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.
If you’re using Synergy, all of your keystrokes are sent over the network as cleartext because Synergy does not provide any encryption. In other words, unless you’re using a private network to connect your computers, anyone can sniff the data to see what you’re typing to client computers including passwords, credit card numbers and other sensitive information.
The good news is that it’s not too difficult to prevent snooping by using OpenSSH. The Synergy Network Security Guide shows you how to do this on Linux/Unix-based systems (which should work similarly on Mac OS X).
The bad news is that if your Synergy server or client is on Windows, setting up OpenSSH isn’t as straightforward. I was in this situation for quite a while and, after several unsuccessful tries, I put it on the shelf for a while. Well, tonight I found a very good resource to get OpenSSH working on Windows. I successfully set up a Synergy/OpenSSH server on a Windows XP laptop and connected a Linux client to it.
Note that if you’re using QuickSynergy to set up a client on Linux or Mac OS X, you can simply enter localhost as the server name in the QuickSynergy dialog instead of running synergyc -f localhost as described in the last step of the Synergy Network Security Guide.
Want to try out Synergy on Linux or OS X but don’t want to mess with configuration files? QuickSynergy provides a pretty user-friendly graphical interface to get it up and running. I’ve been using it for many months now on Kubuntu Linux.
If you haven’t seen Synergy in action, here’s a short clip. Nothing too exciting but clearly shows you how you can seamlessly move from one computer to another with a flick of the mouse. You can also see QuickSynergy’s configuration window on the left screen.
Do you have two or more computers either at home or at work? Increase your productivity by using them all at the same time without the hassle of a hardware switchbox (a.k.a. KVM).
Even if your computers run on different operating systems, Synergy enables you to access all of them from a single keyboard and mouse. The way it works is you run Synergy on all of your Windows, Linux or Mac computers. Then, define which computer is the master (the one on which you’ll be using the keyboard and mouse) and where the slaves are located (to the right, left, above, below the master). All the other computers talk to the master to receive your keystrokes and mouse movements.
How does Synergy know which computer you want to control? You just mouse over to it. That’s why you define the physical relationship of each slave relative to the master. For example, if you have a computer to the left of the master, when you move the mouse cursor past the left edge of the master’s desktop, it will show up at the right edge of the computer on the left as if it was all one big desktop. Thus, you can use all your computers at the same time. Even clipboard text is transferred between computers for simple cut-and-paste operations.
The only thing you can’t do with Synergy is move an application from one computer to another. Each computer is still a separate system. Synergy just enables you to control them all from one place.
Watch this CNET Insider’s Secrets video to see how Synergy works and how to set it up.