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Run other operating systems with VirtualBox

As promised in the Windows 7 review, I’ve penned (or more accurately, typed) a review of Sun VirtualBox. This software allows you to install multiple OSes without overwriting or risking your current setup. Being the cautious fellow that I am, this prospect sounded appealing since I wasn’t willing to install it in a separate partition for fear of causing my files to implode. Therefore, Sun VirtualBox sounded like a smashing way to test out Windows 7.

Running Windows 7 on an XP host

Running Windows 7 on an XP host

After downloading and installing, you’re greeted with a window which allows you to add new operating systems. Clicking ‘New’ launches the wizard which guides you through adding one. You’ll need to fill out such things as name and type of operating system (eg, Windows XP, Ubuntu Linux, etc.) In addition, you’ll need to select how much RAM and video memory to devote to the virtual machine. I’d suggest not going past half, or you might end up with your host OS getting a bit upset. In addition, you will need to set up a virtual hard disk to store the operating system on; this will put by a defined amount of storage space for the virtual machine to use. Once you’ve walked through all the steps, you’ll probably want to check the settings of the OS before you run it. Click the newly listed item and then click ‘Settings’ to check everything is dandy. If you weren’t asked to do it during the setup process you’ll need to tell the software where to find the OS file. This is a .iso file which contains the stuff needed to run your OS. Choose ‘CD/DVD-ROM’ in the settings, and tell VirtualBox where to find the iso file. This will either be a downloaded file, or a disk. You can find much more in-depth help through the help menu within VirtualBox itself.

The first time you start your virtual OS, you’ll probably notice that the size is very small, and your devices might not work quite right; this could include audio or video cards not functioning correctly, and it’s also very likely that your Internet connection won’t work in the virtual machine yet. These mild catastrophes because the drivers for your PC haven’t been installed. Luckily, VirtualBox will do this automatically for you if you click on the ‘Devices’ menu, followed by ‘Install Guest Additions’. This will then mount a virtual CD which can then be run in the usual way in the guest OS which installs drivers to make things work properly. After a restart, everything should work smashingly; unless you’re using Linux, where getting your devices to work might be a little bit more a struggle.

Naff instructions aside, the software itself is rather smashing. You have the choice of running the machine in a few different ways. The first being in its own window like any other programme. This allows you to move it around, resize, or maximise it. The second is running it in full-screen mode, which gives the illusion of being the only running OS on your system. Finally, you can run it in in ‘Seamless mode’, which allows you to use both simultaneously – for instance it will place both taskbars at the bottom and you’ll be able to work with applications from both OSes on one desktop.

Performance seems pretty good, but this is primarily dependant upon the specification of your computer. You can alter the settings later until you achieve the right balance – such actions as upping the RAM allowed or enabling 3D acceleration show improvements when using the virtual OS. You can download the software from www.virtualbox.org.

Vista Service Pack 2 on its way

February 28, 2009 Leave a comment

Windows KeyOh, poor Vista. It’s had a lot of bad press – it seems to be presented as XP’s younger brother who has special needs. However, Vista is a very different beast to what it was when first released: Service Pack 1 fixed many of the problems that had plauged it. Whilst nowhere near perfect, it’s much, much better than it was at its release. Like it or loathe it, it did a great deal to push Windows forward to be something more modern and user-friendly.

Now, as Vista gets ready to step aside to make way for the much-talked-about Windows 7, what is likely to be its final service pack is almost ready for release. Now in its final stages before release, developers are being allowed to sample it in an early download before its expected release in early to mid March. Blue seems to be very much a focus of the update: two of the main features added are the ability to record to blu-ray disks and support for the new 2.1 blue tooth technology. The new version of Windows Search – Version 4 – is also included, which should spell more accurate and faster searching when looking for your files. It also wraps up all previously released updates, so if you’ve missed any, you can get the whole lot at once.