In praise of VirtualBox

VirtualBox. What a splendid piece of software.

Just a quick post to flag up this software, which deserves recognition. It’s a VMware lookalike, but entirely Free (as in beer and as in GNU GPL)

Digiblue boo

As owner of a Digital Blue QX5 microscope (one of the cheapest, greatest,  “serious educational toys” you can lay your hands on – and it’s not even clear if they still make it) my daughter wanted to use it the other day. It’s been unused for a while and during that period my only Windows machine has moved to Windows 7 64-bit. And the QX5 driver software supplied is, of course, Windows XP 32-bit. Off to the Digiblue web-site and relieved to see that they assure me that they have Windows 7 64-bit drivers available. Turns out to be a big fat lie. They have them available for a slightly revised model of the QX5. Not the original (different USB ids, etc.)


Thoughts turn to Linux WINE. Hmmmm. Nope. USB drivers and WINE are one area that still doesn’t really do what it needs to do.

I need XP

OK – I realise that to get the thing working I need a Windows XP machine. Simple. Yet I can’t be arsed to set up a dual-boot or anything like that. So remember how neat VMware was all those years ago when I used to use it. I even bought a license for some early version! But I don’t fancy buying a new license which would cost about €130.

I have the dimmiest recollection of some sort of freebie workstation VM called virtual-something. Google around a bit and quickly find VirtualBox. And it’s just like the VMware I remember, but without the credit card requirement.

Now I’ve only used it in the simplest of manners: running an XP 32-bit VM on a Windows 7 64-bit host. Not tried any other permutation of host/VM, of which there are all sorts claimed. (Linux hosts, MAC, different Windows – and even more VMs, extending to the BSD and so on) But for what I wanted it’s absolutely spot on. Really neat.

Oracle, not a company I’ve ever been a fanatical supporter of, earns a few brownie points from me.

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