Last month, I posted about the free VirtualBox virtualization software and how you can use it to run various operating systems on Windows, Linux and Mac OS X (Intel CPU version) computers. Virtualization is also handy for quick and painless operating system evaluation purposes.
There are many Live CDs available today spanning a plethora of distributions of Linux, some Unices and you can even create your own Windows live CD. However, using them usually requires burning the ISO to a CD or DVD. Although media is cheap these days, it’s still a waste to burn discs just to try out things you may never continue using.
With VirtualBox, you don’t have to burn any discs to try things out. Simply follow these steps:
- Download the ISO file for the operating system you want to run. Verify from the description/help files/documentation that it is a bootable image (i.e. doesn’t require a boot floppy).
- Start VirtualBox and create a new virtual machine with enough memory for the operating system you’re going to try out.
- There’s no need to create a virtual hard drive for this machine if you’re using a Live CD/DVD since everything will run in memory. However, if it is an installation disc, then you will need to create a virtual hard drive large enough to install the operating system.
- Assign the ISO file to the virtual CD-ROM drive of the virtual machine.
- Start the new virtual machine.
Not only does this method reduce waste by avoiding the creation of plastic coasters (wasted CD/DVD media), it boots faster than a CD/DVD drive and your computer system is isolated from anything that may go wrong in the operating system you’re trying out.
So, now you’re all set to go play. Report back on the cool new operating systems you find.
Continuing the Firefox tips theme from the last article, here are two more hidden preferences in Firefox that are very handy. To access them, enter about:config in the browser’s address bar and press the Enter or Return key.
In earlier versions of Firefox, it was possible to remove the Go button. Now, it’s part of the address bar. However, setting this preference value to true will make it go away to give you more room to see the URL in the address bar.
Firefox also used to allow you to prevent it from loading images on the page that were from a different server than the page itself. If you’d like to enable this security feature, set this preference value to 3.
There are a lot of hidden preferences in Firefox that are available by entering about:config in the browser’s address bar and pressing the Enter or Return key. Here are some tweaks that I find particularly helpful.
To change a preference in the list, double-click on it. To filter the list, type any part of the preference name in the Filter box.
By default on Windows and Mac OS X, hitting the backspace key causes Firefox to go back one page in the browser’s history. Changing this setting’s value to anything greater than 1 (Firefox on Linux defaults to a value of 2) will disable this behavior to prevent accidentally changing pages while typing in a form or Flash program.
The default value of 1 enables spell checking in text areas. To have Firefox show incorrect spelling in text input fields of forms as well, change this value to 2.
Changes to these settings take effect immediately. The spell check one may require that you reload a page that was open before the setting was changed for it to take effect.
Innotek released version 1.5.0 of VirtualBox, their open-source virtualization product, the other day. In addition to many fixes and improvements, this version includes seamless window virtualization when running Windows in Linux so you can have Windows applications running right beside Linux ones.
I guess you could call this the summer of virtualization with all the buzz about saving energy via server consolidation, running Windows in Mac OS X with Parallels Desktop and VMWare going public with extraordinary gusto. However, what if you want to get into the game without using closed source software or without spending a lot of money while having support for many platforms? That’s where VirtualBox comes in.
VirtualBox runs on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux and enables you to use a variety of guest operating systems in it including DOS, Windows, Unix, Linux, Solaris and OS/2. As I mentioned before, when running Windows inside VirtualBox on Linux, through seamless virtualization Windows applications will run right beside Linux ones on the Linux desktop. For other operating system combinations, the guest OS will still have its own desktop window like it did in VirtualBox 1.4.0.
If you’re currently running Linux, many distributions already have VirtualBox available for installation from their software repositories. For example, in Ubuntu, Kubuntu or Xubuntu, just run Synaptic or Aptitude and choose VirtualBox from the list of packages. Otherwise, you can get it from the VirtualBox download page.
Are you looking for an open source alternative to a well-known commercial application? Do you use an open source program and want to see what commercial product is similar? Well, check out Open Source Alternative, a directory of cross-referenced open source and commercial applications.
You can browse by categories such as business, communications, multimedia and web development or search the directory by application name. On a program’s detail page will be a short description, a link to its web site, the platforms that are supported (Java, Linux, Mac, Unix and/or Windows), and a list of alternatives. For a commercial product, open source alternatives are listed. For an open source product, commercial alternatives are listed. I’ve found it to be a very handy resource for locating software solutions.