VirtualBox – now on my Win7 machine

I have had VirtualBox running on my Athabascau University issued Macbook Pro for several months now. It’s a bit of a story…

I started down the road to virtualization on the Mac with Parallels. It worked well and wasn’t too costly… at first). Eventually I dumped Parallels as they kept wanting $69.99 more and more frequently for upgrades that didn’t really seem to offer much. Sadly for them, the last cash request came at the same time VMWare sent an offer to switch at a price that was too good to refuse. I dumped them for VMWare and that kept me happy for a few years.

However, VMWare also fell prey to the “cash for upgrade” mania and started doing the same thing. That’s when I searched for a free alternative and found VirtualBox.

Now VirtualBox has it’s problems. The biggest one is that it’s yet another Oracle product (like Java and Solaris and MySQL). Still, I use the three named products and so Oracle seems to be OK… for now.

I installed VirtualBox on the Mac and recreated my critical virtual machines – Win 7 (for netbeans marking), Win 98 (for LEGO Mindstorms), OpenBSD (for server testing), Minix 3 (Operating systems playing) and Windows 10 (again, for testing). It works well.

However, my latest tests failed without warning and without real recourse.

I just downloaded the Linux/Firefox development machine for VirtualBox from Mozilla.  It installed and started without problems, but when I went to build Firefox from the latest source as you are instructed to do in the guide, THE BUILD FAILED. Lots of error messages, but no help: the guide said it would be successful.

In an attempt to see if it was the VM or my Mac, I decided to install VirtualBox on my main Windows7 PC. It’s daunting as it warns you it will insert “stuff” into the network stack, and my Win7 network has always been a bit… weird.

Still, I could always uninstall. So I installed VirtualBox today and then gave it a try on the minix3 image (exported from the Mac), the SAS image I have and the Firefox image. BOOM!!!

Well, not boom, but *wimper*. It wouldn’t run. The error message was traced with google help to a BIOS switch that has virtual machines turned off for my system. I had to reboot, <F2> to modify BIOS settings to turn VM on, then save and reboot. However, once done VirtualBox worked.  I did have to re-import the images but then everything worked.

Now the acid test – build Firefox on the Ubuntu VM. After well over an hour, it was SUCCESS. All my networking still seems to work OK, and the VM machines all connect to the network without too much difficulty (DNS lookups seem to take some time but do work).

All in all, I’m pretty happy with VirtualBox. First on the Mac, and now on my Win7 PC.

Final thought: I was really rather excited to use the Ubuntu “FIrefox devel” machine to actually download and build Firefox from the latest source snapshots. I’ve been reading a great book “rebel code” about the whole GNU/Linux scene and have become interested in playing with both Linux and some of the open source programs as a developer rather than just a user. More on the book in another post.

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