VirtualBox 2.0.0

Virtualization is still shiny. I’ve been playing with VirtualBox 2.0.0 tonight. I’ m writing this from an Ubuntu 8.04 VM running on my Windows XP desktop machine in “seamless windows” mode. It’s not quite as “seamless” as VMWare Fusion’s Unity mode on the Mac, but it’s still pretty neat. VirtualBox 2.0.0 is as smooth to install on WIndows as the 1.x build I tried on the Mac was (I’ll try 2.0.0 on the Mac soon) and either adds a bunch of cool features or I noticed some features that were in 1.0 the first time with 2.0. I know seamless mode is new in 2.0, but I don’t know if the “headless mode” (= run as a daemon and display only as an RDP server; not interesting on my Windows box but quite interesting for Linux) is new or not.

“Seamless mode” is not as seamless as Unity mode: the tab order (and task bar) do not show the virtual machine’s apps as first class windows. Instead, the entire VM appears to be a single app to Windows not unlike running in full screen mode. It’s essentially as if the desktop background of the VM was replaced with an transparent texture, so I can see all the windows apps wherever the desktop would been visible. It’s handy but a little confusing. Also the system menu bar is considered a window and thus shows up at the top of the Windows desktop machine (compared to Unity mode, where it can be turned off entirely and replaced with Fusion-provided navigation functions). It’s not quite fair to compare Fusion running Windows to VirtualBox on Windows running Linux since it may be that “seamless mode” is more seamless with Windows guests (and, of course, VirtualBox is free for personal use and Fusion isn’t, but Fusion is cheap enough to be essentially free for the sake of a tool I use as much as virtualization).

It looks like Fusion 2.0 is nearing release (as well as VMWare Workstation 6.5, which finally adds support for Ubuntu 8.04 guests — this lack in Workstation 6.0.4 is how I ended up playing with VirtualBox in the first place).

I suspect VMWare is going to remain the virtualization tool I reach for “in anger” (especially once Fusion 2.0 and Workstation 6.5 and Server 2.0 finally all ship, which will give me good solutions for running the same virtual machine images on any machine I might desire).