Jamiroquai Was Right

Lately I have been floored with the offering, and the speed at which virtualization software has grown. I can remember when the “VT” extension to the AMD and Intel CPUs were new, and people could only theorize about the possibilities. Since, it has moved from an academic subject, to a truly viable option to anyone.

Looking around, I found the following matrix (not the movie!) of options:

  1. VMWare Player – free but no VT performance (so kinda useless)
  2. VMWare Server – free, VT support, can create VMs, can run existing partition
  3. VirtualBox – free, VT support, can create VMs, can run existing partitions, offers “Seamless mode”*, no registration
  4. Parallels – not free, VT support, can create VMs, offers true coherence

First and foremost, throw out VMWare Player – it doesn’t make sense anymore. And if you are cheap like me, throw out Parallels since it costs clams. (However its level of OS integration is compelling). I tried both VMWare Server, and VirtualBox. VMWare Server was a more complex install, and it didn’t offer much integration out of the box. So I decided to give VirtualBox (1.5) a try.

The biggest surprise is how EASY it is to do all this. Hell, with a name like “virtualization” it sounded like I was going to have to do some heavy reading in the throne room. Instead, I got VirtualBox up and running my existing Windows partition in about 10 minutes. I created a new hardware profile in Windows, and reactivated my product since the a-holes at Microsoft were licking their lips thinking their activation algorithm had just detected a new machine on which Windows had been installed. Activation was the step that actually took the longest.

So, here is the obligatory screenshot, so you can believe me when I say it really happened:

VirtualBox Seamless Mode

 A few limitation to address on VirtualBox:

  1.  Seamless integration seems to hide the Windows background image, and all of the VirtualBox application controls from the screen. However, the applications are not really inside the host OS. They are missing from my task switcher, and from my window list. Also, obviously, I cann’t send these application to a different workspace, or apply the Ubuntu window decorations to them.
  2. The “Start menu” from Windows and the “Gnome menu” competes for the same space. Depending on if a host application, or a guest application has focus one menu will appear over the other.
  3. A Linux host with dual monitors would have to use the “big desktop” settings for ATI cards, and then expand the guest OS resolution to fix across both desktops to have dual monitor support.

Sounds like the next stop is Parallels, where the deeper level of host integration is said to fix these issues. I’ll report back on this topic when I play around with Parallels some more.



  1. VMWare Server doesn’t fit in that list. The others are for desktop virtualization. VMWare Workstation would be a more appropriate product to compare. Plus VMWare Player only works with pre-made VMs (which you can create with qemu). Also, VirtualBox uses code from qemu.

    I’ve never used Parallels myself. VMWare is the most mature product. I just purchased a license for VMWare Fusion last night.


  2. Johnathon says:

    We use VMWare Server to run four of our servers at work. Actually, they’re all running on a desktop PC. I used to have some trouble with them, but since I added an additional 1GB of RAM (bringing the total to 3GB) they’ve been running like a dream. I’m a big proponent of virtualization, and actually, we have a huge upcoming project where we’re going to be virtualizing the majority of our servers using VMWare’s ESX Server solution (at least I think that’s what it’s called). It should be pretty interesting, to say the least.

    Hope things are well my friend.


  3. Brian says:

    I use VMware Workstation 6. I think it is a very good product. I will have to try virtualbox.


  4. Jeff says:

    I was under the impression that parallels was specifically meant for creating a virtual windows environment on Mac OS X, though clearly i’ve got an infantile understanding of the full capability of that program. I had heard from the guy I set up with it that it somehow managed to cause performance issues with the rest of his machine, so let me know how that ends up working with yours.


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