Monday, November 2, 2009

My First Post - VirtualBox

So, I've created a blog. What to write about?

Well, since it's what I'm currently working on, how about I talk about VirtualBox?

I love this thing. I've always had a soft spot for virtualization, whether I was emulating the Sega Genesis with Fusion or a classic soundcard with Timidity or even reliving fond (albeit geeky) moments with DOSBox. There's just something really nifty about software that emulates other hardware.

But VirtualBox is more than a neat toy; its also incredibly useful. I use it to preview software all the time before I actually install it on one of my live systems; why let it run rampant on my "real" computer when it can cause all the havoc it wants in a virtual image? My primary use for it is as a test-bed for different operating systems; I'm the family's resident tech geek so I have to keep up with this stuff, you know? And walking Pop through Control Panel over the phone is hard enough even if I don't have to take into consideration all the differences between, say, Windows Vista and Windows 2000. So I just keep an image of all the operating systems; if I need to help somebody with a Windows98 problem (don't laugh, there's at least one die-hard Win98 user in the family), I just fire up the respective image and I see what they see.

Plus, its a great tool for me to try out various software. Take Windows 7, Microsoft's newly released opus. I'm not ready to dedicate a whole box to it yet, especially since I'm not that familiar with the system. VirtualBox lets me play around with the new operating system first. Same thing with new applications; eventually my job is moving over to Office 2007; I'm getting a leg ahead of the rest by learning the ins and outs of the new interface without cluttering up my primary (and largely gaming-focused) PC with all the extra services and bloat an Office install brings with it.

Security is another bonus; if I have to use Internet Explorer (renowned vector of viruses and malware), I fire up a Virtual image and view the web through that; when I shut down, I erase any changes. Spyware may infect the image, but it won't linger past the reboot. And all my VPN connections are done to the virtual PC; even if the connection does get hacked, they aren't going to find much of use on the image.

So, yeah; VirtualBox. A nerdy toy with lots of potential. Best of all, its free (alternately, you could use VMware or VirtualPC; it's such a cool idea it seems everybody is doing their own implementation.)

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