Today I was doing some work in innotek’s VirtualBox and noticed something new. It now accepts the “vmdk” format. For those of you not in the know, this is the format used by the most popular virtualization software, VMware. After recognizing this I decided to give it a shot and see if it would work. The first system I tried to convert was an Ubuntu Gusty Gibbon server I haven’t used in a long time. I decided on this machine as I knew that Ubuntu is pretty forgiving about hardware and often it can reconfigure itself to run when drivers are missing or changed. To my suprise it booted the system with little to no problems (took a long time).
After such a great success I decided to try a Windows system that I had laying around (and had previously backed up). This time around I wasn’t so lucky. Unfortunately Windows thought that its hardware had been significantly changed and refused to boot. This is probably due to the VMware drivers I had previously installed on the machine. Either way I am sure with a little work the machines could easily be converted to what I now consider a superior virtualization solution. It is important to note that I went back and successfully ran Windows and the Ubuntu machines in VMware.
This last week Innotek released Virtualbox 1.5 which is a major move forward for this free virtualization system. One of the best features is the easy to use implementation of seamless virtualization. It allows the user to integrate their two operating systems in one nice interface. While this is not a new concept as Parallels has been doing it for a while, it is new to a free, cross platform application (to the best of my knowledge).
To get it up and running all I had to do was update my VirtualBox install and then press “Host(Ctrl) + L”. Next thing you know your Windows task bar will appear at the bottom of your desktop(I moved mine to the top). You are now free to access windows applications as if they where a GTK application. There is one thing that doesn’t work smoothly as of yet. It appears that Beryl/Compiz style compositing applications don’t get a long so well with this seamless integration. It is hard to say who is at fault in this case but I am sure it will be resolved in due time. Until then I am happy dealing with the problem or simply turning off Beryl.
Recently, while digging, I stumbled across an article detailing the installation process of InnoTek’s VirtualBox. After seeing how easy it was to install this virtualization tool I figured I would give it a shot.This isn’t my first experience with virtualization software as I have recently found the joy of VMWare. With this in mind I was shocked at how simple VirtualBox was to install. In VMWare you are asked all sorts of questions that can be a tad on the intimidating side, although generally the default is the correct answer (how am I supposed to know that?). VirtualBox on the other hand was as easy as installing the pre-requisites (available in Ubuntu’s package manager) and running the .deb file that I downloaded from Innotek’s site.
After the install the application is almost ready to start, but before you can get to far into it you have to add yourself as a user to the newly created “vboxusers” group. The program does a great job of pointing this out and does so with out letting you move too deep. The downside of this methodology is that I am forced to log out for the changes to take affect. This isn’t the biggest pain as it isn’t a complete restart but none the less a minor inconvenience.
From here the application really gets points in my book, particularly when you consider the price tag of $0 (personal use only). It uses a clean simple interface that is full of context style help. This tactic was very refreshing from VMWare which doesn’t provide much inline help. It seemed like any question I had was quickly answered by simply mousing over the questionable item. Some where on the screen (this was on multiple screens) a text box would change and fill me in on what the item was for and what could/would happen if I changed it.
The overall look and feel was clean and easy to navigate. One thing to note is that it didn’t follow my theme. Instead it had a gray and blue finish. After giving this some thought and looking at some of the files I installed, I believe that this is a QT based program, not GTK. This would easily explain the appearance. With this in mind it still looked great. The icons are large and colorful and easily understandable.
The overall layout follows the task flow nicely. The individual virtual machines(VM) are located vertically on the left with each receiving an icon based on its OS type. On the right you can view and edit the details of the selected VM. When a VM session is initiated a new window opens and the VM is started. This could be done a little better by following in VMWare’s foot steps and running the VM’s in individual tabs. One positive note to the new window is that there is no surrounding items to take up valuable space.
The final piece of the pie for this application comes in how it works. So far (1hr of use) I am batting .500. I was easily able to run the OLPC’s Sugar OS but as of right now cannot get Mandriva One 2007 GNOME — Metisse Inside! to fully boot. It appears to make it all the way through but then it just sits idle with the active cursor at a blue screen (pre-login phase?).
Even with the small hiccup in Mandriva One I am sure this is going to be a great program and with a little more playing I will easily be able to get it up and running. I will try and write an update as I continue to play with this great new program.