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Desktop Virtualisation Today September 23, 2008

Posted by vruz in Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , , , , ,

VMware is in serious trouble. (have a look at the screenshot)

It’s the latest release of Sun xVM VirtualBox 2.0.2 running on my Ubuntu Hardy Desktop edition, with Windows XP (that came with this laptop) as a guest, and Adobe Photoshop, the only remaining Windows application I still use. (if you discount the browsers I use for web development testing on different platforms, with Chrome being the latest addition)

Ubuntu + Virtualbox + Photoshop

It’s isolated from viruses and malware of any kind, I can backup the virtual machine as easy as copying files, and it’s free software under the GPL.

This is the new Virtualbox release that inaugurates a brand new user interface based on QT 4, which makes it look and feel great, just like a KDE 4 application.

That may not sound like a tad of an advantage for some, but the awful truth is that making VMware Workstation run on current desktops is often a real pain, many times it involves patching and compiling the Linux kernel.  Even if certain VMware versions are available free of charge, they’re not free software, they come packaged as a set of binaries that target a specific set of platform assumptions.

Virtualbox and its friendliness certainly relieves us from the pain factor.

For this reason if you have a newer OS than the one VMware targeted, or an old system that has been patched to the latest fixes, the question is often:  What do you want ?  Running VMware on the stable, older, unpatched version subject to security problems ?  or… Virtualbox on a current, performant desktop system.

Having the Virtualbox source code available makes it easy for distributions to support Virtualbox, instead of being subject to a limited number of (possibly and often not current) supported platforms.

It also makes it possible to patch, upgrade and enhance Virtualbox with contributions from the Virtualbox Community.

In my case Virtualbox was just a typical Ubuntu/Debian install, and I have to say I’m very impressed by its performance, whilst I still haven’t measured it against VMware I can tell you I’ve used VMware Workstation for years and this feels really snappy.  Fast enough to run Photoshop.

(Are there any standards and virtualisation benchmarks with raw hard data out there ? please let me know)

Compared to VMware Workstation there’s some features that you don’t get with this Virtualbox, which Sun delivers under  a different productname / licence, Virtualbox OSE. (see the differences here, basically Virtualbox OSE targets enterprise environments, and it’s not fully open source, though it’s available free of charge)

However there’s other little features that don’t come with VMware Workstation (like the Virtualbox Seamless Mode) that make it at least just as good, if not already superior for desktop applications virtualisation.

At least with respect to this particular product, VMware will definitely have to look for greener pastures, because there’s really no good reason to use their desktop product anymore: not money, not performance, not technical convenience, not freedom.

For servers and enterprise virtualisation it may be a different story, but Virtualbox is simply the best desktop virtualisation software available today.

[UPDATE: the bigger screenshot link wouldn’t work, seems to be fine now hosted in Flickr]


1. Thomas M - September 24, 2008

Nice review and I totally agree that VB is a great product and a real alternative to VMWare. I’m using virtualBox primarily in a server environment but also for the nice desktop features. I have 5 VB machines on my Dual Core 2,4 GHz machine with 6GB of RAM starting up Ubuntu Server for various inhouse tasks (developer LAMP system, dekiwiki and various other OS projects) starting up automatically and if I need to test some websites on IE7 additionally a winXP on demand. Took me some time to get the startup scripts right (If you plan on doing something similar I can try to help, contact me at tmeixner(at)avecstye(point)ca) but now it’s working like a dream. Thank you SUN and the VirtualBox community,

2. Ed Landaveri - September 24, 2008

Cool! but if you wanna be cooler switch to the GIMP!
You ain’t free if you’re using non-GNU software!
“Free as in Freedom”

3. vexorian - September 24, 2008

Not to mention virtual box is absurdly easier to install than vmware.

4. vruz - September 24, 2008

@vexorian yep. that’s exactly what I meant by “Virtualbox was just a typical Ubuntu/Debian install”, but I reckon that may not be immediately obvious to those who haven’t used a Debian/Ubuntu system before:-)

thanks for dropping by !

5. vruz - September 24, 2008

@Thomas rest assured I’ll ping you if I find myself in need of help. thanks for the kind offer !

6. SolidOffice » Blog Archive » VirtualBox 2.0.2 - September 24, 2008

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7. vruz - September 24, 2008

@Ed Landaveri all of us here are in the pursuit of freedom, which is one of the highest ideals we can aspire for.

even though we’re all in this journey seeking for it, not everyone is being held back by the same chains, all of us are at different stages of “freedom development” for different reasons. (age, sex, heritage, career path, etc.)
if the graphic design tool of your preference doesn’t limit your freedom, you can probably think of other things that do.

“you aren’t free if you don’t go all free software” is not an ideal, it’s a bumper sticker slogan.
(“LIVE FREE OR DIE” would be an ideal since it doesn’t require any particular implementation or brand of “free” as mandatory)

freedom doesn’t come in a gift box, there’s ALWAYS strings attached, there’s responsibilities, software can be “free as in freedom” and software can be free of charge, but freedom as in human liberty is NEVER for free.

actual people in the real world who are actually doing something to free themselves and help others be free acknowledge these realities instead of lecturing others with bumper sticker slogans.

that being said, I’m glad you like the GIMP, I have friends who wrote large chunks of code for it (you’re running that code when you use GIMP) but there’s a number of problems the GIMP doesn’t solve for me in my actual real world work.
(if there’s any doubt: humane real world work != software freedom)

I thought it was clear the topic of discussion was about “Desktop Virtualisation Today”. GIMP doesn’t need to be virtualised, so discussing GIMP here is besides the point.

millions of pros out there use Photoshop, and virtualisation is one very powerful tool that can help them to be ‘freer’.
(if not entirely free to your satisfaction, please bear with them)

I do use GIMP for simple tasks, but any professional artist will tell you GIMP is just not up to par with Photoshop.
acknowledging this reality is what moves us forward and make us work harder to achieve our ideals.

GIMP gets better all the time and it’s in wide use by thousands who aren’t professional artists, and that’s a good thing.
some others will just have to keep fighting the battles they have chosen and the wars they have decided they can fight with the best of their efforts.




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