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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Uber Geekiness

     So, I'm sitting here working with VirtualBox, a system virtualizer that allows you to install different operating systems inside the one you're running.  As useless as this may seem to some, (why would you ever need two operating systems at the same time?), there are some serious advantages to using a virtual OS.  Now, some of them only apply to major businesses, or very computer oriented groups, but there a couple that I think most people can benefit from.
     My personal favorite, and the primary reason I use VirtualBox, is being able to use software in one operating system that doesn't work in another.  I have become mainly an Ubuntu user, but there are some programs that I miss from Windows.  My favorite text editor, for example.  So rather than continually running two computers and having to constantly flip between the two, I can just install a copy of Windows in VirtualBox, then run it on a different workspace on my Ubuntu machine.  Because VirtualBox has really good integration for most desktop OSes, when I installed Vista(save the hissing, its all I had), it ran just like an application for my Linux install.  Plus, when using this method of Linux to Windows, you don't run into any of the problems of associated with trying to find things in WINE.
     The other major benefit of using a virtual machine on your personal computer is that you can test drive another major operating system without have to risk losing everything you have on your current one.  You can try out all of the features, set up everything you need, find out if it will work with all of your hardware, all without risking your current OS.  I can't tell you just how useful this is.
     So, for personal computing, a virtual machine like VirtualBox can be amazingly useful.  But there are other uses for them, too.  Digital Fruit is working to combine several computers each running several virtual machines as safety nets so we can do some serious virus analysis for our customers.  The principle is this, we create several virtual machines on one Ubuntu system(Linux has better memory management), with a large mix of operating systems and degrees of updates.  We then go to all sorts of different malefic and unsavory holes of the internet, get the virtual systems horribly infected, then figure out the best ways to fix the damage.  Through each step of the process we will be tracking and analyzing information about what's happening, and use this to better our security and restoration efforts.
     I hope this short article has led you to more questions about virtual machines, and if you would like to check one out, head on over to www.virtualbox.org and download a free one.