m mearly suggesting that people should give Virtualbox a try. It really is a great product. I’ve had very few issues with it at all. The ONLY bad thing about it that I’ve found is related to its virtual networking. It’s harder to make custom network interfaces with Virtualbox than VMWare. At least that’s my experience. This is especially true with the Linux versions.

This network problem isn’t really a problem for most people. I just noticed it because I was trying to set up a Windows domain for testing purposes one day. I wanted four VMs of XP and a 2k3 VM in a virtual lan cut off from the rest of the world. I then wanted to test group policy and such on the internal domain. It’s been a while ago so I can’t remember the exact details but I remember that it was difficult to make happen on Virtualbox at the time. It may have actually just been user error on my part.

I believe Virtualbox was bought by Sun not too long ago. It was around the same time that Sun bought MySQL. Those were two of my favorite open source products. So far it doesn’t appear that Sun has screwed them up, but I’m sure it’ll happen eventually. I can picture the future for both of those applications as being filled with Java bloat. It may be one of Sun’s goals to slow MySQL down to Oracle speeds and to do so they’ll force users to run MySQL in a Solaris VM on Virtualbox. Who knows?

Either way, Virtualbox is working great as of today, and I highly recommend it. Oh and by the way, it runs on Windows, Linux, and OS X. So, even your Mini can run it.

Attention: Free Office Software Download

As a follow-up to an earlier post about someone selling Open Office on eBay entitle “Amazing eBay Sale” I thought I would give some advice on where to get Open Office and how to install/use it, for those who don’t know already.

OpenOffice is free software anyone can download. It isn’t what you would refer to as shareware. It is open source software. There are many awesome open source software solutions out there. is the absolute best office suite available for free. There is a word processor (like Microsoft Word) called Writer, a spreadsheet app (like Microsoft Excel) called Calc, a presentation application (like Microsoft Powerpoint) called Impress, a database application (like Microsoft Access) called Base, and a vector image application called Draw.

Some will argue that these applications are not at good as their commercial counterparts. I tend to be of the mindset that OpenOffice has most everything that a normal office worker would need or want. So it does everything they would ever need it to do and it’s around $400 cheaper. The price makes it very attractive.

However, if one is a student, Microsoft practically gives away Office 2007 as long as you have a .edu email address. Really though, $60 is a high enough price for a regular user. It’s great software, but perhaps Microsoft got a bit greedy. Their greedy turned a lot of people to pirating. I prefer using OpenOffice to pirating any day. I won’t be breaking any laws if I download and use a copy of OpenOffice. I can get everything I need to do done with OpenOffice. It gives Microsoft the incentive to make their product better.