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The Net Takeaway: VirtualBox is very impressive

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VirtualBox is very impressive · 01/22/2008 12:41 PM, Tech

One of the hassles of installing the free VirtualPC from Microsoft (and the free VMWare Server from VMWare) is that they add all sorts of drivers, virtual network cards, etc.

When I asked a friend about the lowest impact offering, he mentioned QEMU, but that was just too barebones… and slow.

But then he suggested VirtualBox by Innotek, which is now open source and includes some aspects of Qemu, but is far advanced from what Qemu offers. So I installed it on a laptop…

And it’s really phenomenal. Easy to install, easy to use, and very speedy. In fact, it felt faster than VirtualPC to me, though not as fast as VMWare (but by a hair; most people wouldn’t notice the difference). However, it didn’t install tons of junk, no extra drivers lying around, no need to reboot after installation.

And it just works.

Well, for the most part. For some reason, every Linux installer and LiveCD startup assumes 24-bit color instead of 16-bit color or 32-bit color, and VirtualPC (prefers 16-bit) and VirtualBox (prefers 32-bit) both have trouble with. Select F4 at the Ubuntu LiveCD screen and select a X x Y x 32 mode and then let it roll; if you install your Linux into a disk image, you can configure a 32-bit display manually instead of letting the LiveCD pick it incorrectly every time and skip this whole concern.

Other than display issues, things worked pretty well. BTW, this display issue will also prevent modern games from running too well under VirtualBox or VirtualPC, both of which still emulate old VESA VGA cards. VMWare Workstation can run DirectX8 (though not all that quickly).

So, if you want to test Ubuntu or other Linux distros via LiveCD, but don’t want to run the risk of blowing up your PC, VirtualBox is a great option. Especially if you’ve struggled through issues like Ubuntu 7.04 and No Mouse on Virtual PC and Ubuntu 7.10 and No Mouse on Virtual PC, two of the more popular links on this blog.

I’ll update with more info about my experiences soon.

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