VirtualBox February 11, 2009Posted by gordonwatts in computers.
I’ve recently become a huge fan of VirtualBox. This is virtual machine software – it allows me to run one operating system (like Linux) inside another (like my Windows box). I’ve tried two others – Virtual PC from Microsoft and VMWare. The nice thing is these are all free. This type of software is pretty cool – it lets you run a machine within another machine. I use these all the time – mostly to run Linux because I need it for work.
Virtual PC was my old mainstay, however its Linux support is barely functional (it doesn’t support a very good graphics card and so default installs of Linux often fail). VMWare took over my USB devices on my laptop and wouldn’t give them back until I rebooted. 🙂 But VirtualBox seems to be quite good. And of the three it has the nicest user interface of the three in my opinion.
There is one problem with it, however. Its license. I’d not caught this until today (despite using it for several months). It is free for anyone to evaluate. And if you are using it at home for private development work then you are safe. If you are in an educational institution you are ok. This covers my use of VirtualBox for my research. But what if you are at a National Lab – like Fermilab or CERN? As far as I can tell, you have to pay. This is too bad as a substantial group of people who would want to use this in research are at these national labs. I guess they are stuck with VMWare or Parallels (do people pay for this? Or is it free?).
UPDATE: As Jeff points out in the comments, the licensing FAQ makes it clear that folks at CERN/Fermilab can use VitualBox without problems… the problem only comes in if centralized CERN mgmt tries to install it on everyone’s PC. Very nice!