For a few days now I’ve been playing with a piece of software called “Virtual Box“, it’s an Open Source “virtualizer” as their website says – I like that word! * Virtualization is a hot topic these days, it takes the resources of one physical machine (usually called a Host) and shares them with many operating systems (usually called Guest’s).
It’s a lot like having roommates! Imagine, you own a house and you have roomates, everyone shares the full resources of the house (with exception to your bedroom of course). Everyone shares the kitchen, the fridge, the shower, the yard, etc. This is exactly what virtualization is, a big computer (house) with lots of operating systems (roomates) all using the same hard drive, memory, video, keyboard, mouse, etc and all at the same time which is where the roomate analogy breaks down. I would think it not to be enjoyable sharing certain common household facilities with a roomate at the same time!
Although there are many ways to slice this pie and eat it (because we all LOVE eathing pie) one way could be to use Windows XP or Windows 7 on your Intel compatible Macintosh OS X operating system. I know it’s hard to believe but sometimes you might run into a piece of software that’s not compatible with a MAC, in this case download Virtual Box for the MAC, install it and make a Guest that will run a version of Windows XP. As we all know XP is the greatest operating system ever made and can only make a sub par OS like MAC OS X run better, right? :)…OK – back to reality! Anytime you need Windows to run a piece of software voila, now you can without a reboot right on your MAC OS!
Another thing you can do even if you do run Windows on your desktop or laptop is create a Virtual Box to do your everyday web surfing. Lets assume you get a nasty virus, or God forbit some crazy spyware that pops up ads to buy a Snuggie or pills from Canada…those jerks just mucked up your laptop! Oh wait, they didn’t because they only mucked up your Virtual Box Guest, just delete the Guest and use your original Virtual Box Guest file that’s clean as a whistle! This also keeps your main operating system (the Host) clean, efficient and safe.
Finally – if you’re a systems administrator or a tinkerer which most system administrators are you can use Virtual Box for testing. I have used it these past few days to do some testing with a Web Proxy called Dan’s Guardian (With a friend we jokingly call it “DANCE Guardian” because “Dan’s” sometimes sounds like “Dance” depending on who’s saying it). Imagine though – you could use it for testing builds of anything, web servers, email servers, file servers, print servers, or anything you plan to roll out. If you feel compelled to do so, with multiple Hosts’s you can create Guest’s that manage a cluster.
Some of the nice things Virtual Box offers are flexible networking options, native Guest tools so your video, keyboard and mouse work well, shared folder options and native USB support to share USB devices.
* A list of virtualizers I know about:
- Microsoft – Virtual PC and Virtual Server
- Sun – Virtual Box
- VMware – VSphere and VMware Player (To only name a few!)