Sun takes command of VirtualBox, adds 64-bit, VHD support
It should be the easiest, most readily available software anywhere for setting up a Linux environment on a Windows host. And maybe it will be, but in the meantime, BetaNews tests seem to indicate VirtualBox 2.0.0 has a few hurdles to overcome.
What had been called Innotek VirtualBox officially became rebranded today as Sun xVM VirtualBox, as version 2.0.0 was released for download. Sun Microsystems has pledged to keep VirtualBox -- and its underlying code -- free; and now the new version boasts of support both for and on 64-bit operating systems, and support for VHD virtual hard disks.
It's that latter addition that, if it all works, could be the big one: Up to now, VirtualBox has been using its own Virtual Disk Image (VDI) format for the creation of files whose contents behave like the images of hard disks, for the sake of virtual machines. VMware, by comparison, uses .VMDK files and Microsoft's Virtual PC uses VHD files. Though VMware's basic virtualization client is also free, it's principal use is for running virtual servers; while VirtualBox had been, up to now, one of the most readily accessible and deployable means for running a Linux guest environment on a Windows-based host.
So naturally, we gave it a shot. The results, I'm afraid, were less than stellar.
First, we uninstalled the final Innotek VirtualBox from our Windows XP Professional-based, 32-bit host system. That removed the executable files, but left the XML-based settings files intact. Still, the new version 2 has adopted a new XML scheme for those files, and the conversion process is proving to be a pickle.
The new Sun VirtualBox insists on keeping its own settings files behind the \Documents and Settings folder in Windows XP. But because there's special permissions applied to that folder -- at least, since a handful of security updates -- the 2.0.0 build, for some reason, is not identifying itself to Windows as a properly authenticated process. So it cannot back up the previous settings files to the same folder where the Innotek version had no trouble with them before, nor can it create new settings files in that folder.
Once we wrestled with the default locations for settings and virtual machine snapshots, we were at last able to boot our Mandriva Linux VM...after eleven tries. But we have been unable to create VM envelopes, if you will, for any of the .VHD disk image files created in either Virtual PC 2007 or Virtual Server 2005 R2. "FATAL: No bootable medium found! System halted," reads the error message sent back by Sun's virtual BIOS.
There are two possibilities. One is that version 2 is still looking behind a barrier of directories whose security settings are set for exclusive users -- in other words, not for "Everyone." Another is that there's something about well-used VHD images that Sun's new VirtualBox is missing.
We'll continue our tests and let you know what we find out. If you have your own successes or failures, we invite you to do the same and let us know what you find.